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Subject: War Debt Fix for the 'No Government' Scenario rss

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Stephen Michael Hickey
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Britain's First World War debt to the United States was re-negotiated at $3.5 billion in 1946. The last installment of which was repaid in 2006.

In 1931 Britain was owed more (in war debt) by other countries than it owed to America.


Imperial is one of my favourite games. The only issue that I have, is the odd occassion when you get stranded without a government, for extended periods of time. A situation that can easily arise in a six player game.

After playing a number of years, I have found that the following solution works better than the Swiss Bank 'No money; no flag' variant.


War Debt Fix for the 'No Government' Scenario

This variant is designed for the 'No Investor' Card version of the game, which is the only way I play. Here is how it works:

Requires: about 50 extra chits/tokens to represent $1m loans to the No Government player


During each Government's turn, when the active player (and then everyone else) gets a chance to invest in the active government) there is a new alternative action to buying a bond:

Any player, who is without a government, can opt to receive a $1m loan from the bank. However, if they do so, they must take one loan chit as well.

At the end of the game, all loan chits count as minus $1.5m (-1.5 VP) each.

The total number of loan chits that a player may have at any stage is 4 x (the level reached by the highest government). That is

No loan chits are allowed at level 0
4 loan chits at level 1
8 loan chits at level 2
12 loan chits at level 3
16 loan chits at level 4


The advantages of this system are:

1) A player that has no government can get back into the game, reasonably quickly but at a cost. For instance, at the end of one full round of government turns, a player without a government can opt to gain up to $6m worth of loans (for a loss of 9VP at the end of the game).

2) These players no longer recieve any 'unfair' VP bonuses from the loans that they receive (as they do in the Swiss Bank No money; no flag variant) because they have to pay all the loans back at the end of the game.

3) The significant advantage is that a player need no longer be stranded for too long without a Government in this variant.It also allows for more switches of Government control which should make for a more exciting game.

4) The restriction on loan chits ensures that revenue remains tight especially in the early game when return on investments is critical.

For the Investor Card Version, I suppose you could get the same effect if you offered any 'No Government' players, the option to receive a $1m loan, each and every time a player landed on or passed the Investor space.

5) The repayment of the loan at a factor of 1.5 was carefully chosen.
A factor of 2 was too prohibive for the more costly bonds in the later stages of the game. A factor of 1 was too cheap for the cheaper bonds at the start of the game. The combination of the loan factor of 1.5 and the restriction on the amount of the loans available (especially in the early part of the game) opens up possibilities but makes for some difficult choices for the Non Government players too.


 
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J C Lawrence
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Steve99 wrote:
[i]Imperial is one of my favourite games. The only issue that I have, is the odd occassion when you get stranded without a government, for extended periods of time. A situation that can easily arise in a six player game.


Funny that. About half of the local players fight hard to not control a country. Going country-less is seen as a strong tactic in the game.
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Stephen Michael Hickey
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clearclaw wrote:
Steve99 wrote:
[i]Imperial is one of my favourite games. The only issue that I have, is the odd occassion when you get stranded without a government, for extended periods of time. A situation that can easily arise in a six player game.


Funny that. About half of the local players fight hard to not control a country. Going country-less is seen as a strong tactic in the game.


That is interesting, especially if you are not getting free VP's from the Swiss Bank. I'll have to read one of your session reports.
 
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James Hemsley
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Steve99 wrote:
For the Investor Card Version, I suppose you could get the same effect if you offered any 'No Government' players, the option to receive a $1m loan, each and every time a player landed on or passed the Investor space.


I see what you're trying to get at with this variant, but to me, it seems a little complicated and it seems like it might add too much money to the game. I play with the investor card, so I have a different perspective, but part of the fun of the game is managing the money you do have, and then using it wisely when you have the option to buy bonds (when you have the investor card and "Investor" get passed/landed on). The fact that you can buy a bond anytime the investor card is activated is a major bonus already for not controlling a country.

But, I appreciate the thought you've put into this. It's an interesting idea.

--James
 
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Paul Sauberer
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Steve99 wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Steve99 wrote:
Imperial is one of my favourite games. The only issue that I have, is the odd occassion when you get stranded without a government, for extended periods of time. A situation that can easily arise in a six player game.


Funny that. About half of the local players fight hard to not control a country. Going country-less is seen as a strong tactic in the game.


That is interesting, especially if you are not getting free VP's from the Swiss Bank. I'll have to read one of your session reports.


The theory is actually pretty simple. You want to position yourself where you are the second investor in several countries. Then you tke advantage of the fact that several players have to help you a little in order for them to do even better in teh short term. You also try to arrange things so that the countries which you care little about are beat on by those you are more heavily invested in. In the end the sum of your little bits ends up being greater than that of anyone who ended up in control of various countries.

