I really like the exploration system, and thought a more flexible version could introduce some interesting decisions. To that end I devised a variant.
The idea is to trade exploration victory points (long term gain) for tactical options. (short term opportunity) I could use some help balancing it if anyone has input. I have about 5 plays under my belt but could be missing some more subtle strategies.
There are 4 point values of exploration research. 4,5,6, and 7 tile areas, worth as many points apiece. The idea is to grant a one time ability for each one that you collect, and is different for each tier. Use of these abilities would be tracked by flipping the discovery in the score area to it's Research (card back) side. They would then be worth 1 less victory point in endgame scoring. Keep the points, or try for some big turns? Up to you...
4- Clear Skies Refresh a worker (same as turkey leg, but cannot be stolen or destroyed when attacked)
5- Discovery Take one resource of choice from supply and a free exploration action
6- For Glory! Win combat ties this turn and earn double combat points (Use at beginning of turn)
7- Espionage Steal a Research Upgrade from player up to two spaces away. (Uses two Workers, deployed to enemy ship tile as if resource gathering)
Though the cost to use any ability is the same,the effort / luck required to obtain the ability scales, so I thought the abilities should scale also. Clear Skies isn't very powerful, but it's not hard to obtain, either. Discovery can really help a bit both with building your townships or getting more discovery points. For Glory could potentially net 5 extra VP, and seriously inconvenience someone, even a couple someones if you are very lucky and timely, even just the threat of it will make unprepared opponents think twice. Espionage is harder to pull off, but could allow you to cripple the core strategy another player has developed, or catch up if they've had luckier draws.
Espionage is the one I'm least sure of. I like the idea, but I'm not sure it's quite right. I am aiming for it to help alleviate the tendency for some players to have more luck with upgrades. If all players are researching at a similar rate, then even if some players draw more discoveries the others should usually have more chances to steal them via Espionage. Just not convinced it would actually turn out that way. Anyway, if you have time have some fun with it and let me know what you think.
An interesting idea Rock. I certainly like the variety it'd bring to the players options.
I'll mention it to my gaming group and see if there's interest then let you know.