I tend to tweak games until I think that they play perfectly smoothly. I think I finally came up with a 2-player varient that is very fun. I haven't played much with >2 players so can't say if it works well with more players but imagine that it would. I dramatically changed much of the text on the character cards, and I realize these changes are very dramatic however think that you will enjoy the changes. The changes make the game much more dynamic and add strategy.
1. I made major changes so first had to get some sleeves for the cards in order to insert new text. I would recommend this either way in order to save wear on the character cards.
2. Take the following district cards out: Park, Hospital, ballroom, 1 keep, belltower, graveyard, greatwall, 3 taverns, 1 tradingpost, 1 docks, 2 market, 1 townhall, 1 harbor, 1 school of magic.
3. Play with 9 cards. Put one faceup and 2 facedown. Emperor takes 3 cards, chooses one and passes the other two. Emperor then takes remaining 3 cards, chooses one and passes the other two. All remaining cards are added to the facedown stack. (2 player varient)
4. There are 2 rounds each starting with the current emperor. Draw 1 gold or 2 cards (discarding 1) each round.
5. Game ends when someone gets to 12 districts. you get 2 points for getting to 12, 3 points for having one district of each color, an additional 2 points for a total of 4 points for getting to 12 first, 5 points for getting two sets of each color for a total of 8 points.
5. Cards to play with
1) Witch: play as normal
2) Tax collector: other players must instead of giving a gold at the end of the turn instead give it before playing a district(can't play without paying)
3) Magician reads: Do not take an action or build this turn. Reveal all face-down character cards. Take one and play it in normal sequence. (1 and 2 cannot be chosen).
4) Emperor reads: District cards cost 1 less to play for each yellow district you controll. When the emperor is called, move the crown to someone who does not currently controll it.
5) Abbot reads: District cards cost 1 less to play for each blue district you controll. The player with the most gold at the start of your turn pays you one gold.
6) Merchant reads: District cards cost 1 less to play for each green district you controll. Draw 2 cards, discard 2 cards. If you have no cards than draw 2 and discard 1.
7) Architect: Burn(distroy) one of your districts. Replace it with the top card of the deck. Count as your build for the turn. If purple is drawn than discard and redraw. If you draw a district you already controll than discard and redraw.
8) Diplomat reads: District cards cost 1 less to play for each red district you controll. Reveal the top 2 cards of the deck. You may exchange any combination of these cards with any combination of districts you controll as long as the total gold value is equal.
9) Queen reads: If you have no purple districts than districts cost 2 less to play. If you have 1 purple disctict than districts cost 1 less to play. If you have 2 or more districts than too bad. If the emperor was played then draw 1 gold. (A more susinct way of saying this is X equals # of purple districts you own. X cannot exceed 2. districts cost (2-X) less to play.)
Card errata: If the witch chooses a card that is in the facedown stack then that card is still playable by the magician.
This varient makes it so that there is a bit more strategy when you play. Making gold more scarce and adding an 8 point total bonus for 2 set of 5 colors makes you have to think rather than just playing random cards the almost no strategy. I love the Architect and Diplomat. They seem too strong just reading this but you will find that they are no better than many of the other cards, it just depends on what you need at certain times. I find that we more or less use all the cards about the same amount of times throughout the game. Hope that someone will try this varient and let me know if you liked it. Here is my gmail.com address if you would let me know: adamvr@