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Subject: First time player; Negotiation to the extremes? rss

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Alex (Yes that Alex)
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Hi guys!

First post here but been lurking a while; these boards are what made me decide on CE as my first 'big' board game after a lifetime of scrabble and yahtzee.

I wanted to describe my first experiences with the game, teaching it to entirely new players within a day of receiving the game itself, and the resultant excess of 'table talk' and variation in the concrete negotiation rules.

Basically, since we were all fuzzy on the game terms to begin with, early plays resulted in us locking down the concrete aspects of play (such as turn structure and flare/alien power interplay), whilst completely neglecting to re-read the negotiate rules, which we thought we already knew. This has caused deals such as the following to occur:

- Giving up two colonies at the start of the game to Zombie in exchange for exclusive use of Zombie's ability to revive allies. Over time (35+ games in the first weekend), this has evolved to giving up two 'secured' colonies to Zombie, which, if you attempt to purge of Zombie's ships, will render the deal invalid. Three 'unsecured' colonies have been traded for this as well, in addition to two 'secured' and one 'unsecured' over the duration of the mighty session.

- A 'favor' in exchange for the game-winning colony; this would take the form of a request, made at any time over the coming games, to not participate as an ally, not play a particular card, etc. etc. - this was actually called in three games later to force the player in question not to ally with someone, which disallowed him the win (though he did win on his next turn!).

'Meta' negotiation outside the negotiation phases consisted of people lying about cards, offering up full hands in exchange of aid, and making non-aggression pacts 'if at all possible'.

Negotiation was often discussed frankly before an encounter really began, to the point where players would say something like 'I'd love to negotiate but I don't have any negotiates at the mo', allowing allies to use deck reshuffling or pickup abilities (e.g. Fido) to help them. We've also had people playing a negotiate against an obvious attack in order to win compensation from a hand they knew to be particularly juicy, or to ensure that the 'allies' they coerced into joining their defense lost 4 ships each...

What I'm trying to say is, though I get the impression that this isn't typical CE play, it's been some of the most engaging, tense and fantastically enjoyable time I've spent with some of my closest friends, which is far beyond what were my expectations for CE.

I wanted to know what you all thought as to the manner in which we played; we're all from D&D backgrounds, so I think we brought a lot of that to the table, but is it atypical? Are your sessions like this or a lot more rule-based? What are the most outrageous things people have negotiated for in your games?
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Greg Filpus
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alxrbk wrote:
Negotiation was often discussed frankly before an encounter really began, to the point where players would say something like 'I'd love to negotiate but I don't have any negotiates at the mo', allowing allies to use deck reshuffling or pickup abilities (e.g. Fido) to help them. We've also had people playing a negotiate against an obvious attack in order to win compensation from a hand they knew to be particularly juicy, or to ensure that the 'allies' they coerced into joining their defense lost 4 ships each...


I assume you're aware by now that pretty much everything else in your post isn't book-legal. But this paragraph is (barring details like Fido only working at the end of the encounter, before destiny and allies for the next one are determined), and this sort of stuff comes up in my games all the time. N is the most common card in the deck, after all.

My most amusing deal game was one where Will (controls his own destiny) had Emotion Control and Wild Clone (keep an artifact and use it more than once). So he'd start off every encounter asking who was interested in a deal with him.

I'd love to see an alien that makes some of the other stuff in your post legal. Problem is deals are conditional enough that a power that only works in deal situations would be pretty weak unless it had some ability to make deals happen. At that point, you're stepping on Empath or Diplomat's toes.

(But why would an ally want his main player to play Negotiate? The only outcomes are a deal, in which case the ally gains nothing, or a loss for compensation, in which case the ally loses his ships and gains nothing. Or are you using "ally" in the long-term alliance sense?)
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Ian Toltz
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The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that each participant in the negotiation may gain at most 1 colony from the negotiation.

