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Subject: Emerging Tyrants: Political Add-on Pack rss

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James Motz
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There have been several interesting discussions about adding more politics to Eclipse. Personally I always liked the "soft" politics that are built into the game as is, but I also like to tinker and some of the discussions prompted me to try something. I feel like it's a new take on "space politics" that fits into the basic Eclipse mechanics.

I'd call this an "Alpha" version right now. We've done some playtesting, about 5-7 games in total. It works, but it could probably use some more creative input. I found it adds maybe another 10-ish minutes to a game session with 3 or 4 people. The best part is that if some players don't want to bother they can ignore it and still win. But if you invest in it it does provide you with another (non-military) path to victory.

The rules are kind of wordy, but should cover everything. I'm posting a PDF of the playmat to files and will link when it goes live. Link Posted.

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/89593/emerging-tyrants-pol...

I'd appreciate hearing what people have to say.

Emerging Tyrants

The Galactic Council is splintering. While the Councilors still have some ability to grant political favors and divert interstellar resources, they are unable or unwilling to stem the tide of escalating violence. As the Council weakens, factions within the body have begun plotting to seize control of what political power remains. These shadowy figures are secretly being supported and manipulated in their ascension to power by the dominant races in the galactic conflict, who see opportunity in the unchecked ambitions.

WHAT YOU NEED
Council tracking sheet
4 Leader tokens or figures
Deck of playing cards
Six Sided Die
Tokens representing a re-roll
60 second timer (optional)

SUMMARY

By voting with Ambassadors assigned to the Council, players advance “leader” figures along a track. Voting happens at least once per turn, with smaller votes to increase a leader’s standing throughout the game, and one final vote to determine Chancellor at the end. If a Chancellor is elected, the player holding the most support cards matching that leader’s suit can grant 10 VP to any player - including themselves. Leaders that advance along their tracks during the game will grant all players small rewards, regardless of who voted for them - which may be increased by revealing permanently some of your support cards. Players can use their Ambassadors to play “Dirty Tricks” on their opponents instead of voting, provided they discard pairs of support cards to do so. Players can gain more cards, voting Ambassadors, and tie breakers by choosing the special Political Action.

VOTING

Each regular vote happens after the Combat Phase, before Upkeep. Other votes may be called by a player choosing the POL action. There are five steps to each vote, and the first step can be timed to prevent the game from dragging out.

Step 1 is discussion, negotiation, and card trading while physically placing your ambassadors on the board to indicate their votes or attempt at dirty tricks. You may not move another player’s ambassador without their permission.

Step 2 is rolling the die representing the rest of the Council power struggles. Place the die the corresponding leader’s box. For this vote only, it counts as an ambassador.

Step 3 is resolving Dirty Tricks for each ambassador

Step 4 is the vote tally, with each ambassador in a leader’s voting box counting as one vote.

Step 5 is advancing the leader with the most votes one space on the track. All players may now reveal support cards to increase the reward.


In the event of a tie, the first player who chose the POLitical action this turn has the tie breaking vote. If no one has a tie breaking vote, then no leader advances. Leaders may only progress forward during a vote, and only on their own track. A leader who has progressed to the top of their track can not advance further until the final vote at the end of the game.

Note that Ambassadors can be placed in any one voting box, and not all a player’s Ambassadors have to vote together - or even vote at all.

REWARDS

When a leader advances because they won a vote, that leader gives all players a reward. Each leader controls a specific resource (Money, Materials, Science or Combat Re-rolls). When they land on a space, all players receive the number of the given resource as shown on that space.

A player may choose to reveal a support card matching the leader who just won a vote. If they do so, they place it face up in front of them. It will remain face up for the remainder of the game - even if traded or stolen. For each card revealed, that player may gain an additional +1 of the leader’s reward.

COUNCIL DICE

The die rolled during each vote represents the other members, influencers, and secret maneuvers being conducted around the Council. After rolling, place the die in the voting box corresponding to the number rolled. It counts as one vote. If a 5 or 6 is rolled, no vote is tallied from the die but all players receive one Support Card. For fewer than 4 players, more Council Dice may be rolled during a turn. Each die is resolved independently of the others. Council dice are never affected by Support Cards.

SUPPORT CARDS

Support Cards are drawn at the beginning of the game, when a 5 or 6 is rolled on the Council die, or when choosing the POLitic action. If there are not enough cards to draw from the deck, shuffle the discard pile and draw from there. If there are still not enough cards to draw from the deck and discard pile for every player to receive their cards, then no player receives a card.

Cards may be freely exchanged, gifted, or offered to any other player at any time. They keep their status unchanged (face up or hidden) when changing ownership.

