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Subject: Cardless Flagships rss

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Ian Toltz
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I really liked Bill Martinson's Flagship Variant, but didn't want to have to print out a bunch of new cards. So here are some ideas for a flagship variant without using cards.

Btw, I'm using the PennyGems JumboGems for my flagships. The sheet contains just enough to make one of these in each of the Cosmic colors, and they're really fantastic in look and feel.

So without further ado, here are some ground rules for Flagships, taken again from Bill with some slight modifications for my own tastes.

Flagships

Each player gets one flagship at the beginning of the game, which they may put on any colony. The following rules apply to the flagships.

Flagships are active. Flagships must always be on a colony, defending a colony, attacking a colony, in the warp, or held hostage (see below). If any game effect would cause them to exist in some other state, the flagships ignore that part of the effect.

Flagships are hunted. After drawing destiny, the offense may choose to attack the colony containing the defense's flagship instead of attacking one of the defence's home planets.

Flagsgips are valuable. If either main players win the encounter and the loser's flagship was involved in the encounter, the loser's flagship is taken hostage by the winner. Flagships may be traded as part of any negotiation. If a flagship is ever traded back to its owner, its owner puts it on one of his colonies (or sends it to the warp, if he has none). Additionally, if either player in a negotiation holds the other's flagship, the following rules apply:

*If both players have each other's flagships, the only binding deal they may make is to trade the flagships back to each other.

*If you have your opponent's flagship, you may force him to accept a deal where you trade him his colony ship in return for any cards you want (e.g. "All attack cards in your hand greater than 10 and all flares", or even "all cards in your hand"), and/or to use any alien powers or other game effects which may be used as part of a negotiation however you specify. If you perform a forced deal in this manner, the deal may not include either player gaining colonies.

*If your opponent has your flagship, you may force him to offer a deal as above (which you must then accept).

Simple Flagships

For a simple Flagship experience, each flagship counts as a single ship for all game purposes, but adds +5 to your side's total in an encounter.

Strange Matter Reactor Flagships

The Strange Matter Reactor is a new innovation, but thanks to rampant spying it's already been adopted by all the (important) races of the cosmos.

The SMR Flagships variant requires that each flagship be capable of displaying two states: charged and depleted.

Each flagship is worth +3 to its side in an encounter. Additionally, during the reveal phase of an encounter, you may deplete your charged Flagship for one of the following effects:

*Overcharge the Cannons: If the flagship is involved in the encounter, add +3 to your side's total.

*Overcharge the Warp Drive: If the flagship is involved in the encounter, return it to a colony of your choice (or to the warp if you have no available colonies). If defending a home planet, it may not return to the same colony it was just on. The flagship is no longer involved in the encounter.

*Overcharge the Warp Drive: If the flagship is on a colony not involved in the encounter, and you are involved in the encounter, the flagship enters the encounter and joins your side.

During any regroup phase, you may charge a depleted SMR flagship by sending any ship you control to the warp. Alternatively, if you'd like the SMR abilities to be more rare/valuable, you may only charge a flagship during your own regroup phase.

If an SMR flagship goes to the warp or becomes held hostage, it maintains its charged or depleted state.
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Mil Myman
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It seems to me the +5 is too much, especially if it's mandatory.
Consider Loser, Anti-Matter, the opponent of the Spiff, etc.

Also, while the hostage-taking can be an interesting concept, the way you've got it here seems to lead to a strong-get-stronger situation.

And I don't care for the way the hostage situation restricts player choices when negotiating.
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Just a Bill
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Just a few comments. (I prefer the carded version, of course; in my mind, the cards are actually the point of the whole variant, and the flagship gamepieces serve mainly to carry the cards' effects to different sections of the game world in order to make them more tactical.)

Asmor wrote:
Flagships are active. Flagships must always be on a colony, defending a colony, attacking a colony, in the warp, or held hostage (see below). If any game effect would cause them to exist in some other state, the flagships ignore that part of the effect.

In some cases this might leave things in an undefined state. If a planet and the ships on it are removed from the game, how does a flagship on that planet just "ignore that part of the effect"? You might need to be more specific.

Asmor wrote:
Flagships are hunted. After drawing destiny, the offense may choose to attack the colony containing the defense's flagship instead of attacking one of the defence's home planets.

This is subtly different from the rule I used. I've tried to put in as many interesting little decision points for flagship owners as are feasible; this change eliminates a couple of them. Perhaps that was your intent, but just in case it wasn't I wanted to mention it. My version says that instead of changing the system to match the flagship of destiny's color, you stay in the same system but change the player who will be the defense, based on the flagships available in that system. The practical differences are two-fold:

1. When choosing which system to leave my flagship parked in, I can take into account the current mix of remaining destiny cards and go with the color that's least (or most) likely to be drawn. In your version, I can't play the odds: if I'm green, then green destiny targets my flagship, period.

2. In my version, I can also park my flagship in the same system as an opposing flagship that I think would make a juicier target to our mutual opponents; basically I can attempt to hide in its shadow. In your version, again, green = green so the tactical decision point is lost.

Asmor wrote:
*If both players have each other's flagships, the only binding deal they may make is to trade the flagships back to each other.

Why so restrictive? Seems like a disincentive for the second guy to capture the first guy's ship, since it will deprive them both of a future opportunity to move ahead in foreign colony count. (I care a lot more about gaining a foreign colony than getting my flagship back.)

