A lot of people don't like the "Beat Your Own Score" type of games. For all the wrong reasons. I started writing this post two weeks ago, but then a thread appeared in the 1 Player Guild on BoardGameGeek, discussing this very subject. I threw my notes away. But I'm still grumpy, and I figured nobody reads BGG anyway and there's nothing wrong with beating your own dead horse. First of all: not every game that "just" lets you score Victory Points is a Beat Your Own Score at heart. Congratulations if you reached 18 points in At the Gates of Loyang. Now see if you can do it again. It's a goal. You wouldn't toss away a game with a win condition after you had beaten it once. Perhaps it helps to think about the game in another way. Imagine the Path of Prosperity in Loyang is a doom track. If the farmer doesn't place the 18 Elder Signs, he is devoured.
The game hasn't changed. Gameplay is exactly the same. The score has become the win condition. The problem is not whether there's a win condition or whether there are good and bad scores. There's a problem when you can beat the game consistently / reach the high scores consistently. Yes, you can get bored with Friday if you manage to find a strategy that lets you win 95% of your games. And you can get bored with Nusfjord if you always score over 40 points. But most of us won't get to that point. And even then: some games are just fun to play. Because of the theme, the stories they tell, or the puzzles they throw at you. This is dependent on mechanics, setting, illustrations - on a lot of things. But not on whether it has a winning or scoring condition. People that are obsessed with winning don't play games for their gameplay. It is very satisfying to get better at a game when you play it more. You can keep track by counting the times you win or lose. You can also keep track of Victory Points scored each session. Both statistics are valid and useful, the "BYOS" way is just a simpler way to see how much you've improved. It may be more suited to people that enjoy the subtleties in life. But what's really puzzling is the widespread preference for automas and bots. Now I understand a lot of so-called soloists are multiplayer gamers at heart. They want to play those popular multiplayer games like everybody else and that's cool. You can easily do that against yourself. But no, they want some fake opponent that cheats their way through the game. These bots are tested to score within a certain range. Want a more difficult game? Let the bot score in a higher range. Automated games work exactly like BYOS! Except the ranges are not printed in the rulebook. BYOS are about all open information. They are more honest.
So, basically, in Coffee Roaster 47+ is a win. In Herbaceous 52+ is a win. Because, why strive for mediocre scores? Why aim to be average? What's wrong with you people? Don't you have any ambition? It's not so hard to set a goal and go for it. Or does the designer really need to spell everything out for you? When I grew up, we used to be able to think for ourselves. Whatever was missing in our lives, we would build with our own bare hands. Who cares if the win condition is not prescribed. I'll let you in on a secret. There's no winning this life. You do your best, then next time you try to do better. Just grow up already.
I have a Stone Age axe that says Win on Condition - These Conditions Win on Condition Win on Condition Win on Condition These Conditions
... and I'll use it.