Should games have catch-up mechanics?
So this is less of an opinion piece and more of a geniune question. Many of the games I play don't have explicit catch-up mechanics I wonder if the community at large would like to see more of these and in what form?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
I find games with engine building (as a mechanic or not depending on your perspective) are often games where snowballing (an effect where once you get ahead in a game you tend to then just keep gettign further and further ahead) is most obvious. If someone's engine kicks in a round earlier (either through luck or skill) suddenly they can have a huge resoure boom which allows them to capitilise on that. Thinking of games of #Dominion: Second Edition I have played, where either I or someone else has managed to get a good balance early, and then just storms ahead turn after turn. I think this can make the game uninteresting to other players as they watch the other player raking it all in while they do comparitively little on their turns. I think a good solution which a lot of games employ is not so much a catch-up mechanic but that they design it in such a way that engines can't peak until near the end of a game giving only one or two crazy powerful turns. This means it isn't obvious half-way through who will win and keeps the game interesting.
When i played #Dinosaur Island I liked that turn order was decided by current VP, I thought this was a really interesting catch-up mechanic and became a tactical consideration. I think it allowed individuals who were sturggling to get first pick of the better resources and cards and so jump them back into the game a little. I actually swept that game by purposefully depressing my VP's while building a big VP potential into my park and claiming a whole bunch of objectives in one turn (this could well have back-fired though if I had mis-timed it so isn't a game-breaking strategy).
I think in any more confrontational game it is important to have a mechanic that de-incentivises players to all hit the weakest player. I remember when I played #World of Tanks Rush where you score points for destroying enemy tanks and bases that once one player had been attacked it made sense for everyone else who could to also attack that player as they were less able to defend themselves or attack back next turn. As such I think games need a way to either prevent that pile-on or not have it be disasterous for the victim (i.e. their capacity isn't deminished even if other players do get points from it). I like how in a lot of area control games a kind of 'cold war' effect often prevents this, as if one of the leaders attacks a weaker player then they ususally leave themselves open to attack from another strong player and so they end up fighting each other more to keep each other in check.
I loved in #War on Terror how once you got to a point where you knew you couldn't win through your empire you could instead dissolve you empire and join the terrorist faction giving you plenty of agency in the game and giving a different path to victory. Giving players another chance to be impactful on a game is a really cool idea that I am would love to see in more games. As it will keep everyone engaged.
What do you all think about catch up mechanics? Do you have any good or bad exmaples from games you have played?