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Subject: The White Master rss

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William Wilting
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Let's start this thread by saying I've read some negative reactions about this expansion. The people who were disappointed about it were mostly complaining about the luck factor, of which they think that the Black/Dark Master mechanics are increasing it, where it had been reduced due to the removal of the event cards from the deck. They say that the Dark Master is not just an additional mechanic, it's basically dominating the whole game.

I recently bought the game together with this expansion at the Game Spectacle in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. When I opened both boxes, looked at the components and read both rulebooks, I noticed that the white power tokens are having the numbers like the black ones have them, but that they have no relevance at all. I'm surprised to see that something that is present in the game has no use, which is pretty much the opposite of things I see more often in games: additional components that are not in the box, but are needed to play the game (in a more streamlined way), which is something Fantasy Flight Games is known for (to few dice, no token/dice bag, etc.).

The lack of usefulness of the numbers on the white power tokens, in combination with the earlier mentioned complaints about the Black Master, made me brainstorm about a variant which could neutralize the domination of the Black Master and which has a use for the numbers on the white power tokens as well, without the rules changing too much. I'd like to know what you think of it.

I'd like to call this variant: De Ontembare Stad - Het Verbond (The Indomitable Citadel - The Alliance). It introduces an order of knights that will help the players to stand their ground against the Black Master, led by his counterpart, the White Master.
For this variant, you will need the base game and the Treason expansion, as well as some additional components similar to that of the base game: a white influence marker, a white playing piece that has the same kind of look as the Black Master piece to represent the White Master, and 25 white knight cones.

During preparing for the game, place the Black and White Master pieces and both the black and white knight cones near the board. They won't be on the board at the start of the game. Place both black and white power tokens facedown near the board and form two separate piles in their own color. Then shuffle both piles separately. Place both black and white influence score markers on the same usual spot as the markers of the Grandmasters in the game.
The first 3 phases of a player's turn will be played as normal, according to the rules from the Treason expansion, with two exceptions:
1. The areas belonging to the White Master can't be isolated by the knights of the Grandmasters. However, that doesn't prevend the Black Master from isolating areas of any Grandmaster, nor those of the White Master, in phase 4.
2. In addition to swapping black power tokens, the players may also swap white power tokens the same way, for the same amount of resources as for the black ones.
After phase 4 has taken place, it is followed by a phase 5, with the mechanics of the White Master. The first thing to remember in this phase is that the White Master has only one real enemy: the Black Master. This means that the White Master won't attack any Grandmaster's area for any reason. However, the White Master can attack the Black Master's areas. The same counts for the isolation of areas, which means that the White Master isn't concidered to isolate an area of a Grandmaster when it is surrounded by knights and is not adjacent to another area belonging to the same Grandmaster. But he can isolate and take over the Black Master's areas.
In phase 4, the Black Master Phase, if the active player has at least one black power token on his own player board, he may move and attack with the Black Master, according to the expansion's rules; otherwise skip the movement and attack steps of the Black Master. In addition to attacking the areas belonging to Grandmasters, the Black Master may also attack an area occupied by the White Masters' knights; the potential presence of the White Master on an area attacked by the Black Master is irrelevant. Attacks work the same way as usual, but the white die for the White Master's knights' defense is rolled by another player. If the White Master's knights are reinforcing a Grandmaster's area (explained later), then the Grandmaster that owns the area rolls the white die. If the attack of a reinforced Grandmaster's area succeeds, the Grandmaster doesn't lose control of the area. Instead, the white knight on that area is removed from the board. To the knight of the defending Grandmaster, nothing else happens. If there is a tie, the white knight is also removed. This means that the White Master must win the battle while defending if he wants to keep his knight on the area. In situations that an area is not reinforced and is attacked by the Black Master, resolving the attacks work as normal, as described in the rules. Also, if the Black Master is attacking an area that is only occupied by a white knight (without one of a Grandmaster's knights on it as well), the attack is resolved the same way as if it was an attack on a Grandmaster's area, meaning that the white knight is removed in case of a tie or success and that, if successful, the Black Master takes over the area. At the end of phase 4, the Black Master's influence marker is moved up as usual, according to the rules.
In phase 5, The White Master Phase, if the player has at least one white power token on his own player board, he may move the White Master the same way as the Black Master does (counting his white power tokens or rolling the white die to determine the maximum number of spaces), with the exception that the White Master may also move through and land on spaces with a watchtower on it. If the White Master lands on a space belonging to the active Grandmaster, he may try to place reinforcements on that area. To do this, he rolls the white die. If the result is equal to or lower than the number of white power tokens on his player board, then he places a white knight on that area. It doesn't matter that there is a knight belonging to a Grandmaster on that area already. However, there may be only one white knight on an area at the same time. If the White Master lands on an area belonging to the Black Master, he can't reinforce it, but he may attack it. Attacks on the Black Master's areas by the White Master work the same way as the other way around, except that the Black Master loses his knight and the area if the attack is successful. A successful attack by the White Master of an area belonging to the Black Master can result in the isolation of another area belonging to the Black Master. If that happens, the White Master will take over that area as well (like the Black Master can in phase 4). At the end of this phase, the White Master's influence marker is moved the same way as the Black Master's.
Note that, when scoring influence, the White Master gains influence points from areas with buildings on them that are occupied and/or reinforced by the white knights. This means that he can score from buildings belonging to more than just one Grandmaster. This scoring system works the same way as that of the Black Master. If the game ends with the White Master winning, rather than a Grandmaster, then the players determine the winner by counting the white power tokens. The player with the most of them is the winner. In case of a tie, revealing their white power tokens' numbers will decide. The player with the highest total wins. Basically the system works the same way as with the Black Master's victory.

