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A variant idea- comments welcome.

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  • A variant idea- comments welcome.

    Some of you may recall me making a massive RPG-styled Dip variant for the 1600 variant, working as kind of a cross between Magic: The Gathering and Age of Wonders II (not that I knew at the time how AOW2 would turn out, of course!). It would have been really interesting, with each ruler as a wizard being able to cast spells to affect various things, map locations having explorable properties, and a backstory element for those who wished to find the ultimate powers and spells. However, it also would have required 9 hard-core Dippers, something that would be difficult to find at any time.

    So here's something a little less ambitious I was making on the side, and recently returned to look at. Basically, every player chooses a special ability from a list, and then the game plays normally- with of course the special abilities playing around off each other.

    I'm curious if people have any comments on this, mostly balance-related.

    Note that this is not a recruitment thread- we should probably work on Orange_1's suggestions first. That said, if you're interested in possibly playing this or have other comments, please feel free to post so- it would be nice to know the interest level!

    The 1600 map would probably work the best, of course, but that requires 9 people. Among 7 people maps, there is of course the Standard map, but also Heptarchy, which is good fun and appropos.

    Anyway, the abilities (what's a better name for these? It could help name the variant, too):

    Knight: In Winter of 1901 (or whatever the first builds turn is), you promote one of your armies to have the strength of 3 units, but on the attack only. It still defends as 1 unit. Note that you can promote a just-built army or one already in existence. You can never change which army this is or swap things around. If this army is ever dislodged, then it is reduced to merely having the strength of 2 units; if it is dislodged again, it is just a regular army the rest of the game. Needless to say, if it is destroyed, it is gone forever.

    Nationalist: Every single one of your home provinces acts as if an invisible army is supporting all friendly actions on your turf. So a holding unit will have an extra "support" from nowhere, and if you are attacking something inside your territory, it is as if you have an extra support for that attack. So a Turkish army can still walk into Ukraine unopposed, but if a Russian army moved there or was holding there, not even a supported attack would dislodge it (you'd need 2 supports to beat that).

    This applies both to home SC's as well as provinces that are "colored" for you when you start out.

    Sorceror: Once per year- either in Spring or Fall, but not both, and you can't save it for later years- you may issue an attack/support from nowhere (as in, blast a lightning bolt down to help out or something). Note that if instead of a support for an attack you're making or for the defense of an army (the standard option), if you make a regular "attack" this is useful only for cutting support, since there isn't actually any army attacking.

    You can symbolize this with A Mag S A Spa->Mar, or A Mag S A War, or however.

    Necromancer: Should one of your moves dislodge an opposing army, you may choose where the opposing army retreats (although you cannot chose Off the Board). In the fortuitous chance that your enemy chooses OTB (he can still do this) or is forced to via lack of options, you immediately gain a skeleton army/ghost ship in the nearest possible province (generally the place that was just attacked from). Your opponent gets one build less than normal next season (in other words, it can't immediately rebuild the army, although its builds are calculated normally the next next season). If they are still all full (maybe you moved a unit into the province that just launched the attack), then it arises in one of your home SCs (your choice). If those are all full, then one of the non-SC territories around them, your choice.
    You gain 1 of these skeleton armies/ghost ships for free in Winter 1901 (built according to the above rules- first home SCs, etc.). You may only maintain a maximum of 3 of these armies/fleets at once. These skeleton armies do not require support from your SCs (but if you lose all your SCs, you are still out of the game).

    Geomancer: As per Seismic Dip. Before every movement phase, submit a seismic order, ordering two neighboring provinces to disconnect while another two connect. See the rules on the variant for more.

    Spy: Every (movement) turn you gain an espionage point. You can spend them in the following ways:
    2- View an opponent's movelist, and you can then change your own.
    3- Change a specific enemy order. You don't need to have looked at their movement list for this. Just submit an order for an enemy unit, and it will supersede whatever they told it to do. It will also appear in the turn's moves as if the real leader ordered it (although he is free, of course, to claim he didn't make that order and cry foul on you. In fact, people are free to do this even when you didn't change their orders). You can imagine this as impersonating the messenger bringing the movement orders.
    This trick will not work on a Knight-promoted army.
    6- Assassination. This requires one season of notice (although you don't need to have all 6 points ready; you can do it with 5), in which the turn's moves will note the wild rumors of assassination conspiracies. Note you don't have to choose who you're assassinating the season you give notice. The next season you do have to choose though (possibly after people dip with you and beg for mercy?), and no matter what orders they submit their moves will be an NMR that round, as their ruler recovers in bed from the injuries sustained in the attempt.

