Playing: Donna, Alan & David
With less than an hour to go I asked Donna & Alan if they'd try a short-game variant for 6 Billion that I'm trying out, which they were happy to do. Both were familiar with the game (I think Alan has the rules committed to memory!), though Donna was a bit rusty. I designed it, so no excuses for me (even so, we did make 1 error - see below).
We used a combination of Variant 14 ("A Token Gesture") and an old suggestion of Doug Adams' to only use 1 Neutral (it should be 2 for a 3 player game): http://www.bnbg.com.au/~bnbgames/6billionVar.htm
Alan raised the question of whether the limited number of tokens includes or excludes the tokens required for the turn order track and scoring track. They are included, so playing with 10 tokens gives you only 8 tokens for population tracks and discovery tracks. At my suggestion, we opted for 11 tokens each which gave us 9 playable tokens each.
I'd drawn the Earth hidden agenda and, as it turned out, so had Alan. This became obvious when he used a total of 3 Double cards to reach the free doubling limit. Not good for me. Donna's hidden agenda also became obvious when she quiclky colonised Mars, then killed off some Neutral migrants and also used a Double card on herself to take a commanding lead.
Both Alan & I toyed with the idea of not expanding from Earth. This is a difficult strategy to win with, requiring dominance of all 3 discovery tracks and lots of VP cards played. If the other players see what's going on it's fairly easy to stop. So, we both colonised The Asteroid Belt. The Asteroid Belt was a much more interesting and closely contested location. Donna took an early lead, then I slowed her with a Famine. Stupidly for me, when Donna later played a Pestlince on my Asteroid Belt colony, I reponded with a War. Donna retaliated with her own War, and I only had 2 colonies to choose from - Earth & The Asteroid Belt. Donna was too close on Earth, and there was no free doubling there, so I had to let The Asteroid Belt suffer the war. Donna, by this time, had more colonies than Alan & I put together. So, she was able to suffer minor casualties on Saturn (where she had no competitors) for my War on her.
Another fun play on the Asteroid Belt was when I played a Colony (for Another Player) and Migrants (for Another player) on Alan's colony there. Because it was on the 16 space it had to drop back to 8 and I scored 6 points. The colony went to Mercury, the Migrants to Jupiter (Alan wwould be behind Donna, me & the Neutrals!).
A key play from Donna (see later), much to Alan's annoyance, was when she took control of the Dollar discovery track from Alan (who had the Discovery card for it). On the discovery tracks, I quickly put tokens on all 3. Alan tried to dominate Dollar, and also stopped my dominance of Smiley. The discovery tracks, apart from earning you victory points at the end of game (doubled or quadrupled if you have the appropriate Discovery cards), also allow the leading player to alter the turn order after it is drawn. Note that the game normally ends immediately (denying other players a turn!) a token reaches a 1024 space, or all population tracks are occupied. Using the variant, the game now also ends when a faction (player or neutral) runs out of tokens. So, control over the turn order is crucial as the game reaches a conclusion...
As the end approached, Alan revealed his Discovery card for Mercury and placed a further 2 tokens in the Colonists half of the Mercury holding box (making 3 in total). This is actually against the 2nd edition rules which limit each half (Colonists / Migrants) of any holding box to 2 billion each. (See 6.2 Holding Boxes) http://www.bnbg.com.au/~bnbgames/6BillionRules.htm
As it turned out, not only did Donna take control of the Alan's prized Dollar track, but she also equalled me on the Leaf track (meaning that nobody can use the Leaf power to adjust turn order). Cleverly, she did this at the end of 1 turn, whilst in a position to place her last token on the Smiley discovery track. Ideally, she'd want to go first so that Alan and I missed out on a turn...
The turn order for what was to be the last turn was drawn: David, Donna, Alan, Neutral. Well, by spending just 1 VP, Donna was able to move up the turn order to first spot. Neither Alan nor I could do anything about it.
By this point, Donna was looking in a good position, but it's always a gamble ending the game (scores can be doubled by Hidden Agendas, or doubled / quadrupled for Discovery cards). On the VP track, I was ahead by about 5 points on about 15, then Donna, then Alan (who'd only scored a 4 or 5 points).
Well, going first gave Donna control of the Asteroid Belt over Alan (for a net 8 point gain over Alan), and Venus (for a net 6 point gain over me). Plus, Alan's Mercury colony was still in its holding box, so didn't score (a sure 8 points for Alan). Then, of course, both Alan or I would have played cards to score more points for ourselves, or deny others points.
The variant played in 1 hour - excellent. It also highlighted a new tactic - always keep 1 discovery track free as you can instantly (without fear of it being killed like colonists or migrants) place your last token to end the game!
We thought Alan was also in this position, but he would have got tokens (which should only really have been 1) back when he colonised Mercury. Both Pluto & Mercury have a 2 for 1 "exchange rate" which always means you get a token back when you go there.
Donna - 51
David - 36
Alan - 29
Alan finished the evening by generously giving Donna and I a chocolate Yowie (a Yowie is a mythical Australian beast).