Insanity is contagious.
So far I have only played the game solo so I haven't tested this variant yet as it is not particularly interesting solo. I would like to hear feedback if there are any issues with it and welcome others to try it out.
In this variant the players cannot change loyalty once pledged to one of the factions and they will only score a faction agenda card if they pledged loyalty to that faction. Also, the number of available agenda cards to pledge loyalty with (and to score bonus points with) is limited and equal for both factions. With this I wanted to balance out the struggle between factions (especially for a 2- and 4-player games) and to create some tension with forced loyalty to factions that players would normally not go with (in my opinion this also helps with stronger role playing). I would like to avoid seeing somebody winning the game after contributing little to faction advancement and simply being lucky in the agenda card draw.
1) After creating the agenda deck search it for X cards of each faction, where X is equal to the number of players divided by 2 and rounded up. You should therefore have 1 star and 1 shield agenda cards for 1-2 players and 2 star and 2 shield cards for 3-4 players. Set these cards aside accessible to all players. These cards are the loyalty cards. Shuffle the agenda deck.
2) Players do not receive any agenda cards during setup. Note: setting loyalty cards aside resembles the agenda deck pace of the standard game.
Gameplay changes and new rules:
3) After a player completes a quest that causes a faction token to advance they may take one of the loyalty cards of that faction and use it to pledge loyalty to that faction by placing it face-up next to their board (all standard loyalty rules apply here). If there are more loyalty cards of the other faction (i.e. the first one has been taken), the player doesn't receive any card. Limit is one loyalty card per player.
4) Only loyalty faction cards will provide bonus points and they will in fact score double amount of the bonus described on the card, e.g. 6 points if the given faction advanced 3 spaces further. Factionless agenda cards are scored in the normal way.
5) The loyalty cards count to the limit of 4 agenda cards held by the player. When claiming a loyalty card the player will receive all rewards, including other agenda cards (again if these are faction cards they will provide only 1 point, no matter the faction). If the limit of 4 agenda cards is exceeded, discard any excess agenda cards (not the loyalty card).
6) After the last player has claimed a loyalty card, the remaining loyalty card is removed and shuffled back into the agenda deck. Note: only valid for 1- and 3-player games.
7) A player may remain neutral by not taking any loyalty cards in the course of the game (players could be finishing quest cards and advancing faction tokens but they may choose not to take any loyalty cards). If the game ends with one of the faction tokens reaching the red space and no player has the required amount of points to win the game, the neutral player wins. If there are no neutral players, all players loose. Note: the idea of a neutral player might be interesting for a 3-player game. If two players have already pledged loyalty but there is no clear winning faction the 3rd player might take the risk of remaining neutral and trying to keep status quo. If he manages to do this he will win.