Asmor wrote:
*If you have your opponent's flagship, you may force him to accept a deal where you trade him his colony ship in return for any cards you want (e.g. "All attack cards in your hand greater than 10 and all flares", or even "all cards in your hand"), and/or to use any alien powers or other game effects which may be used as part of a negotiation however you specify. If you perform a forced deal in this manner, the deal may not include either player gaining colonies.

*If your opponent has your flagship, you may force him to offer a deal as above (which you must then accept).

Can you streamline that? I've read it like three times and I still feel like I'm not quite sure exactly what I can do and why it's so specific. Does it only apply to alien powers that affect deal negotiation? If so, then I'd delete all that since you're doing it for probably only 3% of the aliens in the universe. Maybe 1%, actually, since I'm not sure I properly grasp its scope. For example, does this let me force Miser to give me cards from his hoard? It's just all very vague to me.

Asmor wrote:
Strange Matter Reactor Flagships

This kinda feels like a game component in search of a rule, in order to "do something with the symbol on the back." Also, there's just enough going on here that I wish I had — you guessed it — cards telling me about these effects. ;-)
 
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Ian Toltz
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In the case of removing the planet from the game, the flagship should be moved to another colony you control (or the warp). I get what you're saying, though, about how that's not necessarily obvious given the wording of that rule.

I do understand the nature of the differences I made with regards to targeting flagships. The thing I didn't care for in your version is that it screws with how often people are on the defense; some aliens hate being on the defense, some aliens live to be on the defense. Either way, I don't like that getting to change the color you're encountering allows people to cherry pick who they attack.

You are completely correct about the Strange Matter stuff being an attempt to use a physical feature that happened to appear on the tokens I'm using for my flagships. I disagree about it being too much to remember, though; you can spend the charge to enter battle, leave battle, or get +3. I think that's easy to memorize. That said, I also think it's a neat ability, and offers an increase in the tactical options available; just because it was created to use a gimmick doesn't necessarily mean it's not a good addition and a net bonus.

The negotiation stuff could probably use some streamlining. I want the capture of a flagship to be painful for the captured and desirable for the captor, hence the forced stuff.

I did get to play with this variant last time I played CE, and it fell a bit flat. The flagships simply didn't matter all that much. Part of that, I think, is that losing your flagship is so painful, so people would rarely send their flagship in to attack and if their flagship was targeted it would just scuttle away.

I think next time I play, I'll get rid of the ability to leave a battle, and also get rid of all the stuff about forced negotiations. This way the flagships are still a +3 bonus, and able to be flipped for a pseudo-+3 reinforcement (either by entering the battle or by doubling their value). Hopefully this will increase the utilization of flagships, and also that usefulness will make them desirable to trade for.
 
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Just a Bill
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Asmor wrote:
The thing I didn't care for in your version is that it screws with how often people are on the defense

I guess I can see that, but it doesn't bother me because there has never been a perfect distribution around how often you're the defense. Stuff like Will and Dictator has been around for 35 years, and drawing your own color plays havoc with the distribution in every single game, even if you just draw again. Even the rule that you never use the last destiny card/disc throws off the distribution.

I think they meant from the beginning that there would be a sort of ostensible, general balance, but with enough variation around it that things would rarely work out to be even. It's all just Cosmicity to me.

Asmor wrote:
I don't like that getting to change the color you're encountering allows people to cherry pick who they attack.

I wouldn't call it "cherry picking." You only get to do it if there's a visiting flagship in the system whose color you drew, and then only if you actually want to encounter that particular flagship/player right now. And sometimes players just leave their flagships in their home systems.

In the first playtest game, it certainly did not dominate, due in part to the aforementioned "hiding" concept. I don't see this rule perturbing the distribution significantly. Certainly not above the magnitude of, say, Wild destiny cards. (It's actually far less flexible than a Wild destiny.)

Asmor wrote:
just because it was created to use a gimmick doesn't necessarily mean it's not a good addition and a net bonus.

Oh, I agree; didn't mean to imply that the starting point invalidates the result. After all, my whole flagships concept grew out of the "gimmick" of having eight colored pyramids I wanted to find a way to use. ;-) I think the task we are both undertaking is to make our results good enough that nobody really notices we started with components and then tried to wrap gameplay around them. ;-)

Asmor wrote:
I did get to play with this variant last time I played CE, and it fell a bit flat. The flagships simply didn't matter all that much. Part of that, I think, is that losing your flagship is so painful, so people would rarely send their flagship in to attack and if their flagship was targeted it would just scuttle away.

Yep, I had to work through some of that, too. That's one of the reasons why I have the defense earn an upgrade when he wins an encounter that his flagship did not participate in: this gives the offense an incentive to target the flagship colony if he thinks he can handle it.

This also points out another reason why I like the cards. The ablative-shield feature lessens the sting of losing an encounter your flagship is in, because most of the time you just lose a card rather than the whole boat. In fact, during those times when you are ship-poor you can just send your long flagship into the encounter and not have to send anything to the warp as long as you have an upgrade to lose. (The cards also keep things fresh and constantly tweak the tactical pressures as each flagship's capabilities gradually morph throughout the game.)

Asmor wrote:
I think next time I play, I'll get rid of the ability to leave a battle, and also get rid of all the stuff about forced negotiations.

Those both sound good. I think some good design objectives include the following:
* make flagships desirable to use offensively
* make flagships desirable to use defensively
* make flagships want to engage each other
* try not to make them a liability in an encounter
* don't make it too easy for a flagship to run away
* don't make it too hard to target a flagship
* etc.
 
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