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Subject: Inviting Allies Phase: How strict or loose do you play? rss

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David Stahler Jr.
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Obligatory Preface: CE is STILL my favorite boardgame...

I've taught this game to quite a few different groups--fellow gamers, family and friends, my high school students (they get into it the most--not sure what that says about the game...) but one of the elements of the game that's the hardest to keep people within the boundaries of the rules is the Inviting Allies phase. There's a tendency for people to immediately respond to the attacker's invitations or respond to both invitations out of order. I generally try to encourage people to follow the appropriate chain (attackers invite first, defenders second, everyone else accept in clockwise order from the attacker) but try not to be too heavy-handed about it, since this phase of the game is often the most boisterous and fun from a social perspective.

My question, therefore, is how strictly do you adhere to this phase in your own groups? Do you play it fairly loosely? Are you really strict about it? Curious to know how other people play.
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Brian Hoare
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My experience is exactly as Wheelockian's.

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Jack Reda
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We didn't use to, but as we got to be better and more sophisticated gamers, it has become imperative to follow this rule strictly. You can't always guess how people are going to ally, and when one person surprisingly allies with the other side, it can start a chain reaction, or at least put players in a position to have to make a tough decision, which in my opinion is one of the best things that can happen in games.
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Nathan
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Yeah, I think the stricter the better, as this means you will change the order in which people respond. This means sometimes the obvious ally choices will be first, sometimes last and the surprise allies could come in a any time.

And because of chain reactions, someone could potentially get screwed over big time because people do it out of order, but if you stick to order then they cannot complain, they got screwed over fairly.

It is about screwing people over, but in a fair and organised manner.

That probably describes the whole Cosmic Encounter game in one sentence .
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Just a Bill
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My experience is similar: I'm often the only one who really cares about precise sequencing, and sometimes I play the role of moderator and call out the clock ticks: "Okay Clone, you're up first: are you joining the offense? No? Alright then, Trader: you can join either side. The defense it is. Bandit, what will you do?"

But I actually don't have a lot of problem with the freeform thing, since in many cases a player who jumps the gun is mostly hurting himself (although sometimes hurting the player he should/would have allied with had he paid attention and let others make their decision first).

The thing is, you can sort of view a too-early alliance decision as kind of the same thing as just confessing ahead of time what you plan to do — and discussing your plans out loud is perfectly legal. So I don't sweat it too much, although I do prefer that things be done in order (and good players will not jump the gun, since they want all the information they can get when making a decision).
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David Stahler Jr.
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Unfortunately, my gaming group is more miniatures/wargame oriented, so I don't have the opportunity to play often or with an experienced, dedicated group, but if I did, I imagine we would play it pretty strictly.

Since I'm usually playing with mostly new groups and/or in informal settings, I try to loosely moderate. We generally allow people to change their minds, particularly if they jump the gun, and only end the phase after everyone has finally settled on who they're allying with. Totally goes against the rules, but it usually works out fine and often leads to some funny and interesting discussion.
 
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Ian Toltz
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We usually play with a variant where alliances are all chosen secretly and declared simultaneously.

Everyone gets A234JQK at the beginning of the game. Whenever they're invited to either side, they choose two cards. Jack means they abstain, Queen means they go to defense, King means they go to Offense. A-4 determine how many ships to send.
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Jefferson Krogh
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I don't mind a bit of free-form allying, but if anyone at the table says they want to go in proper order, then we stop and and do it that way. It's better in general to do that, but on some encounters nobody seems to care what order people choose.

Back in the olden days, we never accepted invitations in order. It was always just a mass simultaneous grabbing and placing of tokens.
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David Stahler Jr.
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Asmor wrote:
We usually play with a variant where alliances are all chosen secretly and declared simultaneously.

Everyone gets A234JQK at the beginning of the game. Whenever they're invited to either side, they choose two cards. Jack means they abstain, Queen means they go to defense, King means they go to Offense. A-4 determine how many ships to send.


Wow. You guys are hardcore!
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Ian Toltz
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Wheelockian wrote:
Asmor wrote:
We usually play with a variant where alliances are all chosen secretly and declared simultaneously.

