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The Pillars of the Earth» Forums » Variants

Subject: Limiting the Spots for the Master Builders rss

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Thomas Frank
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As my gaming friends and I thought that there are too many spots for the Master Builders (especially in 2 and 3 player games) and as I thought it was in any way (gaming or story wise) unlogical and stupid that theoretically all players could each turn be completely relieved of taxes, I came up with this variant with an additional optional feature to regulate the tax issue. This variant intends to raise competition for the Master Builder spots in the Market and the Tax King's camp.

1. The spots in the Market are reduced to X-1, where X is the number of players participating in the game.
2. The spots in the King's camp (Tax relief) are also reduced to X-1.
3. In a 3 player game, of the 2 spots in Kingsbridge only one can be occupied by a Master Builder.
4. In a 2 Player game there's only one spot in the priory and it's worth 1 VP.
5. Also, with 2 players only 1 spot in Shiring may be occupied.

All these steps make it, that the game doesn't get so painfully peaceful if less than 4 are playing. They also ensure, that there's at least a bit of competition over the market and tax spots.
Some statistics:
With 4 players there's a total of 12 MBs and 17 spots which means 5 will always be unoccupied. The variant reduces this to 15 spots and 3 unoccupied spots.
With 3 players, the standard rules still allows 17 spots, although there are only 9 MBs, which results in 8 empty spots. Variant reduces this to 12 available spots and 3 spots that stay empty.
With 2 players - and this is really ridiculous in my opinion - there's only 6 MBs, so 11 of the available spots will stay empty, resulting in the players being pretty much able to choose whatever they like, and if the other player grabs a spot they wanted they will always be able to choose another equally good spot. The variant crosses out 9 of the 17 spots so only 2 spots will stay unoccupied, resulting in the necessary competition for a 2 player situation.

To regulate the tax issue add the following rules:
The first player to get into the King's camp gets 1 iron and has his taxes reduced by 2. The second to come in has his taxes reduced by 3. The third has taxes reduced by 4. (Optionally: in a two player game the player who places his MB on the single spot in the king's camp only gets 1 iron, but has to pay taxes nonetheless)

This ensures, that the advantage the first player has isn't quite so big. Also, there may be a tactical advantage in choosing not to go into the camp too early. But remember, that all players can't come in ...

With these modifications I like the game MUCH better. It adds competition and another tactical aspect to the Master Builder placement phase regardless of the number of players.
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Anthony Simons
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While I agree that reducing the number of spots makes sense for less players, I don't see any point in reducing them at all in the market or the King's camp.

The market is only going to be visited at most once by each player unless there is something desparate he needs to do (such as sell and buy in quick succession). Although all players get tax exemption by visiting the King, only one gains the benefit of a metal resource.

But more importantly the dilemma faced by players is usually where to place their master builders. Restricting the number of spaces available in the market and the camp to one less than the number of players simply creates a conflict which is unnecessary as most players wll be thinking of better places to go.
 
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    I prefer hanging out with Jack, Phillip, and Ellen to sucking up to the King. You wait all day for him to stick his head out of the tent so you can compliment him about whatever he's wearing and just when you start talking his dogs bark and jump up on you and the moment is lost. It's just not worth the tax savings.

    Now Jack -- he knows how to get things done. And Phillip is one helluva drinker. Makes his own beer you know, so it's rare you're buying. And Ellen . . . ah Ellen . . . sigh.

             Sag.
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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One of the reasons I like this game so much is how different it is with 2, 3 and 4 players. With 4 passing to pay for a master builder can mean you get total crap with him. With 2, it is a question of brinkmanship as passing has much less of a cost, which has a net effect of paying to place one that much more expensive.

So I think you're muddling with the mechanic that makes the game work well with 2, 3, or 4 out of some misguided attempt to make all 3 experiences feel the same.
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Thomas Frank
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And so the bashing begins ...
I think I made my points clear. The first thing we agreed upon after our first session of Pillars was that the Market spots should be limited. And this proved true for our group in our following sessions. Another thing we noticed was that hardly anybody is paying taxes in this kingdom. And we were frustrated that 3 and 2 player games become so boring because you're just not so "in the way of each other".
If you don't run into these Problems during your games or if you like it the way it is then simply don't play this variant.
These changes improved the gaming experience in our group so I thought i might share them ...

apotheos wrote:
out of some misguided attempt to make all 3 experiences feel the same.