All cards are counted as “support” for a given leader based on suit. The rank of the card does not matter for the purposes of counting support - only the suit. After the final vote, if a Supreme Chancellor is elected, all players reveal all their cards. The player with possession of the most support cards matching the Chancellor’s suit may grant 10 VP to any one player they choose. If there is a tie in support cards, no VP is granted (the first player to place a POL action does not have a tie breaker in this case).

Cards can also be discarded to affect the vote or other players - see Dirty Tricks.

DIRTY TRICKS

Dirty Tricks represent an underhanded political move affecting another player or leader. A player who has an Ambassador in the Dirty Tricks section of the board may attempt a trick during a vote by discarding two cards of the same suit. Each ambassador allows the option for one Dirty Trick. After discarding the cards and resolving the trick, move that ambassador back to the ready area.

The Tricky player reveals their pair of matching suits from their hand of hidden cards, and names a target (either a leader or a player) and the Trick to be performed. Once a set has been revealed and discarded it can not be taken back, but other players may cancel the effect of that Trick by discarding their own two cards of matching suit (a veto).
Order of Trick Resolution

If multiple players have an ambassador in the box to perform a dirty trick, the player with the most ambassadors resolves first. If there is a tie, randomly determine order. We recommend one ambassador from each of the tied players is placed in a bag, and then drawn and resolved one at a time.

Tricks:

Steal. Target one player. Choose one hidden card, or a suit of revealed cards, and take them into your possession. Revealed cards remain face up and revealed, hidden cards remain hidden.

Bump. Target any leader. That leader may move one space on their track, forward or backward. No player may receive any reward from this move. You may not remove a leader from the Candidate for Chancellor box this way.

Expel. Target one player. That player must immediately remove one Ambassador from the Council board and return it to their supply.

Nullify. Target one player. Place any of that player’s Ambassadors that were in a voting box into the ready area. This does not affect Ambassadors in the Dirty Tricks section.

Veto. Target one player who just named a Dirty Trick and discarded their pair of cards. That trick has no effect. You do not need an ambassador in the Dirty Tricks section to perform this trick.

Bluff. Do not name a target, and do not discard any cards. Move your ambassador back to the ready area.

THE POL ACTION

Any player may choose the POLitic action by placing their disk on the Council board, as with any other action. The first player each turn to play an influence disk on the POL action gets the tie breaking vote in the event of a tie. Players can take this action as often as they wish, stacking their disks on top of previous placement.

The POL action gives the option to draw 3 intrigue cards, move an ambassador to the Council, and call a vote. Players may choose to decline any of these options during the action at their discretion.

A player must have a free ambassador that has not been exchanged with another player in order to place it on the Council. Players may always remove one of their own ambassadors from the council at any time, but may only place one on the Council using this Action.

If a player chooses to call a vote, conduct another vote immediately, during the turn (see “Voting”). There can be as many votes in a turn as players choose to spend actions. The normal vote at the end of a turn will still happen regardless of any other votes called.

LEADERS

The four leaders will grant a special bonus if they win an election. The bonus will either be Materials, Science, Money or Combat Rerolls.

ALLIANCES

Each member of an alliance votes separately. They do not share Intrigue Cards, though they may trade them as everyone else. One player is always designated as the owner of any Intrigue Card, and support is calculated separately for each player in an alliance. The 10 VP may not be divided - it is always applied to one player, as determined by the owner of the most matching support cards.

TWO AND THREE PLAYER

Normally there are no Ambassadors in use for 2 and 3 player games. However you can still use them with this variant. For 2 player games, each player starts with all 3 Ambassadors on the Council. Roll 3 dice for the Council votes. For 3 player games, each player starts with 2 Ambassadors on the Council. Roll 2 dice for the Council votes.
Thanks!

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JT Call
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Plausible. Thematic. Thoughtful. Elegant.

I think this would work great for Eclipse! How have your playtesting sessions gone?
 
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James Motz
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In very broad terms, the playtesters enjoyed it and thought it worked. We had players spend all kinds of actions on Politics and win big and also lose mightily. We had players basically ignore it and win.

So far the only complaints were early on it was too confusing. It's been simplified quite a bit, especially the dirty tricks.

You can actually play it separate from Eclipse with a couple of modifications.
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James Motz
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The 1 page sheet is in the Files section - see link in original post.
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Wim van Gruisen
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This looks like a nice system. It tries to do lots of things in one mechanic. You get a political system as well as currency in the form of cards. You can even play dirty tricks. But the consequence of that is that you get a convoluted mechanic for just one, added, part of the game. It is also very centered on this one mechanic. Dirty tricks only have an effect on the vote, and the currency, the cards, also only affect the vote.

