The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for the ‘Variants’ Category

A bit more Space Empire, and a game day

I played a few more games of Space Empires solitaire, and I enjoy it. I’ve tweaked the system to feel slightly more intelligent and smooth out the bumps, the APs get less resources, but also tend to waste less (by fighting hopeless battles) and their growth is ‘on board’ which means it can be trimmed down. While TaoLing was at camp I left the board setup and managed to get in a half-dozen games … most of which were full evening affairs.

Now that TaoLing is back I took a day off to run back-to-school errands in the morning and we had a game day in the afternoon. A fair number of Puzzle Strike games (getting close to 50!), a few games of Dominion, some Mottainai, some Splendor, and even a bit of Pandante. (I think I’m going to take Pandante to my poker night this weekend and play a few hands — not for money — to see if there’s any interest).

In other news, I’ve realized that I’m not playing most of my collection, even though I’ve trimmed it down fairly aggressively this decade. So, more games are marked ‘for trade’. I may hold a geeklist auction later this year, but I’m open to trades/sales whenever. I did just break down and  buy the Brittania expansion of Sansa at Channukah.  So I knocked that off my “want in trade list.”

I suspect game days with the Taoling are going to slowly drift into memory — they may never end entirely, but the teenage years wait for no parent. I’ve been watching the Solitaire Games on Your Table threads for ideas as to which games I may try next…at least, until the Mage Knight urge rises.

Written by taogaming

August 18, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Space Empire

Just one, because I played S.E.4x solitaire. It was a Doomsday Machine game, so it didn’t really capture the great feel of the game, but I hadn’t played in a year and wanted to re-learn the rules. I posted a mini session report on BGG.

I also (finally) read the expansion rules. Well, the first expansion. It seems like … a lot of chrome. And a lot of paperwork. My quick thoughts (all of which are based on not playing it) is that most of it adds too much paperwork for the goal, but if you really loved the system and wanted to make SE4x a lifestyle game, you’d ease into it fairly well. Still — each thing added slows the game down. Although some of them seem like good ideas (assuming they are balanced).
In particular, giving each player a special power (which can be revealed at the appropriate moment) is highly thematic. Oh … player X is a warrior race and can attack twice in the first round of combat, but can’t retreat for a while (and suffers penalties in the second round). Player Y can ignore maintenance costs (and doesn’t have to reveal the card, ever, except at the end game). Player Z reveals at the start, but gets a bunch of free colony ships and colonies and explorations before the game. That, and conquering alien planets for unique technologies … yeah, I’d throw those in. (Also pre-game rolls to randomly adjust some universe conditions). But ground combat (and troops), individual ship ratings, design your own ships (prior to start of game, not during!), flagships, etc? I’m not so sure. I should probably try to get a group to play this again, but it’s a nice change of pace from Mage Knight for solitaire….

Update — I tested out some variant rules for the AP scenario.

Written by taogaming

August 5, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Session Reports, Variants

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Food Chain Magnate Expansion — Regulatory Compliance

I like Food Chain Magnate. Quite a bit, actually. But, like 18xx games and other long no- (or low-) luck games some strategies can be (or at least, appear) dominant. So, in order to mix things up, here is the Regulatory Compliance expansion. Note — I’m not planning on playing this anytime soon, but I had the idea and figure I’ll play it (eventually) when I burn out.

Rules — Deal out some number of Regulatory Compliance cards at random prior to setup. (Two or three seems reasonable). If two cards contradict, discard the (latter) card and re-deal. These cards indicate subtle changes in local economic conditions and business regulations specific to your particular area. I suggest that all players have several full games of FCM under your belt before you add Regulatory Compliance. The goal of this expansion is to subtly change the limits of FCM, without introducing any randomness during the game (all changes are known prior to the start).

This expansion also does not change the text of any milestone cards. While that could be a fruitful area of exploration, the goal is to make all of the rule changes easily visible on the new cards, and not spread the rules changes ‘around the table’ by modifying other cards.


  • Start: $X. Each player takes the listed amount of money from the bank at the start of the game. If you have two rules with Start $X, add them together.
  • Pay immediately: Just as it says. Payments are not salaries, and may not be reduced via milestones/cards.
  • Random Good: Use the following table for “random good”
    • 1 — Pizza
    • 2 — Burger
    • 3 — Beer
    • 4 — Soda
    • 5 — Lemonade
    • 6 — None

The Cards:

Recession — The standard unit price is lowered to $8.

Boom Times — The standard unit price is raised to $12.

High Regulatory Overhead — Due to local paper work requirements, each player must have at least one open slot after RESTRUCTURING. If a player has inadvertently filled all open slots, they must send two employees to the beach after determining player order. (If multiple players do this, they decide simultaneously).

