House Rules
Ira Fay
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Some people steadfastly play a boardgame exactly as written. While I certainly respect the greater wisdom of the game designer, I also enjoy tweaking the rules to make the game more balanced and thus more fun.

This list includes some house rules for games that are excellent as originally written and designed, but can be even better with a few minor changes. Of course, all of these changes are simply my opinion - please take it with a grain of salt, and flavor to suit your desires.
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1. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Ira Fay
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Carcassonne is a great game, but the original game comes with 71 tiles, not counting the starting tile. Two minor drawbacks are that experienced players know exactly what tiles remain near the end, and that not everyone gets the same number of turns.

Therefore, a small improvement is to randomly remove tiles at the beginning of the game, and keep them hidden.

2 players: remove 1 tile
3 players: remove 2 tiles
4 players: remove 3 tiles
5 players: remove 1 tile
 
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2. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:801]
Ira Fay
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Cosmic Encounter is one of the best six player games I know because of it's ability to involve multiple people on other people's turns.

Since your hand is so important, and it's a lot more fun when you have good cards in hand, one house rule that we use is that you may skip your whole turn to discard your hand and draw a new one. You don't even get to take a token out of the warp. The Connoisseur does get to draw double.
 
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3. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Ira Fay
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Everyone knows this game is unbelievably good, but the rules for two player games aren't included in the original set. Rio Grande published rules for two player Puerto Rico, but they were somewhat unbalanced in favor of the 2nd player. These rules provide a better balance:


Setup:
1st player: 1 indigo, Governor, 4 doubloons
2nd player: 1 corn, 3 doubloons

Remove 3 of each plantation from the game, and 3 quarries. Uncover 3 plantations for when the Settler is called.

Remove 2 of each good from the game.

Use 2 of each Production building, and 1 of each violet building. Remember you can only ever have 1 copy of each building.

Play with 65 victory point chips, 50 colonists (in the supply) and 2 on the colonist ship (minimum = player number = 2.)

Use the 4 and 6 capacity cargo shipts

The trading house is unchanged.

Role cards:
Use zero prospectors. Each round, the Governor selects a role, then the other person, then Governor, then other person, then Governor, which leaves 1 role unchosen each round. The unchosen role gets 1 doubloon, all the roles go back into circulation, and the Governor passes to the
other person for the next round.

Once all the quarries are gone, the settler's special privilege changes to the prospector (i.e. whoever picks the settler gets $1 from the bank), and then the usual settler stuff happens.
 
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4. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:366]
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Bohnanza is also a good game for 3 to 6 (or even 7) players because of its quick pace and involvement on other people's turns. Since I prefer games where the winning path is less clear and changes from game to game, I recommend that buying a 3rd beanfield costs only 2 gold coins, instead of 3.

As a note, the rules specify this change for a large game, and I think it improves the game regardless of the number of players. From what I've seen, experienced players rarely pay 3 coins for a third beanfield, and I think the game is better if you buy a third beanfield approximately 50% of the games.
 
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5. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1039]
Ira Fay
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Eurorails is one of the better rail games, in my opinion. It has all the fun features and remains streamlined. One complaint I had with Eurorails as written is that there's frequently a single optimal strategy that rarely varies from game to game. I think the game is more fun if a variety of strategies can win, and different players' rails go different places.

Therefore, I encourage you to try these modifications:

Extra Payouts (cumulative)
+5 to Aberdeen, Glasgow, Belfast, Cork (from outside UK)
+5 to Arhus
+15 to Oslo, Stockholm, Goteborg, Kobenhavn (from outside that Northeastern area)
+5 to Italy (except Chocolate to Milano)
+3 to any city ending in -grad
+5 Columns dropoff
+10 Pipeweed dropoff (only +5 to Zurich)

Loans
A player may borrow money, which must be repaid as soon as possible at 2 to 1. Other players (in order from poorest to wealthiest) have the option to fund the loan instead of the bank.

Trains
Trains move at 12 initially, and 16 when upgraded.
Optional Rule: Train speed may be upgraded infinitely, for +4 movement each time.

Ferries
Riding a ferry costs half of a train's movement. The ferry may be boarded at anytime during the first half of movement so that the train has enough movement points remaining to complete the ride.

Goods
Excess goods don't simply disappear when discarded; instead, they are placed on the board at the city where they are discarded. Any train at that city may pick up the good from the board. If multiple goods are discarded at the same city, the most recently discarded good remains, and
the others are returned to the supply.

Optional Rule: It costs 1 movement point to pick up a good.
Optional Rule: It costs 1 movement point to drop off or discard a good.
 
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6. Board Game: Filthy Rich [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2884]
Ira Fay
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Filthy Rich is an aesthetically fun game, but has some glaring holes. Consider these adjustments:

When rolling the d6 to change pages at the end of your turn, if you roll a 6, you may pick the page.

You may only buy your third luxury (or use the asset that lets you take a luxury) if you have a business showing through on the current page. This prevents people from selling off all their businesses and hoarding money, and also gives other people the chance to reign in the leader.

After you roll the business dice, you may sell luxuries at face value to avoid paying tax on them. If you own at least one luxury, you may not sell any businesses after you roll the business dice (but you may still sell businesses normally before you roll.) This rule still allows for interesting luxury buying decisions, and also prevents people from going bankrupt, which is no fun in this type of game.