    You can keep 10 points stored up at maximum.

    Doomsday Cultist: At the beginning of the game, declare what your capital is. This is known to all players. In any case, for every (movement) turn in which you hold your capital, you gain 1 mana point. Should your capital ever be lost, your mana is cut in half (and you obviously won't get more mana until you recover it). In any case, you can do the following with mana points:

    0 Dark Sacrifice. If an army holds or supports in an SC you control, you can order it to massacre the residents of the city in a bloody attempt at power. The province will never again be an SC, and you gain 1 mana point. You can only do this once per (movement) turn- or rather, you can do it more than once, but you will only gain 1 mana point per turn. Also note that since you have to control the SC, this is only somewhat effective for run & gun scorched earth in the enemy's homeland.

    1 Fanatic's Stand. An invisible support aids a holding or supporting army, supporting it in place. So an army all alone would functionally act like 2 armies on the defense for that turn. However, if the army/fleet is dislodged, then it must retreat OTB- the ritual insures that they fight to the death, part of the reason they're twice as strong.

    4 Bloodlust. An army attacks as if it had an extra support from nowhere. You can sacrifice armies to make this cost less mana- sacrificing one army would cause it to cost 3, 2 to cost 2 mana, 3 to cost 1 mana, and sacrificing 4 armies would make the usage free.

    16 Meteor. The ultimate attack in the game, this can severely ruin some people's day. The province and all surrounding provinces the meteor lands on are annihilated; every province 2 or 3 provinces away from the landing spot are turned into ocean. Thus a meteor landing in Paris would make life suck for people in Britain and Germany too. The range of the meteor may change based on map size (that radius was actually intended for the 1600 map). In any case, one turn's warning is required (in which astronomers will notice something odd), although the target need not be declared. There is a 40% chance of the meteor landing exactly on the province you declare; a 30% chance of landing on a randomly chosen neighboring province; a 20% chance of landing 2 provinces away from the target; and a 10% chance of hitting a totally random board location. Including possibly your empire. Such are the risks of meddling with fate.

    Note that for Dark Sacrifice and Meteor, the victory condition is recalculated for the new number of SCs on the board (ie floor(total SCs/2 + 1)). Also, if a nation is at the point where it has 0 or 1 home SCs on the board (NOT controlled, so if you only have 0 or 1 SCs in your possession but the others still exist, you're out of luck), every winter turn it can declare a new SC to be a home SC until it is up to 2 home SCs.

    Some strategy commentary:

    Knight is the ultimate early game pick. In Spring 1902 you can just blast past your opponent's defensive line, most likely, and run around causing all sorts of havoc. An especially good pick for a country that doesn't expect to grab tons of SCs (Italy in regular, Spain in Modern) and wants something explosive to use. The problem is that this bonus never gets better, and because it defends as 1 unit, it has to stay on the move constantly. Also, the surest way to weaken it up is with an Assassination attempt... your Knightly army will be going nowhere, and likely be dislodged in that case, weakening its usefulness.

    Nationalist might seem a bit weak, but consider the massive deterrence to early attacks it gives. Who in their right minds will choose you as an enemy? You may find yourself being courted by your 2 possible opponents to be their ally, say with a nationalist France. This can give a powerful early game lead. On the other hand, a nationalist Austria might just inspire all the other nations to kill it jointly while they still can... so it's not an assured thing.

    Speaking of which, an interesting combo would be the Nationalist and the Geomancer. The Geomancer could extend a bit of the Nationalist's home territory way out into opposition lands, and could be used as a protected highway of sorts to funnel reinforcements into the enemy's area. The Geomancer could also do interesting things with the Necromancer- the Necromancer forces the enemy units to retreat into trap provinces, which become more inescapable by the actions of the Geomancer. Meanwhile the Necromancer racks up more skeleton armies.