The second, and only slightly less important, thing to keep in mind is that any promises made are non-binding. The only binding portions of the negotiation are the actions taken immediately (e.g. using appropriate powers, like zombie, or trading cards or colonies).

Finally, we had similar issues early on where people tended to negotiate as soon as destiny was drawn. As a result, we've got a house rule that you may not make any mention of future negotiations, with the sole exception of asking about whether people would be interested in and capable of negotiating.
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Alex (Yes that Alex)
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Quote:
But why would an ally want his main player to play Negotiate?


He wouldn't, you are correct. However, say Blue has 3 colonies and all other players 1 or none; Blue encounters Red. Red invites Purple, Green and Yellow to ally (they didn't ally with Blue for whatever reason). Red deliberately plays a negotiate card because he knows (or suspects) that Blue is likely to win the encounter anyway. Purple, Green and Yellow are now each down however many ships they contributed, whilst Red still claims compensation. He could eliminate up to 12 ships owned by other players at a cost of 1-4 of his own ships, but with a corresponding number of new cards in compensation from Blue, whose hand appears to be better than his anyway.

We had one player using negotiate pretty aggressively as zombie; anyone allying with him ran the risk of being dumped into the warp by him, but he played erraticly enough to keep it worth allying with him and risking it.



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Alex (Yes that Alex)
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Quote:
each participant in the negotiation may gain at most 1 colony from the negotiation.


We've had games where two players instantly 'two-up', trading 2 colonies for 2 (in a 5 player game it was rationalised that it would put both of those players ahead of the majority enough to justify the backlash it would create from them), so we might start being stricter about colony deals being made for more than one.

Quote:
you may not make any mention of future negotiations, with the sole exception of asking about whether people would be interested in and capable of negotiating.


Usually the bartering before negotiate cards are played are things like 'you can trust me, remember how I helped you x? let's negotiate', or something like that. The solid negotiating doesn't begin until the 60 second timer starts, but then it's pretty brutal. Deals escalate, hard decisions must be made... it's tense! I'd be wary of diminishing that by keeping strictly to only one colony per negotiate, though I think that once the group settles into it, they'll realise that if they enjoy playing there's no sense in forshortening a game. We've only just introduced technology for one or two games, but I think that could be a good 'pace-setter' - if you want to research something big, it makes sense to prolong the game in order to finish your 'omega device' or what-have-you, so you can use it.
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Dean Glencross
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Asmor wrote:
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that each participant in the negotiation may gain at most 1 colony from the negotiation.


Is this in the fantasy flight rules?
Haven't read them recently but I only remember it saying that at least 1 colony and/or 1 card needs to change ownership.
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Greg Filpus
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Lortarg wrote:
Asmor wrote:
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that each participant in the negotiation may gain at most 1 colony from the negotiation.


Is this in the fantasy flight rules?
Haven't read them recently but I only remember it saying that at least 1 colony and/or 1 card needs to change ownership.


It is: (note the singular "colony")

Quote:
In a deal, a player may trade cards and/or allow his or her opponent to establish one colony on any one planet where the player already has a colony. In this way each main player may gain a new colony and/or new cards. Any of a player’s ships that are not in the warp can be used to establish this colony.


Edit: Oh, and if you like deals with the base game, you'll love the twist the Crooked Deals and Kickers add in the Cosmic Incursion expansion. They can create deal situations where the two sides lose different amounts of ships if the deal fails, so you've got some built-in leverage.
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Nathan
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Lortarg wrote:
Asmor wrote:
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that each participant in the negotiation may gain at most 1 colony from the negotiation.


Is this in the fantasy flight rules?
Haven't read them recently but I only remember it saying that at least 1 colony and/or 1 card needs to change ownership.


It does say maximum of one colony can be exchanged (per party in the negotiation). I think this is important to stick to otherwise games can be won too easily (why not just trade 5 colonies each for the win, or 4 to give you a good start).

Additionally, as promises for things to happen later on in the game, once the encounter is over, are non-binding, people should be aware of this so any back-stabbing does not receive too harsh a backlash.

