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Merchant of Venus» Forums » Variants

Subject: Racial special abilities rss

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Bruce Glassco
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I came up with these a long time ago -- I think I even submitted them to the General, back in the day. I playtested them some, but I won't vouch for their balance. This is mostly aimed at people who'd like to roleplay their race a bit more...

SPECIAL ABILITIES FOR MERCHANT OF VENUS


Roll normally to see who goes first. Then, starting with the player who will move last and going counterclockwise, each player announces which race he or she most wants to play. After the first round of bidding, deal out all races that have been requested by only one player. Then, any races which two or more players requested must be bid for, again going counterclockwise. Players may only bid on the race which they requested in the first round, starting at 0 dollars and increasing bids by at least 5 dollars at a time. Anyone who drops out of the bidding immediately chooses a race from among the races which no one else has chosen.
The special abilities of the races follow.

3 NIKS: The Niks are an exceptionally friendly race, and get along well with almost everyone they meet. Twice during the game, when they turn in an IOU which they received from a non-player culture, they may announce that they are Befriending that culture. From then on that culture is treated as if it was the Nik homeworld for all purposes, including the 20% discount on deeds, the bonus against revolts and swindles in a game with combat, and if you play with the optional rule from the General, unlimited trading.

4a DELL: The Dell are a rather obnoxious race. When they are using a spaceport they trash the guest rooms, reprogram the food dispensers to produce garbage, burn out the cargo unloaders, do really unmentionable things to the recreational facilities, and generally make the place unusable for anyone else. No other ship may land at a spaceport that a Dell is docked at, except for the race that built the spaceport. This does not work in a city.
(WITH COMBAT OPTION): In a game with combat, the Dell can allow their sneaky and aggressive sides to predominate over their obnoxiousness. They may either use their peacetime ability (above) or their combat ability (below). They may wait to decide which ability to use in order to keep their opponents guessing; they must announce which ability they want to use at the beginning of any turn. Once they have chosen an ability, they must use it for the rest of the game.
If the Dell choose their combat option, they get a +1 bonus on any die roll involving combat (including firing at penalty markers and Rastur), swindling, or revolt, with their own ship or a Dell Spaceport or Factory in the Dell system. They do not get this bonus for Spaceports they have built in other systems, since these are presumably staffed by locals and not Dells.

4b HUMANS: The Human salesperson specializes in getting people to buy things they don't really want or need, and often blasts off to the sound of his customers asking one another, "What are we going to do with this thing?" A Human ship can treat any B culture as if it was one number higher, allowing it to sell goods from an A culture to a B culture with the same number, or from a B culture to a culture with a number 4 higher. In other words, the Human can sell Bionic Perfume to the Voll, Finest Dust to the Humans, Chicle Liquor to the Eeps, Designer Genes to the Wollow, Voll Silk to the Shenna, Rock Videos to the Whynoums, Servo-Mechs to the Nillis or the Voll, and Megalithic Paperweights to the Niks.

7b EEPEEP: Being a robot, the Eep doesn't need to waste a lot of ship space on crew quarters, life support systems, or recreational facilities. Also, it is a good engineer. Every Eep ship has an extra half-hold worth of space. The only restriction on this space is that it cannot be used for an engine.

8 WHYNOUMS: Racing is the great hobby of the Whynoums, and their culture glorifies speed. Each Whynoum ship may move one extra space per turn. This extra space does not affect navigation numbers.

10 QUOSSUTH: The Quossuth are an ancient race with a long memory and strange mental powers. At the beginning of the game, the Quossuth player may examine any 7 face-down asteroid markers. If any of these are telegates, the Quossuth may flip them face-up at the beginning of any subsequent turn. They will then be in-play for the rest of the game, and will function like regular telegates.



COMFORTABLE PLANET OPTION

Certain systems are particularly congenial for certain traders. When you land on a city in your "most comfortable" planet, you may perform one extra trade, either buying or selling.
Niks: Jungle Planet
Dell: War-torn Planet
Humans: Polluted Planet
Eepeep: Space Station
Whynoums: Desert Planet
Quossuth: Trapped Rogue Planet
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Jorge Arroyo
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Thanks for those... I think the idea is excellent, and they all seem more or less balanced except maybe the human... being able to sell to more races can really change the game as the human player will have many more possible trading routes...

I'd love to try these, although I always play the humans and my gf always plays the Niks, so we aren't likely to see how other powers are balanced
 
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Richard Irving
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The problem with this variant is two fold:
- Is it balanced?
- Does the increased fiddliness add interesting strategic or tactical decisions?

Unfortunately the answer to both these questions (for the most part) is "No".


