Significant variant used in this game. Partly to keep the game shorter but mostly to counter a typical problem with multiplayer war games, which I have discussed in other session reports for TI3 and Mare Nostrum.
The problem is that once a player gets close to victory, the other players need to engineer ways to stop him. There is nothing wrong with that except that the whole game grinds to a halt while long and tedious discussions take place in order to determine the exact sequence of moves from each player. Then the whole thing repeats the next round for either the same player or another player. Eventually, after two hours of this another player wins the game simply because everyone failed to see that particular sequence of moves which gave the victory, mostly because they could not be bothered any more.
This 'feature' of muliplayer war games is massive in Cyclades, for example, but at least that game is short. In TI3, once you know the game well (this was my 24th game), you can see these things coming and actually alert the other players: "if we don't do this, this and this, then Fred will do this, this and this and win the game next round."
OK, some people might think that is fun. None of us think its fun. Its just two hours of total tedium at the end of four hours of set up. It is NOT part of the fun 'politics' of war games. The winner of the game is the player who happens to have a way to win at the point when everyone is so sick and tired of the game that they have stopped caring to look for victory paths and just want the game to be over. Its plain old bad game design.
So, this game we made two changes. First, there were no public objectives. Everyone just had a hand of 'secret' objective cards. At the start of the game we had an objective 'draft', where each player was dealt six objectives (four 1-point and two 2-point). They chose one of these to keep and passed the rest to the left. That continued until everyone had five objectives and the last was discarded.
The second rule change was that you claimed an objective simply by spending a strategy counter as an action and showing the objective, which you then kept in front of you. You could claim multiple objectives in one round, provided you had the strategy counters.
You could also spend a strategy counter as an action to receive a new objective by taking two off the top of the 1-point or 2-point decks and choosing one of them.
Because of this additional used of counters, at the end of each round player received an extra counter.
The changes meant that it was more difficult for the other players to plan in detail how to stop a particular player, since you could only guess what their objectives were, although if you paid attention during the draft you could have a good idea. Being able to claim more than one objective in a turn meant that the game went a bit faster as well.
You had to have claimed at least two 2-point objectives before you could win the game - that was just to stop players cycling through the 1-point deck looking for the easy objectives and getting ten of them.
We also played with artefacts and the Assembly rules I have described in other reports.
I tried to get the tech objectives in draft - my two 2-pointers were 9 techs and 5 of the one colour. During the game, however, I just could not buy technologies - I was always choosing late in the order and Technology was gone. I should have maybe got the speaker token early and picked tech, but in a game which moves faster getting to nine techs was actually quite difficult - by the end I only had six.
I also went for MR. We played with Imperial II, with the first bit simply providing a point for holding MR. I got two points during the game that way.
Mentak went for battling objectives, and spent most of the game trying to take L1Z1X home system, which he never quite did, although he came close.
Yssaril and Arborec went for more all-round objectives. Yssaril chose a lot of additional objectives, which was smart.
Arborec happened to draw "I control 10 planets (2 points)" and "I control 11 planets" (3 points), and he won the game based on these two objectives plus an Artefact at the end. He picked up the 11 planet card near the end so was a bit lucky with that, plus the fact that he had several three planet systems nearby and one of his neighbours was focussed on smashing L1Z1X.
I thought that the game went very well. I would like to try again with these rules. We could try a combination of these rules and the standard rules, where once you claim an objective it then becomes a public objective for other to claim as well, in the same way.
There was almost no case of the game grinding to a halt while players jointly engineer moves to stop a potential winner, so the variant achieved its goal. I certainly did not feel like the variant undermined the 'essence' of TI3 at all.
Being able to claim more than one objective in a round obviously speeds things up a bit and I would recommend this regardless of what variants are played.
Thanks for sharing this. If I can sell some of my locals on this idea it could make it much easier for me to get them to play.