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Variable Player Goals

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Sometimes, not all the players are going for the same thing. There are essentially two forms of this.

In the milder form, each player is going for the same sort of thing, but what precisely they require varies. For instance, each player may be trying to get two treasures, but which two treasures is different for each player, or each player has certain bonuses or restrictions that make getting certain treasures easier or harder (respectively).

In the more extreme form, each player is going for something different entirely. One player is trying to accumulate as much money as possible, while another is trying to eliminate the player to his left. These are often accompanied with the player having varying special abilities that help to accomplish these specific goals.

In either case, these are typically assigned randomly at the beginning of the game. Sometimes, each player's objective is secret, though this is hard to pull off if they are supposed to be matched up with the player's specific abilities. There is also often a generic win condition that any player can accomplish.

A common twist on the more extreme form is that one player has no special win condition; instead, his generic win condition is made easier. A less common twist is that one player wins automatically if the game would go to final scoring or the game's equivalent.

Often used with Asymmetric Multiplayer games. If the goal of one group of players is to defeat the traitors hidden among them, you have a Social Deduction Game.

Examples of variable but formulaic win conditions:

  • The Amazeing Labyrinth (and related games) - each player is going for different treasures.
  • The board game Careers: At the start of play, each player writes down their end goal of how many "fame" points, money (in thousands of dollars), and "happiness" points they must accumulate in order to win, with the only requirement being that all three numbers must add up to 60. In practice, placing the emphasis on happiness, followed by money and then fame (in that order) tends to be the best winning combination, since happiness points are the easiest to come by.
  • Chrononauts
    • Each player can win by accomplishing their ID, which requires getting certain events on the timeline, their mission, which requires getting specific artifacts, or by getting 10 cards in hand.
    • The Lost Identities expansion has a new ID, Crazy Joe, who only wins if there are thirteen paradoxes in effect, which is an automatic game over for everyone else.
  • The Civilization games have military victory (destroy all other civilizations), culture victory (get your Culture high enough to create a utopia or become a media powerhouse), Technological victory (build a spacecraft to send your civilization to the stars), and a diplomatic victory (convince all your opponents to make you president of the world). No civilization is barred from achieving any win condition, but all have traits that make pursuing certain goals easier than others.
    Civilization VI mixed up the formula a bit. Military (be the last nation holding their original capital) and Technological (launch a satellite, land on the moon, and colonize Mars) victories are relatively unchanged, but the diplomatic option was split in two ways to rule the global masses by hegemony: Cultural (have more foreign tourists visiting your nation than every other has domestic tourists) and Religious (have the majority of cities in every nation following your religion).
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, players don't always have the same goals. The Dungeon Master's Guide even recommends creating several so-called "Quest Hooks" and side-quests for any adventure, so that the characters, despite having different backgrounds, personalities and motivations, all end up going on the same adventure.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, there are four possible ways to win the CCG: military victory, destroying all enemy provinces; Honor victory, starting a turn with Family Honor above 40; Dishonor victory, having an opponent end their turn with Family Honor at -20; and Enlightenment victory, by starting a turn with all five Elemental Rings on the fieldnote .
  • The goal of the Lords of Waterdeep board game is to end the game with the highest number of Victory Points, which are accumulated throughout the game alongside other assets. However, each player is randomly dealt a Masked Lord card that provides a second, secret way to obtain Victory Points, e.g.: by completing specific types of Sidequest or by purchasing buildings, which are only revealed and tallied at the endgame.
  • In Netrunner, both players are trying to score seven or more agenda points before their opponent does. However, they build their decks from separate card pools that don't overlap, and while the Corp player's main route to victory is playing, advancing over time, and ultimately scoring agenda cards from his or her own deck, the Runner tries to earn his or her points by breaking into the Corp's data forts and "liberating" those selfsame cards before that can happen. (The Corp can also win by dealing enough damage to the Runner to "flatline" him or her. However, it cannot just attack freely — its primary sources of damage are intrusion countermeasures that only work if actually encountered and not overcome, and attack cards that work on the Corp's own turn but generally require it to have a "tag" on the Runner first.)
  • In Richman 7 Expansion's single player mode, each character has a fixed winning condition, from the more traditional one of making every other opponent go bankrupt, to earning the most houses/coupons/chain stores/assets in a set amount of time. However, in the latter, you can also win by defeating other opponents as usual.
  • In Tales of the Arabian Nights, you create a formula of Destiny and Story points that add up to 20 that you must achieve to win the game. Story points are handed out in almost any encounter so needing more of those and fewer Destiny points in your formula makes it somewhat easier to achieve.
  • In Twilight Imperium, each game has a "goals deck" of randomly selected cards each worth a victory point that any of the players can meet, but each player also gets a random Secret Objective card worth two victory points. The second Expansion adds additional random "Preliminary Goals" for each player also worth 1 point. Then there are also several ways to score victory points not related to the goal cards at all, such as the Imperium strategy card. The players can all be pursuing very differnt agendas with equal chances to win.

