All games come to an end. But what about those games where you can control the time and place of the ending?
It feels like most games I play have a set number of rounds. A smaller number end after some other predefined condition occurs (like the deck runs out of cards). The last, most exclusive group are those that allow the players some limited control of the tempo of the game.
A smaller game most people don't even know about. I can't count how many times I've been caught flat-footed by another player in this game. Firenze closes down once someone uses up their own limited supply of seals. Intially, when the game starts and everyone is on even footing it makes sense to score as many points for your towers (a finished tower uses up one of your seals) as you can to get the most value.
Once you score a big pile of points, inevitably another player will switch gears and attempt to spend his/her seals as quickly as possible. Because if they can run out fast enough, and eek out ahead of your big score, the game will end and they will win.
Shipping points, colonists and buildings. Any of these 3 elements can be "run out" by an enterprising opponent to end the game when he or she is in a position to win.
Puerto Rico is such a soulless game. And yet, there lives within its husk an incredible adrenaline rush when everyone's economic machines start working. If you are really screwing up your turn and bombing out on your developments…the game will at least be over quickly.
I thought Puerto Rico was the most obvious one. But then I thought of Dominion. Every single game of Dominion has 2 parts: first players are building card engines and adding to their deck. Then the moment comes when the leap is made to scoring victory points. When that first province is grabbed, the game turns upside down and hopefully you have what you need to get some points of your own.
Race for the Galaxy
Sharing some development with Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy inherited some of the same racing end conditions. With a few more to make it play even faster. Add the 2 player expert rules, and you can lay down extra planets/developments each turn and really run out the clock if you have a plan. The dream scenario is 2 developments and 2 settlements in the same action phase…running out a full 1/4 of the game in the span of a single turn.
Woe be the player who chooses production, while his/her opponent sneaks out another card into the tableau to end the game!
You can move your little guy around the rondel as fast as you want. Other players can take as many turns as they want until they catch up. Yet, the game punishes you for having too many tiles so surprisingly it doesn't hurt as much as you'd think to leap ahead quite a ways. Since the game ends as soon as the 3rd tile stack is depleted you can really make a run for it if you feel like you're in a good position.
I'm still trying to figure it out. It might sound like I'm continually campaigning for highly-interactive games that keep you on the edge of your seat. Yet there's something to be said for relaxing, laid-back games that let you kick back and plan your turn a little.