I wanted to discuss a few possible variants that all fit in the same framework: using an Infector Token. (This token controls turn order similar to the Governor Token in Puerto Rico, if you're familiar with that.) I will refer to whoever is currently holding the Infector Token as the Infector. The game progresses as follows:
1. The players spend 4 action points.
2. The Infector draws 2 cards into his hand (or resolves any epidemics drawn).
3. The Infector draws from the infection pile at the current infection rate and adds the appropriate cubes.
4. The Infector passes the Infector Token to the player on his left, who becomes the new Infector.
Variant 0 - During step 1 above, the Infector spends all 4 action points on his own pawn. This is exactly the same as the regular game.
Variant 1 - During step 1 above, the Infector spends only 1 action point on his own pawn. Play continues in a clockwise fashion, each player spending 1 action point on his own pawn, until all 4 actions points are exhausted. The Infector then proceeds with step 2 above.
Variant 2 - Same as Variant 1, but in addition, a player can choose to pass and not spend an action point.
Variant ? - There are many other possible variants on how the action points can be allocated. The Infector can give them all to a player of his choice, or randomly assign them, etc.
I'm mostly interested in Variant 1, which would seem to keep everyone engaged in making small decisions as information emerges. In the original game, with 4 (or more) players, by the time you get to play again, the world has changed a lot.
Variant 2 would seem to undo some of the added difficulty of having more players. Fewer turns are "wasted" by players who don't have anything valuable to do at a particular point.
Note: This probably doesn't work with the Generalist role.
My initial reaction is that this makes the game easier, however you could balance this by playing at a harder difficulty level.
Playtest and let us know
I like this ... I might play test this just for kicks. I might give the Infector TWO actions if that doesn't make things too easy.
Thanks for sharing your ideas.
So I finally got around to trying this. Four of us played two games of Variant 1 from above, losing the first game and winning the second. All of us agreed it was a change was for the better (at least for us). The players thought it kept them more in the game, since less time passed in between their moves. I did notice two areas for improvement, though.
The first is just terminology. Playing the Infector makes one sound like the bad guy. I think I will call it the Leader Token from now on, which is more positive and intuitive. The Leader has to deliver the bad news about new infections, though!
The second is a quirk concerning turn order. With 4 players, the turn order changed every round. If Player 1 started with the Leader Token, the order would be 1234. Player 1 then hands the token to Player 2, who starts off the next round, which goes 2341. This means everyone got to go twice before Player 1 got to go again. We forgot this a few times and messed up our planning.
Upon reflection, I'm not sure I like worrying about turn order in general. I'm going to try a new variant next time (call it Variant 3). In this variant, players spend action points (nearly) simultaneously; the order doesn't matter. The Leader make sure 4 action points are spent as appropriate.
The points can still be allocated as if you were going clockwise:
2 players - each player gets 2 actions
3 players - each player gets 1 except the Leader gets 2
4 players - each player gets 1 action
5 players - each player gets 1 action except the previous Leader gets 0 (vacation!)
Flexibility around turn order definitely would make the game easier, but I imagine it would also make it feel even more simultaneous. That's the aspect my group really liked. Hopefully it's not too chaotic! I'll report back when I try it.
Thanks for reading!