Steven
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One of the complaints of the balance of Game of Thrones is how easily Baratheon or Tyrell can expand in the 4-5 versions of the game… and after reading up on another multiplayer game, Virgin Queen, with independent factions I began to think: why not try to include a similar concept with Game of Thrones? A neutral House which could shift loyalties from turn to turn would certainly go along with the theme and allow more opportunities for backstabbing and negotiation! Implementation of this variant would be pretty simple and only use the components on hand, specifically power tokens. A spare ziplock bag or two will be handy when using neutral countries, to keep order tokens separate and make them easily passable to whoever controls a neutral House.

I have not had a chance to test this variant, however, please let me know what you guys think!

4 or 5 player game Setup:

Instead of setting up Tyrell or Martell’s as neutral force tokens, only add King’s Landing and the Eyrie.

Do not place any neutral Houses’ influence tokens (an uncontrolled neutral House will always lose ties, will never hold the iron throne etc.). Place the neutral Houses’ victory and supply markers. Place any neutral House’s units as if 6 players are playing, including garrisons. Leave all neutral House power tokens in the power token pile. These tokens will never be used for bidding, only to establish control.

How to take control of a neutral faction:

A 5th step, Bid on Neutral factions, is added to the Westeros phase, after all Westeros Cards have been resolved. Whoever controlled the neutral power last turn will relinquish control (but could regain it) and put their control up for bid. On the first turn, before factions are bid on, no one is considered to be in control of the neutral Houses before this phase. This “5th step” is not ignored like the rest of the Westeros phase on the first turn!

All powers secretly will bid power tokens in order to gain control of a neutral faction. In a 5 player game, only bid for control of Martell. In a 4 player game, whichever House controls the Messenger Raven (Lannister will always get to pick the first turn) decides which house is bid on first. Whoever bids the most for a neutral faction will control that faction, however this amount can be modified. Ties, after modifiers are applied, are broken by whoever controls the Iron Throne. Modifiers are applied to whatever amount a house bids. Your bid can be modified down to zero. If a player who cannot control a faction wins, no one is considered to control this faction.

EXCEPTION 1: whatever power borders their neutral neighbor cannot control this faction on turn one. HOWEVER, they can bid the price up and if they are the winner (can also be selected as the tie breaker), so it is possible no player will control that faction on the first turn.

In a 5 player game: Tyrell and Baratheon cannot control Martell in turn 1.

In a 4 player game: Lannister cannot control Tyrell in Turn 1 and Baratheon cannot control Martell.

It is possible for a faction to remain neutral. If this is the case, then the power with the lowest level on the victory track handles Mustering and Supply issues. Ties are broken by the Iron Throne. All decisions must be legal according to the regular rules (no mustering over supply limits etc.).

EXCEPTION 2: Once a “home province” of a neutral house is taken by another power. That power can never control this faction (until control is lost). This includes another neutral house under your control occupying this power’s home province. Control is also instantly lost the turn that a controlling power moves into one of these home provinces or attacks units of this house. NOTE: some home provinces are not initially under these neutral powers control. NOTE2: This means that a player could use control over a neutral to move and give control of a home province to themselves. However this neutral power will not be “fooled” twice.

Martel: Sunspear, Starfall, Yronwood, and (one territory south of Sunspear whose name is eluding me)

Tyrell: Highgarden, the Dornish Marches, Arbor, and OldTown

Modifiers (added or subtracted from influence bid):

(1) Regional Rivals: Any power not bordering a neutral power receives a +1 modifier to their bid. A neutral House will favor those which are farther way. OPTIONAL ADDITION: Double this modifier the first turn

In a 5 player game: Stark, Lannister, and Greyjoy will always receive this +1 modifier when bidding for House Martell.

In a 4 player game: Stark, Lannister, and Greyjoy will always receive this +1 Modifier when bidding for House Martell. Stark, Greyjoy, and Baratheon will always receive this +1 modifier when bidding for Tyrell.

(2) Balance of Power: Once a power begins to expand, neutrals will be less likely to obey it. Once a nation takes 4 strongholds or castles, it will receive its first negative modifier. This modifier increases the more strongholds or castles a power controls:

4 strongholds or castles: -1
5 strongholds or castles: -2
6 strongholds or castles: -4

(3) Tyrell-Martell feud (Only used in 4 player game): If a faction already controls Tyrell or Martell, it will receive a -2 modifier when bidding for the other faction.

