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Cosmic Encounter» Forums » Variants

Subject: Alliance Phase - Carousel Variant (re: invitation - response order) rss

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Ryucoo
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Dog with a bone here but I’ve always found the Alliance Phase to be the hardest part of the game to navigate (especially with new players) and the only thing that doesn’t sit comfortably with people or become second nature. The offence/defence throwing out invitations to the group followed by ordered response rarely flows naturally and the Hidden Alliance dials from Cosmic Eons are fiddly both physically and mechanically (while hardly speeding anything up when all is said and done, and still sees people jumping to accept invites without dialling it in first). Free-for-all alliance phase seems to fit best with the feel of the game, though as people have said – it does take away a layer of strategy (though in my opinion, it’s a very thin layer).

It's probably been suggested before, (the likelihood of my slow brain being innovative somewhat minimal) but I have a cleaner variant which I think feels more natural to play, flows better and still maintains a level of poker-table strategy the original mechanic was going for.

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Carousel Variant (cos, you know, the potential allies are like sushi on a carousel for main players to pick)

At the start of the Alliance Phase, one player at random acts as broker. In a quick-fire manner, starting with the player to the left of the Offence as a candidate, the broker asks the main players if they would like to invite that candidate to ally. “Alliance with Natalie?” Main players may respond with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In response to any yeses, the candidate moves ships to their chosen/appropriate side, or says “pass”. If both main players respond with “no”, the broker introduces the next candidate clockwise around the table (“okay, alliance with Dave?”) and so on, remembering to include themselves.

Example of flow:

Broker: Who wants Steve?
Offence: No.
Defence: No.

Broker: Who wants Hannah?
Offence: Yes.
Defence: No.
Hannah: Pass.

Broker: Who wants Paul?
Offence: Yes
Defence: Yes.
Paul: [places 4 ships alongside Offence]

Broker: Who wants Me?
Offence: No.
Defence: Yes.
Me: [Places 2 ships alongside Defence]

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Firstly, I don’t think this actually takes any more time than the original ordered mechanic and you can get a good speed going once people are used to it.

Secondly, it plays more natural as there is a structure there to follow, guided by the broker (there is usually one player who kinda shepherds the game anyway) which is intuitive and avoids trip hazards like having to bite your tongue when you are invited (unnatural).

Thirdly, it retains a level of poker-table strategy as the first candidate is allying blind, the second with only the first ally confirmed etc. like the original design.

Fourthly, you don’t need extra dials/cards/tokens which still fail to address the ‘jumping in/biting tongue’ issue of the original design (I had just as much trouble reminding people not to just throw their ships at an invitation before dialling it in, as I have reminding people to respond in order).

Fifthly, and perhaps a minor bonus – you don’t run into those situations where people forget whether they were invited and by whom.

You are asking the main players a question, they naturally respond, and the natural response of the candidate follows – it just fits together and flows so much better.


That said, can anyone see how the subtle variation of asking candidates one by one versus asking candidates all at once may impact on the game strategically, for better or worse? Does it break the game in any way? My brain hurts

Offence/defence invites group
In order, individuals of group accept/reject invitations

Vs

Offence/defence invites individual
Individual accepts/rejects invitations

Thoughts?
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Ryucoo
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Was hoping an Encounterphile would've given me a bit of insight by now.
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Mi Myma
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The system you've proposed is certainly at least as complex as the standard rule, if not more so. The concept of going around the table, taking turns, as in the standard alliance rule, is not particularly difficult, and appears in the majority of board games. I don't see the problem with the standard rules, and I don't see your proposal as any kind of solution or improvement.

First, yes, it will take more time than the standard method. "Offense invites no allies." "Defense invites no allies." takes far less time than "Who wants Steve?" "No." "No." "Who wants Hannah?" "No." "No." "Who wants Paul?" "No." "No." "Who wants me?" "No." "No." And the standard rules also get a good speed going once you get used to it.

Second, no, it is not more natural. Natural is invitation followed by accepting or declining. Your proposal is a three-step process: Offer, decide to invite or not, then decide to accept or decline.

Third, the poker-like strategy was already there. Your proposal merely shifts it around a bit.

Fourthly, what's wrong with using the dials? They seem to accomplish exactly what you want. Is there some reason you don't want to have to touch a piece of physical equipment in the game? You're already touching many other game components - ships, planets, the gate, and many types of cards. If you really don't like those dials, for whatever reason, you can accomplish the same thing with pencil and paper. Or if your players can be trusted to use the honor system, they can just hold up a number of fingers behind their backs and reveal them simultaneously - 1-4 fingers on the left hand to ally with the offence, 1-4 fingers on the right hand to ally with the defense.

