~Hakurei Shrine~ > Help Me, Eirin!
A Beginner's Guide to Touhou Scoring
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While learning from replays is effective, the amount of detail in the scoring systems may be overwhelming to someone who's never scored before. This thread is intended to help introduce the various Touhou scoring techniques, so that it's easier to learn.

I'm assuming players are familiar with the basic game mechanics, and have enough experience for at least clearing Extra or Hard-- while I'd recommend most players should at least give scoring a try to see whether they like it, I wouldn't recommend it if you're still struggling with Normal 1ccs.

As techniques vary between gameplay styles, this thread focuses on the standard games, defined as integer games from 4-8 and 10+ (while SoEW also counts as a standard game, I've deliberately excluded it since so many techniques don't apply). Some of these techniques may also apply to SoEW, GFW, or fan games, but many will not.

Feel free to ask for clarification or propose changes/additions.

Table of contents:

Point of Collection (PoC)
Point Item Value (PIV)
Spell Card Bonuses
Bullet Cancels
Using Resources (Lives/Bombs)
4=LLS 5=MS 6=EoSD 7=PCB 8=IN 10=MoF 11=SA 12=UFO 13=TD 14=DDC 15=LoLK 16=HSiFS

Point of Collection (PoC)

Point items are worth more points the higher they are on the screen. Above a certain line, items are typically worth your point item value (see next section); their value is significantly reduced if collected any lower.

As point items are one of the main sources of points, collecting items as maximum value is unsurprisingly an essential part of scoring. In the Windows games, items can be auto-collected by moving near the top of the screen, to the well-known point of collection. Since the point of collection is so relevant, it'll be known as the "PoC" from now on.

[6,7] PoC only works at full power (except in PCB Extra/Phantasm).
[8] PoC only works when focused, at full power, or playing as Marisa.
[4] While there's no PoC per se, the maximum-value line still exists, and you can auto-collect by bombing.
[5] The maximum-value line gradually lowers as you gain DreamBonus. At DreamBonus Max all point items are worth a boosted maximum value. You still need to collect items manually, though.

In games up to MoF, point items are only worth their full value if you remain above the PoC when you collect them. In recent games [12+], point items are are also worth their full value if auto-collected in any way (PoC, boss dialogue, bombing in DDC+), even if you drop below the PoC.

[11] Point items auto-collected by grazing are also worth maximum value, so you don't need to go to the PoC when there's a high bullet density.
[12] Due to the existence of UFO multipliers (up to 8x), items collected from the PoC are worth a relatively low value-- the PoC is much less relevant during stage portions.
[13] Since gray spirits are worth the same as maximum-value point items, but also fill the trance gauge, point items are unusually low priority in TD-- keeping up the spirit chain is much more valuable.

Point Item Value (PIV) [4,5,7+]

Increasing the value of point items is always one of the primary goals of scoring in the main series from PCB onward-- point items effectively have a quadratic effect on score, since their benefit depends both on the number of point items and your PIV at the time.

The method of increasing PIV is usually game-specific, so it's difficult to summarize, but generally the first few stages focus primarily on increasing PIV, frequently at the cost of direct points such as spell bonuses-- the PIV increases will benefit you for the entire remainder of the game.

Meanwhile, in the last stage or two, immediate points are higher priority; only farm PIV if there's little downside. (This is less relevant in games where gaining PIV is also worth direct points, such as PCB, IN, and LoLK.)

[4] PIV exists to a limited extent, but it's not particularly relevant, and resets every stage.
[5] At DreamBonus Max, PIV dramatically increases from 51200 to a difficulty-specific value, but cannot increase throughout the game like in PCB onward.

In many games [4,5,10,11,13-16] PIV caps at a reachable value on some or all difficulties-- keep in mind that increasing PIV is less useful when near the cap, and entirely useless at the cap.

Also, in some games [5,7,10,11] PIV can decrease by dying, or sometimes by bombing. It's generally better to avoid letting PIV decrease whenever possible, though in PCB and SA Lunatic the trade-off is sometimes worth it.

Spell Card Bonuses [6+]

Like point items, spell card bonuses are one of the most obvious sources of score in the Windows games. However, unlike point items, the scoring benefit of spell bonuses wildly varies throughout the series. Spell bonuses are valuable in about half the games [8,10,12,14], and most Extra stages, but in other games spell bonuses are so low that it's frequently better to stall out their timers for graze, or bomb them for other benefits.

[5] While spell cards don't exist, if you don't die in a stage, you're awarded a small fixed amount of points at the end, which is doubled if you also didn't bomb. This isn't especially relevant, though, since the scoring gimmick encourages not dying or bombing already.

