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If you don't like having to depend on lucky die rolls or on drawing points from a bag, this variant is for you. You will need a deck of standard playing cards per player, plus one more deck for Neutral monsters, if they are present. I recommend decks that are distinct so you can't confuse who cards belong to.

Make 3 stacks:

* 2 each of 1-6, 1 each of 7-8, and 1 joker (0)
* 1 each of 1-9
* 1 each of 1-5 (Note: if I had a custom deck to work with, this pile would be 1,1,1,2,2,3,4,5)

put aside the rest of the cards.

Players begin the game with stack 1 as a giant hand. Do not show your hand to other players. When your primary GOO is first summoned, add stack 2 to your hand (that means Hastur for yellow sign, Ithaqua for Windwalker).

When you engage in combat, you and your opponent each place facedown on the table a number of cards less than or equal to the combat dice that would be rolled. After placing, but before revealing, you and your opponent may negotiate an agreement; any combat related parts are enforced (pains, kills), anything else is a matter of trust. If an agreement is reached, both players reclaim their cards without revealing them. Otherwise reveal cards. For the following examples, blue has 2 cultists and 2 monsters with combat 2, while red has 2 cultists, a combat 2 monster, and a combat 3 monster.

1. Any matching cards are removed 1 for 1.
*Example: Blue side plays 2,4,5,6. Red plays 1,2,3,6,7. The pair of 2s and the pair of 6s have the same suit. Both sides discard the matching cards.

2. Turn the cards back over. Each player chooses one card to keep for each unit in the combat. These are not revealed to the opponent. Extra cards are discarded.
3. Each player chooses 1 card and reveals simultaneously, and each pair is compared.
a. If the difference is 3 or 4, the lower card is killed.
* Example: Red chooses a 7, while blue chooses 4, a difference of 3. Blue chooses his cultist to take the kill.

b. If the difference is 1 or 2, the lower card is pained.
* Example: Red chooses 3, while blue has to choose 5, a difference of 2. Red chooses one of his cultists to take the pain.

c. If the difference is outside this range, the pair misses.

d. Any difference in cards causes that number of units to be pained.
* Example: Blue was 1 card short and has 3 units remaining that were neither killed nor pained. Blue chooses one of these to take the pain. Red suffers no further pains or kills.

4. All cards are discarded.
5. Any further combats in the turn must be fought using remaining cards in hand. Once used in combat, a card is gone for the remainder of the turn.
6. At the start of the doom phase, all cards are placed back in hand.

* Neutral monsters have a deck composed of all 3 stacks that is shuffled. When they fight, they deploy the max number of cards and always keep the highest possible. When the neutral monster deck runs out, it immediately reshuffles (Neutrals are never exhausted).


Whenever an elder sign would be drawn, a player selects a card and places it face down in their doom pile. These cards are out for the rest of the game. For final scoring, cards are worth doom equal to their numerical value. Each card counts as 1 doom for purposes of determining if the game has ended; they may not be revealed until final doom. For each card placed in the doom pile, draw one card into your hand from the 3rd stack, in ascending order (for the first card placed in the doom pile, put 1 in your hand, for the second 2, etc.). Once 8 cards have been put on the doom pile, any additional elder sign draws give 1 elder sign token; elder sign tokens are always worth 1 doom.

Mechanisms:
By having players use up combat power, we add an element of strategy and bluff into how many cards to put out and which cards to use. The matching element allows players to achieve some unexpected turnarounds and also to try some stunts if they see what cards have already been played, but is not so strong as to provoke excessive pains. If a player gets too combat happy or over commits too much, they find themselves exhausted and unable to hold territory. Choosing what cards to put in the elder sign pile is important. Put your 9 in there and you have a lot of points at end game, but you become weaker in combat for the rest of the game. Using initial 1-5 for it means you are less likely to be matched, but you are also less likely to match. This ensures that everyone has secret points, and because you will be using the same cards in combat it gives people the chance to suss out what they are and use that in their strategy.

Playtesting points:

* Does the 0 get used enough to bother with? Is bluffing and negotiation a thing or is it ignored (if so, just drop it and the 0 card)?
* Is it too tempting to put specific cards (high, low) into the doom pile? Are the combat penalties enough to discourage always putting high cards in? Are they too severe so only low cards go in?
* Are the ranges for Pains and Kills goods enough? Do they interact with the distribution to make certain choices for combat or the Doom Pile too powerful?
* Would it be better to change the card distribution to have more of certain numbers? Less?
* Are there enough cards to work with? Too Many? Does the number run into issues on any particular map (primeval, library are very combat heavy)?
* Is the card difference pain mechanic too powerful/disruptive/random?
* Is the matching mechanism too random?
* Are players able to determine what cards are in the Doom pile? Is it too easy or too hard? Does this give some players (eidetic memory?) an unfair advantage?
* Does the game become too long or too short due to the doom pile mechanic?
* Does the neutral monster deck work? Does it make them too weak or too strong?

