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Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)» Forums » General

Subject: The argument against "culling" the Political Deck rss

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Adam Mitchell
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There has been a fair amount of posting on the idea of "culling" the political deck, taking out many of the cards which people feel are insufficiently powerful. Since no one else seems to have done so, I would like to present the case for maintaining the political deck as is. I should clarify that I speak from a position of using all of the expansions and Assembly II, though I recently did play a game with Assembly I and a culled political deck.

First, I would argue that it is both realistic and thematically appropriate for there to be less powerful cards in the deck, for the simple reason that any legislative body does have to deal with minor issues in addition to major ones; look at some of the bills passed in Congress! Why should the Galactic Council be any different?

Second, I certainly do not WANT the political deck to consist of nothing but game-changing laws! I don't want every single political phase to be a vital life or death vote. The one game I played with a cullled deck saw Emperor, Ancient Artifact, Compensated Disarmament, Protect the Jewel, and Minister of Peace all used! Each of these is a card which could potentially determine the winner and in the case of Ancient Artifact it did exactly that, costing the unfortunate Naalu player the game.

Third, cutting the deck down to only the most potent political cards makes it far easier to bag on the leader, a process which is already more than easy enough as it is. I don't desire adding yet another way to punish the players who are ahead.

Fourth, I've seen a number of cards dismissed as unworthy of being in the deck which I've found to be quite important. Sanctuary Shield I saw derided, when twice I've seen this card used to open an unexpected pathway into an player's realm which is suddenly ripe for invastion.

Arms Merchants is on the cut list, and last time that came up in our game I was the Hacan and the result of that law would determine whether I could accomplish my secret objective that turn or not, a huge thing for me.

Most inexplicable of all for me is that Minister of Policy is considered unimportant. Minister of Policysurprise?!? The card which elects a player and that player recieves one extra action card at the end of each turn? My first game as the Saar I was elected Minister of Policy early on and it was that position which gave me the game! During my last battle I played Morale Boost and Shields Holding, and I won with two Cruisers left. It was these two Cruisers which then seized the revealed Precursor Space Station and won me the Imperial Throne. And this was a fleet which was far from my home system; if I'd lost that battle I would have lost everything.

Lastly, with Assembly II, each player starts with two political cards and recieves two whenever he activates the primary of Assembly II, while every player possesses the ability to spend political cards like trade goods. This is already a good system for separating the wheat from the chaff in politics! Spend the political cards you don't like and keep the ones you want played! It's the responsibility of the players to see that the cards that are best come up, which in my opinion is how it should be.
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Shawn Garbett
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While I don't necessarily agree with you, as I've played several games where the political side had very little influence in the game. You present a very compelling counter-argument. Makes me think our group hasn't played it for it's full benefit. You got room at your table?
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Hmm, never culling the political deck before.

I think every card in the political deck have effect on the victory.
Big, small, direct, or indirect. So, I doubt that I will find any perfect list of culling political card.
 
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Scott Randolph
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I actually agree with you Solan. Our variant to the political system, which I think is actually quite poorly done in the RAW game, though I love the game itself, was to allow the players to choose 2 agendas for the game out of a hand of PC's. We do this after HS's, Great Races, and other items are completed and assigned. I did not eliminate any PC's from the deck. In our variant each player gets a hand of PC's (usually 10, but it is normally calculated at 2x#players, not to exceed 10, and we virtually always have 6+ players), and the players each pick 2 for the "Senate Floor." All agendas chosen are place face-up. My friend Seren refers to this as "AoE" for the political system, I agree.

I would be very hard pressed to decide for an entire group which agendas should be removed, and which ones should be included. I found this variant to be not only a much more interesting solution, but a much easier one to execute.

Many of the agendas could be very intriguing (no pun intended) given the right situation.

I don't believe in culling the AC deck either, FWIW.
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Solan wrote:
Fourth, I've seen a number of cards dismissed as unworthy of being in the deck which I've found to be quite important. Sanctuary Shield I saw derided, when twice I've seen this card used to open an unexpected pathway into an player's realm which is suddenly ripe for invastion.

