Nils "Atlatl" Devine
Hunt or Gather
I'm not sure if this should be a variant discussion or a session report, as it was our 3rd session that has me thinking about a variant. But here it goes anyway.
First some confessions. My girlfriend hates dice. I know this, and I'm sure many of you are in the same situation. If the game is going to be competitive, especially if one is going to have the audacity to win, there had better not be any dice.
Second confession. I read a suggestion here that to speed up the game we might use the 3 and 4 player tiles instead of the 2 player tiles. We did this for our second session, and it sped up the game considerably.
Third confession. In our 3rd session I counted tiles. I told her what I was doing, showed her the tile lists (errata even). By using the smaller 3 and 4 player tile collections, it was a simple matter of deciding what I wanted, narrowing it down to 4 tiles, looking at 2, then going to a third if it wasn't there. Within the first 5 or 6 turns I had all of the equipment. A short while later each of my abilities was a 4, and then a 5 not long after that. I cleaned house. Hardly had to roll a die.
So yes, I am a fool. Not only did I break the game by playing an unbalanced variant, but I took advantage of that variant to win a third time. But she doesn't blame the variant or the tile counting. The first 2 games she got 3 out of 4 equipment and still rolled the die so terribly that it didn't help. She rolled ones consistently against snakes (there's a joke in there somewhere). So this last game she attempted a losing strategy, going straight for victory points from the start by collecting cattle and goats, but never got enough experience to complete adventures or move about unhindered.
Here is the dilemma. We both enjoy the game. It's that perfect balance of Catan and Legend of Zelda, providing a fix for both our building and exploring cravings. But as a competitive game it's not working out. With Settlers of Catan I introduced the The Deck of Dice, which gave her the advantage (her father is a pro poker player from back before it was on TV, she learned to memorize the cards that have been played at a young age). But I don't think that's going to work for this game, so I'm here appealing to The Geek for suggestions.
A "third party" die rolling system? A die roll normalizing technique (roll & average 3 dice)? A coin toss, heads = 4, tails = 3 (no extreme results). Or maybe a cooperative variant competing against the clock, either literally or mechanically à la Shadows over Camelot (which she of course loves).