BruceGee wrote:


3 NIKS: The Niks are an exceptionally friendly race, and get along well with almost everyone they meet. Twice during the game, when they turn in an IOU which they received from a non-player culture, they may announce that they are Befriending that culture. From then on that culture is treated as if it was the Nik homeworld for all purposes, including the 20% discount on deeds, the bonus against revolts and swindles in a game with combat, and if you play with the optional rule from the General, unlimited trading.


Assuming not using combat or the home planet unlimited trading--the advantage is minimal--you may very well not have the money needed to build a spaceport or the planet not be on a useful trade route. (Which means the use of this power can somewhat DETRACT from good strategy--forcing you to spend on less useful factories of ports.) It might save you $60-$100 at best for a port or two and a factory. Nice hardly that powerful.

With combat it adds more valuable, making it easier to lock up a system and defend more systems. Adds a bit to its value.

Adding the optional "home system trading rule" basically makes a regular city into an open port. It's advantage a greatest at the earliest point in the game. But it should be noted this rule was REJECTED by the designer for being too fiddly in the first place.

Quote:
4a DELL: The Dell are a rather obnoxious race. When they are using a spaceport they trash the guest rooms, reprogram the food dispensers to produce garbage, burn out the cargo unloaders, do really unmentionable things to the recreational facilities, and generally make the place unusable for anyone else. No other ship may land at a spaceport that a Dell is docked at, except for the race that built the spaceport. This does not work in a city.


This power does NOTHING for the Dell--it just makes him a nuisance to the other players. Often there is a another space port an alternate system to land at, it which case it doesn't hurt others much at all. The Own race space port exception addds even more fiddliness. You rarely end in the same spaceport at the same time so rarely, why bother?

Quote:
(WITH COMBAT OPTION): In a game with combat, the Dell can allow their sneaky and aggressive sides to predominate over their obnoxiousness. They may either use their peacetime ability (above) or their combat ability (below). They may wait to decide which ability to use in order to keep their opponents guessing; they must announce which ability they want to use at the beginning of any turn. Once they have chosen an ability, they must use it for the rest of the game.
If the Dell choose their combat option, they get a +1 bonus on any die roll involving combat (including firing at penalty markers and Rastur), swindling, or revolt, with their own ship or a Dell Spaceport or Factory in the Dell system. They do not get this bonus for Spaceports they have built in other systems, since these are presumably staffed by locals and not Dells.


Why would a Dell ever NOT choose the combat option? +1 is pretty significant edge in combat:

Advantage -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5
Chance of win out of 36: 1 3 6 10 15 21 26 30 33 35


Converting a 0 advantage attack to +1: 15/36 (=41.7%) to 21/36 (=58. 3%) 16.6% increase. That's pretty good.

In the Dell system only for spaceports/factories--THEY SELL CRAP:!!!!!!!! It be like using a high security safe to store cheap items.

Quote:
4b HUMANS: The Human salesperson specializes in getting people to buy things they don't really want or need, and often blasts off to the sound of his customers asking one another, "What are we going to do with this thing?" A Human ship can treat any B culture as if it was one number higher, allowing it to sell goods from an A culture to a B culture with the same number, or from a B culture to a culture with a number 4 higher. In other words, the Human can sell Bionic Perfume to the Voll, Finest Dust to the Humans, Chicle Liquor to the Eeps, Designer Genes to the Wollow, Voll Silk to the Shenna, Rock Videos to the Whynoums, Servo-Mechs to the Nillis or the Voll, and Megalithic Paperweights to the Niks.


This is a HUGE benefit, just in flexibility that the others don't have. This is the only one that adds A LOT strategic benefit that is almost always useful.

Quote:

7b EEPEEP: Being a robot, the Eep doesn't need to waste a lot of ship space on crew quarters, life support systems, or recreational facilities. Also, it is a good engineer. Every Eep ship has an extra half-hold worth of space. The only restriction on this space is that it cannot be used for an engine.


Another huge benefit, even if you just use it for a fare.

Why the fiddly no "engine" rule--they are drives.

Quote:
8 WHYNOUMS: Racing is the great hobby of the Whynoums, and their culture glorifies speed. Each Whynoum ship may move one extra space per turn. This extra space does not affect navigation numbers.


Almost no benefit--extra benefit is minimal. You have get there a turn faster to have any benefit. Unless you finish exactly one pip short of the space you are trying to reach, it doesn't save you a turn.

Think of it this way, the Relic Yellow drive gets you 2-4 pips with 3 dice ship on most turns. This ability is worth about 30% of the benefit. And the drive saves you on penalty ovals, too--where this doesn't.

Quote:
10 QUOSSUTH: The Quossuth are an ancient race with a long memory and strange mental powers. At the beginning of the game, the Quossuth player may examine any 7 face-down asteroid markers. If any of these are telegates, the Quossuth may flip them face-up at the beginning of any subsequent turn. They will then be in-play for the rest of the game, and will function like regular telegates.