Arms Merchants is on the cut list, and last time that came up in our game I was the Hacan and the result of that law would determine whether I could accomplish my secret objective that turn or not, a huge thing for me.

Most inexplicable of all for me is that Minister of Policy is considered unimportant. Minister of Policysurprise?!? The card which elects a player and that player recieves one extra action card at the end of each turn?

THIS. I would say this is the biggest reason people don't like the political phase.

Many people seem to think the only way to use PC is find a good one and try and force it through to benefit you.
Hello? Bribes to benefit someone else? Blackmail used similarly?
TG gained can give you a huge boost toward VP.

Or benefit someone behind VP, adjacent to someone you're at war with. Even if they don't ally with you and attack your enemy, just doing this will make your enemy nervous that you ARE allied, and redirect some ships to his backside....

There are so many possibilities, so long as you don't just think I must vote this through for me.
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Lastly, with Assembly II, each player starts with two political cards and recieves two whenever he activates the primary of Assembly II, while every player possesses the ability to spend political cards like trade goods. This is already a good system for separating the wheat from the chaff in politics! Spend the political cards you don't like and keep the ones you want played! It's the responsibility of the players to see that the cards that are best come up, which in my opinion is how it should be.

I do think you are 100% accurate in what the intention for this set up is.
Here is where we disagree....as I've said many times, I hate the trade PC for TG rule, because what acctually happens (90% of the time, depending on groupthink) is everyone instantly trades away their PCs.
With the result that PCs are chosen randomly, and therefore the Political side is ignored.

My suggestions, (more detailed, with other thoughts here) are:
1)Start with 4 PCs. (Almost certainly every player will have a couple PCs they can use, making the political side more relevant instantly.)

2)When a player gets 7 PCs, immediately trade 2 in for 2 TG. (Allowing players to get rid of unwanted PCs, but forcing players to keep most, so they have relevant PCs.)

3)No other PC for TG allowed.

Edit: the culling the PC thread everyone is referring to is: Removing Political Chaff
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Scott Randolph
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akinfantryman wrote:
Solan wrote:


Here is where we disagree....as I've said many times, I hate the trade PC for TG rule, because what acctually happens (90% of the time, depending on groupthink) is everyone instantly trades away their PCs.
With the result that PCs are chosen randomly, and therefore the Political side is ignored.

My suggestions:

3)No other PC for TG allowed.


Our variant does not allow PC's to be spent as TG's, I agree with you 100%!
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CyberGarp wrote:
While I don't necessarily agree with you, as I've played several games where the political side had very little influence in the game. You present a very compelling counter-argument. Makes me think our group hasn't played it for it's full benefit. You got room at your table?


Always room! Of course it would help a lot if you lived in Michiganwhistle.
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This is why I don't remove cards but let people draw more than one. There are times that you want a lame card played or that cards that are normally lame are the right thing for the situation.

-M
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We culled the Political Deck slightly - we didn't want every agenda to be game changing, but if you're going through the fairly large ordeal of selecting representatives, voting, using powers/Action Cards/etc, then it needs to be an agenda where players actually CARE about the outcome. So we generally discarded PCs in the vein of FOR: Mild positive/negative effect AGAINST: Discard this card.
We also got rid of a couple of agendas where everyone always votes FOR (or AGAINST) (rendering the voting system moot).

A slight streamline has ensured that we never get a really lame political card (rather than a huge cull that makes every card life or death). Works for us.
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Christopher Halbower
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We've been playing with a culled political deck per the "Removing the political chaff" thread. I'll try to address the arguments above where they are weakest.

"Culling the deck" or "removing the chaff" or whatever you want to call it, involves more than just this act of card removal. It also removes the rule that you can spend a political card for a trade good. When considering the house rules for culling the political deck, it is not fair to ignore this important add-on.

Now, for the arguments above.

1. Theme
It is completely unthematic and inappropriate to spend political cards for trade goods. When weighing the theme and appropriateness of culling the political deck, one should objectively conclude that culling the political deck along with not allowing players to spend political cards as trade goods is far and away the more thematic arrangement. Indeed, theme was the primary reason for coming to this variant.