    Necromancer is definitely one of the odder abilities. Used properly, it can be cheap, and almost too good, although early in the game it leaves something to be desired. That's why they get 1 skeleton army free in Winter 1901 (to give them some early game survivability) and why they're limited to 3 skeleton armies max, and why the person losing the army loses a build for a year functionally (to make the farm an ally's armies strategy a bit less effective).

    The Sorceror is interesting. If he had that ability every turn, then it would be by far the cheapest ability around; an army anywhere, unpredictable, every turn. As it stands, having it every other season is still pretty good, especially for the fear effect that other players will have against you- putting in more supports than neccesary, etc. Though you only can use your ability every so often, your opponent needs to anticipate it everywhere. It may still be a wee bit underpowered- I'd consider giving it an extra one-shot powerful spell, say an earthquake that can just outright destroy a target army on your turn. But of course you can only use that once per game, and maybe only allow its use in 1903 and later.

    The Geomancer might be a bit unbalanced as it stands, especially if there aren't any other Geomancers nearby to counter him- given enough time, he can work an opponent's position into something completely untenable, as well as create the stalemate line of doom.

    I think the strategy in using the Spy is somewhat similar to that of the Sorceror- you can change your enemy's moves less often than the Sorceror can aid his armies, but this is a more versalite and potent tool than the Sorceror's mere supports. After all, the Sorceror might stop an attacking army, but only the Spy can make it turn around and walk the other way, allowing your counterattack to walk right into the SC. Not to mention the discord you can cause between allies with proper use of this- ideally you can make an army attacking you go attack your enemy's ally.
    The Spy's other features are nice but probably secondary to the main usage, the changing of orders.

    The Doomsday Cultists were kind of added in for fun as a challenge- they are basically mere mortals for the most part, but if you let them survive, they have by far the most powerful attack in the game. Most of your mana will probably be hoarded up for a Meteor, but some inferior Sorceror style abilities are added in if you're desperate.
    Probably the biggest danger for a Doomsday Cultist would be a runaway Knight making a play for the capital- think launching a spaceship in Civ, if you know your local cultists are close to summoning a meteor, then you better take out their capital.

    Other ideas for players I've thought of, but not sure are neccessary: Teleporter (think Alien Dip, aka the It Came from Outer Space variant. Problem is, it's ridiculously unbalanced without the colonization rules preventing beam-down in Alien- and those would be annoying to put in place.). Engineer (your capital start out worth 2 SCs, and you can use points to build more SCs up to be worth 2, and you can also build canals. Hard to balance though, and don't want another style involving points to keep track of).

    The two easiest to cut from this roster would be Spy and Geomancer, because they're the slowest by far. If the game doesn't have speedy repsonses from the Geomancers, then the addition of an extra phase can slow the game down to half speed, and the Spy requires speedy dipping from everybody, because when he peeks at orders you have to have them in to give to the Spy first, then he has to send orders back. There could also be nasty problems with respect to the Spy- presumably, after he sees the orders he can't Dip anymore (otherwise you get into nasty problems if the orders aren't final), but that would also be a dead-give away if the Spy isn't talking that he peeked at somebody's orders that round, which could incite people to change their moves to be more conservative. Probably won't matter much, but it could happen.

    In any case, I would say that if I actually ran a game here, I'd probably ban Geomancer to keep the map simple, the game running fast, and avoiding the worse balance issues. It works in Seismic Dip because <i>everybody</i> can do it and counter it- I'm not sure how to balance it without that.
    All syllogisms have three parts.
    Therefore this is not a syllogism.

  • #2
    holy cow that's complicated
    "Chegitz, still angry about the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991?
    You provide no source. You PROVIDE NOTHING! And yet you want to destroy capitalism.. you criminal..." - Fez

    "I was hoping for a Communist utopia that would last forever." - Imran Siddiqui


    • #3
      Hehe. Actually, the intent was to be more uncomplicated than my other idea... I just wanted to be sure to explain everything out, which made it long.

      I suppose the short versions would be something like:
      Knight- One super army that attacks as 3 armies.
      Nationalist- You have an extra army to help you out everywhere within your own original borders.
      Sorceror- A free army from nowhere to support your attacks and defends, once a year.
      Nercomancer- Choose an enemy's retreats for them. Gain free skeleton armies when your enemies retreat OTB that don't require support.
      Spy- Change your enemy's orders & look at their moves, every so often.
      Geomancer- change the map around, like in Seismic Dip.
      Doomsday Cultists- Very weak abilities early, but can annihilate strecthes of the map if left alone for too long.
      All syllogisms have three parts.
      Therefore this is not a syllogism.