But to be fair, if your group enjoys the way you play then to hell with the rules, go and have fun! But it is good to be aware of the rules for if you ever play with outsiders. I am not a keen "house-rules" type - it is probably the lawyer in me, but I do prefer playing by the letter of the rules of most games, this one included.
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Dean Glencross
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I kind of remember that line now.
I don't think we've ever given away more than one colony before, but it is good to know the rule.

Lobotnik wrote:

But to be fair, if your group enjoys the way you play then to hell with the rules, go and have fun! But it is good to be aware of the rules for if you ever play with outsiders. I am not a keen "house-rules" type - it is probably the lawyer in me, but I do prefer playing by the letter of the rules of most games, this one included.


I agree. Although we do play two (known) house rules. We allow more than one flare to be played per turn, but only once each. And we usually play with 2 aliens per person, unless teaching to people who might not be used to the complexity.
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Michael Marvosh
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alxrbk wrote:
Quote:
But why would an ally want his main player to play Negotiate?


He wouldn't, you are correct. However, say Blue has 3 colonies and all other players 1 or none; Blue encounters Red. Red invites Purple, Green and Yellow to ally (they didn't ally with Blue for whatever reason). Red deliberately plays a negotiate card because he knows (or suspects) that Blue is likely to win the encounter anyway. Purple, Green and Yellow are now each down however many ships they contributed, whilst Red still claims compensation. He could eliminate up to 12 ships owned by other players at a cost of 1-4 of his own ships, but with a corresponding number of new cards in compensation from Blue, whose hand appears to be better than his anyway.

We had one player using negotiate pretty aggressively as zombie; anyone allying with him ran the risk of being dumped into the warp by him, but he played erraticly enough to keep it worth allying with him and risking it.





Well, yeah, but this isn't a problem with negotiation as much as it is with Purple, Green, and Yellow being suckers. Being an ally is ALWAYS better than being a main player. You stand to lose the same amount, true, but you stand to gain much more than the main players. If I invite everyone to be my ally, one of two things is probably the case: either I'm going to try to throw the fight and kill them all, or I need to stop the other player at all costs. In any other situation I'm going to invite fewer or no allies, because it just gives them too much advantage.
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Mi Myma
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Drinkdrawers wrote:
alxrbk wrote:
Quote:
But why would an ally want his main player to play Negotiate?


He wouldn't, you are correct. However, say Blue has 3 colonies and all other players 1 or none; Blue encounters Red. Red invites Purple, Green and Yellow to ally (they didn't ally with Blue for whatever reason). Red deliberately plays a negotiate card because he knows (or suspects) that Blue is likely to win the encounter anyway. Purple, Green and Yellow are now each down however many ships they contributed, whilst Red still claims compensation. He could eliminate up to 12 ships owned by other players at a cost of 1-4 of his own ships, but with a corresponding number of new cards in compensation from Blue, whose hand appears to be better than his anyway.

We had one player using negotiate pretty aggressively as zombie; anyone allying with him ran the risk of being dumped into the warp by him, but he played erraticly enough to keep it worth allying with him and risking it.





Well, yeah, but this isn't a problem with negotiation as much as it is with Purple, Green, and Yellow being suckers. Being an ally is ALWAYS better than being a main player. You stand to lose the same amount, true, but you stand to gain much more than the main players. If I invite everyone to be my ally, one of two things is probably the case: either I'm going to try to throw the fight and kill them all, or I need to stop the other player at all costs. In any other situation I'm going to invite fewer or no allies, because it just gives them too much advantage.

It's also a problem with Red essentially giving the game to Blue.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Drinkdrawers wrote:
alxrbk wrote:
Quote:
But why would an ally want his main player to play Negotiate?


