Scoring Systems and point Inflation

As you might have guessed so far from reading this blog, I really like (tabletop) games: They’re social, and a lot of them (at least the more modern ones) are really interactive and fun. But one reason I like them in particular is because they’re systems. And just like a good program, a good system is elegant and efficient. In this article, I would like to talk about one aspect of this elegance: Points.

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I used to not like games with point systems that much, specifically those that kept a running score and played multiple times (in order to balance the game). However, after playing Lost Cities, Cribagge, and now Mahjong, I’m used to them, and I don’t mind bringing out a pen and paper to score :)

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But what has started to bother me is point inflation. This is where all the numbers are unnecessarily large for no good reason. The worst example of this is the Collectible Card Game “YuGiOh!” which has cards valued at 9000 and 10000 when all those numbers could really be simplified down to 9 and 10. This is why i was put off YuGiOh, just like Card-fight Vanguard:

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Top Trumps does manage to get away from this one though, in that those that are based on real life really do need large numbers (and they are all very specific like 132 rather than 150):

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But the game that bothered me most that has this flaw is Bridge. Bridge is hailed as the archetype of card games, the “Go” of card games. The luck of the game is balanced out by the bidding, and the game play is very streamlined. It is a very nice game, but it’s elegance is cut short by its clunky rules system:

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Why are all the points multiplied by 10? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to knock a zero off every number. I also find Vulnerability arbitrary, but that’s for another time. If any bridge players are reading this article, I’m curious to know what you think about this.

Lastly, I would like to quickly mention the subject of a previous article, which also falls into this trap: Mahjong. Even the new Zung Jung ruleset, which I like, has an inflated points system. The Lowest common denominator is 5, and the … now it can get away with it

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Of course, in most of these games, I can just house-rule it away: No big deal. I guess I just appreciate good game design from the get-go… If you’re not sure whether it’s inflated or not, try getting all the potential scores and finding their Lowest Common Denominator. If it’s not 1, then you’re doing it wrong!

Alternatively, I would love to be convinced otherwise. Perhaps it’s not just arbitrary.
Do you know any good reason why these rule sets add the extra “0”?

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