Here's a variant I came up with to try and balance out a "runaway leader" problem I saw coming up. Theoretically, it should also add to the excitement of the game by making resources like ammo more scarce and offering up random goodies (not all of them good) for defeating enemies.
I have not playtested this at all (although I hope to soon), so bear with me if the balance is off, and be sure to post your experiences here so that I know how to improve this.
Shuffle together 1 Custom Standard Sidearm per player, 1 First Aid Spray per player, 1 Ammo x20 per player, 1 Ammo x30 per player, and 1 card from every weapon pile in the Resource Area. This will form a "loot" deck.
This variant significantly rewards going first, particularly in games with the maximum number of players. To compensate for this, starting with a random player, players take turns in a clockwise fashion bidding any amount of life points. A player must exceed the previous highest bidder or pass. Once a player passes, he or she may not bid again. When all players but one have passed, that player (presumably the high bidder) lowers her or his starting life total (but not maximum life total) by the amount he or she bid. This player will take her or his turn first, with play continuing in a clockwise fashion.
Continue setup as normal.
Whenever a player uses a card for ammunition, that card becomes trashed. Whenever a card is trashed for any reason, shuffle that card into the loot deck.
Whenever a player defeats an enemy, that player reveals the top X cards of the loot deck, where X is the number of decorations awarded for defeating that enemy. He or she may choose to gain any number of those cards into her or his hand. Return all other revealed cards to the Resource Area.
At the end of every turn, regardless of whether an explore action took place, return the top card of the loot deck to the resource area.
If a player would take lethal damage while exploring, he or she may choose to trash her or his entire hand and the top card of his or her deck to avoid taking any damage.
Expected Effects on Gameplay:
Over time, the loot deck should grow, while the Resource Area shrinks. One effect of this is that incentives for exploring the mansion should shift over time.
In the normal game, there is a clear incentive to explore as often as possible. Theoretically, the player who has spent the most time exploring the mansion should have the most decorations. In my experience, this means that players who have proven the strength of their deck have the least reason to modify it and the least to fear from exploring the mansion.
This variant seeks to alter this situation by forcing a player to weaken her or his deck nearly every time he or she explores. Assuming that players who can confidently explore the most is in the lead, that player should find her or his deck significantly weakened by the late game, requiring her or him to spend more time out of the mansion saving ammunition and restocking supplies.
Conversely, in the beginning of the game there are added incentives to explore the mansion, as it can be a good way to get rid of weaker cards and potentially gain better cards from the loot deck. Needless to say, the odds of getting better cards from the loot deck go down with every exploration.
Hopefully, this game variant will slow down players who take an early lead and generate more difficult decisions late in the game.