He wouldn't, you are correct. However, say Blue has 3 colonies and all other players 1 or none; Blue encounters Red. Red invites Purple, Green and Yellow to ally (they didn't ally with Blue for whatever reason). Red deliberately plays a negotiate card because he knows (or suspects) that Blue is likely to win the encounter anyway. Purple, Green and Yellow are now each down however many ships they contributed, whilst Red still claims compensation. He could eliminate up to 12 ships owned by other players at a cost of 1-4 of his own ships, but with a corresponding number of new cards in compensation from Blue, whose hand appears to be better than his anyway.

We had one player using negotiate pretty aggressively as zombie; anyone allying with him ran the risk of being dumped into the warp by him, but he played erraticly enough to keep it worth allying with him and risking it.





Well, yeah, but this isn't a problem with negotiation as much as it is with Purple, Green, and Yellow being suckers. Being an ally is ALWAYS better than being a main player. You stand to lose the same amount, true, but you stand to gain much more than the main players. If I invite everyone to be my ally, one of two things is probably the case: either I'm going to try to throw the fight and kill them all, or I need to stop the other player at all costs. In any other situation I'm going to invite fewer or no allies, because it just gives them too much advantage.

It's also a problem with Red essentially giving the game to Blue.


I assumed Blue was defense, but I see now that the language doesn't support that.
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Lortarg wrote:
I kind of remember that line now.
I don't think we've ever given away more than one colony before, but it is good to know the rule.

Lobotnik wrote:

But to be fair, if your group enjoys the way you play then to hell with the rules, go and have fun! But it is good to be aware of the rules for if you ever play with outsiders. I am not a keen "house-rules" type - it is probably the lawyer in me, but I do prefer playing by the letter of the rules of most games, this one included.


I agree. Although we do play two (known) house rules. We allow more than one flare to be played per turn, but only once each. And we usually play with 2 aliens per person, unless teaching to people who might not be used to the complexity.


Those both sound very tempting, and the more flares makes sense if you have more alien powers also - do you play with more flares in the deck if you have two powers each?

I have heard lots about using two powers, it does sound fun but I rarely play Cosmic Encounter without at least one new player, and that would definitely be way too much lol.
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Ken H.
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alxrbk wrote:
First post here but been lurking a while; these boards are what made me decide on CE as my first 'big' board game after a lifetime of scrabble and yahtzee.


I'm glad to know these boards encouraged you to buy the game. I sometimes get worried that we are overly negative about the quality of the rules, and might be driving people away.

Quote:
- Giving up two colonies at the start of the game to Zombie in exchange for exclusive use of Zombie's ability to revive allies. Over time (35+ games in the first weekend), this has evolved to giving up two 'secured' colonies to Zombie, which, if you attempt to purge of Zombie's ships, will render the deal invalid. Three 'unsecured' colonies have been traded for this as well, in addition to two 'secured' and one 'unsecured' over the duration of the mighty session.


Do you mean Observer? Zombie cannot revive allies -- he can only release ships of his opponent, as part of a formal deal. Also, Observer can save allies, but has no choice in the matter -- his allies are automatically safe because the power is mandatory.

I don't really see how the game can work if you allow multiple colonies to be gained in a deal. Why wouldn't the first two players simply agree to give each other 5 colonies?

Quote:
'Meta' negotiation outside the negotiation phases consisted of people lying about cards, offering up full hands in exchange of aid, and making non-aggression pacts 'if at all possible'.


Not sure what you mean by "offering up full hands". You aren't allowed to give away cards outside of the negotiation phase. Also, you really aren't even supposed to show your cards. I can't remember if that's in the rules, but I think it is at least in the FAQ. Plus, it's just standard practice in card games. Of course, that's not to say you can't house rule it if you find it fun.

Quote:
Are your sessions like this or a lot more rule-based? What are the most outrageous things people have negotiated for in your games?


Keep in mind that promises of future behavior (promise to ally, promise to play your lowest card against me, etc.) do not require a Negotiate card. You can make whatever promises you want within the bounds of your group's table talk rules, and you can make those promises whenever you want.

