In the following, I will present my 2-player variant for Princes of Florence.
I know that there are many games which are better suited for 2-player gaming, but I wanted to prepare for a visit to Florence by playing a thematically appropriate game.
The following rules do not try to simulate a third player. Instead, the introduction of a dummy player serves to make the 2-player game more similar to a 3, 4, or even 5 player game, i.e., it tries to simulate the effect of having several additional players. It does so by making bids, taking away buildings, playing profession cards which can then be recruited, and competing for the highest work value. However, the dummy player does not follow any strategy or act in any other realistic way.
I introduced quite some rules for my dummy player. You don't have to follow them all or all at once. Pick out the one you like best, introduce them one after another or not at all...
When using the following rules, don't use the original 2-player variant, i.e., starting money and minimum bid stay the same as in multi-player games (3,500 and 200, respectively), landscape are independent items.
Construct a deck of 7 cards, which read: "+200" (1), "+100" (4), and "Ø" (2)
Shuffle the deck. Whenever the player(s) bid on an item, Dummy goes third. Draw a card: "+xx" means that he raises by that amount, "Ø" means that he folds.
Do this every round of bidding and with every item you bid on. Don't reshuffle the deck until phase A is over. The two "Ø" guarantee that both players will eventually get an item, and will even get one at base price.
For the bidding deck, you can use index cards. I chose to print out images on business cards and put them in card sleeves.
Additionally, reduce the number of items to:
* 3 of each landscape
* 3 recruiters
* 4 builders
* 4 jesters
* all prestige cards but 6 (remove randomly without looking at them)
When setting up the game, reduce the number of phase B items to:
* 2 of each building and freedom
* all profession cards but 6 (remove randomly)
* all bonus cards but 6 (remove randomly)
Construct a deck of 13 cards containing the names or images of each building and freedom:
Again, I scanned all items and printed them out on business cards.
Shuffle the deck before the game starts and draw one card at the beginning of each phase B. Remove the depicted item from the game.
Also remove the upmost bonus card and reveal the upmost profession card. The latter can now be recruited.
Choose a color for Dummy. At the beginning of phase B, Dummy's figure advances a number of points equal to the current round number plus 2. He also gets a work value of minimum WV plus 2. If he has the highest WV at the end of the round, he gets the three bonus points.
(You may adjust these values after a few games to match your average outcome.)
With all of the above rules in play, the area for the dummy player's cards and discarded buildings looks like this:
Example of play after three rounds
I have playtested the rules in a few games, and they work much better for me then the original 2-player rules. I hope it works for other folks, too. Of course, all numbers, like the values of the phase A card deck, or the number of cards removed from the game, are open to adjustements.
I'd be happy to read your feedback on any of these rules.