It depends on what you find and whether the other players blunder onto "your" relics. Chances are pretty good though of finding not much of value: penalties are almost 50% of ? pool, the value in finding an Open Port or Telegate is nice be hardly a game winner early. Half the Relics, like Gate Lock, Auto Pilot, Laser (in non combat game), Air Foil, Spy Eye (though useful early--when this power might use it.)

Other problems--do you have to choose the "?" before looking, or can choose the second ? after looking at the first, etc. You look at the one right next Space Station Planet and you find a 40 penalty--you might change where you look next.

Human clearly the best, Eeep and Qossuth are both good. Niks are weak, Whynom and Dell are crapola. So much for balance.

Even worse, the "Interesting to play" rating list is about the same as the above list


Quote:
COMFORTABLE PLANET OPTION

Certain systems are particularly congenial for certain traders. When you land on a city in your "most comfortable" planet, you may perform one extra trade, either buying or selling.
Niks: Jungle Planet
Dell: War-torn Planet
Humans: Polluted Planet
Eepeep: Space Station
Whynoums: Desert Planet
Quossuth: Trapped Rogue Planet



More fiddliness--it tends to force your early strategy to go your "comfortable world". Later in the game when ports are around, you wouldn't stop there at all.

Advantage Eeeep. The others are relatively remote and isolated.
 
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Bruce Glassco
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Thanks for taking the time to look at my suggestions. I won't disagree with you on balance.

I originally had the humans just be able from A's to B's. In the limited playtesting I did, this meant the utility was entirely based on the board layout -- since it only allowed four extra trades, it was entirely possible that none of the extra trades would be any advantage at all. Adding the extra trades my well make them too good, though.

I don't think the Niks are that bad -- a bit of extra money early can have a snowball effect later in the game. This extra money may not be early enough, though.

The Whynoum could easily be made better by adding a pip per die. I'm not sure whether that would be too good, though.

I think when I came up with these, I was playing with combat fairly often. Without it, you're right, I should come up with something better for the Dell.

 
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Steve Schacher

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Have you tried the Random Planetary Events variant? It also tries to add unique flavor for each system. You can find it in the Files section.

Steve
 
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Scott McNulty
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This makes the human the one to play.
It might seem like a minor thing but one of the things you struggle for in this game is to figure out the good combo routes. You know, so that you have the least dead-heading.

Your variant would give the humans several extra potential routes.
Just one would be an advantage among the sharks I play with.

I'd say they can do this if and only if they have the IOU for the culture and then only as long as they keep that IOU. They use the IOU then they lose the power with that culture. That way there's every chance that most games they would only get one or two of these. And whatever else, it costs them the opportunity cost of not using the IOU.

Why not give the Qussoth a look at the unused 12 asteroid markers rather than seven on the board? I know that would be enough for me to decide my strategy for the rest of the game. Or another idea would be that the Quessoth could attempt to 'repair' a radiation hazard. They would spend an IOU from any culture, then they could trade the radiation hazard for a randomly selected item remaining in the unused asteroids. They'd have to be situated on the asteroid, it would have to be one of the asteroids not painted on the board, and they would have to use the rest of their turn.

The whynom could have a discount on drives. Or always have an extra die. Or give them the ability to re-roll any one die. Or the ability to take any of the dice and change one so that it matches one of the others that they rolled (so they might be changing a 1 to a 3 if they got a 3 on one of their other dice, or they might change a six down to a four if they are ducking a telegate). Depending on how powerful you make the other players.

I agree with Richard about letting the eeep have any use they like of that half-hold. Another idea would be that they could use IOUs from any culture when buying new ships, even if they aren't at a location that is related to that IOU. So they could have an IOU for $80 and go to Galactic Base to buy a Transport and use that IOU.

Give the Niks increased value on IOUs. Just an adder like $30. I'd have to get out my set to consider the actual dollar figure but it should be enough to get a given IOU up to the level of another one in most cases. Or you could set it as the next level up among all IOUs and give them no bonus for the top one.

The Dell, in your variation, do indeed come up short. How about instead whenever they draw from the demand cup they draw an extra counter, and they put one of their own choosing back from those they drew and the others go into play as normal. So if they have a single counter for a turn in, they would draw two, then choose which of those goes back and which goes out to the board. If they put two in, they'd draw three and keep two for the board with one of the three going back to the demand cup.
That way they are being 'sneaky' and underhanded. Sort of like they have insider information.

These are just ideas, of course. I'm not especially married to any of them yet. I'm really just thinking about alternatives to what you've suggested that might be more interesting to me.

 
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Bruce Glassco
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Several good ideas there, Scott. I particularly like the one with the Dell. Thanks.
 
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