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Subject: The Short Game rss

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Tom Jensen
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Lately I've been considering how this intriguing game could be shortened into something that could be played in a single evening. Initially, I thought that a time limit should be set. For example, the game could be played for two hours, a timer would go off, the current round would be completed, and then everyone would tally up their Usurpation Points and a winner declared. This would work but it left out the climax of the game; the actual overthrow of King George. Then I remembered how the game of Monopoly could be shortened by simply dealing out all the properties before the game started. Could something like this work for DWTK?

I decided to play a solitaire "test game" with four factions. These were: Knight Simon, Earl Duncan, Lady Victoria, and Sir Jeffery. The best way to shorten the game without unbalancing it is to set the Monarch's Support dice roll to the minimum possible: snake-eyes, a random element that one could control easily. Without strong support and without the non-aligned characters to side with him, King George would begin the game teetering on his throne. So I gave each faction 30 Prestige Points and 10 Influence Points and let them choose their factions right from the start! And it was an interesting way to begin the game: should your faction choose a weak character who holds a powerful Office or a charcter with strong Ability who could hold his Office once in power? With 30 Prestige, nearly all non-aligned characters joined a faction. Let the game begin...

TURN ONE:
At the Court Ball, Earl Simon insults the Minister of the Navy, Sir Malcolm. A duel was fought and no one was killed.

TURN TWO:
Earl Simon has the gout. Duchess Victoria proposes to Sir Charles, the High Minister, and they are married.

TURN THREE:
Lord Duncan must fight a duel. He sends his henchman, Sir James, to fight the Ambassador to Sardarkan, Sir Michael. Both are killed.

TURN FOUR:
Peasant Unrest is unresolved. Knight Jeffery has the gout. Duchess Victoria accuses Lord Duncan of libel. He loses half his Prestige and is accused of Wrongdoing. The charges are soon dismissed. Lord Duncan accuses Lady Victoria of Assassination and Wrongdoing. Lady Victoria goes into hiding within Fandonia.

TURN FIVE:
Peasant Unrest continues. A Foreign War with Epalin is concluded. Duchess Victoria is pardoned and returns from hiding. Lord Duncan seeks Patronage and is obnoxious! [-1 on the Patronage Table. I soon found that picking the high-risk Prestige Tables (Patronage and Business Speculation) was disasterous to large factions. IF your faction is large, take only the safe bets, like Fashion and Crafts.]

TURN SIX:
Time for a check of the Usurpation Points for each faction. In each case, I considered the die to roll a conservative "3" for a faction's Suppport Card points. Results:
King George .......92
Earl Simon ........73
Lord Duncan .......12 (Lost most of his support by being obnoxious!)
Duchess Victoria ..62
Sir Jeffery .......55

No one can usurp the King yet. Earl Simon MIGHT have a chance if he rolled high but right now it's too risky. Also, I began to notice just how little a role the aligned characters played. Not only are they a liability because they make you LOOK powerful, but they can easily blow away in the fickle winds of Prestige. It's MUCH better strategy to pay 1 Influence to take another Event card per turn. In this way, you can quietly gain the support of the Army, the Navy, the Clergy, the Townsmen, etc. and your opponents won't even know it! And it doesn't count against your Prestige total.

Peasant Unrest is still unresolved and Sir Charles is discharged as the High Minister. A War with Cronos is resolved. Treason and Conspiracy Trials occur and remain unresolved. Lord Duncan, in an attempt to redeem himself with Patronage, is AGAIN found obnoxious!

TURN SEVEN:
Peasant Unrest is finally solved. Treason and Conspiracy Trials continue. There is a Court Ball. Earl Jeffery intrigues against Duchess Victoria and she is again accused of Assassination and goes into hiding. Lord Simon marries Lady Ruth.

TURN EIGHT:
Usurpation Points:
Lord Simon 92
Lord Duncan 19
Duchess Victoria 61
Earl Jeffery 85.
Treason and Conspiracy is resolved. Another war with Cronos is resolved. Lord Simon rolls "snake-eyes" on Patronage and is found to have "No Class" -20 PPs. His faction loses Lady Melanie, Lady Deborah, Lord Mortimer, and the First Judge!

TURN NINE:
Yet another Court Ball.

TURN TEN:
Lord Duncan is accused of Radicalism, Blashphemy, and Sacrilege. He is cleared at a Hearing. King George announces an Amnesty and Duchess Victoria comes out of Hiding. At this point, Earl Jeffery pulls an alliance with Prince Alan from the Event deck. He uses the Prince to usurp King George! After the smoke has cleared, Earl Jeffery puts Prince Alan on the throne, 137 UPs to a measly 53 UPs for King George. GAME OVER.

So, although I had fun, the game ended suddenly and shortly by the draw of a single card. The other "players" may have had potential alliances with Royal Characters but couldn't react because of Prestige problems. The game left me with the feeling of how brittle DWTK is. There are wild swings of fortune and LUCK determines who wins or loses. So I'm thinking this game should be considered more of a roleplaying game rather than a match of decision making. Ten turns could possibly fit into a long evening IF everyone was familiar with the rules. (I think most games come to ruin on the reef of "one person explaining options -endlessly- to the neophytes".)

Again, I think the best way to win the game is to simply pay 1 Influence to draw from the Event deck each turn. Ultimately, perhaps just setting a time limit (two or three hours) might be the best way to sample the wonders and intrigue that rock the Court of Fandonia. Have fun!
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Carlo Marinozzi
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Thanks for your report, the game is an old favorite of mine.