 
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Loig Roumois
Switzerland
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I like the idea of using cards instead of dice, but I fear that this will stretch the game enormously (time-wise and in complexity). Maybe a simpler or mor intuitive approach could be taken?
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E J
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In what way do you think it would be too complicated or long? What is unintuitive? I kept the math simple, and the comparison step shouldn't take very long at all. I'm trying to retain the ability of both sides to take losses and miss as they can with dice. Any card mechanic will have a little bit more thinking involved, that is part of the idea.

You should have seen my first attempt at this; I had players going through a complicated assignment phase where each card was attached to a monster in turn...
 
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Anthony Stockseth
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The thing about dice is their inconsistency. I played a game with Arthur where, as Great Cthulhu, he rolled something like 28 dice, and got NOT ONE KILL. Conversely, the person whom he rolled against rolled 4 dice and got 3 kills, wiping out all of Arthur's forces.

While a memorable moment, it can really kill the fun.

If you're looking to normalize it a bit (but with a simpler method), instead give each player 12 cards, ranging from 1-6, and you spend cards on dice rolls, only getting to reshuffle after all 12 have been used. In this way, you can get kills in clutch situations, but knowing that you'll be dry on the next several rolls. Players would still put cards face-down simultaneously.

I would say that CC would have to use these same cards for Thousand Forms, and Yellow Sign would use their inverse values for Desecration. For Black Goat, due to the odd, changing nature of Ghroth, it would work like this:
6= highest possible number of cultists removed
5= highest number -1
4= highest number -2 and so on.


Admittedly, it is a bit less elegant than the aforementioned solution, but much faster.
 
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Adam Starks
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Austin
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The problem with that system is that it allows players to guarantee unlikely events. Crawling Chaos will always hoard a 5 or 6 for Thousand Forms, if Black Goat has unlimited Battle and a 6 she could send a single Cultist out to assassinate Hastur, etc.

If your goal is to normalize the randomness, simply give each player a Benny. Any player can spend their Benny to force a reroll of all the dice in an action by any player (both sides in combat, Thousand Forms, Ghroth, etc). This goes a surprising way towards smoothing out the experience, without requiring any significant overhead, and with minimal chance of unbalancing the system.
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E J
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I purposefully made it a card comparison, rather than a raw value, so that the outcome could have swings. If it were simply a raw value, then you would only attack when you had guaranteed kill cards. The comparison means that high cards are not automatically good and low cards are not automatically bad. This also gives the opponent some agency in what card they pick, meaning that the attacker can still have losses, whereas in raw numbers the attacker is always going to steamroll.

And yes, I do realize that middle cards (4, 5, 6) are somewhat favored by this; they are not so much more likely to kill as to be assured. So you can have a bit of an idea that you are well equipped going in and still have the chance to lose some parts of the exchange, or even to come out ahead if you can read the opponent well enough.

At least, this was my reasoning for doing it that way. This is obviously a proposal (and an unplaytested one at that), so it's always good to hear people's ideas and opinions.

(Also keep in mind that I set this up under the assumption that players had standard playing card decks available, since I assume this will never be official. If I had the ability to have custom decks then they would be different, possibly even different on a factional basis.)
 
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E J
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Has anyone had a chance to actually try this out? Playtest feedback would be a great way to see if this works out or not.
 
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Joseph Cochran
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Costa Mesa
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Void2258 wrote:
Has anyone had a chance to actually try this out? Playtest feedback would be a great way to see if this works out or not.
I assume that you're the most motivated to do it. Have you tried it?
 
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E J
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I don't own a copy (OS2 backer) and recently had to move away from my friends who do, so I can't play right now.
 
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Unsolvable Riddle
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Another variant that one could try is taking guaranteed kills/pains at a slightly higher price than your equity.
- For 6 dice, you get 1 guaranteed kill and one pain (costs you one pain)
OR
- For 7 dice you get 1 kill and two pains (costs you one dice)

Just pick up the dice and don't roll them, roll the remaining ones. If you can't get to the 6/7 dice you have to gamble. We might actually try this because there's always a grumbling player that got unlucky on a roll. Might create strange situations where people try to get to the 6/7 threshold.

[alternatively you can only pick this variance smoothing option if your GOO is on the board or if you have at least 2 spellbooks or 8 doom or something]
 
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