Everyone gets A234JQK at the beginning of the game. Whenever they're invited to either side, they choose two cards. Jack means they abstain, Queen means they go to defense, King means they go to Offense. A-4 determine how many ships to send.


Wow. You guys are hardcore!


I got bored with how it seemed like the tide of battle was determined disproportionately by the first person to choose a side. Wanted something where people would have to think more about whether and who to back.

Of course, my group also tends to be a little too loose with the invitations to begin with, for my taste. A variant like this might make less sense if your group invites people more rarely.
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David Stahler Jr.
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Asmor wrote:
Wheelockian wrote:
Asmor wrote:
We usually play with a variant where alliances are all chosen secretly and declared simultaneously.

Everyone gets A234JQK at the beginning of the game. Whenever they're invited to either side, they choose two cards. Jack means they abstain, Queen means they go to defense, King means they go to Offense. A-4 determine how many ships to send.


Wow. You guys are hardcore!


I got bored with how it seemed like the tide of battle was determined disproportionately by the first person to choose a side. Wanted something where people would have to think more about whether and who to back.

Of course, my group also tends to be a little too loose with the invitations to begin with, for my taste. A variant like this might make less sense if your group invites people more rarely.


On the one hand, I like the idea of secret picks followed by a simultaneous reveal--I imagine it would create some interesting tension and second-guessing.

On the other hand, having loose play at the other extreme--with people changing their minds and increasingly upping the ante in terms of ships and alliances in an almost auction-like atmosphere until everyone finally passes is very fun, as well, and has its own sort of tension.

Interesting how two opposite styles can both be attractive.
 
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Geoff Speare
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We played pretty hard-core Cosmic. Our customs were:

1) Either side can ask for allies first, but if there is hesitation then the official order is followed.

2) Anyone can ally at any time (once invited of course). Once you put tokens in the cone, however, they are committed, so you are making a decision based on less information that you would otherwise have.

3) Strict ordering is followed whenever anyone insists, or once people are being indecisive. (This was the norm, we would go around the table asking each person.)

4) It's rude to ally before both sides have declared who they are inviting.


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David Stahler Jr.
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galfridus wrote:
We played pretty hard-core Cosmic. Our customs were:

1) Either side can ask for allies first, but if there is hesitation then the official order is followed.

2) Anyone can ally at any time (once invited of course). Once you put tokens in the cone, however, they are committed, so you are making a decision based on less information that you would otherwise have.

3) Strict ordering is followed whenever anyone insists, or once people are being indecisive. (This was the norm, we would go around the table asking each person.)

4) It's rude to ally before both sides have declared who they are inviting.




Good rules. I agree with #4, though it's usually unintentional, especially with beginners, so I try to let it slide with a gentle reminder.
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Just a Bill
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Wheelockian wrote:
Interesting how two opposite styles can both be attractive.

The appeal of differing auction styles is one of the reasons I enjoy Modern Art.
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Derrek McNab
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I have gotten stricter over time with the Ally timing.

Before people could change their minds and such.

But now I will say "its like poker chips. Once you place them, they are in."

And since I will subtly mention how communication is key, I will say to another player who has played before "if you go on offense, I will too"

Let them go on offense, and I will go on defense instead.

Just this simple action lets new players understand that there is a whole world of manipulation they can be doing in the game.

I might go back to a bit more lenient ally joining and such just to see if it makes it funnier.
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Benjamin Gould
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Asmor wrote:
We usually play with a variant where alliances are all chosen secretly and declared simultaneously.

Everyone gets A234JQK at the beginning of the game. Whenever they're invited to either side, they choose two cards. Jack means they abstain, Queen means they go to defense, King means they go to Offense. A-4 determine how many ships to send.

Ooh. I'm going to have to try this. It's annoying when everyone follows the first person who allies.
 
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Dustin Ivey
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People tend to jump on alliances real quick, even if the main players don't offer.

So when people start jumping on alliances I tell them to hold up for a moment.

Then I ask the offense if they want to offer allies, then I ask the defense if they want to offer allies. Then people can go crazy if they want.
 
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