That's it! I didn't playtest this, but I'm really excited to try it out. Hopefully, it will solve some of the problems that people have mentioned before as well. I'm looking forward to some feedback and suggestions.

Nice gaming!

Edit: I will place a more definitive post in the future, because I can understand that the way this variant is described can feel a little messy. For now, I'd like to clarify a few things about the rules of this variant to make people understand them even better than they allready do. I just realized that my explanation at this point wasn't really complete or clear enough yet. But I'll try to edit the original post to make it easier to read and understand. For now, let's start with the clarifications I planned to share for this game.

1. To keep this White Master variation of the game as simple as possible, you could try to imagine the mechanics of the White Master being similar to those of the Black Master, with the main difference that his role is quite the opposite. This means that normal movement and attacks for both Masters work pretty much the same, but that the restrictions for them are quite opposite.
For example, the rules about the movement for the Black Master say that he can't walk through or land on spaces with a watch tower on it if that watch tower is not one of his own, or if he doesn't get permission from the active Grandmaster to do so. The White Master, on the other hand, IS allowed to do this, since he's not the Grandmasters' enemy. However, the same restrictions for the White Master count for the spaces belonging to the Black Master, since he IS the enemy. This means that the White Master is allowed to move through or land on spaces, belonging to a Grandmaster, with a watch tower on it, but he is NOT allowed to do so on the spaces belonging to the Black Master.

2. Neither White nor Black Masters may take over an unoccupied space on the board by claiming it (buying). Only spaces that have been claimed by a Grandmaster or that is occupied by the White Master can be taken by the Black Master as the consequence of a successful attack or isolation of a space. Note that the Black Master can't attack spaces with a watch tower on it. The White Master can reinforce a space with a watch tower on it, but he can't reinforce one of the Black Master's spaces, nor can he attack, move through or land on one of the Black Master's spaces with a watch tower on it.
Both White and Black Masters taking over empty spaces would change the game itself to dramatically, and wouldn't drive on the Grandmasters' own hit points anymore, which would hurt the feel of the game. The consequences could be that players wouldn't bother getting as much points of their own as possible and would care more about the game ending with the White or Black Master winning, entirely playing on that result. That would be boring, wouldn't it?

3. The Black Master's spaces that are adjacent to another that has a watch tower on it are treated the same way in the defense against the White Master's attacks as adjacent spaces belonging to a Grandmaster would during his defense against the Black Master's attacks.

4. Situations in which the White Master oppupies a space on his own can occur due to the isolation of or attack on one of the Black Master's spaces. As with the isolation of a space belonging to the Black Master, also the White Master can conquer one of the Black Master's spaces with a watch tower on it, resulting in a white knight occupying that space on his own (potentially with a building on it) or with a watch tower on it as well.

I tried to explain as much as I could, but as I said, I'll try to make a clearer and shorter version of the rules for this variant.

Happy gaming!

P.S. A few final things the designer pointed out in an e-mail I recieved from him are some rules from the base game and the Treason expansion that weren't clarified in the rules before, which I'd like to mention right now, to answer some questions that others may have not seen answered before:
- Breaking down a building on the board is an action that can be done by payment of 5 resources to the bank. The Dutch version of the rules were a little unclear about whether you recieve or have to pay these resources, but the latter is the true explanation; you have to pay the bank. Also, breaking down a building counts as losing that building as well. It may sound pretty expensive to break down a building, because not only will you have to pay 5 resources, but you'll lose the influence points that the building was worth as well. This means that it doesn't matter if you lose points due to an event or influence card, or due to the action you take to break down a building.
- In the expansion, one major thing about the Black Master has been clarified in the e-mail. The rules state that the Black Master can never move through or land on any space with a watch tower on it under any conditions. Well, there is one simple exception to this. The Black Master is allowed to move through or land on spaces with a watch tower on it if that particular space is controlled by the Black Master himself.
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