(4) Court Intrigue: The player with the Messenger Raven, may once all bids are revealed, use the Messenger Raven to give a +1 or -1 modifier to their own bid. Flip the Messenger Raven if you use this option (note: you will be unable to change an order or look at the top Wilding card).

Neutral Houses and orders:

Once a power controls a neutral it can place that houses orders on that controlled faction. Neutral factions will never receive starred orders unless a player decides to use less starred orders on themselves. NOTE: So if you can place two starred orders, your controlled neutral power can place a maximum of two starred orders, however whatever amount you pick would decrease the amount you can place.

If a power is not controlled by any power (independent), all spaces with units are considered to have a Defense +1 marker on them (this includes the garrison alone).

Resolve a neutral order after all players have resolved one of their own orders. If there are more than one neutral nation, the holder of the iron throne determines which neutral house goes first. This continues until all orders are resolved.

Neutral Houses and battles:

When under control or independent a neutral House will use a random House card not in their discard pile in a battle. Reshuffle this deck when exhausted and leave the last used card in the discard pile, just like any player would.

An uncontrolled neutral house will always lose ties (unless their House card specifies otherwise). A controlled neutral house uses its player controlled tie-breaking position on the Fiefdom track.

EXCEPTION: A player in control of a neutral house can decide to randomly discard one of their own house cards and spend one of their available power tokens, putting this “spent token” in the power pool. This allows the controlling country to pick which neutral House card is used. If there are no available power tokens available to the controlling player… this option cannot be used.

NOTE: Control of a faction is broken immediately if you attack your own controlled faction or move into one of their home provinces. This means you will be unable to “pick” the card you will be fighting against, however you will win ties.

ADDITIONAL RULES:

A player can use the Valyrian steel blade for one of their controlled neutral Houses battles. When you use the +1 strength modifier, flip the Valyrian steel blade as you normally would. You do not have to have selected the neutral Houses’ card to use this modifier.

A player can use the Messenger Raven to change one of their own controlled neutral Houses’ orders. Flip it as you normally would when you use this ability.

All players will receive 2 free power tokens every turn they control their own Home area (ex: Stark gains +2 power tokens every turn they control Winterfell) before the Westeros phase. Players draw as many of the 2 tokens as they can (ex: if only 1 token is left in the pool, you can only draw 1. If none remain, none can be drawn).These 2 free tokens can be used for any purpose.

Note 1: Draw 2 extra power tokens at the beginning of Turn One (you will then have 7 to start instead of 5).

Note 2: You do not have to spend these two tokens on diplomacy, however, it is probably a good idea.
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Nicolás Sanguinetti
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I definitely dig the concept. I should probably try to play or analyze the bits further to say anything about balance
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Steven
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Glad you like it! I just was brainstorming this during my flight home from the west coast... this is what happens when you have a layover in Denver!

I have not had a chance to test it and probably will not for a few weeks. The only downside to the holidays: my gaming group is scattered across the country at the moment.
 
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Nacho Facello
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My main concern with balance would be the power tokens situation.

First, everybody gets +2 power tokens each turn, to account for the extra use for power tokens. I'm not sure this is completely necessary, since adding more stuff to bid on would just lower the normal bids, and not create that much extra scarcity.

And the second issue, which I think gets much worse when you add the free tokens, is that Greyjoy and Stark have a lower incentive to spend tokens. Both because it's less important for them to control the neutrals (they are far away, after all) and because they already get a bonus due to distance. My concern is that, in a 4 player game, the influence tracks would end up dominated by Greyjoy and Stark, while Lannister and Baratheon have to overspend to secure the neutrals.

It might be a non-issue, and just cause different play styles to be necessary for the different houses, which is something that already happens.

Anyway, other than those concerns, I do like the idea. I still probably won't try it any time soon (I'd rather get the full six players), but I might in the future.
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Steven
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nachof wrote:
My main concern with balance would be the power tokens situation.

First, everybody gets +2 power tokens each turn, to account for the extra use for power tokens. I'm not sure this is completely necessary, since adding more stuff to bid on would just lower the normal bids, and not create that much extra scarcity.


A valid point... one which I do not have a good answer to yet. I simply assumed that by adding more things to bid on would require you to have more power tokens. Perhaps only a +1 free token per capital would be more balanced?

