Board Game Terms: Point Salad

All this week we’ll be taking a look at some of the jargon used in board games. If you’re new to gaming, you might like our piece from last year explaining the terms used to describe different types of games. This week we’re concentrating on terms used by more dedicated players to describe characteristics of games and gamers, particularly ones that can be controversial or problematic.

Today’s phrase is point salad. It’s a term where the meaning is generally agreed and the controversy is about whether it’s meant as a compliment or an insult. In broad terms it refers to a game that’s won by scoring the most points and where there’s a particularly wide range of (often unconnected) ways to score points.

The most commonly cited example is Castles of Burgundy where the range of scoring methods fall into at least four different types:

  • Placing particular types of tile.
  • Filling particular areas on the board.
  • Shipping goods.
  • Having cash or resources left over at the end of the game.

Critics of point salad games often make several arguments against them such as:

  • It’s difficult to develop and focus a winning strategy, particularly when inexperienced at the game.
  • The range of activities can limit the immersiveness of playing as a character in a story who has specific aims and goals and their actions make logical sense.
  • There’s a danger that the sheer range of options can provoke analysis paralysis or excessive min-maxing.

In contrast, supporters and defenders argue:

  • Point salad games give you an opportunity to try out different strategies when you replay the game.
  • There’s less danger of experienced players mastering optimal strategies and making games against new players too unbalanced.
  • It’s more likely that taking an action will immediately reap a benefit, which pleases players who like positive feedback loops and ‘mini-wins’.

Do you enjoy point salad games? If not, how do you make the most of the times you wind up playing them?