The puzzle of rendering DWTK "playable" is a tough one indeed but I feel that your solution risk to undermine one of the premises of play: if you start with a trembling government you have no reason to create a large faction (as you noted, it's became more of a nuisance) but with a strong govern, as any neutral character count for the King, you have to proselytize in order to erode the strengh of the monarch and this is, in my opinion, the main "narrative" of the game.

The game is long, it's true (but our last try ended in three session, Lady Victoria killed her own husband to marry a more powerful one and then won the revolution, great)but I think the main problem is that a lot of time goes in dice rolls on the prestige tables (not more funny after repeated plays) instead of the good old intrigue; next time I will try giving your suggested 30 prestige and 10 gold to each player and we'll see.

Thank you again for working with the rules.

Carlo
 
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Tom Jensen
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The Prestige Tables do indeed lose their appeal after awhile. When I start to build a faction from the bottom up, one of the first things I attempt is to spend 2 IPs for a modifier on the Business Speculation table in an attempt to set myself up financially for the rest of the game. Then I only have to roll occassionally to get the "money" I need. The one element of DWTK that seems a real time-waster to me are the Counseling Tables; keeping track of the counsels made, rolling the dice, and then gaining or losing a Prestige Point or two. Much ado about nothing. I'm all for streamlining the game, perhaps making it a pure card game... but then it would lose all the color that make it unique. My real problem is that I don't know anyone tolerant enough to play for hours at a time.

For beginners, probably just setting a two-hour time limit is the best way to learn. That way their inevitable mistakes wouldn't dog them forever, just the two hours. Later, after they understand the rules, you can try the truncated game with a tottering King George so everyone can explore the End Game of DWTK. And finally, if they're still with you, you can play the full "campaign" game.

One thing I forgot to mention: since the Support cards are key, they should probably be left out of the original Event card deal to start the game. Suppose one player begins the game with Clergy, Army, and Navy Support in their hand, and another begins with NO Support... who would win? The players should start "even" with NO Support cards in hand.
 
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Michael Gilbert
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Tom Jensen wrote:
TURN TEN:
Lord Duncan is accused of Radicalism, Blashphemy, and Sacrilege. He is cleared at a Hearing. King George announces an Amnesty and Duchess Victoria comes out of Hiding. At this point, Earl Jeffery pulls an alliance with Prince Alan from the Event deck. He uses the Prince to usurp King George! After the smoke has cleared, Earl Jeffery puts Prince Alan on the throne, 137 UPs to a measly 53 UPs for King George. GAME OVER.

Thanks, this was an interesting read.

Was part of your variant to remove the rule which requires the new monarch to hold the throne for 3 full turns? Part of the fun is to depose another player's usurper in favor of your own FARC, the rightful heir (of course)! laugh
 
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Tom Jensen
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Well, it's been a few months but, if I remember correctly, there were no other factions that could contest the new Monarch, King Alan. IF another faction had a contender for the throne, they didn't have the muscle to pull a usurpation off. And IF they had a potential alliance with a royal character, they didn't have the Prestige to recruit him. So, for one reason or another, NO other faction was in a position to overthrow Lord Duncan's new Monarch. So the Three-turn opportunity to usurp the throne wasn't an issue.

The "dumb luck element" of this truncated endgame really spoiled DWTK for me and I didn't think this variant worked well... even though I had fun. The Prince Alan card was drawn from the deck and the game was over ---just like that. But beginning from the original set-up and setting a two-hour time limit starts everyone off even, shortens the game, and reduces the chance of this Deus Ex Machina ending from occurring. There are a LOT of luck elements to the game... but the longer you play, the more these lucky occurrances even out so that, ultimately, in the long moster game, the best player will put his man on the throne. So much game, so little time!

IIRC the original set-up allows Support cards to be dealt to each player. Since these are so powerful, perhaps a fairer start would be to allow NO player to begin with Support cards in his hand.
 
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Dan Fielding
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I began to notice just how little a role the aligned characters played. Not only are they a liability because they make you LOOK powerful, but they can easily blow away in the fickle winds of Prestige. It's MUCH better strategy to pay 1 Influence to take another Event card per turn. In this way, you can quietly gain the support of the Army, the Navy, the Clergy, the Townsmen, etc. and your opponents won't even know it! And it doesn't count against your Prestige total.
>

So can you create a rule limiting the value of the Event cards to no more than Prestige?
 
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Robert Manning
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Gronak wrote:
So can you create a rule limiting the value of the Event cards to no more than Prestige?


Sure, I'd consider using the base support die multiplier (e.g., 4 for Peasant Support, 7 for Army Support) as the card's status and use it in the same way a character's status is used.
 
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Michael Ink
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I know this thread has been dead for years, but did anyone try the "short version" in the back of the rules? the main thing is everyone gets 3 actions per turn rather than 2 and more points for stuff to begin with, AND player elimination when their first character dies.
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Inkwan wrote:
I know this thread has been dead for years, but did anyone try the "short version" in the back of the rules? the main thing is everyone gets 3 actions per turn rather than 2 and more points for stuff to begin with, AND player elimination when their first character dies.

I played both with and without the shorter game option back in the day, but it's been so many years I can't tell you how much that option reduced playing time. I can tell you there was some important errata: delete case b in the Shorter Game rules.
 
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