Heavy Drinkers — After serving food/drinks to a house, a restaurant may sell one additional beer for each item served, for $3/beer (This amount may not be modified by gardens or bonuses). Example — A restaurant fulfills an order or two burgers and a beer. The restaurant may then sell 1, 2 or 3 additional beers for 3, 6 or 9 dollars.

High Food Costs — Whenever you collect food during the “Get Food and Drink” step, immediately pay $1 per token collected. You may collect less food than the full amount a card gives. Start: $5.

Metropolis — (2-4 players only). Setup the map as if there were one more player.

Small town — (3-5 players only). Setup the map as if there were one fewer player.

Organizational Cohesion — At the end of RESTRUCTURING, all employee cards of the same color at work must be underneath the same manager (the CEO counts as a manger). A manager may handle multiple colors, but a color may not be split between managers. (Busy Marketers are outside of the organizational structure and so ignore this rule). A player who violates this rule must remove cards (after determining player order) until the rule is satisfied. (Example — A player has Two Junior VPs and a Management Trainee. This player may not play four grey cards, because only three would fit under a single Junior VP).

Chain of Command — At the end of RESTRUCTURING, the player may not have multiple black cards with the same job title (Management Trainee or any level of VP) in the organizational structure. If a player has violated this rule, he must send one of the managers and all subordinates to the beach.

Slow Training — The TRAIN phase happens prior to the RECRUIT phase.

Severance Pay — When firing an employee, their salary must still be paid (if possible). Additionally, salary must be paid on the final game turn!

Discriminating Palates — Consumers will pay $2 less (than unit price) for soda, unit price for lemonade, and $2 more than unit price for beer.

Supersized! — During dinnertime, you must supply one extra token of a demanded type to fulfill an order. You do not get paid for the additional token. (Example — A garden home has two burger tokens, one beer, and one pizza. To fulfill the order, a restaurant must provide an extra burger, beer or pizza, and only receives the value for the four displayed tokens).

High Gas Costs — The distance (used to break ties during dinnertime) is equal to twice the range. (Example — A restaurant is range two from a house. For purposes of tie break, it is unit price + $4 instead of unit price + $2).

Smarter Shoppers — When considering value at DINNERTIME, the unit price is multiplied by the number of demand tokens. (In the base game, the unit price is not multiplied by number of shoppers). This will not change the amount paid, but may change which restaurant fulfills the order.

High Minimum Wage — You must pay an additional $1 salary for each employee (apart from the CEO). (So, employees cost either $1 or $6) Start: $10.

Unmet Demand — During setup, place a random good on each house.

Advertising Blitz — Place the #6 Airplane along a random map edge with a random good on it. (Re-roll a six). At the end of each cleanup phase, move this plane clockwise one tile.

Beltway — A highway runs along the outside edge of the city. Entering and exiting the beltway crosses a tile boundary as does turning a corner, but moving along the outside of a tile does not cost  (Example — A restaurant one the west edge of the map wants to deliver to a house on the east edge of the map. They exit the map (1), go from the west side to the north side (2), go from the north to the east side (3) and enter the destination tile (4). The number of tiles moved along the sides do not matter).

Mass Transit — As Superhighway, but corners are not counted.

Portion Control — Each house has a limit of two tokens (four with a garden).

Low disposable income — Gardens no longer double the unit price of a good, but merely add an additional $5 per token.

Small Business Exemptions — Due to onerous requirements on large businesses, you are all trying to remain small to stay off the government’s radar. When the bank is broken use the the LOWER number of slots for the remainder of the game if there is a tie among reserve cards.

Favorable Outlook –At the start of SETTING GOALS, randomly select a $100, $200 or $300 card, show it to all players, and add it to the reserve. Players then select their own goals.

Unfavorable Outlook — When the Bank is broken the first time after adding the reserves reduce the bank by $50 per player. (So, as if the cards were $50, $150 or $250).

Friendly Competition — During CLEANUP, do not discard any milestone claimed for the first time this turn. It is still available to be claimed (by the remaining players) until the next CLEANUP phase. (I suggest you discard sideways milestones, then turn the claimed ones sideways).

Stable Tastes — All marketing campaigns must be placed with a duration of at least two.

Unionized WaitstaffWaitresses get to keep their tips and generate no income. They serve only as a tiebreaker. (Discard the “First to play a waitress” milestone). However, any number of waitresses may occupy a single slot in the organizational chart.

Effective Billboards —  During MARKETING the campaigns run from HIGH to LOW (instead of LOW to HIGH). This means that billboards will take priority over flyers, with radio happening last. Additionally, Billboards affect houses they are diagonally adjacent to (as well as houses they are orthogonally adjacent too).