Examples of highly variable win conditions:

  • Among Us features the Crewmates and the Impostors. The crewmates win by either finishing all of their tasks (thus ensuring their survival) or by identifying and voting off the Impostor(s) in their match, by virtue of getting them Thrown Out the Airlock. The impostors win by killing enough crewmates (or getting enough crewmates killed by misdirecting the vote) such that the number of impostors equal the number of surviving crewmates, or by sabotaging something important and instantly killing everyone if it isn't taken care of in time.
  • In the Ankh-Morpork board game, three of the characters (Lords Selachii, Rust and de Worde) have a standard "control X areas" goal, Lord Vetinari must place X minions on the board, Dragon wins by driving the city into chaos, Chrysoprase wins by collecting enough money, and Sam Vimes wins by stopping anyone else from winning within the time limit. Of course, the players don't know which roles are in the game, let alone who holds which role.
  • The card game Bang! randomly assigns roles to each player. Each role has a specific victory condition that boils down to killing someone else, but since the Sheriff is the only role revealed at the start of the game, part of the challenge is figuring out which players are your intended targets.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica board game, the humans win by travelling a certain distance without running out of resources, suffering too much damage, or being boarded by Centurions. The hidden Cylons win by preventing this. On top of this, one expansion adds personal goals for humans, encouraging them to take actions (often ones which hinder the team) in order to avoid penalties.
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill starts with all players working more-or-less independently to explore a haunted house. Partway through the game, one player (in most scenarios) becomes the Big Bad and has to achieve a particular objective, while the other players team up to achieve some opposing goal. Each side might have a vague idea of the other's goals, but not the precise win condition.
  • In the Global Conquest mode for Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath, every faction has its own victory condition: GDI wins by having their territory cover a certain percentage of the land area; Nod wins by brining a certain number of cities to complete unrest; and the Scrin win by building a certain number of strategic structures. There's also the universal win condition of simply eliminating the other factions in combat.
  • Zig-zagged in the cooperative game Dead of Winter: the players draw a Main Objective that defines how to win the game, but each player also draws a Secret Objective that they need to meet, which could range from hoarding specific items to controlling the number of zombies on the game board. Then there are the Secret Objectives that require the Main Objective to fail...
  • Dune - Not every side gets a special victory condition, but includes two sides (Spacing Guild and Fremen) which win in case of final scoring; the Fremen require additional conditions to be met, however, and the Spacing Guild wins only if they are not (or if the Fremen are not playing). Also includes the Bene Gesserit, who can steal the win if they correctly guess before the game starts who will win the game and on what turn.
  • Illuminati - Runs the gamut from destruction (Servants of Cthulu), accumulating raw power (Bavarians), getting a crapton of money (Gnomes of Zurich), collecting one of every alignment (Bermuda Triangle), or a choose-your-own secret goal (UFOs). Also includes Church of the Subgenius as the side who have an easier time with the ordinary condition. The advanced rules propose you can take it even further by randomly drawing the special goals at the start of the game and keeping them hidden.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles uses this to add a competitive element to a primarily co-operative game- everyone has to work together to complete the level, but each player has a unique (and secret) secondary objective, which may involve hindering the team, or at least not helping to the best of your ability. Whoever scores the highest on their secondary objective gets first pick of the stat-boosting treasures at the end of the level. Even so, it's a team game through and through — the team's combined score partly determines what treasures are available to begin with.
  • In most versions of Mafia and its derivatives like Werewolf (1997), players are secretly given roles which split them into two groups, where one must eliminate the other, or something similar. Some variations add other roles to the mix, such as one whose player only wins if they get the other players to eliminate them, or another which wins if they are the last one standing in their group. Did we mention that all of these roles are meant to be kept secret from the other players? Or that some roles allow their player to mix up the roles of the other players without them knowing which group they're suddenly in?