2. & 3. The potency of the culled deck is too strong.
The potency of the culled deck (when you disallow the spending of political cards as trade goods) is not any more powerful than everyone in an 8 player game immediately spending all their political cards.

There is a misunderstanding. The culled deck is uber-potent so much as it is uber-relevant.

In a typical rules-as-written game of TI3 with 6 to 8 players, the political deck's average potency is about where it should be; however, the variance is so massive, that almost everyone on this thread uses some house rule. The reason? Because the variance is so high.

The typical outcome in a 6 to 8 player game of TI3 will have a political phase with one of the following two outcomes:
1. The political phase will have a small or minor impact upon the game.
2. The political phase will have a small or minor impact upon the game until one or two particular agendas come up that drastically alter the game.

This means that an 8 player game (with the long war) could (and often does) have utterly pointless political phase. Or it could mean that you are playing an 8 player game and the game has a pointless political phase until one law comes up and totally changes the landscape. Both of these outcomes are unsatisfying.

When you cull the deck, you keep the average political potency of the deck about the same as you do with the full political deck; however, the variance is much, much smaller. This means the political phase during the game is always relevant but the uber-powerful outcomes are not unsatisfying because you know they are realistic.

So everyone knows, the particular game Sloan mentions about the Naalu losing because of Ancient Artifact, I was playing the Naalu. In that game we did cull the deck. And in that game, we also allowed people to spend political cards as trade goods. This last part is what made the political phase less satisfying. Also, Sloan was the player who convinced the new player (Joe, who only had 1 game under his belt), to allow him to play Determine Policy so Sloan could search the deck for Ancient Artifact. This destroyed many of Joe's ships and ground forces, a mistake that Joe will probably not make again. And a mistake that shouldn't be used as evidence that culling the political deck is bad.

A lot of people on this thread have said they agree with Sloan's arguments about not culling the political deck. But many of you go on to say you implement some other house rule. The only reason to implement such house rules is because you find some aspect of the political phase unsatisfying.

Many who are TI3 purists and don't like any house rules, these players also do not play 8 player games of TI3 exclusively. When you play 8 player games of TI3, and you allow players to spend political cards as trade goods, you will have a tedious political phase. Culling the political deck is simply a way to remove this tedium.






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Christopher Halbower
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SFRR wrote:
I actually agree with you Solan. Our variant to the political system...


It's important to note that Sloan is arguing for the rules-as-written. He doesn't fully understand the "culling the political deck" because the one time we played it with him, we didn't use the all-important variant: you cannot spend political cards as trade goods.
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Christopher Halbower
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akinfantryman wrote:

Here is where we disagree....as I've said many times, I hate the trade PC for TG rule, because what acctually happens (90% of the time, depending on groupthink) is everyone instantly trades away their PCs.
With the result that PCs are chosen randomly, and therefore the Political side is ignored.


You are 100% correct. In a 6 to 8 player game, you can hardly influence the political phase. In a 6 to 8 player game, everyone will immediately trade their political cards. This renders the political phase as being capricious. You either have political phases with small/minor impacts; or you have political phases with small/minor impacts until the top political card is flipped over and there is a game-breaking law that is put to vote. Either outcome is unsatisfying. Hence, you recommend using a house rule.
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halbower wrote:
SFRR wrote:
I actually agree with you Solan. Our variant to the political system...


It's important to note that Sloan is arguing for the rules-as-written. He doesn't fully understand the "culling the political deck" because the one time we played it with him, we didn't use the all-important variant: you cannot spend political cards as trade goods.


OK > point taken.
 
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Christopher Halbower
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I do appreciate Sloan's point of view. I can appreciate anyone who is a purist with the rules. I thought it important in this instance to clear the air a little. I'm also looking forward to playing by Sloan's favorite optional rules this coming Sunday.
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I personally use the culled political deck because it is such a transparent and high impact change. All those powerful cards could have come up normally, however unlikely that may be, and you are otherwise playing the system RAW. As Chris points out, all you are changing is the variance. I prefer to avoid as many house rules as possible in TI3.