Tight Labor Market — The best know they are in demand! When training an employee into a “1x” position, pay them $5 immediately. This is in addition to paying salary during the salary phase.

Workers Demand Job Satisfaction — When workers are placed on the beach (at the end of RESTRUCTURING), turn them sideways. Any sideways workers not trained this turn quit during the salary phase. (Workers hired during the current turn will not quit, trained or not).

Local Favorite — Roll a random good and place it on this card (re-roll six). At the end of the MARKETING phase, any house that currently has no demand adds one token of the type shown on this card.

Subsidies — At the end of DINNERTIME, each player gets an additional $3. This is not modified by CFO or the “First to $100” milestone.

Flexible Training — A player may be trained “down” as well as up. (For example, a regional manager may be trained  to a vice president). This counts as a regular training for training limits.

Onerous Zoning Regulations — When using a New Business Developer to place a new house, it is not built with the garden. (Mark the garden with a cube or coin to indicate it is not active). It requires another use of a Business Developer (possibly a second one on the same turn) to activate the garden (remove the cube).

Deflationary Regime — Place a die on the ‘6’ side on this cube. All unit prices are increased by this card. Lower this number by ‘1’ during each cleanup phase. When this die should be lowered to ‘0’, leave it at one but now the value of the die subtracts instead of adds (and on the following turns increase this die until it gets to ‘6’).

Newly incorporated township — Place a cube (or other marker) on each home. Homes with cubes are inactive. During the cleanup phase, remove activate the lowest inactive home (remove the cube).

Angel Investors — Start: $5.

High Tax Rate — After DINNERTIME, each player removes 10% of the money earned that turn from the game, round all numbers down.  (A player who earns 9 pays no taxes, a player who earns $10 pays $1 tax, etc). Taxation occurs after the CFO bonus. Taxed  money is not returned to the bank.

Outside Investment Opportunities — After RESTRUCTURING, a player may place $10 in any empty slot in his/her org chart. (The slot is still considered empty for purposes of TURN ORDER).  During Dinnertime, each player takes $2 income for each $10 invested.

Quirky Local Laws — Randomly pick one milestone. All players start with that milestone.

Fighting against the big guy — Randomly pick one milestone and remove it from the game.

Written by taogaming

March 4, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Variants

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House rules for SE4X — Alien Power Variant

OK, I’ve played a few AP solo games, and my thoughts so far.

  1. If an AP rolls ECON its much harder. (The game where one AP got 3 ECON rolls was impossible). Give up X CP once to gain X CP/turn starting 3 turns later is great.
  2. Easy isn’t too difficult. Normal difficulty is much harder. So much so that I wonder if difficult can be beaten at all….
  3. The AP sends off too many small fleets.
  4. The AP has poor tech choices.
  5. It’s a bit to easy to see the movement.
  6. The AP launch a fleet that serves no purpose.

Here’s what I”m thinking of doing to modify it to make it a bit more uncertain and harder to predict. To keep it from being uniformly harder, I’m going to make ECON rolls weaker. You may also have to lower the CP a notch. Most of these are sever-able ideas, mix and match to taste. (I suspect at Normal difficulty you wouldn’t need all these rules).

  1. The AP gets instant tech upgrades. (Just to be clear).
  2. The human does his full econ phase before the alien’s roll.
  3. No nuking fleets by flipping unrevealed counters underneath alien fleets. (Too gamey).
  4. If the AP roll’s ECON, you get the die (in 3 turns, as normal) but the AP gets one die of NEGATIVE CP (to Fleet or Tech only, can go negative). So you give up 2 dice of production right now to get a die (forever) in 3 turns. (This maybe should even be 4 turns later).
  5. Decoys — When you first encounter an alien fleet in combat, before you roll for tech/fleet composition, figure out the fleet strength. If the die roll is a 1 (or less), the fleet is a decoy. It disappears and the AP gets the fleet points back on it’s sheet. A fleet that reaches a valuable undefended target (colony, pipeline) is never a decoy. Raider fleets may be decoys.
    • Modifier 1 — Divide your fleet cost (in CP) by the AP fleet cost. If that’s 2 or higher, the modifier is that number -1. Example — the Alien Fleet is 18 CP. If your fleet is 6-35, it’s a decoy on a 1. If it’s 36-53, it’s a decoy on 1-2, etc.
    • Modifier 2 — Subtract 1 from the roll unless the AP can afford to upgraded Size, Attack, Defense or Tactics.  The AP is maxed out or would gain no benefit from upgrading those. This is -1 for all three, not -1 for each.
  6. Move Technology
    • Alien Powers increase their move on 1-4, but if increasing their move technology would not shorten the time (in econ rounds) to reaching any legitimate target (at time of launch) there is a +1 to the roll. (Rationale — Why increase move if it’s not going to help? and this just sucks points from combat techs).
    • Timing — The roll is made the first movement phase the alien would get a bump in movement. (This makes the alien reveal when a human would, not several phases earlier).
  7. Purchasing — When rolling to increase technologies, APs do not roll until they are out of points. If there are 3 rolls in a row that cannot be bought, aliens stop buying and save their money. (Rationale — Often APs are forced to buy Minesweepers at lower levels, which puts them at a disadvantage).
  8. HW Defense — When you attack a HW seriously, all unrevealed fleets roll a d10. If the roll is greater or equal to their distance from the HW, the fleet is a decoy (put all fleet points back at the HW). Do the same for each ship that was revealed since the last econ phase. (A serious threat is one that could take the HW, not just to figure out if it’s bases or mines. There’s no good definition, use your judgement). Rationale — To prevent the player from just allowing a fleet to launch and then attack a weakened homeworld. Recalling revealed ships prevents gamey tactics, although it’s still useful.
  9. Turn order — Select the turn order you’d prefer (first or last). Roll a d10.
    • 1-3: You get the order you prefer if you spent that many points on turn order bid. Otherwise you get the other one.
    • 4-10: You get the order you wanted.

