Traders of Genoa has become the new favourite in our game groups - has anyone tried to see if it could be made to work with 6 players? What rules variants did you use?
First big caveat: you must have a group who loves the free wheeling-and-dealing of Traders and who can do it quickly, without 'analysis paralysis'! A good test is if your group can get through 6-7 player Bohnanza pretty breezily ...
Basic rules changes: These seem to be almost a given:
(1) End the game on turn 6 (1 turn earlier than 5-player version, which means there are max. 36=6*6 tower plays, and each person runs the tower 6 times)
(2) The tower player can take 6 instead of 5 steps (you need an extra counter to mark it). In my mind, if you don't do this, competition for actions will be too fierce (plus the '1 Further Action' tile is further devalued except for use by the tower player in a 'shut-out' turn). But this will make the game 20% longer (if you're worried it about, you could shorten the game to 5 turns to make up for it).
(3) You need a 6th colour for the building markers.
Other rules changes? Would these be necessary and/or enhance the game?
(4) Given there are now 6 steps in a tower run, do Messages now become too easy to fulfill? Should their reward be ratcheted down to $25?
(5) Instead of finding a 6th colour for building markers, you could stay with only 5 colours, but with the following rules: as each player gains their first building marker (by taking the Cathedral action or obtaining one in trade), she selects a colour from those remaining to represent her. Once the 5th colour is selected, the 6th player who has not yet selected a colour is officially designated 'building-less' (until then, no one is building-less). The building-less player may never trade in building markers or building ownership with other players (except in the case of the variant below). When the building-less player takes an action in the Cathedral, instead of earning 2 building markers, she may instead take 1 Large Order OR 2 Small Orders OR 2 Messages.
- Additional variant exception: As part or all of a transaction, a player may trade their 'color assignment' as well as all building markers and buildings in their possession to the building-less player in exchange for buiding-less status.
What do people think?
Rule #1: Have Fun
I feel that point 2 (a 6 step tower) is the weakest proposal. The number of steps is fixed regardless of the number of players - and with good reason- the entire game layout is mapped with a 5 step tile in mind. However, I agree that the competition for each action would be fierce. How about placing ownership counters would require a tower action? This would make the pavement spaces worth acting on, so spreading some of the load.
Ending the game on turn 7 (even though it's the same number as for 5p) may also relax some of the competition for each action.
Point 5 is quite interesting, but I think it would be better served just using an extra colour for player six. The other stuff just introduces too many potential balance problems. Of course having 42 building markers in the game is quite a lot, so maybe it would be a good idea to restrict the number of building markers to 5 or 6 each.
Finding an additional colour for player six provides a great opportunity to use alternative objects for eveyone! I'm not so fond of the supplied building markers - I feel card stock was a poor choice. If you have 6player settlers, you could use the settlements (but that would limit you to 5 each) - or some other nice markers or trinkets!
I really like the idea of placing building markers needing an action - it increases the action supply but does make building ownership more expensive relative to other revenue sources.
However, while the game was clearly designed with a 5-step tower in mind, I'm overall concerned that too much competition for actions wlil disrupt the balance between revenue sources requiring fewer actions (Messages, Privileges) and those that need more (Buildings, Small Orders, Large Orders). Will they need to be repriced?
Agree point 5 is interesting but probably too convoluted (especially if you don't happen to have a 6 player Catan set hanging around :-) ). Though if we're riffing on the tiny cardstock of the building markers, then how about those ducat bills? We played with them exactly once, then switched to poker chips ...
Rule #1: Have Fun
Though if we're riffing on the tiny cardstock of the building markers, then how about those ducat bills? We played with them exactly once, then switched to poker chips ...
Hehe - we didn't even use them once (but then we have some really nice poker chips), though we love the board and the other goods. I saw you had SoC 6P exp... Shame that Caylus only goes up to 5 else you could raid that box.
...too much competition for actions will disrupt the balance between revenue sources requiring fewer actions (Messages, Privileges) and those that need more (Buildings, Small Orders, Large Orders). Will they need to be repriced?
Well, IMO Messages break the 6 piece tower idea. Eric Clason's analysis (in the strategy section) is very useful, in showing that Messages already have a positive bias. The fact that actions are not required for Messages increase their value with a 5 piece tower, so they if they are to be revalued, it would be downwards - but I would leave them be.