The theory is simple, the execution is the tough part.

In this it is a little like I'm The Boss, where if you can worm your way into every deal, getting a little bit, you can end up flying under the radar of those who are making bigger, but far less frequent, scores.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Psauberer wrote:
You want to position yourself where you are the second investor in several countries.


Quite. The ideal no-country investor is second (and only by a small margin) in all the countries that rank well when the game ends. This is much the same analysis that occurs for the 1830-esque 18xx: The player that owns more of the best shares wins (top ~3 companies).
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Eric Flood
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Steve99 wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Steve99 wrote:
Imperial is one of my favourite games. The only issue that I have, is the odd occassion when you get stranded without a government, for extended periods of time. A situation that can easily arise in a six player game.


Funny that. About half of the local players fight hard to not control a country. Going country-less is seen as a strong tactic in the game.


That is interesting, especially if you are not getting free VP's from the Swiss Bank. I'll have to read one of your session reports.


Free VP's? I'm not aware of any "free" VP's from the Swiss Bank variant..one player is always getting >= the amount you receive, by definition.


I like the idea of the loans, but 1.5 repayment is far too little for the benefit you receive. It also doesn't help inject money into the system at the very beginning of the game, when a player with no flag is perhaps "hurting" the most (assuming they have made a poor play and have no cash to grab an early taxation bonus, which is the situation I'm envisioning caused you to create this variant). In such a way, I personally like the loans coming in later. It can be frustrating to have $5 and *really* want that $6.

However, I would personally use these loans to keep myself not invested in countries, at least until I've taken out the maximum injection of loans for the foreseeable future (i.e. if I have 4 loans, but Italy is prime to Tax to X2 on their next turn, I'll hold out for 8 loans - I'll only owe $12 back at the end, but should reap major rewards in the meantime!). I might gain control of a country after the next step, but not such that it would cause another player to lose their flag - they would become immensely powerful in a very short time!

On an entirely intuitive response to the variant, I would perhaps argue for 3X loans, with a 2X repayment fee at the end.
 
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Stephen Michael Hickey
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blueatheart wrote:

Free VP's? I'm not aware of any "free" VP's from the Swiss Bank variant..one player is always getting >= the amount you receive, by definition.

Hi Blueheart

In the Swiss variant, the most recent non government player receives $1m (for free) instead of investing. This equates to 1VP at the end of the game.

blueatheart wrote:

It also doesn't help inject money into the system at the very beginning of the game, when a player with no flag is perhaps "hurting" the most (assuming they have made a poor play and have no cash to grab an early taxation bonus, which is the situation I'm envisioning caused you to create this variant).


My aim was to give options to players in the mid to late game, those who can be left stranded without an alternative except to watch if their initial investments come good. If you deliberately choose to start out without a government; then it's buyer beware; there is no fix needed here.

In a few games that I've played Non Investor (without the Swiss Variant) it is easy enough to get shut out by controlling players who delay the Investor phase; at least until they are in position to use it better than the rest. I personally have found it frustrating to be deposed and playing and entirely passive role without any options. However, I firmly believe that any alternative should also come at a price that challenges my decision to opt for it.

I chose not to go with the X2 repayment, as this is too prohibitive in the later stages of the game. For instance, if I have a 5 bond at 12m and want to buy a 7 bond at 20m and have no cash. I raise 8m loans for a cost of 12m and gain 2 extra bonds (using the 5 bond as part payment; which is a risky thing to do anyway). Lets say the country ends on level 3 or 4. I get an extra 6m or 8m for the extra 2 bonds I gained. If its near the end of the game I may only get one or two investsor rounds out of it for an extra gain of say 4m (for the extra 2 bonds). So I net gain 12m for a cost of 12m and carry the risk that it could be less. I could easily end up a net loser of VP on the deal even if gain a bit more from taxation. I've even had to leave a cheap higher return 5 bond available to my opponents.So I personally think paying 16 for an X2 repayment, would not be a viable option here.

As to offering more money, ultimately, this variant is intended to open up options without opening up the floodgates and making the non government strategy a sure fire win.

As everyone realises, the theory is much easier than the implementation.


 
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Eric Flood
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Steve99 wrote:
blueatheart wrote:

Free VP's? I'm not aware of any "free" VP's from the Swiss Bank variant..one player is always getting >= the amount you receive, by definition.

Hi Blueheart

In the Swiss variant, the most recent non government player receives $1m (for free) instead of investing. This equates to 1VP at the end of the game.


We must be referring to different Swiss variants:

MacGerdts wrote:


Use the blank cardboard tile supplied with the game as a Swiss Bank!

