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The Cobra Crown says you gain 1 additional gold token when your emissaries collect gold. I assumed this applies to both the reward you get when you form an alliance with a neutral province, and to the reward you get when you sacrifice an emissary in an enemy province for gold. My brother, however, thinks it might only be the latter (I guess he considers my interpretation overpowered after I held the Cobra Crown during all three ages of a game, and formed a lot of alliances in the first two ages). Is he correct?
I agree with your brother. The card says you get to add one in your Intrigue contests, so that is your advantage when you are establishing an alliance. "Collect gold" is a specific term used for the case where you sacrifice an emissary.