FWIW, the only "house rule" I do use is a custom mix of Strategy cards, as my playgroup loves Political 1. I just add Intrigue to Political one, as the steps being listed on the strategy card is irrelevant when they're also in the rulebook.
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We insist on a culled Action deck, but haven't yet done so with Political. Were we to, then it would be to distil it to just the high impact game changing cards, just as we have done for the Action cards.
 
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halbower wrote:
We've been playing with a culled political deck per the "Removing the political chaff" thread. I'll try to address the arguments above where they are weakest.

"Culling the deck" or "removing the chaff" or whatever you want to call it, involves more than just this act of card removal. It also removes the rule that you can spend a political card for a trade good. When considering the house rules for culling the political deck, it is not fair to ignore this important add-on.

Now, for the arguments above.

1. Theme
It is completely unthematic and inappropriate to spend political cards for trade goods. When weighing the theme and appropriateness of culling the political deck, one should objectively conclude that culling the political deck along with not allowing players to spend political cards as trade goods is far and away the more thematic arrangement. Indeed, theme was the primary reason for coming to this variant.

2. & 3. The potency of the culled deck is too strong.
The potency of the culled deck (when you disallow the spending of political cards as trade goods) is not any more powerful than everyone in an 8 player game immediately spending all their political cards.

There is a misunderstanding. The culled deck is uber-potent so much as it is uber-relevant.

In a typical rules-as-written game of TI3 with 6 to 8 players, the political deck's average potency is about where it should be; however, the variance is so massive, that almost everyone on this thread uses some house rule. The reason? Because the variance is so high.

The typical outcome in a 6 to 8 player game of TI3 will have a political phase with one of the following two outcomes:
1. The political phase will have a small or minor impact upon the game.
2. The political phase will have a small or minor impact upon the game until one or two particular agendas come up that drastically alter the game.

This means that an 8 player game (with the long war) could (and often does) have utterly pointless political phase. Or it could mean that you are playing an 8 player game and the game has a pointless political phase until one law comes up and totally changes the landscape. Both of these outcomes are unsatisfying.

When you cull the deck, you keep the average political potency of the deck about the same as you do with the full political deck; however, the variance is much, much smaller. This means the political phase during the game is always relevant but the uber-powerful outcomes are not unsatisfying because you know they are realistic.

So everyone knows, the particular game Sloan mentions about the Naalu losing because of Ancient Artifact, I was playing the Naalu. In that game we did cull the deck. And in that game, we also allowed people to spend political cards as trade goods. This last part is what made the political phase less satisfying. Also, Sloan was the player who convinced the new player (Joe, who only had 1 game under his belt), to allow him to play Determine Policy so Sloan could search the deck for Ancient Artifact. This destroyed many of Joe's ships and ground forces, a mistake that Joe will probably not make again. And a mistake that shouldn't be used as evidence that culling the political deck is bad.

A lot of people on this thread have said they agree with Sloan's arguments about not culling the political deck. But many of you go on to say you implement some other house rule. The only reason to implement such house rules is because you find some aspect of the political phase unsatisfying.

Many who are TI3 purists and don't like any house rules, these players also do not play 8 player games of TI3 exclusively. When you play 8 player games of TI3, and you allow players to spend political cards as trade goods, you will have a tedious political phase. Culling the political deck is simply a way to remove this tedium.


How about addressing my arguments instead where they are strongestcool?

On the contrary, I would submit that it is perfectly thematic to spend political cards as trade goods. How could this be, you might ask? Rather than use your position to get a law brought up before the Galactic Council you use it to, ahem, "grease the wheels" as it were, in a corrupt display of crony capitalism.

As you well know, halbower, I've only played a single game with a cullled political deck, so I freely confess my paucity of experience in gaming with such a deck. It was in fact so I would have at least a little experience to speak from that I waited until I had played that game rather than post this thread a couple of weeks ago.

This said, the political cards I listed above which came up during the game were all extremely powerful, which is exactly what I expected when one cuts out so many of the "lesser" cards. I would say a culled political deck is much more powerful than a normal deck where everyone immediately spending their cards in an eight player game, unless you've only removed sixteen cards from your political deck; I was under the impression it was much more. Is it sixteen or less?