The player who looses his last government becomes owner of the Swiss Bank. The Swiss Bank can force a nation, where the owner of the swiss bank holds bonds, to stop on the investor field on the rondel. (The Swiss Bank cannot force the nation to enter Investor, when there are still other possible fields without passing over Investor). Only if the nation's treasury is not sufficient for all payouts, the nation cannot be forced to stop on Investor.

The player remains owner of the Swiss Bank
a) as long as he does not lead any government,
b) OR as long as there is no other player loosing his last government, who then gets the Swiss Bank from him.

Note: A player who - in advanced set-up - deliberately starts without any government does not get the Swiss Bank. The Swiss Bank is only given to players who loose their last government.

Other rules remain unchanged.

Have fun!


Yours doesn't sound terribly interesting to me, and must only work with the Investor card.

blueatheart wrote:

It also doesn't help inject money into the system at the very beginning of the game, when a player with no flag is perhaps "hurting" the most (assuming they have made a poor play and have no cash to grab an early taxation bonus, which is the situation I'm envisioning caused you to create this variant).


Quote:
My aim was to give options to players in the mid to late game, those who can be left stranded without an alternative except to watch if their initial investments come good. If you deliberately choose to start out without a government; then it's buyer beware; there is no fix needed here.


I've never really understood players who say they need at least one flag to be "in the game," and bitch when they have no government. They need to pay attention at least as much as the other players, and see what investments they will choose. If you sit back and don't think about what to do, and the other players let you do so/ignore you, you should by all rights lose.

Quote:
In a few games that I've played Non Investor (without the Swiss Variant) it is easy enough to get shut out by controlling players who delay the Investor phase; at least until they are in position to use it better than the rest. I personally have found it frustrating to be deposed and playing and entirely passive role without any options. However, I firmly believe that any alternative should also come at a price that challenges my decision to opt for it.

I chose not to go with the X2 repayment, as this is too prohibitive in the later stages of the game. For instance, if I have a 5 bond at 12m and want to buy a 7 bond at 20m and have no cash. I raise 8m loans for a cost of 12m and gain 2 extra bonds (using the 5 bond as part payment; which is a risky thing to do anyway). Lets say the country ends on level 3 or 4. I get an extra 6m or 8m for the extra 2 bonds I gained. If its near the end of the game I may only get one or two investsor rounds out of it for an extra gain of say 4m (for the extra 2 bonds). So I net gain 12m for a cost of 12m and carry the risk that it could be less. I could easily end up a net loser of VP on the deal even if gain a bit more from taxation. I've even had to leave a cheap higher return 5 bond available to my opponents.So I personally think paying 16 for an X2 repayment, would not be a viable option here.


My first response is that the problem here is upping from the 5 to the 7. Even without loans, you're paying 8M for what at the end could net you only 10M should the country X5. With 3 Investors, you've gained 16M for paying 8M - only a 200% return. In a 4-player game, 200% gives an end score of 44M from the initial 22M.

Should you instead choose to invest more wisely, you can use the same $6 loan to purchase a 3/$6M bond in some other country, gaining you control of the country immediately prior to their taxation. They go from 9 - 13, gaining you 4M in immediate return, and if this country should go X4 with 3 investor actions, you will net $25 from this "false" investment from a payment of $9M(6*1.5); this is a 278% return, conventionally.

The real issue here, however, is that it's actually an *infinity* return, since there was really no risk involved in gaining this bond. The 3/$6M is bound to pay off at 1.5X over the course of the game, through Investor's and end-game. Anything above the 1.5X is free money. It's like starting off the game with an extra bond than everyone else. If a player winds up in a situation where they *always* have a flag, they will be at a severe disadvantage, unless they get some great early taxation bonuses.

I do like the idea of being able to take $1 once or twice during the game (because the one aspect in which the game suffers for me is that $8 is so close to buying a 4-bond, but you just can't do it is very frustrating, and not necessarily a result of your poor play), but owing more for it later on. Upon further consideration, I would probably limit those numbers to $1/level, with a 3X repayment fee.

Quote:
As to offering more money, ultimately, this variant is intended to open up options without opening up the floodgates and making the non government strategy a sure fire win.

As everyone realises, the theory is much easier than the implementation.


Indeed. This implementation does exactly what you seem to not want.
 
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Stephen Michael Hickey
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blueatheart wrote:

We must be referring to different Swiss variants:

You are right on this point. It's been a few years but I'd inadvertently printed off one of MacGerdts other suggested variants at the bottom of what is the Swiss Variant.

Apologies!

MacGerdts wrote:
No money no flag -
that can be a tough situation! What can we do about it? Well, two different ideas came up to mind:

1. take the melody of Bob Marleys "No woman no cry" and sing out loud : "No money no flag, dadadadada, no money no flag..."

