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Subject: The Undeniably Ridiculous Variant From Hell rss

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Anson Bischoff
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When I first posted this, I saw that someone else had posted a similar variant, but when looking into it I realized that it was actually quite different.

During set up, shuffle the neutral, French, and English cards (not the location cards) and place them in face down piles. Move the governor to the bottoms of the French and English decks.

When choosing an action in which you want to buy a card, draw 5 cards from either your deck or the neutral deck and buy one of them (if you wish). Whether or not you buy a card, this costs an action. Discard (into a separate discard pile) the cards which were not purchased. When you choose to buy and there are not enough cards in the deck to draw 5, draw as many as you can and then shuffle the "buy discard pile".

This process is done for each individual buy action. It is not possible to choose to buy, then buy 2 cards out of the same 5 which were drawn. Thus, by buying a card, you are giving up the ability to buy the other 4 cards for several game turns. It is permitted to continually use the "buy" action and not buy anything in order to find a specific card, such as wanting to get to the governor knowing that it is on the bottom of the deck.

Other than that play the exact same way. This reduces the HH to a very impossible strategy to use, and makes the strategy you do use depend heavily on which cards you can choose from.

I'm not saying that this is balanced (AT ALL), but at least each game of it is imbalanced in a different way.
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Michael
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I like the idea of restricted drafting a lot. But the part about not knowing which cards are up for drafting seems a little bit too much for my comfort. How about this modification:

At the beginning of the game, the 3(5?) topmost cards of the Empire deck and the 3 topmost cards of the Neutral deck are flipped face up. Then, at the beginning of each player's turn, 2 more of his Empire cards and 1 Neutral card are flipped face up. Whenever a player purchases a card from one of the two possible decks, all revealed Empire/Neutral cards are discarded, and a fresh 3 (3/5?) cards are made available. The only question is whether the discarded cards should simply be put at the bottom of the respective draw piles or whether draw and discards should be shuffled together before flipping over a fresh set of 3 (3/5?) cards.

Additional Rule: Introduce "Politicking" as an action to compensate for utter randomness. For 2/3/4 Money (not quite sure what would be appropriate), a player can search his own Empire draw pile for a specific card which is then placed at the top of that draw pile (after that has been shuffled) so that it becomes available in the following turn.

The restricted availability of Empire cards should thwart any strategies that rely on reliable drafting of Empire cards, while the incremental revealing and the possibility to further certain causes at a cost should prevent a complete dependence on luck. In any case, hard and fast strategies should become considerably more expensive and slower to implement (with Politicking being a costly action).

The thematic interpretation is that back in Old Europe ideas for supporting the colonies grow to fruition, but politics is subject to fluctuations. Siding with certain ideas for support (drafting one card) will sour supporters of other ideas (hence the reset after a draft), but money put in the right hands might further specific causes (Politicking). In this variant the respective Empire does not have all types of support ready to be delivered on demand, but the making available of certain types of support is part of the political process.
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Anson Bischoff
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However you wish to do the drawing of the cards, I think that discarding the cards is what makes the variant fun. If you pass up on an opportunity to get a card then you are not going to be able to get it again for several turns.

If you want to be able to see the cards before you choose to use a buy action, that will reduce randomness but I think it also reduces the fun. Of course, variants are more just ideas of how to play a game differently, so feel free to use this variant in any way that you want.

This isn't a variant for people who can't deal with randomness. In my opinion, the problem with this game is highly dependent on the fact that there is very little randomness.
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Michael
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I played the game twice last night with a modification of the rules I suggested: Each player starts with 3 revealed Empire cards at the start of the game, and at the END of each player's turn another card is drawn from a face down Empire draw pile (doing this at the end of a turn instead of at the beginning proved to ease the flow of the game). After drafting one of the revealed cards, the remaining face up Empire cards are shuffled back into the Empire draw pile and 3 Empire cards are made available for drafting, i.e. turned face up. We set "Politicking", i.e. using an action to search the draw deck and put a specific card at the top of the pile so that it is made available for sure at the end of the turn, at a cost of 3 money. This proved enough to discourage its use and rely on the random distribution of Empire cards, but still the possibility was there. Perhaps Politicking could be chosen to be cheaper at 2 Gold?

In any case, I agree that the random element of the draft certainly gave the game a different flavour. At first it was a little bit disconcerting, but pretty soon we found a nice pace in a game that obviously felt much less deterministic, but in a good sense, because the pressure to do exactly the right thing at the right time was replaced with a sense of "let's work with what we have here". I guess this perception might depend on the fact that we have a relatively leisurely style of play that is not competitive to the extreme.

However, the degree of randomness in the drafting that you suggest, i.e. to the point of even facing the threat of wasting an action because completely useless/unwanted Empire cards show up, would be a little bit too much for my taste. Some cards are pretty essential for a successful play style, such as Home Support and Governor. The fact that one player could be unlucky in not drawing either for a long time compared to the other player would set him/her at a considerable disadvantage.
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Ken Dilloo
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Right, instead of taking a finely balanced game, that is a bit off, this throws a bunch of coins in the air, so to speak. The politicking will probably exacerbate the balance, because the British have a money advantage, and can more easily afford it.
 
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Anson Bischoff
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Yes. I agree it adds randomness. And keep in mind that I said that the governor is placed at the bottom of the draw deck. Whether or not you are doing a blind draw, I believe that this is crucial. One player getting a governor first turn and another getting it 5th or 6th turn is totally unbalanced. Maybe home support could be placed on top of both decks.

The problem is not that this is a finely balanced game that is a bit off. The problem is that if you are both good enough players at this game there is only one way it can end. Another good variant is the random rules generator. Yes, in this variant and in the RRG there will be unbalanced games. However, every game will be different at the very least.

I understand your sentiment about the blind draw, but whether or not you want to buy a card from the 5 you draw I think that the ability to draw again right after doesn't really make it all that huge of a misstep to have to use two actions to find a specific card. Whether you are actually buying a card or not, you are getting closer to the governor card, which in this version (as in the original version) is more or less the best card in the game. This adds an element of a race to become governor, and slightly makes up for bad draws due to the fact that at least you are closing in on the governor card.
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Trader Joe
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Mantuanwar's variant is still the best. Don't reshuffle, for any reason, until the end of your turn. That's it. Other options are the "winter option" another user suggested, which is to give the other player the option to reshuffle his discard into his deck whenever you have to reshuffle. But again, not when your deck runs out, but at the end of a turn in your deck runs out. See Mantuanwar for more tweaks he plays with, mostly based on his historical knowledge of the war. But mechanically, all you need is this elegant cut to the thin-deck strategy. Call it winter, when the limited resources you've put together for your side run out and cannot be reaccessed. It's quite thematic, and destroys the HH.
 
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