Well, that's one opinion ... I for one don't like it if a game changes so radically dependant on the number of players. Most games of this kind have differing starting setups for different numbers of players. And they have them for a good reason, so why should it be such a bad idea to do the same in this game?
 
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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lazerlight wrote:

Well, that's one opinion ... I for one don't like it if a game changes so radically dependant on the number of players. Most games of this kind have differing starting setups for different numbers of players. And they have them for a good reason, so why should it be such a bad idea to do the same in this game?


Its not a bad idea. I simply stated that I felt that you were undermining one of the strengths of the game. Those other games with modified setups? I don't play those unless I have whatever number of players I've found to be optimum. This is one of the few games I own that I feel works with all the players it says it does.

If you feel bashed I apologize.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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lazerlight wrote:
The first thing we agreed upon after our first session of Pillars was that


Any time you write a sentence that starts that way (substituting any game you like for Pillars) you're off in the wrong direction. After one play you think you know enough about the game to second guess all the work the designer, playtesters and so on have put into it, and how to "fix" it?
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    I won last night with very little use of the market, and I think only the King's Camp in the last round (to get a second metal for bell making). The few gold that it saved just didn't seem worth the loss of opportunity for other options.

    This was only my second play, and with the exception of the endgame I felt like I was having to pick amongst a bunch of "OK" options -- there just didn't seem to be any one place that called out to me. I guess that's a good sign for the game design. I don't think my strategy would have significantly changed without the King's Camp and Market options.

    This was three players by the way. I recommend you explore a few more strategies with the original rules, but variants are variants and you may find that with time you can beat it into a better shape as well and extend the life of the game.

             Sag.
 
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wayne r
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Discussing a variant is always good.

Everyone has different opinions on what works best for them or their group. I have not had the chance to play this game much but the few times I did, I enjoyed the difference in gameplay with different number of players.
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Thomas Frank
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apotheos wrote:
If you feel bashed I apologize.

I don't feel bashed. ^^
It was just an exaggerated sarcastic comment about how there always are more people that dislike an idea than people who like it. Well, that's just the way we play the game and we are very happy with the changes we made.

Dearlove wrote:
lazerlight wrote:
The first thing we agreed upon after our first session of Pillars was that

Any time you write a sentence that starts that way (substituting any game you like for Pillars) you're off in the wrong direction. After one play you think you know enough about the game to second guess all the work the designer, playtesters and so on have put into it, and how to "fix" it?

And unlike this comment of Christopher implies we didn't just change these things out of a fancy. We played quite some games. And after all these sessions the game still didn't feel "right" for us. So we changed it.
Christopher, please take the time to read the second part of my statement:

lazerlight wrote:
And this proved true for our group in our following sessions.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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lazerlight wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
lazerlight wrote:
The first thing we agreed upon after our first session of Pillars was that

Any time you write a sentence that starts that way (substituting any game you like for Pillars) you're off in the wrong direction. After one play you think you know enough about the game to second guess all the work the designer, playtesters and so on have put into it, and how to "fix" it?

And unlike this comment of Christopher implies we didn't just change these things out of a fancy. We played quite some games. And after all these sessions the game still didn't feel "right" for us. So we changed it.


Your original quotation says "first session". Now you are suggesting you changed it after "all these sessions".

I stand by my comment as a response to what you originally said.
 
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Thomas Frank
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Dearlove wrote:
Your original quotation says "first session". Now you are suggesting you changed it after "all these sessions".

I really want to avoid beeing quibbly about this subject, but I think I'll have to correct you and explain myself. And it's a good thing, that this is a forum, where we can read previously posted entries. If you'd be so kind to read my original post of Thu. Apr. 26, 3:54 pm completely. You'll notice that I wrote the following passage:
Quote:
The first thing we agreed upon after our first session of Pillars was that the Market spots should be limited. And this proved true for our group in our following sessions.

Read it slowly and deliberately, especially the second part. Now read your following post again. You'll notice that your statement contradicts mine. I'm right, you're wrong. Take it as a man!

And don't say: "You edited it!" It says clearly, that I last edited the post at 04:02 pm; 7 minutes after I created it and about 2 and a half hours before you posted.
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