2. If singing won't help to feel better, try this variant:
If a player has no flag, he may, each time the investor-card is triggered, either
a) just as usual invest in a nation of his choice, or
b) take 1 million cash from the bank.

This house rule may ease things a bit, especially for newbies in the early stages of the game. It would be an additional choice for the player with no government. Anyway, later on it is usually preferable to invest, rather than to collect this lousy 1 million...



blueatheart wrote:


Yours doesn't sound terribly interesting to me, and must only work with the Investor card.


... and the 'No money no flag' variant, so it seems.

blueatheart wrote:

I've never really understood players who say they need at least one flag to be "in the game," and bitch when they have no government. They need to pay attention at least as much as the other players, and see what investments they will choose. If you sit back and don't think about what to do, and the other players let you do so/ignore you, you should by all rights lose.


You've clearly never played against players who shut you out and leave no options no matter how much attention you pay.

[/q]

Steve99 wrote:

I chose not to go with the X2 repayment, as this is too prohibitive in the later stages of the game. For instance, if I have a 5 bond at 12m and want to buy a 7 bond at 20m and have no cash. I raise 8m loans for a cost of 12m and gain 2 extra bonds (using the 5 bond as part payment; which is a risky thing to do anyway). Lets say the country ends on level 3 or 4. I get an extra 6m or 8m for the extra 2 bonds I gained. If its near the end of the game I may only get one or two investsor rounds out of it for an extra gain of say 4m (for the extra 2 bonds). So I net gain 12m for a cost of 12m and carry the risk that it could be less. I could easily end up a net loser of VP on the deal even if gain a bit more from taxation. I've even had to leave a cheap higher return 5 bond available to my opponents.So I personally think paying 16 for an X2 repayment, would not be a viable option here.

blueatheart wrote:

My first response is that the problem here is upping from the 5 to the 7. Even without loans, you're paying 8M for what at the end could net you only 10M should the country X5. With 3 Investors, you've gained 16M for paying 8M - only a 200% return. In a 4-player game, 200% gives an end score of 44M from the initial 22M.

Should you instead choose to invest more wisely, you can use the same $6 loan to purchase a 3/$6M bond in some other country, gaining you control of the country immediately prior to their taxation. They go from 9 - 13, gaining you 4M in immediate return, and if this country should go X4 with 3 investor actions, you will net $25 from this "false" investment from a payment of $9M(6*1.5); this is a 278% return, conventionally.


That is only possible if the cheaper bonds are available later in the game. No one is ever going to let that happen in any of our games.

blueatheart wrote:

The real issue here, however, is that it's actually an *infinity* return, since there was really no risk involved in gaining this bond. The 3/$6M is bound to pay off at 1.5X over the course of the game, through Investor's and end-game. Anything above the 1.5X is free money. It's like starting off the game with an extra bond than everyone else. If a player winds up in a situation where they *always* have a flag, they will be at a severe disadvantage, unless they get some great early taxation bonuses.


That's why my variant limits the availability of loans in stage 0 and 1 so you can't buy the cheap bonds earlier in th game and get the sort of guaranteed returns you mention. As I say, this is not designed to allow players to get lots of cash early in the game (which would break it) but to allow controlled releases of capital later on. This avoids the situations that you are concerned about.

blueatheart wrote:

I do like the idea of being able to take $1 once or twice during the game (because the one aspect in which the game suffers for me is that $8 is so close to buying a 4-bond, but you just can't do it is very frustrating, and not necessarily a result of your poor play), but owing more for it later on. Upon further consideration, I would probably limit those numbers to $1/level, with a 3X repayment fee.


I see where you are going with this and maybe there is a simpler solution for the odd occassion you get stuck due to a small shorfall provided the right sorts of restrictions are applied.

blueatheart wrote:

This implementation does exactly what you seem to not want.


Appearances can be deceptive. In practice it has worked well for us.
 
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Eric Flood
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Avoiding quotes due to lengthiness.

As far as the 3/6M bond situation, it would be pretty rare here, too, although I've seen a 3 up to a 5,6, or 7 in mid-game to take control before an important taxation, giving the 3/6M option to a player who is in worse position. It is not entirely unfeasible, and a similar situation may be derived for each of the 1,2,4, and 5 bonds after outright purchase (and a little bit more starting liquidity).

Quote:
You've clearly never played against players who shut you out and leave no options no matter how much attention you pay.


No...I have not. I have also never put myself into such a position in Imperial (although I did put myself into a similar position in Container earlier this evening). I'm not sure both how one could play into such a corner, and also how the other players would be so silly as to not focus upon one another if I am practically sitting out of the game/in last place.
 
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