Fourth-and-a-halfly, that whole "jumping in/biting tongue" thing is part of the poker-like bluffing situation. "Ooh! I send four ships to the offence! Oh, sorry, it's not my turn yet." "Well, since he's allying with offence, I will too, since whichever side he's on will probably win." "Yeah, me too." "Me too." "Well, now that it is my turn, I'll send four ships to the defense." "But you said..." "I lied." Remember, any table-talk outside of a deal is non-binding.

Fifthly, you don't forget anyway. Each person only has to remember two things: Did the offense invite me? Did the defense invite me? And even if you forget that, the player who made that decision is sitting right there - ask him!

The standard rule is:

Offence declares all invitations.
Defense declares all invitations.
Other players join alliances in clockwise order, starting to the left of the offense.

The secret alliance rule is:

Offence declares all invitations.
Defense declares all invitations.
Other players secretly decide what they'll do with their dials, and reveal simultaneously.

Your proposal is:

The offense decides whether to invite the player to his left.
The defense decides whether to invite the player to the offense's left.
The player to the offense's left decides which of the alliances to join, if any.
Repeat these three steps for all the non-main players, proceeding clockwise.

Yes, forming alliances in that order is a potentially valid alternative, but at a cost of a slower game and more complication, and providing no real benefit. Either way is an arbitrary order that might influence other players' decisions and provide opportunities for bluffs, threats, persuasion, and pleading. The only difference is the order, which is arbitrary anyway, so what's the benefit? Might as well do it the simpler and quicker way.

And yes, you can do whatever you want with your group. Your variant will not break the game (I don't think). There may be specific powers/flares/etc. that deal with allies that may become stronger or weaker this way, but the basic game will still work. I don't think there are any aliens or other game effects that would be bothered by this timing change, but in the future, there might be an alien or something that says, "After the offense has invited allies, but before the defense has invited allies..." or "After all alliance invitations have been made, but before players decide to accept them...", neither of which would work with your variant.
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Just a Bill
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I didn't reply earlier because this doesn't appeal to me and I'm trying to make more of an effort to be less critical.

I pretty much agree with Phil's post: it seems like more complexity for no apparent gain, and I don't like the idea of changing the rules to accommodate people who just refuse to pay attention to the rules and/or the timing of the current encounter.

Also, this system requires the main players to remember (and sometimes modify) their overall invitation plan with each new potential ally who comes around in the rotation. Do you really want the analysis paralysis potential of two main players who each have to rethink their entire strategy (based on all the unfolding decisions) with each new player in the carousel? That could easily make this system take far, far longer than the official rules.

But perhaps the dealbreaker for me is how it gunks up the timing of "after allies are invited" effects such as Cryo, Lunatic, Macron, and Remote. Under the normal rules, there is a clear separation point when all invitations have been issued but none have yet been accepted/rejected. Your proposal destroys this timing territory, blurs the operation of such effects, makes the alliance dials unusable, and probably closes off some design space for future aliens and other effects.
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Ryucoo
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Thanks for raising some valid points, there.

I think my issue of a natural flow is being somewhat misunderstood, however. If the problem was such a non-entity as you chaps insist, BGG would probably take up half as much space on the internet!

It's not a game breaking problem and it of course dilutes the more experienced the players involved but even CE buffs fill The Geek with "say what? I never knew it had to be ordered and I've been playing 30 years!"

So it IS a slight stumbling block and it IS somewhat inelegant and that mainly comes from the fact the natural response to the offence making his invitation, is to of course respond to the invitation. Not wait tight-lipped like no question was asked, for the defence to get their say in. I was just wondering if staging the question differently, in a more natural way might help.

I do think the timing issue is being slightly inflated, here. Agreed, I'm adding an extra question per player but it's not a difficult or lengthy one. I doubt it would add much more time than fiddling with the dials, which I must say are very poorly designed and rather unclear, especially for newcomers or older folk. You still have to reveal and count up the dials anyway, so 'ask then dial' is still followed by going round the table again: essentially it's just added another step to the original mechanic.

However, it's a great point that you can 'game' the jumping in.

As for remembering? Maybe we just need to play it with less beer involved!

In the end you are right, it's whatever works for you. I'm sure the more experienced people get the less of an issue this is, but for those obviously tripping over this phase I don't see that a free-for-all approach damages the game that much at all, or if people wanted to add structure I'm glad my proposal doesn't appear to break the game either.

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