The end can come in one of two ways in Carcosa.
Your cult gathers Occult Power throughout the game represented by an Oracle figure moving along the track around the Cult Board. When your Oracle gets to the end of the Cult Board, you automatically start the final ritual: "The King Rises". The next three of your cultists that go mad do not return to your supply, they are placed standing up on the Yellow Sign. When you have three of these - win the game!
Alternatively, if two of the tile stacks you are drawing from are depleted - Carcosa is complete and the game stops. In that case, everyone gets a little more Occult Power from their currently deployed cultists and the person with the most Power takes command of Carcosa!
I like games where there’s something more than just “total up your victory points at the end of the game”. It doesn’t have to be much - sometimes even a simple thing like “cash” instead of victory points is enough if the theme is strong enough (hello, Lords of Vegas!). Even a set of objectives to squabble over in games like Suburbia or even the customers in Dungeon Petz can make a bland totting up feel more textured and interesting.
Carcosa goes further. As soon as the first player gathers enough power to start the final ritual, the game changes for everyone.
Players working on the final ritual want to complete features as fast as possible so their cultists are driven mad - power means nothing to them any more.
Trailing players want to *stop* them completing features to keep their cultists trapped on the board while they catch up. They also want to deplete the stacks. The longer the Final Ritual players spend on it, the more they can catch up and if they can trigger the stack victory condition as well the game can turn around completely.
I feel that the end game mechanics add a new level of excitement to the worn “everyone gets one last turn” trope both where someone has rushed ahead of the pack and when its still to tight to call.
After all, bringing about the end of the world shouldn’t be easy!