The only purpose of formally Negotiating is that it lets you trade colonies and cards, which cannot be done otherwise.
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Dean Glencross
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Lobotnik wrote:
Lortarg wrote:

I agree. Although we do play two (known) house rules. We allow more than one flare to be played per turn, but only once each. And we usually play with 2 aliens per person, unless teaching to people who might not be used to the complexity.


Those both sound very tempting, and the more flares makes sense if you have more alien powers also - do you play with more flares in the deck if you have two powers each?

I have heard lots about using two powers, it does sound fun but I rarely play Cosmic Encounter without at least one new player, and that would definitely be way too much lol.


We play with the as close to the recommended number of flares as we can. We usually only play with 2 powers, and I think (again haven't read the rules for a while) the recommended number of flares is either 2 per player or 10 (or something like that)
Basically, we deal out 3 flares to everyone, let them pick 2 aliens from the dealt flares, then shuffle the selected aliens flares into the deck. We have played with more aliens, but not for a while so I'm not sure how we used the flares in those games.
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Alex (Yes that Alex)
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Rubric wrote:
I sometimes get worried that we are overly negative about the quality of the rules, and might be driving people away


The way I see it, people discuss the minutiae of something like CE for additional enjoyment. There's no question that the game is good; people are still discussing it online, 35 years after it was first released. That was a big selling point for me, and it means I can clarify things I'm not sure about with more experienced players.

Quote:
Do you mean Observer? Zombie cannot revive allies -- he can only release ships of his opponent, as part of a formal deal.


No, I mean Zombie. The card reads 'you may free any player's ships from the warp... as part of a deal'

I had assumed that meant that zombie's power to 'free any player's ships from the warp' could be negotiated for as part of a deal on a longstanding basis... there don't appear to be restrictions on timing or usage on the card itself, though I guess this is one of the vague aspects of the game?

Also, I just ordered cosmic conflict, should be here in time for a 6 player game on Saturday

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Ken H.
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alxrbk wrote:
I had assumed that meant that zombie's power to 'free any player's ships from the warp' could be negotiated for as part of a deal on a longstanding basis... there don't appear to be restrictions on timing or usage on the card itself, though I guess this is one of the vague aspects of the game?


laugh I love it!

I have always (for the previously-mentioned 35 years) assumed that it meant "ships currently in the warp at the time of the deal". I've never heard your interpretation before, but you're right -- it doesn't say it's limited to the moment.

 
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Rubric wrote:
alxrbk wrote:
I had assumed that meant that zombie's power to 'free any player's ships from the warp' could be negotiated for as part of a deal on a longstanding basis... there don't appear to be restrictions on timing or usage on the card itself, though I guess this is one of the vague aspects of the game?


laugh I love it!

I have always (for the previously-mentioned 35 years) assumed that it meant "ships currently in the warp at the time of the deal". I've never heard your interpretation before, but you're right -- it doesn't say it's limited to the moment.


I assume you're still limited by the general negotiation rule that doesn't allow deals to carry over encounters.
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Alex (Yes that Alex)
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Axxle wrote:
I assume you're still limited by the general negotiation rule that doesn't allow deals to carry over encounters.


I can see the rule on p10 of the 'Rules of play' booklet which specifies that only one colony may be negotiated for as part of a deal, but I can't see anything about deals carrying over encounters. Is this more of a generally agreed-upon rule amongst CE players? Maybe it's an oversight in the current rulebook, considering the various iterations of CE. After finding it in the rulebook I think I'll definitely be asking players to keep negotiations down to one colony.

As for there being no need to keeping to the terms of a negotiation past the encouner in which it occured, our designation of traded colonies as 'secure' when making long-term deals served as an incentive to keep to those terms. In the game where I made a 2 'secured' colony deal with Zombie in exchange for exclusive use of his power to resurrect others, he could of course have reneged on his deal, though those two colonies would then have become fair game for me.