Uber-relevant is uber-potent, isn't it? I'm afraid I don't get how you can say the average political potency of a culled deck is the same as a normal one when it is the most potent political cards which are retained?

Incidentally, the screen name is SOLAN, not "Sloan".

How was the political phase less satisfying in our game because people were allowed to spend political cards as trade goods? As you saw, we still had all terrifyingly relevent and powerful laws proposed in the Political phase.

And to be fair, the Ancient Artifact was a card I had in my hand and finally spent as a Trade Good, knowing I could retrieve it with my Determine Policy action card. Furthermore, the other card I had in my hand at the time was Flawed Planning. Had I chosen to play that instead with Joe selecting me (assuming he would) and had it been voted down, a very distinct possibility since I doubt everyone else would have wanted to give me and the L1Z1X an extra victory point (we had both completed our Secret Objectives at the time and were the leaders at seven) everyone would have recieved a new Secret Objective and a political card still would have cost you the game.

Mainly the above example is used as evidence of how game-changingly powerful a culled political deck is, arguably too powerful.

Full disclosure: I am a T3 purist who dislikes house rulessurprise. I didn't think a relevant point to mention here initially, because I assumed all the purists would have avoided culling the political deck without needing to even consider the above reasons against doing so.

I'm still in the early phases of learning your group's way of thinking, halbower, but for my own part I would submit that a political phase where people are allowed to spend pcs as trade goods is tedious only if the players wish it to be, if they choose to spend all of their political cards without saving those that might be interesting and/or useful. Two examples:

The first was in our last game, when I spent political cards as trade goods but also made sure to retain Flawed Planning and Ancient Artifact in my hand, using the latter only when I realized I could get it back with Determine Policy.

The second example involves the only seven player game I've ever played. In that game it was a normal political deck with everyone being able to spend political cards as trade goods. On around the third or fourth turn I urged the Speaker to select me to play a political card, promising it would be fun for everyone. As always in TI 3 games (being honest and honorable is invaluable in a game such as this one) I was as good as my word and I proposed the wonderful law which doubled the productivity of the Galactic Council, requiring them to draw and vote on a new law at the end of every political phase. Of course this came back to bite me later on, when I was in the lead and the rest of the table made a sterling effort to destroy me politically, but it was still a lot of fun.
 
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Christopher Halbower
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I still think there is a misunderstanding.

In our game, we allowed players to spend political cards as trade goods. This is what makes the political game much worse and much more hit and miss. The culling of the deck is a house rule for those that already do NOT do this.

When you spend political cards imams trade goods, you will have very hit or miss politics. Some games it will be minor; other games it will be minor until WHAM! It's not minor. Both outcomes are unsatisfying in a long 8 player game.

In a 4 to 6 player game, this isn't as bad. I might be able to swing the vote myself in a 4 player game. I might be able to swing the vote with only one person's help in a 5 player game.

In an 8 player game: good luck with that!


I can appreciate Solan's point if view (and sorry about calling you Sloan)


But it's really the "no spending political cards" rule which we did NOT use that is critical.

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possumman wrote:
We culled the Political Deck slightly - we didn't want every agenda to be game changing, but if you're going through the fairly large ordeal of selecting representatives, voting, using powers/Action Cards/etc, then it needs to be an agenda where players actually CARE about the outcome. So we generally discarded PCs in the vein of FOR: Mild positive/negative effect AGAINST: Discard this card.
We also got rid of a couple of agendas where everyone always votes FOR (or AGAINST) (rendering the voting system moot).

A slight streamline has ensured that we never get a really lame political card (rather than a huge cull that makes every card life or death). Works for us.


This is exactly what we experienced, especially in larger 6 to 8 player games.

I underlined the key part. When you remove the political chaff, you are not leaving "powerful" political cards, you are leaving "relevant" political cards. As Possumman states, there are some cards that have an impact on the game if you vote "FOR" but you simply discard when you vote against. This is the problem.

