So far I’ve enjoyed this game a great deal, but two issues have arisen with most players.
1: It’s unsatisfying to end the game and see that your unused tokens contained Raid, Diplomacy, or your unique clan token. Had an extreme example in my most recent play where the Crane player didn’t draw either of their Diplomacy tokens.
2: Bluffs are fun to use, but we’ve started to feel it’s usually a lesser choice to placing down another token, as it means you draw one fewer token next turn. Mostly Bluffs are being used occasionally in early rounds as a means of holding back an Army 5, Raid or Diplomacy token, they haven't seen much use past round 3.
As a side issue, I wish the clans played a bit more differently in order to make each game feel different depending on who was present. Playing as Lion should feel significantly different to playing as Scorpion. While I like the Clan Features that are in there, I feel there’s room for more variety without adding complexity.
I’m now playing with a variant that tries to both resolve the two primary issues I've had with the game, and use the opportunity to inject more flavour into each clan.
Clan Pool Variant
- Remove the possibility for players to go the whole game without drawing their most interesting or useful tokens.
- Make the Bluff Token a factor through the whole game.
- Make each clan feel more unique to play as and against.
- No additional rules or complexity, just making the most of the existing rules and components.
- While I’m trying to maintain balance between the clans, this is designed more for friendly home competition than pure tournament style play.
- Remove 6 Combat Tokens from each clan’s pool, specified by their clan on the list below. Each pool is now 20 tokens plus a Bluff Token that is taken as normal.
- Players draw 4 tokens from their pool each Upkeep Phase, forming a hand of 5 tokens which will all be played on this turn.
- At the end of the game the players will usually have no tokens left in their pool.
- Dragon is an exception, removing only 5 Tokens for a pool of 21. They end the game with one token in their pool due to their clan ability. Other clans might end the game with tokens in their pool as a result of certain territory cards.
- When a player is targeted by the “Spy Network” Territory Card, it resolves as normal, so that player will only play four tokens that turn.
All Clans Remove
Army 1, Army 2, Army 3
Lion: Shinobi 1, Shinobi 2, Raid.
Crane: Army 2, Both Blessings.
Unicorn: Navy 1, Navy 2, Blessing.
Crab: Shinobi 2, Blessing, Diplomacy.
Scorpion: Army 3, Army 4, Blessing.
Phoenix: Army 5, Navy 1, Shinobi 1.
Dragon: Army 3, Navy 2.
- Players draw and play every token assigned to their clan. Unicorn will always get two Raids, Lion will always get their best Armies etc.
- Players bluff every turn. Even though this is known information it can make things more unpredictable overall.
- Bluffing every turn means that fewer actions will be resolved overall.
- Tokens can only be saved for later rounds by using special abilities.
- Increase in system mastery, as players who know each clan’s token composition can better predict what is being played.
- “Spy Network” card ends up being a bit clumsy, and more powerful than intended. I want to avoid having extra rules to reference, so decided to have it play out as originally written.
Military clan, with the most strength of tokens but lacking any Shinobi or Raids, forcing them to “fight fair”. Their Bluff is now more useful, as it is getting used every turn. Very heavily weighted clan now, with major strengths and weaknesses, so balance is unknown.
Feel strong, honourable.
Removing Blessings is a bit of an experiment here, not sure how thematic it is. The aim is a sort of skillful, indirect feel where you have to choose your battles carefully, attack from multiple angles, and not rely on throwing down a large blessed army.
Feel skillful, flexible.
One of the big military clans, losing some indirect power through their Navy. Token-switching power works well with the guaranteed Bluff.
Feel mobile, savage,
The third big military clan, having by far the strongest Navy in this variant. Losing Diplomacy and Shinobi forces them to be blunt, but their strong Navy and defensive bonus gives them more flexibility than Lion.
Feel blunt, tough.
Weakest military, but guaranteed use of their Shinobi works well with their clan power and makes them stand out more. The most indirect clan.
Feel sneaky, indirect.
A thematically pacifist clan is hard to reflect that in a military focused game. I’m seeing them as a clan that makes fewer strikes, but each is effective and precise, supported by their strong Blessings and clan power to hit Capitals. Losing their largest Army means they’re reliant on their Blessings and striking at the right time.
Feel precise, patient.
Flexible clan, able to mitigate randomness, but losing some strong tokens in return. Ability becomes much more useful, as you can bump back a more powerful token, knowing you’ll get it back in a later round.
Feel smart, versatile.
I’d be interested to hear everybody’s thoughts. While my goals accept that this variant sacrifices some balance, I’d especially like to hear suggestions on how to tweak the specific tokens that are removed for each clan.
I like your ideas. It would need more testing.
What about first player card?
I hadn't considered that card.
My instinct is to leave it as is, but it certainly makes it have a bit more impact. I'll have a think after testing it out.
This sounds like an important and exciting variant Chris. Thank you for kindly posting your thoughts. Please keep us posted on any improvements to it that you or others find in play testing.
As you might know already from an other early variant thread
My main problems are also about the last unpicked tokens being strong tokens, or clan specific tokens, which is incredibly boring.
I have played some games with all tokens used each round included bluffs, very fun.
Tho a carry over mechanic to save a token for later round is good tho if a player wishes so.
Hi Chris, how is this variant going now you may have had some more plays?
I've not given this one any more testing yet, mostly because I've made my peace with the Bluff Token (see here) and have found that simply starting the game with your Unique Clan Token (see here) gives me some of the stronger asymmetry that I felt was missing with a much smaller amount of modification to the game.
It's still lame to fail to draw your Army 5, Diplomacy, or Raid, but I've found the uncertainty that creates can make things interesting in its own way.
Not giving up on this variant, but I'm enjoying playing the game closer to by-the-book for now.