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We played a few games with this crazy set up.
Mercenary: Pay 3, give a player a disappear (death) token. The can claim mercenary to counter right away, or they can claim mercenary at the end of their turn to counter. It gives players the opportunity to use a communications role to look for a mercenary.
Communist: Take 3 from the richest player and give it to the poorest player. In case of ties the player who claimed communist determines who the richest/poorest is.
Banker: Just a duke.
Writer: Take 1 card from the deck. Then you may choose to pay 1 to take another card. You may repeat this process as many times as you want. When done, put back as many cards as you drew. So it's Ambassador X pretty much.
Customs Officer: Place a tax token on one of the roles. Anytime anyone claims that role they need to pay you 1.
The first action someone takes is very dynamic because if you take any money it makes you vulnerable to communist. You can take no money and use a writer or customs officer, or you can use writer HARD and become the poorest player essentially turning off all of the communists. (Unless someone wants to give you money.)
The customs officer seems like a dud, and it still might be. However because it is so weak people tend to ignore it when they writer opting instead of more powerful cards. This means if you get a tax token on something, you might be able to make some money throughout the game. Needs more testing.
Is this a variant? Just seems like a normal setup (no offense!)
Yes you are totally right, it's just one of the hundreds of "variants" possible with Rebellion. None of the rules are different here.
Just seemed like the right place to put it.