Ken, given the current rules and the 'alternate' interpretation of Zombie's power, are there any viable uses for such which occur to you? If it's not technically limited to the moment, could a deal for exclusive use of Zombie's powers throughout a game even be made? I'd probably value it at more than one colony and a full hand of cards, but if you had Zombie's flare it might be worth it to that player... then again, would using their flare in order to ressurect other allies' ships constitute a breach?


 
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alxrbk wrote:
Axxle wrote:
I assume you're still limited by the general negotiation rule that doesn't allow deals to carry over encounters.


I can see the rule on p10 of the 'Rules of play' booklet which specifies that only one colony may be negotiated for as part of a deal, but I can't see anything about deals carrying over encounters. Is this more of a generally agreed-upon rule amongst CE players? Maybe it's an oversight in the current rulebook, considering the various iterations of CE. After finding it in the rulebook I think I'll definitely be asking players to keep negotiations down to one colony.


I think Axxle just worded that poorly.

It's not so much that deals can't carry over, as that any commitments made as part of a deal are non-binding (aside from those actions which are taken immediately as part of the deal).

As an example, let's say you and I are at 3 colonies, it's my first encounter, and we're negotiating. I offer a colony for a colony, which brings us both up to 4, and I'll invite you on my second encounter so we can win together.

Next encounter, I choose not to invite you, reneging on my deal, since that part is non-binding.
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Asmor wrote:
alxrbk wrote:
Axxle wrote:
I assume you're still limited by the general negotiation rule that doesn't allow deals to carry over encounters.


I can see the rule on p10 of the 'Rules of play' booklet which specifies that only one colony may be negotiated for as part of a deal, but I can't see anything about deals carrying over encounters. Is this more of a generally agreed-upon rule amongst CE players? Maybe it's an oversight in the current rulebook, considering the various iterations of CE. After finding it in the rulebook I think I'll definitely be asking players to keep negotiations down to one colony.


I think Axxle just worded that poorly.

It's not so much that deals can't carry over, as that any commitments made as part of a deal are non-binding (aside from those actions which are taken immediately as part of the deal).

As an example, let's say you and I are at 3 colonies, it's my first encounter, and we're negotiating. I offer a colony for a colony, which brings us both up to 4, and I'll invite you on my second encounter so we can win together.

Next encounter, I choose not to invite you, reneging on my deal, since that part is non-binding.

Thanks, that's what I meant to say.
 
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Well if you actually look in the rulebook, it doesn't say anything about promises of future actions not being binding - but that's because it doesn't *need* to - it doesn't allow for promises of future actions to be made *at all*. It says:

"In a deal, a player may trade cards and/or allow his or her opponent to establish one colony on any one planet there the player already has a colony."

That's it! It doesn't allow for anything else to be traded as part of a deal. No future promises at all. The the issue of whether promises are binding is moot.
 
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Two bits from your friendly neighborhood research librarian:

• I too had thought there was something, somewhere, about deals being limited to the current encounter. I had assumed it was in Mayfair's rules, but didn't find it. Now I think I must've had my wires crossed, vaguely remembering that both Mayfair and FFG had clarified Seeker such that "intentions" questions were limited to the current encounter.

• There is, in fact, official support for unenforceable "future promises." Mayfair's final rulebook says (and this may be a paraphrase), "In addition, deals can include promises to perform any action that a player can normally perform. These promises are not binding; you can refuse to perform the action." More to the point, however, FFG's FAQ says, "either colonies or cards must change hands. Anything else you choose to negotiate with is up to you. Any other terms you set are not enforced (i.e. if you agree not to ally against each other, either of you may break that portion of the deal.)" That word "anything" is somewhat misleading, since they then state that you can't trade tech cards.

So, officially, you can make whatever non-binding future promises you want, of any duration, as long as you don't physically trade a tech card. Or perhaps I should say, as long as you don't perform an action you aren't legally allowed to perform, including physically trading tech cards.
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