FFG has done a lot to help this. If you review the post about "Removing the political chaff", the author recommends you remove the following:

30 political cards from the base game (out of 60)
11 political cards from Shattered Empire (out of 32)
6 political cards from Shards of the Throne (out of 19)

This gives us the following percentage of "culled":
Base game = 50%
Shattered Empire = 34%
Shards of the Throne = 32%

As you can see from the above percentages, FFG has tried to make the political cards more relevant. In each successive expansion, there are more relevant political cards per capita than in the previous releases. This is because FFG is getting better at making the political cards relevant. See Possumman's text above: "discard this card". Too many laws had this as the AGAINST. Most of the newer cards have some game effect even if you vote against it. This is what makes the political phase more relevant.

****

I can understand why some are against house rules. I respect game purists. In the game we played with Solan, however, we didn't give the culled deck the correct play. I suspect he will not be a fan even if we played it with the "no spending political cards" rule. But I also suspect that most people who are against house rules also dislike playing the game as-is with 8 players. With 8 players, there is no political tension when you play the game as-is.




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Dustin Shunta
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I am a rules purist. I generally give designers the benefit of the doubt that the rules as written are optimal. However, because TI3 is so modular, the political system has been overhauled so many times, and based on my experience I do not believe the political phase as written is optimally configured.

In my experience, the political phase has too much variance. The ability to spend political cards as trade goods drastically increases the variance. It is almost always optimal to spend political cards as trade goods early in the game. It accelerates you. For example, it can be the difference between affording a technology or not.

If people do not have political cards in their hands, the political phase becomes much less interesting. It depends on the political strategy card, but basically less political cards in peoples hands generally leads to more random laws being read, which in my view is not a satisfying political phase (even if the random law is meaningful and relevant).

Don't get me wrong, a political card can be worth more than a TG. The problem is, the value of a political card as a political card on turn 1 is near zero. Therefore, it generally will be correct to spend your PC on turn 1 even though on turn 3 or 4 you may wish you had it back because it would actually be a useful agenda.

Once political cards cannot be spent as trade goods, a new problem arises: the political cards aren't balanced. Before, when everyone could trade a political card for one trade good, all political cards had a common baseline value regardless of the situation. Once you remove that ability, the value of the political cards fluctuates wildly and is not tied to any common baseline so some of the political cards are worth almost nothing and some of them are worth way more. This can lead to problems because instead of variance being introduced from the random political cards being drawn, now variance is introduced by certain players having stronger or weaker political cards than others. Culling the political deck can lower this variance.

I don't think it matters too much if you cull the deck to have super strong, average, or mild strength, as long as variance between strength of the political cards in the deck is decreased. This is not an easy task because the value of political cards is dynamic depending on the game state.

All in all, I believe not spending PC as trade goods/culling the deck is superior to the rules as written, I'm not convinced there isn't a better solution.

One time we tried having the ability to select a law from a pool of laws known to everyone at the beginning of the game, that was interesting, but ultimately flawed.

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Lance Harrop
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You guys having fun.

Sorry, just skimmed it.

I'm inclined to cull both the action card deck and the political deck. I just need time to focus on it.

To eliminate the spending of polical cards as trade goods I just give players trade goods at start (2) so they can pay for a hostage situation domain marker.

It's the only reason to have that trade in rule anyway.
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Martin DeOlden
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I have found that culling the PC deck to keep more relevant PC cards has helped the games I have run. I have not culled as many as suggested by the Culling the PC deck thread but I have reduced it almost as much and it has had a positive impact on those games and players. I do not think the AC deck needs much culling as even some of the less powerful cards have their times when you wish you had them.

I also do not allow PC as TG and start players off with 2TG instead. Seems like a good trade off.
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Tom N
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I would never use the full political deck ever again. Picking representatives and bargaining and going through the entire process of voting and promissory notes for a card that will make all red techs cost 1 extra or effect one useless planet, slows the game down tremendously for us. People used to groan when someone activated the political SG before, knowing that in all likelihood the outcome wouldn't matter one way or the other to anyone and it would take 10 minutes with half of the people deciding to abstain in the end because they could care less.