Tic Toc Floating Craps costs $3 to put into play (instead of $2.)

The Protection Racket asset costs $4 to put in play.

The 2nd person starts with $11, 3rd person gets $12, 4th person $13, and 5th person $14.
 
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7. Board Game: Mare Nostrum [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1073]
Ira Fay
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Mare Nostrum is an aesthetically gorgeous game. I've only played it 5 times, so I'm not certain how valid this variation is. One of the problems we encountered several times was the stagnation and dominance of a few people.

Therefore, try this rule: when the count for a particular leadership role is tied, the current holder loses the role (instead of keeping it, as written.)
 
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8. Board Game: Knightmare Chess [Average Rating:6.44 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.44 Unranked]
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Knightmare Chess is a great variant itself! After playing for a while, though, we would frequently end up with the same decks. We tried picking half a deck for ourselves, and half for our opponents. This worked to some extent.

Then, one of my friends entered all of the cards into a database, and wrote a program to randomly generate decks worth X points, where we can pick what X is. Hopefully I'll get this system online someday soon (assuming no copyright issues), because it really makes the game much more fun and varied. Over time, we've tweaked the value of certain cards up and down, e.g. Fog of War = 12, Funeral Pyre = 4.
 
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9. Board Game: Caesar & Cleopatra [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1431]
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Caesar and Cleopatra is a fun two player game. The rulebook includes a few optional rules, and I recommend using the ones below, which are a combination of the optional rules provided and a new one:

On the first turn of the game, there is no vote.

If a player plays no actions, he or she may play one card face down and one card face up.

After two columns of Patricians are captured, remove a "No Vote" card the next time one is revealed (and flip again.) After three columns of Patricians are captured, remove another "No Vote" card the next time it's revealed (and flip again.) Obviously, don't remove the No Vote card that says "reshuffle."
 
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10. Board Game: Advanced Civilization [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
Ira Fay
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Since Advanced Civilization is such a long game, I've searched for ways to speed it up. Obviously many people (and the rulebook!) suggests using a timer for phases, and more importantly, acting simultaneously whenever possible. Those go a long way, and I encourage them. Other people have also suggested having the calamities descriptions and the chart of civilization card discounts available to each player, which is surely a good idea.

In addition, I noticed many of my games had one or two players in the lead, several in the middle, and a few more clearly in last. This stratification was obvious early on, either because the losing players were new to the game, got some unlucky early calamity, or simply weren't as good.

Advanced Civilization has plenty of the mechanic, "something bad is happening to me, so something bad will happen to you too." It really doesn't have much of the mechanic, "something good will happen to me because I'm losing," with the exception of Civil War. I wanted more of the mechanic, "good things happen to me to help me catch up." I'm pretty sure I read these suggestions elsewhere, but I'll list them here because I tried them recently in a game with four newbies (out of 7 players), and they worked well:

- At the start of the calamities phase, each player notes how many cities s/he has. If a player ends up with a calamity from a trade card numbered higher than that many cities, the calamity is completely ignored (no effect, doesn't count towards the max two calamities per round.)

Generally, number of cities correlated to how well a player was doing. This house rule also has the benefit of encouraging trades between high-citied players and low-citied players, allowing the low-citied players to demand very good trades in exchange for nullifying calamities. Also, we only had about 2/3rds the normal number of calamities this way, which obviously makes the world more prosperous overall. The game tended to go more quickly, because people could buy more stuff. We ruled that even if you bought a level 9 card, you were immune to Piracy unless you had 9 cities at the start of the calamities phase.

- Any player who is at least 2 spaces behind on the AST may choose to receive an extra trade card of the highest number they drew that round. If there aren't any more of that number, they may choose to take one number lower, etc. Players only get the extra card after everyone has gotten their normal cards.

This rule was good, except that it aggravated running out of trade cards. When we playtested it, we allowed player to get their extra cards right away, instead of waiting for everyone to get their cards. This often caused Egypt to not get cards because we were running out. As a note, if players only had 7 cities, but bought a level 9 card, they got an extra 7 card, not 9 card.

Also, I might change the rule to allow players to get the extra card if they have the fewest cities and are at least 1 space back on the AST. It seemed like the rule above didn't quite kick in fast enough, but I was worried that Egypt and Babylon would be encouraged to lag back in the Stone Age, and then get extra cards.

All the other games I've playtested quite a bit more - these rules take a long longer to playtest, so I welcome any feedback you have!
 
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11. Board Game: Starfarers of Catan [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:848]
Ira Fay
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Each of the suggestions below address a specific issue.

Cannons are by far the least useful of expansions. To make them more useful, allow a ship that ends it's movement next to an enemy ship to attack that ship. You must have 1 card to attack, but you can't attack someone with more Fame than you. A ship can only attack one other ship per turn. Roll your ship and add your cannons, and the defend rolls their ship and adds their cannons. Winner steals a random card from the loser, and defender wins ties. If you lose by 2 or more, that ship is disabled for the next turn.

Change the 7 cannon red token to a 5 cannon.

If you have 4-6 points, draw two cards at the beginning of your turn. 7-8 draw one card.

Fame for Sale only lets you buy 1 Fame per turn.
 
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