In all games where they exist, spell bonuses decrease over time (with the exception of survival spells, and a few arbitrary Extra spells), so when they are worthwhile, it's better to capture spells as quickly as possible.

Some shot types have techniques to deal damage faster than normal (such as staying close to the boss so more options hit, or shift-tapping to fire a combination of focused and unfocused shots), which helps gain higher spell bonuses.

[7,8] These are special cases, since you can actually increase the spell bonus during the spell. In PCB, it increases by grazing (by a varying amount depending on your cherry), and in IN, it increases by collecting time orbs. If you can increase a spell bonus faster than it decreases, it's worth nearly timing it out before capturing it.

You can find the starting spell bonuses on the wiki gameplay pages, for example here for PCB.

Bullet Cancels [4-8,10,14+]

In most Touhou games, bullets removed from the screen (by finishing a boss phase, or by bombing in some games) are worth points [4-6,16] and/or PIV [10+]. Bullet cancels are beneficial in most games, but negligible in SA to TD.

[4-5] After defeating a boss or midboss you gain points based on the number of bullets on screen-- this only applies to the final pattern. In MS Extra, Alice gives bullet cancel bonuses every phase, and actually spawns up to 35 point items where the bullets were.
[8] IN's cancels are different. Instead of focusing on total number of bullets, it's the familiars that matter-- you gain time orbs for each familiar on-screen when an enemy/boss phase is defeated. Canceled familiars will also cancel any bullets they're overlapping, for additional time orbs.
[16] Only season releases are useful for canceling bullets; bombing or finishing a boss phase gives nothing. However, canceled bullets are much more valuable than usual, giving points, PIV, and filling the season gauge.

It's often a good idea to stop shooting when the boss health bar is nearly depleted, in order to time the cancel for a denser pattern. This works well when combined with graze farming. (Conversely, if farming graze on a pattern, it may be worth finishing it off a few seconds early for a better cancel.)

Since bombing also cancels bullets, it's often worth spending bombs for score/PIV on particularly dense patterns. Make sure not to finish off patterns with a bomb, though, or you'll miss the manual cancel.

[6-7] These games unsuccessfully tried to limit the value of bullets canceled by bombing-- while the value is reduced during bomb invincibility, they're worth full value if collected after the bomb ends.
[10+] Spell cards won't produce canceled bullets if bombed (unless using DDC SakuyaB), so save your bombs for nonspells/stage portions.

Grazing [4-8,11,12,14+]

Graze is gained by moving within a certain distance of a bullet. In general, regular bullets can only be grazed once. Lasers can be grazed repeatedly in the Windows games (except most TD lasers), giving a slow trickle of graze in EoSD to IN, and about 15 graze per second in SA onward. Some special projectiles (such as Orin's ghost wheels, Utsuho's suns, Murasa's anchors, and Mamizou's animals) can also be grazed constantly like lasers.

While grazing is the primary scoring gimmick of SA and LoLK, it's beneficial in some way in all the standard games except MoF (and TD, where it's negligible), usually giving points [4-8] or PIV [11+].

[6] Grazing also increases the value of canceled bullets. This is EoSD's main scoring gimmick.
[7,8] Grazing situationally increases PIV and spell bonuses; more details later.
[15] Unlike other games, you can graze normal bullets repeatedly-- staying close to a bullet for a set amount of time is worth +5 graze, then an additional 1 graze at a time if you continue to follow it.

There are many patterns in the series where special techniques have been developed to maximize graze, usually involving circling around the boss, safespotting, or otherwise staying close to bullet spawn points. This type of grazing is sometimes known as "supergrazing".

In SA onward, it's also possible to graze while invincible, such as during bombs or after dying. This often allows spawn-point grazing when a supergraze doesn't exist, which is much more profitable than manual grazing, at the cost of resources. Not all shot types can bomb-graze, though.

Using Resources (Lives/Bombs)

When scoring, resources have a very different role from survival-- while in survival the goal is to avoid using them whenever possible, in scoring they tend to be something to regularly spend throughout the game.

Bombing has many different purposes in the various games, including:
- to auto-collect items [4,6+], when you can't otherwise safely reach the PoC.
- to defeat enemies that'd otherwise escape
- to cancel bullets for points [6], cherry [7], or PIV [10,14,15].
- to graze [11,12,14+] during the invincibility with certain shot types.
- to speedkill midbosses in order to spawn more stage enemies afterward.
[13] - to stay close to bosses for more spirits. Note: In TD, "resources" include trances as well.