I wonder if things couldn't get more streamlined with custom cards. Now I get the impression that the mechanic is built around a pack of standard playing cards, instead of having cards designed to support the mechanic. Since there are only three resources in the game, you had to come up with a fourth one of 'combat rerolls'. No mention, BTW, of how these can be used - see later.
Perhaps you should create custom cards for the game. Just three suits. And make some cards have more votes, others with dirty tricks written on them - you can use them then to get one support, or you can play it as a dirty trick.
Having the final vote at the end of the game, after combat, is quite dangerous. Here, after everything else is done, people can get as much as 10 VP to keep for themselves or to hand over to another player. Ten points is a lot; there's kingmaking potential here.


Then a matter of style; the rules could be explained a bit better. When I started reading, I fell straight into the middle of the mechanic, which made it look more complicated than it probably is. Perhaps you should start, after the introduction, with the cards and what players can do with them. Also, explain some of the concepts a bit more. Take the reroll tokens.Can they be used only on one's own rolls, or also to force an opponent to reroll? Or to influence battles that you don't take part in? Can reroll tokens be traded with other players?
Another point: you state that players draw cards at the start of the game. But how many cards?

TLR - Interesting idea. Looks a bit convoluted. Can probably improve by streamlining the system and using custom cards. But I'ms saying that without having tried it out, so take that for what it's worth.

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James Motz
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Fair points. Thank you!

The system does do a lot of things, and it seems to have an intimidating learning curve. However even the "non-gamers" who I play Eclipse with have picked it up quickly, so it's probably more of how the rules are being presented than anything. I do agree though - as written they need help.

One thing that helps a LOT is having the Politics "board" (now in Files) out while you're explaining it. The rules as presented here are probably too abstract because most of the time I just hit the highlights and then the players can see the reminders on the board.

Custom cards were the original idea. There were two problems. One was the difficulty in trying to remember what options were in the deck while still playing actual Eclipse. A standard deck is natural for most people to intuitively work out suits and counts. It also lowers the barrier to entry.

The second problem was that it became unbelievably frustrating to be "tricked" by someone with no recourse, and you could spend the whole game not getting the right cards to do anything tricky yourself. Simplifying the rules down to "discard a pair" to do anything increased the opportunities for attack AND defense, but it also burns the cards necessary for claiming that big reward.

There is absolutely king-making power in that last 10 VP. The number is pretty arbitrary, but it feels right so far. If you focus on Politics and not on regular Eclipse, its not enough to win. If you ignore it and focus on Eclipse, you still have a decent shot at winning. And if someone really screws you and you have no shot, you can make that person NOT win by awarding it to the second place player. Politics is a dirty business, and it is how kings are made.

Seriously though, I'd be interested in hearing if someone finds it way too strong after playing. Remember the only way to reliably get that reward is to invest your actions into Politics instead of the normal stuff - and even then its no sure thing. The only way to get people to invest in it is to make the reward enticing enough to risk losing ground in the regular game.

Good point also about combat re-rolls. We treated them exactly like the Enlightened re-rolls (only your dice in combat). The "tokens" were just out of necessity to remember how many you had - no trading of those. These bonuses are consistently the least voted for option.

Starting Cards: complete oversight on my part. We've done 3, but I also think it doesn't matter that much as long as everyone starts with the same number.

Thanks again for your comments!
 
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One thing you could do that would decrease King-making is have the final vote for Chancellor happen at the end of the penultimate turn. That way, if someone all of a sudden jumps into the lead with a political power move, the players all see it coming and can if they wish dispute it with sheer military force (or Cultural power/Scientific superiority in the case of building Monoliths)

The extra ambassor could instead be altered to give out a reward like a free interceptor or a starbase. He could be the military-politician.
 
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James Motz
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I deeply appreciate you spending your time to give some feedback. Thank you.

I suppose you could reduce the king-making potential. To my mind though... why?

If I lose because someone I crushed was bitter and handed 10 points to my nearest rival, that sounds exactly like a political situation that I failed to negotiate correctly.

The 10VP swing was intentionally large so that it forced people to pay attention. Honestly though, it hasn't made the difference as often as one might think. In maybe 10 playtests I think the points were claimed four or five times, and only once or twice was it enough to change the winner.

It's surprisingly difficult to end up with any chancellor elected, and even more difficult to end up with a majority control of that chancellor.

All that being said, it's an interesting idea to have the chancellor vote earlier with time to respond. I'll have to ponder that one.

I missed which extra ambassador you were talking about. The one that is assigned to the council at the beginning?

Hope you get a chance to play this sometime, and thanks again for your insight.
 
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