Privileges are weird already. They only have end-game value. However, with the number of players, and the smaller chance of Large Orders being fulfilled, they would probably be snatched up pretty quick. However as there is more dilution, their base value is dropped, which is probably a good thing - as it lends for them to be traded more readily.
As for Building markers, the increased number of players (and the increased value of actions) means that the returns will be higher, so I think that they will balance out nicely, bearing in mind that we were talking of adding a tower action requirement for Building markers. There is an additional benefit there - which is it takes out a phase of the turn (the building action phase) which is probably a good thing for a six player game. Of course, it would allow for placing as many building markers as you can - (I think that's 4, if you have them and need to evict owners) in that one tower action.
Large Orders may be more hard to complete as you need to gather goods for them, but they are already good enough IMO. As I see it, any upscaling of the return would only be so slight that it's not a big enough call. As there is an increased value to tower actions, it is likely that there will be more goods in play, so trading options will improve. Of course, a little forward planning goes a long way in ToG.
Small Orders is much harder to assess IMO. They provide the least return already, but I would be wary of changing them - I think it would be better just to let them be a quick return still - it's money in the pocket, after all.
Special Cards probably have a tiny increase in value, as will Wares, but I wouldn't worry about that. However, Park may lose it's value somewhat, as Further Actions may be harder to play out of turn. Likewise Palace may increase it's value, as it allows for building actions to be employed away from the tower.
In general, I (and others) believe the game is basically self-balancing. Any differences will come out in trading, and therefore any perceived imbalance will be adjusted for. Of course, knowing that the 6P value of a copper is different from a 5P value is just the same as knowing that the 5P value of copper is different from a 4P value. Throwing in the fact that there are additional impulse/completion values for copper implies to me that the basic pricing only needs to approximate balance.
I think that additional competition for Tower actions is a good thing. It means that the Tower Player would be a total fool not to trade her actions. We more or less always negotiate the entire tower movement (before moving a single tower piece) - as it most often yields a better return to the Tower Player (as well as help to reveal the intentions/strategies of the other players), and that's with 3 or 4 players, let alone 6! This would reduce spot opportunism though - in that it is unlikely that any intermediate spot would not be traded for - so the instant D5 offer is less likely to occur.
I can imagine that a march from Monetti to Ricci could yield income enough so that you may even yield any personal tower action at all. In fact there may be an entire strategy involved in always selling every tower action, selling off all one's cards and wares to the highest bidders at just the right time - and buying (any) actions when they go cheap. After all, playing the market is what makes bankers rich.
Another significant amend that is probably worth a lot more, in terms of improving the balance, is to include 1 Ducat currency. This dramatically allows for improved balance, effectively by increasing the resolution of transactions. Poker chips helps a lot here. We already play with D1, and I guess you may also).
The 6P game is likely to require less strategic and more tactical (opportunistic) play - but then the game already leans heavily towards opportunism - which is exactly how I imagine the life of a medieval Genoese duck'n'diver was like.
I've just had a new idea which would be to introduce a general/open trading session at the end of each round (just before the round marker is moved up).
This would free up the goods a bit more and may also keep the tower action bidding a little more sane.
Alternatively (and less radically), one could have a general trading session only when the market is rolled - which gives a positive angle to the market, and actually 'does what it says'.
Actually, I like that idea a lot - we may try it out as a house rule on normal size games. Limiting trading to tower action negotiation can be artificial at times.
In conclusion, I think that a good initial 6P expansion could:
* Keep the same values for everything (but keep a close eye)
* Stay with the 5 piece tower
* Use a 7 turn game (same as 5 players)
* Use 6 sets of building markers ( nice ones )
* Introduce D1 currency (if you haven't already), keeping min. D5 trade.
* Require a tower action for placing building markers (but otherwise as normal)
* Maybe have open trading sessions on market rolls, or at the end of each round.
* Encourage negotiation after the dice roll - even before choosing the coach house square - but after declaring it's use.
I would try this for the first few games (after all, the game is self-balancing) - the advantage is that the game is nearly exactly the same as for any other number of players.
Beyond all that, I think the intricacies are too complex for me without doing a series of play-tests. I would really like to see some session reports / breakdowns of any 6P games!
John Paul Sodusta
Great stuff guys! Keep them coming.