Sunday, May 23, 2004

Recommended Variants

In general, I am a strong proponent of playing the rules as written. Most of the time, games have gone through extensive playtesting and there are reasons why the rules are in place. Introducing house rules more often than not reduces the quality of a game. Naturally, people should play however they find most enjoyable, but I'll be the first to admit it isn't always obvoius what is the "most enjoyable". All of that said, there's a few games where I've found a variant or house rule that substantially improves the experience. Some of these (for example, the Attika variant) are reasonably specific to my tastes. While I know several people who prefer my variant, others prefer the original rules. Others, such as the Vinci variant I haven't seen anyone prefer the original. So, on with the variants:


Vinci is an outstanding game, but it can have a bit of a serious engame problem. Specifically, it there is serious analysis paralysis as people maximize their score and minimize the score of the players who are doing well. This problem is completely and simply fixed by utilizing hidden scoring. At the end of a complete round, if one or more players have passed the winning point total, they announce so and the player with the highest score wins. I've played it many times this way and highly recommend it.


ZooSim has a rich-get-richer problem in that income is derived from the number of zoo tiles one. Naturally, this is somewhat offset by the fact that purchasers of the early tiles presumably pay dearly, but it's been my observation, even with experienced players, due to the blind nature of the bidding, it is hard to effectively force that payment and a player who wins two tiles in the first round is at a serious advantage. The variant I've played with that fixes this effectively is to have income simply be 3 units per round, regardless of zoo size.


I find the "connect two shrines" win condition dissatisfying. Additionally, I find it can turn into a game of chicken where other players try to avoid spending the resources to stop someone from achieving this condition, hoping their opponents will. Eliminating this victory condition reduces the amount of player interaction. After a few testing games, I've found that making the connection of two shrines grant that player 6 cards is effective. It's a substantial reward enough to try to connect, but not so much that it ends the game.


This isn't so much a variant as an interpretation of the rules. We now play with "passing by intent". What I mean by that is that as soon as you intend to pass and make any effort to do so, it is considered passed. That puts the onus on the receiving player to grab it and get on with their clue giving. It's also a lot less frustrating and essentially unambiguous which team gets the point when the buzzer goes. If you're in the process of passing it, it counts as in the next players hands.


This one is again, not so much a variant as a more complete set of rules. These are usually called the tournament rules.

The so-called "Tournament Rules" for Loopin' Louie are used in the Gathering of Friends tournaments as well as by many people in casual play. The rules are as follows:

  1. All players start with 3 chickens
  2. Louie is started and players play until only one player has chickens remaining. (ie, play 1 game by the standard rules)
  3. Louie is stopped. The player with one or more chickens remaining removes one of their chickens from play altogether. If this is their last chicken, that player is the winner.
  4. All players put all of their chickens that have not been removed from play onto their barn. Return to step 2.

As a result, for each round a player wins, it becomes more difficult for them to win the next round.

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