Still thinking on how to expand this game out to a variable amount of players, and have an idea which is a combination of several suggestions so far, with a few twists.
Place the three endgame prophecy cards aside like normal. Shuffle the rest. Deal one to each player, and put the others to the side.
A player gets a new card when:
1) He goes to the market, he can buy 1 card (and only 1 per visit) for a gold, and draw 2 cards to possibly buy from (instead of the normal 3).
2) He starts an auction, but fails to win it.
3) He goes on a hunt and is not thwarted. It is now considered twarted, and he draws a card. This is independant of whether the hunt is successful or not.
All cards must be dealt out before the big bad can be encountered.
Harder variant: Deal no cards to players, play as above.
Questing variant: Again, deal no cards to players. Instead after shuffling, deal 3 cards next to the market, 3 next to the Temple, and 3 next to the Mystic Vale.
The cards next to the Market can only be purchased. The cards next to the Temple are only aquired when you initiate an auction, but don't win it. The cards next to the Mystic Vale are only aquired when you go on a hunt and it is not thwarted.
Again, all cards must be dealt out before the big bad can be encountered.
-Munch "In all cases the cards should get dealt out pretty quick" Wolf
Well, for 4 players, you could deal 2 to each player and have 1 left face up for all to see: Its kindof like everyone getting 2, there are just all sharing 1 card.
The game has a lot of player screwing (and even: I pay money to screw you effects...which get much less useful, and bad for the game, as you add players to the game).
Adding players will:
Increase player chaos in an already chaotic game. (Increase the number of players trying to stop the leader from winning)
Increase game length.
Reduce skill (by increasing chaos). There is already only a moderate amount of skill involved, so I wouldnt want to reduce it further.
I feel its the type of game that gets much worse as you increase the number of players, so I'm not interested in palying with more than 3. I'd be a lot more interested in 2 player than 4-5.
Thats not a commentary on the variant, just my thoughts on play with more than 3.
I do think its interesting to get cards as awards for things. I dont know if it would work well, or would end up with certain people getting too many cards and others none.
You could play this variant with 2 or 3 players as well, to make the prophecy harder to figure out. That could be interesting.
One worry could be that those who arent winning refuse to take cards, so that the leader cant win yet, while focusing on collecting some gold.
My favorite 4-player variant would be to give each player 2 prophecy cards, and give the extra card to the Shadow.
To win, instead of needing the Shadow's guiding, seeking, and two of the fight cards, you need to have all four of the Shadow's card -- only one of the fight cards are needed.
This way, if at the end several people know the prophecy, they may be working on collecting different things, instead of the awkward situation where everyone needs the same fight abilities.