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James Wahl
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It's very hard for me not to bring this to every game day. Super-tense, tons of angst, completely modern.

I'm still not sure that the "Part-Time Contractor" part is a variant, but it takes the vagueness of:

the Suggestions For Better Play section wrote:
[...]

A player, when putting in a ROAD section that will also benefit another player's tract, may wish to negotiate with him to induce him to contribute a share of the cost of that section.

[...]


...which comes at the end of a set of rules that never mention that the players can exchange money at all, in any context - and takes it to the limit. Players can build for anyone, anywhere, based on whatever cash payment they can negotiate, during their BUILD action. That makes players into contractors and developers at the same time, changes the rhythm of the game completely, doesn't lengthen playtime (adds negotiation, but allows people to build in fewer turns), and creates another path to victory (specializing in contracting.)

I also ditch the stupid initial blind bid, and just allow everyone to draw their initial tracts at random (from a set of homemade chits), paying market value for them.

OK, this part is definitely a variant rule, but I play that tracts that are not zoned for buildings cannot have buildings built on them, ever. I find the normal rule (that you can build anything on an unzoned tract) silly and pointlessly game-lengthening. In that case, why would the market value be higher for a zoned tract than an unzoned one? The fact that a building would be reserved for the zoned tract isn't enough for me; for me, the extra factory, extra apartment building, and the four extra houses are just extras. Call it the "rural density" variant, and buy that incomplete copy.

Also - poker chips.

Highly interactive with a lot for everyone to think about on everyone else's turn - what you can build, how little you can get away with paying for it, and how much you're willing to spend at auction. There's also some good angst in deciding whether to choose to user your build to maximize what profit you can make from other players, rather than what you may personally need for your own tracts. Love it.

Interested in any comments from people who have tried it this way, or reasons that they wouldn't.
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Rob Zdybel
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"Square Mile" is certainly an under-appreciated gem. It's nice to know that she has other admirers out there.
These variants are really quite clever, altho I'm not sure I would play them all.

When we played as kids, we didn't end the game until the last building had been built!
As an adult, I cannot recommend that variant!

Part-time Contractor:
Essentially all you are doing here is suspending the rule requiring that all Builds must take place on property you own. This could get very interesting indeed! A fascinating variant - very much in keeping with the spirit and mechanisms of the game. I like this one and look forward to trying it.

Sealed-Bid Auction:
The initial auction isn't "stupid". There is huge strategy to out-bidding an opponent for the coveted property (thus leaving them out in the cold - property will never be this cheap again!). And over-bidding can be crippling, since the name of this game is "one-dollar-short". There's really a lot going on there.

Rural Density:
This one should shorten the game. But it takes a number of strategy and timing elements away. For example, there's no need to worry who's going to grab that last factory/apartment before you do. "Houses Next to Schools" also become rare since the Church doesn't sow any suburbs. Can't recommend this one.

Your observation that un-zoned properties may be cheaper than zoned ones is certainly true. I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
However, rather than banning all construction in un-zoned property, how about this:

Bribing the County Commissioners:
If a property is un-zoned, then simultaneous with building a Sub-Division on that property, the player must pay the face value of their choice of Zoning Tile and place it upon the un-zoned property - thus zoning it. You may select any zoning type, but you must build this type of structure - if a Building of the zoned type is not available, the lot may not be built upon.

There. How do you like that one? It adds even more tension to building the last factory/apartment, since now you have to declare your intention and pay for it first. It also serves to increase the price of un-zoned property relative to pre-zoned.

This may not be such a good thing since there is much strategy in buying up the cheap, un-zoned properties. But, shaking up the game is the point of variants, isn't it?

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James Wahl
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rzdybel wrote:
When we played as kids, we didn't end the game until the last building had been built!
As an adult, I cannot recommend that variant!




rzdybel wrote:

Part-time Contractor:
Essentially all you are doing here is suspending the rule requiring that all Builds must take place on property you own. This could get very interesting indeed! A fascinating variant - very much in keeping with the spirit and mechanisms of the game. I like this one and look forward to trying it.


I am - even though, curiously, the variant started because of the example in the rules of one player paying for another player's road... something that they never mentioned was allowed in the rules. So then I pored over them, and couldn't see anything in the building rules that mentioned building on your own property. It's an obvious assumption, and of course probably Helmer's intent, but I think that he was the type of person who would lean permissive when there's a hole in the rules (as evidenced by the example.)

rzdybel wrote:

Sealed-Bid Auction:
The initial auction isn't "stupid". There is huge strategy to out-bidding an opponent for the coveted property (thus leaving them out in the cold - property will never be this cheap again!). And over-bidding can be crippling, since the name of this game is "one-dollar-short". There's really a lot going on there.


Stupid thing 1) about it is that it's the first thing you do in the game, before you've gotten a feel for the play (really a modern expectation), 2) is that losing this auction (because property will never be this cheap again) is crippling; you start off with less property than other players, and 3) you're going to sell this property anyway, after only light development, so you can jump into something else.

rzdybel wrote:

Rural Density:
This one should shorten the game. But it takes a number of strategy and timing elements away. For example, there's no need to worry who's going to grab that last factory/apartment before you do. "Houses Next to Schools" also become rare since the Church doesn't sow any suburbs. Can't recommend this one.


The thing is, I think a race to improve unzoned property is the pretty much the same thing as the race to obtain and hold zoned property. Properties are relentlessly flipped in this game, having a nice property and having the money to finish it at the same time involves careful planning. I think an additional race for buildings is *more*, not *different*, and w/build phase negotiations now extending the game, I really don't think that's worth pushing it even longer. I've been consistently hitting around 1:15 to 1:45 w/explanation, and that's a sweet spot.

I invite being sold on an added depth as a result of unzoned buildings, though.

rzdybel wrote:

Your observation that un-zoned properties may be cheaper than zoned ones is certainly true. I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
However, rather than banning all construction in un-zoned property, how about this:

Bribing the County Commissioners:
If a property is un-zoned, then simultaneous with building a Sub-Division on that property, the player must pay the face value of their choice of Zoning Tile and place it upon the un-zoned property - thus zoning it. You may select any zoning type, but you must build this type of structure - if a Building of the zoned type is not available, the lot may not be built upon.

There. How do you like that one? It adds even more tension to building the last factory/apartment, since now you have to declare your intention and pay for it first. It also serves to increase the price of un-zoned property relative to pre-zoned.

This may not be such a good thing since there is much strategy in buying up the cheap, un-zoned properties. But, shaking up the game is the point of variants, isn't it?



After you buy the zoning, does the building become reserved? If not, you'd need a marker to differentiate the up-zoned from the pre-zoned.
 
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