Written by taogaming

March 10, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Variants

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Machi Koro + Harbor

… works well as a two player filler. Not deep, but some thought involved.

Variant I now will always recommend — There must be at least 4 blue/green buildings numbered 1-6 in the opening. (For more players, I may make this 2n). It’s brutal to go last and not have any purchase that improves your position, ditto for second round.

I also removed 2 sets of purple buildings (for 2 player, I should probably remove one more).  I’m tempted to remove a few Cheese Factories (and maybe Flower Store) since these only score as multipliers based on a single building (in the current set). So often they are worthless. I may just ban those from the opening setup.

Written by taogaming

January 21, 2015 at 10:15 pm

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Air Baron Advanced Variant

I’ve been playing games of “Semi-advanced” Air Baron with The Boy. (We don’t use the events, but do use the Government Contract). I like the events in theory, but they drag the game out….there are a few reasons:

  • Every time you draw an event chit, there’s no payout. By the end of the game, the average chit only pays a few dollars , but the hubs pay out up to 24 and the foreigns pay out up to 40. Jumbo profits? As much as 30 per player. But you’ve added  up to 5 “zero” value chits.
  • The random events all suck out money, which exacerbates the problem.
  • Because people are afraid of horrible events, they tend to have a loan or two (instead of running out of cash), which ties up money in interest.

So I’m proposing the following variant.

  1. Loans can be taken out an any time.
  2. Loans can also be advanced (If you have a $10 loan, you can go to a $20 loan before paying out).
  3. The most loans you can normally take out is the loan value of your market share, plus $10 if somebody can take out a higher loan.  However, If you need money for a random event, the government will step in to let you take a loan higher than your market share (but only then). Interest must be paid in your turn, as normal.
  4. If you bankrupt, you lose 1 turn for each $10 you had out, when it resets to zero. Then you can come back in.
  5. The event chits are modified as follows —
  6. Crash — The most you can lose in a crash is 10% of your market share.
  7. Fuel Price Fluctuates — Roll a d6. On a 5-6 the fuel prices falls, and each player GAINS 10% of their market share in value. Otherwise, the price rises and people pay 10% of their market share. [Yes, this is somewhat random; but this chit on average punishes market share but now only 1/3rd as much … and this can end the game when a boom hits].
  8. Local Competition — When you draw this chit, the drawing player gains a Market Research cube (use whatever token you like). You can spend a cube during any takeover attempt to reroll your roll or force your opponent to reroll. (You must be the attacker or defender. Players may not spend  market research if they are not involved). A bankrupt player loses market research cubes.
  9. Recession — As normal, but the end of game conditions are permanently lowered by $10 at the end of the turn (after the last player’s victory check).
  10. Strike — A player with less than half the leader’s market share will not be hit by a strike. Otherwise, as normal.

Super advanced variant — You can use the blanks to make new events, even a few events would change the game radically, since one or more events wouldn’t show up each time. (Or you could make them happen every $40).

Proposed events:

  1. Economy booms Pays out $$ equal to current government contract to each player.
  2. Foreign Trouble — The next foreign chip drawn does not pay out.
  3. Interest Rates spike — All players must immediately pay interest right now.

With 8 events, each game would have a different economic feel, some would be longer, some slower. I hope to try this soon. Been playing a lot of Air Baron recently and it can use a bit more variety … just not at the cost of an hour or two.

Written by taogaming

June 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Posted in Variants

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Panic Station Variant

OK, I think my “trade last” variant has promise.

Written by taogaming

November 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Variants

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