The main purpose of intentionally dying is simply to refill bombs. However, in the MoF+ engine, dying creates a deathwave that weakly damages enemies, and in SA+ you can also graze during the invincibility after dying. Dying also clears the screen of bullets, which may help reach the PoC at times.
[6,7] Since reaching full power cancels all bullets on screen, you can get a free cancel every death from the next set of boss items.

However, some games [5,7,10,11] have a PIV penalty for dying and/or bombing, as mentioned earlier. Notably it's rarely beneficial to use any resources in MS (stage enemies don't even drop point items if killed by a bomb), and it's never worth dying in MoF due to large PIV penalties, or in SA Easy/Normal after the start of the game. Additionally, bombing has very limited use in IN due to its time orb-focused scoring system.

The reduced power after dying (or bombing in MoF/SA) is another factor to consider. It can reduce spell bonuses and make it harder to clear out enemies, and in some games [4-8,10] you get fewer point items from bosses if below full power.

Since the end-of-game clear bonus rewards you for remaining lives and bombs, spending resources may be a trade-off even without an immediate penalty. In some games [5,8,10,12.8] it's worth finishing with as many lives as possible, while in others [4,6,12,13,15] bombing is so useful that scoreruns tend to finish with no lives remaining. It may depend on the particular scoring category-- for example, SA and DDC tend to finish with maximum lives on lower difficulties (where there's less benefit to bombing for graze or bullet cancels), but regularly drop to 0 lives on higher difficulties.


While knowing the techniques is important, routing when to use them is also essential for scoring.

The stage portions are particularly important. For example, there's planning when you can reach the PoC to collect as many point items as possible, gathering resources when nontrivial [12+], and game gimmicks like border/trance/release timing [7,13,16], preventing faith from decreasing [10], and multiplying the value of point items [4,12,14]. This is highly game-specific, so it's difficult to give general advice, but keep in mind that you need to plan out your stage portions-- make sure to stage practice! It helps to watch replays to learn routes.

Notably, in most Touhou games [not 8], more enemies spawn the faster you defeat a midboss. You often need to make a choice whether to stall a midboss for graze/better bullet cancels, or speedkill them (e.g. by bombing) for the additional items.

Additionally, there's resource management (as in the previous section) to route. In games where it's worth bombing for score, some patterns are more profitable than others for spending your resources. Also, when you die to refill bombs, try to plan the death at a convenient time, such as when you'll reach full power again quickly or when you can graze using death invincibility, as opposed to dying when point items would drop off-screen or you'd lose spell bonus from the reduced power.

You can plan resource usage for survival as well! For example, you can intentionally bomb a spell you don't expect to capture, or plan to clear a game 1/0 or 2/0 instead of 0/0 for a safety net, or even intentionally plan a bomb-refill death to a difficult pattern. While this isn't optimal for scoring records, it can be quite helpful when you're first learning, allowing you to start without needing to capture every pattern every time.

There are tools such as SpoilerAL that can help you route a game, by allowing you to start stage practice with the resources you'd have in a full run (such as life/bomb counts, and specific cherry values or UFO tokens).

Note to players who already score: I realize there are more details and exceptions than I mention-- keep in mind these are general guidelines to help players starting out. My hope is that this helps players at least try out scoring instead of dismissing it as too complicated.
I wrote this several years ago (September 2016, according to my file modified date) but never released it since I considered it unfinished. I thought it's better to release what exists, though.

If possible, I'd like to include a write-up about each game's scoring system, preferably by someone who scores that game. I'll use this post for linking to more specific guides, if so.
I'm pretty new to this series and I've been looking for every possible way to improve from reading guides, watching replays, practicing challenges and whatnot and I think you're guide is exactly what I need to help improve my understanding of the game mechanics even further right now. Thank you so much!  :)

Gonna bookmark this page for future use
Yes, the guide is very useful. Any newcomer players are now provided with a single, concise resource to help them start with scoring. Many will find it helpful.

Personally I'm most interested in scoring in only a few select games (PCB and IN), so more detailed guides concerning these games would be even better. But are there even any remaining active players who know these games well enough to write a guide nowadays?  Doubtful, but I hope so.
Okay so question. I have a good chunk of normal 1ccs under my belt but only a single hard 1cc. I can easily normal 1cc games like 6-8 on a single try with ease but games like SA, UFO and LoLK I still struggle with. Would it be worth it to start looking into practicing scoring a bit or would I be better off becoming more comfortable doing hard/extra mode first and then come back and revisit scoring later?
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