  • The victory condition of Avalon Hill's Magic Realm was labryinthine, but essentially came down to getting a sufficiently high total among the game's several scoring tracks, some of them mutually exclusive. Certain characters were significantly better at raising certain variables, thus giving different tracks to victory.
  • In the Mario Party series, most 1 vs. 3 minigames have a different objective for the single player than for the 3 players, for the reason that it would be unfair otherwise. Most of these games are kept balanced by giving the lone player some kind of advantage over the other three individual players.
  • A common outcome of Paranoia, where the players as a team may be given an objective by Friend Computer, but each one is part of one or more conspiracies or quirky secret society with different goals to achieve. It isn't unheard-of for a team of Troubleshooters to be sent out testing some kind of weaponized MacGuffin, only to have one player end up trying to steal it, another ordered to destroy it, yet another out to steal the test data and kill the other players to prevent knowledge of the item from spreading, and one poor sap who's tasked to eat it.
  • In the online game Rebuild 2, the player can win in five ways, 1st is to find a heliport and repair the helicopter, 2nd find a government building to reclaim it and start your own government, 3rd kill the Last Judgement Gang, 4th create the cure for the zombie plague, 5th reclaim the entire play area. You can get all five on the same playthough (the sixth one involves voluntarily joining the zombies).
  • Secret Mission Risk - Not only are players aiming for different goals, but each player's goal is known only to them until the end of the game.
  • The board game Shadow Hunters is built around this. Hunters want to kill Shadows, and vice versa, but every game will also feature neutrals, whose goals include "survive to the end of the game", "be the first to die", "gather four powerful artifacts", "kill a powerful Shadow or a powerful Hunter", and others.
  • In the card game Saboteur, the miners are trying to reach the gold, and the saboteurs are trying to thwart them. In the Saboteur 2 expansion, there are two rival factions of miners, the saboteurs, and various other roles with their own goals.
  • SpyParty tasks two players as the Spy and the Sniper, with wildly different objectives. The Spy's goals are to complete their missions without being detected (and shot) and without running out of time, or to trick the Sniper into shooting an innocent target. The Sniper's goals are to identify and shoot the Spy before they can complete their missions without hitting the wrong person, or pressure them so heavily that time runs out without allowing the Spy the chance to finish their missions.
  • Starcraft: The Board Game - The Aldaris faction combines both common twists. However, instead of his own score required for ordinary victory being lower, if the Aldaris faction is playing, everyone else's score required for ordinary victory is higher.
  • In one of the Star Wars Legends novels, Luke has developed one of these games for his Jedi students. He explains that it's actually a training exercise in diplomacy for the referee, who has to figure out both teams' victory conditions and, assuming they're not mutually exclusive, try to help everyone win.
  • Town of Salem is a game where the uninformed majority (Town) must kill the informed Minority (Mafia) and vice-versa. A few roles have completely different win conditions.
    • The Jester wins if he gets lynched.
    • The Executioner wins if he gets his target (always an innocent Townie) lynched. To prevent the game from becoming Unintentionally Unwinnable if his target dies at night, if it happens he turns into a Jester.
    • The Witch must end the game alive, and with all town members dead.
    • The Survivor must live to the end of the game.
    • The Pirate must Plunder (win at Rock–Paper–Scissors against) two people.
    • The Guardian Angel must keep her target alive. If her target dies, she becomes a Survivor with no vest.
  • In World's End Club, the "Game of Fate" gives each contestant a task to accomplish, but the task they're supposed to do are written on someone else's wristband. The required tasks can be conditional based on the amount of time left in the game, can depend on another player, and are not at all balanced between players. The tasks range from "Eat a marshmallow", "Go down the slides with another player", and "Be the last person to be eliminated". The task you got was "Give another boy a hug before the 10 minute mark."
  • Villainous is a game of Evil vs. Evil with players controlling a villain from Disney, the Marvel Universe or Star Wars. Each villain is out to complete their own unique objective to win the game while other villains try to stop them with Twists of Fate. Using the "Perfectly Wretched" expansion set as an example: Cruella is trying to collect 99 puppies, Mother Gothel needs to earn Rapunzel's trust while keeping her from getting to Corona, and Pete has to complete a randomized series of mini-goals.