Quote:
And the second issue, which I think gets much worse when you add the free tokens, is that Greyjoy and Stark have a lower incentive to spend tokens. Both because it's less important for them to control the neutrals (they are far away, after all) and because they already get a bonus due to distance. My concern is that, in a 4 player game, the influence tracks would end up dominated by Greyjoy and Stark, while Lannister and Baratheon have to overspend to secure the neutrals.


Hrm, yeah that could be true. I will have to test this with only the restriction that these powers cannot control the neutrals during the first turn (but could deny control to others). Do you think this would make more sense?

Do you like the part about the stronger you are the more difficult time you have controlling the neutral nations?

Quote:
It might be a non-issue, and just cause different play styles to be necessary for the different houses, which is something that already happens.


When I initially thought of this I believed it would actually be the other way around! I assumed that Greyjoy and Stark would be very interested in slowing down Lannister and Baratheon typical "stroll" in the south.

Quote:
Anyway, other than those concerns, I do like the idea. I still probably won't try it any time soon (I'd rather get the full six players), but I might in the future.


Agreed! I was just toying with this idea, because it normally is pretty hard for me to find six players on a regular basis for any game. I would much prefer to never use this.
 
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Kyle K
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I like the concept and thought of something similar. However, I feel you go too complicated, such as with modifiers and transfering some of your abilities over to your "vassal" or whatever we should call them.

Key Terms:
Vassal- the neutral player that is to be controlled by a real player
Home Area(s)- the list of regions that a vassal will defend.

The List of "Home Areas":
Tyrell
: Highgarden, The Reach, Oldtown, Dornish Marshes, Three Towers, The Arbor, Redwyne Straights.
Martell: All the orange but not Storms End. Sea of Dorne.

(These home areas are under review and may change. Currently, each is 6 regions plus one sea.)


Instead of your proposal, I suggest the following:
---------------------------------------------------
4 or 5 player game Setup: Agree with above. One rule to add: Whenever a Vassal marches all units out of a region, they always take 1 power from the box and leave it behind to maintain control.

How to take control of a neutral faction: Agree with above EXCEPT no modifiers whatsoever. A player can still control 2 vassals if they win the bids.

exception 1: No

Rather than exception 2:
During the turn that a player in control of a vassal, they cannot move their own units into any of the following regions under any circumstance(no attacking):
-Any region under the vassal's control.
-Any "Home Areas"

Furthermore, a player cannot bid for this vassal if they currently occupy any of that vassal's "home areas"

Modifiers: No

Added: Influence track
During Setup the Vassals start at the bottom of each influence track order determined by the iron throne holder. Exception: Greyjoy starts at 6th on the King's court track. During Clash of Kings the vassals always bid zero but may end up ranking above a real player.

Neutral Houses and orders: Changed
The Owner places the Vassal's orders. They cannot place consolidate power orders. (That is all and way simpler than the above proposal.)

Neutral Houses and battles: Completely changed
No House cards are played by either side in any battle involving one or more vassals. The Valyrian Sword may be used.

ADDITIONAL RULES: No to all
No additional power is gained every round. (that seems more unbalancing than helpful.)

My added Rules
Vassals cannot march to any region that is not adjacent or within their "home area". This includes water regions. (this prevents them from winning, as their purpose is resist capture, not kill players)

Other than the above rules, Vassals play the same as if they were a real player.

-----------------------------------------------------
In summary, these rules are far simpler, and more to the point. Most complicated rules involve the list of "Home Areas". The goal is to not slow down the game more than necessary, yet allow the vassals to resist capture intelligently.

They NEED to be on the influence track for tie-breaking and ordering purposes, but without Greyjoy getting a star order at setup. See the lanister-greyjoy setup problem discussed elsewhere.

So the core idea is the same, but it is greatly simplified. Thoughts are appreciated. My next game will use these rules. I also plan on surrounding the "Home Areas" on the board with a dotted line of appropriate color (similar to how the homemade "feast for crows" board looks).
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Steven
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Simple is often better. Let me know how this works with your group!
 
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Cameron McKenzie
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If you are going to set up all 6 Houses anyway, is there any reason you can't have the players pick any 4 or 5 Houses, with the remaining Houses becoming neutral? Doesn't have to be Martell and Tyrell every time.
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Steven
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Of course there would be no problem. I just chose the Southern two houses based on the normal players for a 4-5 player game.
 
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