Once we culled it everyone was actively involved in our political phase and 6/10 of our votes are edge of your seat battles of wills. We have a vote in turn six that the elected player loses all their action cards. The Yssaril player wheeled and dealed and everyone was super involved trying to get what they could from him in order to secure their votes. Also a trade embargo against the hacan came up which led to the same kind of situation. These were game changing votes that were tons of fun.

The political phase took A LOT longer in those cases, but those votes are very memorable for me, and I still remember them months and months later. On the other hand I don't remember the outcome of some random vote that affected no one.

Thematically, yes, not every law passed in real life is exciting, but these votes are happening in a time when the entire galaxy is in the midst of an epic war for control of the empire. Who cares to vote on trivial matters during that time?
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Starkiller
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Jimb0v wrote:
I am a rules purist. I generally give designers the benefit of the doubt that the rules as written are optimal. However, because TI3 is so modular, the political system has been overhauled so many times, and based on my experience I do not believe the political phase as written is optimally configured.

TRUTH. I enjoy adding options, but leave the core alone--unless it is suboptimal.
Jimb0v wrote:
Don't get me wrong, a political card can be worth more than a TG. The problem is, the value of a political card as a political card on turn 1 is near zero. Therefore, it generally will be correct to spend your PC on turn 1 even though on turn 3 or 4 you may wish you had it back because it would actually be a useful agenda.

Excellent summary!
Jimb0v wrote:
Once political cards cannot be spent as trade goods, a new problem arises: the political cards aren't balanced. Before, when everyone could trade a political card for one trade good, all political cards had a common baseline value regardless of the situation. Once you remove that ability, the value of the political cards fluctuates wildly and is not tied to any common baseline so some of the political cards are worth almost nothing and some of them are worth way more. This can lead to problems because instead of variance being introduced from the random political cards being drawn, now variance is introduced by certain players having stronger or weaker political cards than others. Culling the political deck can lower this variance.

Interesting balance. My variation has the same end-goal; make sure every player has a relavant hand of PCs.

I would argue that it is much better to simply up the number of cards per hand (from 2 raised to 4 initially) because every card has some case where it is useful, and I prefer-personally-to not eliminate those cards.

The end result of giving all players more cards also lowers the variance, because everyone should have a card worth playing at that point. (If you don't, you're probably not thinking of all the different ways to use every card in your hand.)
Every player will end the game with unplayed PC (because there is no way to play too many PCs) but that just means everyone is leveled out PC value-wise.

Edit: Note the most important factor in making the PCs relavant is eliminating or hevily modifying (per my idea) the trade-PCs-for-TG rule. Otherwise, it all goes out the window. (As halbower keeps pointing out.)
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David Damerell
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I'm also against culling the Political Cards. It seems to me this gives a significant extra advantage to races who are better positioned to win votes. I prefer one of the options where the political card to be resolved is chosen from a set (this also gives such an advantage, but a lesser one, because a politically weak race can then choose an ineffective agenda to be voted on).

Pick your own fix for PC-as-TG, just so long as you have a fix. Mine is this, having changed my mind about it after reading this thread and seeing the nicely simple "if 7 or more, convert them" proposal above.

If you have three or fewer PCs, you may not spend PCs as TGs.
If you have four or five PCs, you may spend PCs as TGs until you have only three PCs.
If you have six or more PCs, immediately convert PCs into a like number of TGs until you have five.

We do this for a face-up set:

Before picking SCs, each player selects a PC, face-down. When Assembly is resolved, the resolving player views the set of face-down cards, and picks one to resolve. The others are returned to their owners. The player whose agenda was resolved draws a replacement.

(Why does no-one else see them? It would slow down the game significantly, because every attentive player would want to read the whole set in order to know what was out there. This order of events is also meant to be a compromise between giving a more interesting choice and making it totally straightforward for the players with the votes to conspire to stuff up the others; you don't normally know, when you pick your PC, who will be holding Assembly. Why draw a replacement? There's now no incentive to play a boring PC just to keep a lousy one TG-equivalent.)
 
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