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Subject: Less lucky variant (regarding the alliance tiles) rss

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Dániel Lányi
Hungary
Budapest
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[skip this paragraph for the actual variant rules]
I really love this game but one source of frustration with it is the moment when you are ready to send in your guy for 13 points, get the final alliance tile you need to score that Career Row and get all those awesome helper action too ... but there is not a tile on the entire board you could take. Not even a 2 point tile. None. Zero. Zilch. You worked hard and now you get nothing? Not very nice. You just lost not only the points of the tile you could have got, but the ones you already worked hard for to get, and only because of sheer luck. Meanwhile the guy sitting next to you seemed to always get the 5 point tiles he needed. Doesn't feel great in such a heavy game. Usually this happens to everyone about the same extent, so it doesn't impact who actually wins, but my intention is all about how the gameplay feels.
So last time we played I told my group we should do something about this. They - knowing I can be whiny as hell - let me do whatever I wanted, so this is what i came up with on the fly. It's actually pretty simple, I just wanted to write it down precisely, and speak about my motivations to change the rules for such a well put together game.

the actual variant rules
- this only works with 2-3 players, but the game can get a bit too long with 4 anyway, so these are my preferred player numbers
- remove all 2 point tiles from the game
- all fives cities remain open, but
- dummy player tokens (helpers, or the player colors not playing, whichever you prefer) are placed on city spaces so that in a three player game one quarter of the spaces are covered, and in a 2 player game half of the space are covered

Here's an image of our endgame. We covered one less space for some reason, but the variant really worked well. Usually I hear people (and myself) complain about the lack of a tile they want, but this did only happen in the context of someone seeing that they want a tile another player also wants, and they took it.

additional variant idea
here's another idea I'm yet to try out. because the above only works with less than four player, I would try this with four players
- all of the above variant rules apply
- you can take any tile from the city you place in and place it in the appropriate career row face up, not just the ones your board says you can take
- you can still only have 4 face up tiles at the end of the game in each career row
- you always get the points of all career rows (and the marriage row, but that never seems to be a problem)
- at the end of the game you get bonus points for each career row for matching the tiles indicated on your player board.
1 for matching one tiles.
3 for matching two tiles.
6 for matching three tiles.
10 for matching all four tiles.


additional thoughts
On one hand this means you might be incentivised to take a 3 tile instead of taking a 5 tile because of the bonus points which sounds interesting to me, but on the other hand I can see this making some kingmakingish situations where you take a tile because it's the same for you, but it would give bonus points to someone else. So either play this witha nicer group, or be prepared that this is part of the game, although there are elements like this is many euros.
I also realize that this throws off the balance of the game a bit. Probably most notably the actions and helpers that provide face down tiles become pretty weak. Maybe considering facedown tiles as joker tiles in the bonus points of the second variant would help with this.
The second variant also makes career rows worth more points. Maybe this could be countered by each marriage worth points equal to the money you pay times two plus two.
But in the end I don't think making some actions worth more or less is much of a problem because the basic mechanisms of the game are so brilliant and all players have the same things available to them.

All criticism and ideas are welcome
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Frank M.
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I'm glad to see you're working up your own variants to try to make the game more enjoyable for you and your friends.

We've settled on resetting the houses each round and allowing the option of taking a generic crest from the bag if no required one is available.

We rarely play less than 4P, but if we do, I very much like your idea of keeping all 5 houses but blocking some of the slots. (A 1&2 in 3P games, one of each in 2P?)

Great game and in my Top Ten.
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Dániel Lányi
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skifreak737 wrote:
We've settled on resetting the houses each round and allowing the option of taking a generic crest from the bag if no required one is available.


I've thought about that too, but that makes the helper and the round bonus giving a face down tile almost useless. But as I wrote above about balance I think it would still work. But now that you mention this, I feel like my bonus points idea is needlessly complicated

skifreak737 wrote:

We rarely play less than 4P, but if we do, I very much like your idea of keeping all 5 houses but blocking some of the slots. (A 1&2 in 3P games, one of each in 2P?)


It didn't really seemed to matter what we cover. My group mostly tends to send in the guys from higher positions anyway, so it might only matter if you are really low on money and you're performing the marriage action. Yes, with two player I'd definetly cover 1-2-3-4 on each city.

Another idea I'm toying with is introducind a sixth city, and fixing each alliance tile type to each city, and then adjust city size according to player number. Also the tiles would be availabe in descending point value, so pretty much everything would be deterministic. If we have a chance to try it out, I'll definetly write about it here.
 
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Roger Brown
United States
Sebastopol
California
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Hello, I have only played the game once so limited experience. I like some of your ideas; the ability to place tiles not shown by your board, but it seems like maybe all different might be a good requirement.

And I really like your bonus idea. Score tiles for any amount but get bonuses for length. Have you tried this a few times yet? I would love to hear how it has gone.
 
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Dániel Lányi
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Roguester wrote:
Hello, I have only played the game once so limited experience. I like some of your ideas; the ability to place tiles not shown by your board, but it seems like maybe all different might be a good requirement.

And I really like your bonus idea. Score tiles for any amount but get bonuses for length. Have you tried this a few times yet? I would love to hear how it has gone.



Not yet sadly. My gaming group is pretty cult of the new

I'm leaning towards trying out the variant where each type of tile has it's own city next. That way the game stays pretty much the same, but the part where I dislike the luck will have zero luck. The only downside might be more AP.
The bonus points thing seems like it would only make the luck factor a bit better, but only in that instead of that case where you just did not get the tile you need to score all of your tiles you will just not get the tile you need to get bonus points.
 
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