      • #4
        At first I thought the knight was over powered, but then I saw everything else, and I'm thinking the knight is underpowered. (Perhaps I would change it so that you can declare one out of every 3-5 armies (at least 1) to have the attack strength of two armies, and if it gets destroyed, next build phase you can build another of these more powerful armies.
        "The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists."
        -Joan Robinson


        • #5
          I think the Doomsday Cultist is overpowered, and I'm not talking about the Meteor, but rather the Blood Sacrifice. Why would anyone attack the Cultist if he could scorce and burn down his territory at any time. I also think that Geomancy should be a temporary change just lasting for that season before the map goes back to normal. It might be that way now, I haven't had a chance to look at the rules yet, but I personally think that making permanent changes to the maps tends to make someone too powerful.

          Another possible power is simple invisibilty. Nobody knows where your units are until it's too late. No one would see your orders (maybe not even the spy) and the only way your presence would be known is if you accidently bumped into an invisible unit or if your SC was taken. Would take good diplomacy to pull off, but the surprise value of it would make it an interesting ability.
          ku eshte shpata eshte feja
          Where the Sword is, There lies religion


          • #6
            I don't know about you, but I think the Nationalist is one way too powerful, but in a annoying way of I'm going to turtle the whole game and be invulnerable. I think I have a variation of the Nationalist that will work better and encourage a player to try to expand instead of turtling the whole game.

            Walls - Simple, every home supply has walls with a garrison protecting the supply center even when their is no army or navy in the province. In other words, regardless of whether there is a unit in there or not, it takes a supported attack to take a supply center. This effect is not cumulative with the army or navy in the province. In other words, if there was an army in Trieste, you would not need three units to dislodge it. However, you would still two armies to take Trieste even if it was unoccupied.

            The advantage of Walls over the Nationalist is that the Home SC's are defended even when no units are around, plus there is no advantage to turtling, as your unit are just normal strength when they are at home. The advantage lies in the ability to attack in one direction while knowing that your home SC's are defended. Especially useful for Countries stuck in the middle of the board.
            ku eshte shpata eshte feja
            Where the Sword is, There lies religion


            • #7
              ah, I've got another one.

              Son of Neptune-Every Spring, the player can choose to create a Tsunami, turning a coastal province into a water province and all adjacent land provinces into coastal provinces until Winter Retreat. Of course the question to ask is what happens to a army that happens in that, it would have to be disbanded, (or possibly you can have it have the option to retreat, it's really a balance issue) Fleets of course wouldn't be effected, unless you let a water province revert back into a coastal province, in which case the fleet would be destroyed.

              This would be a highly useful ability for players who are mainly naval powers.
              ku eshte shpata eshte feja
              Where the Sword is, There lies religion


              • #8
                Victor: I've thought of that too, just not sure it's worth the extra complexity (upon reaching 10 SCs, the Knight may build another super-unit. The following things happen upon dislodgement. etc.). Still, certainly a possibility.

                Thucy: Yeah, Scorched Earth is one thing that the DDC can do... but you'll have to do it slightly in advance, since don't forget that a unit basically has to hold in that SC for a whole turn- if it is dislodged, the burning will fail. And don't forget, that the DDC will have to be pretty depressed to do this, especially early in the game- you have to hope to control most of your initial bordering areas, and burning them down to give people less incentive to attack will doom you in the long run- not enough armies.

                Now later on, it can be a good spite, I suppose. It's also useful if you did well early, and your empire starts falling apart, and you decide that you want to go down with a bang by denying as many SCs as possible to your conqueror, as well as building up more mana in the hopes of tossing a Meteor before you die. But I don't think it's criminally overpowered- generally threats to burn down SCs will probably be a bluff until you're already close to death.

                Invisibility seems a bit cheap. Now maybe a Blind power a la Blind Dip, where only adjoining units can see you, that might work, but even still, it can be crazily powerful. It can also be annoying for the GM, since he has to send out individual maps to everyone based on their knowledge.

                I don't think Nationalism is overpowered as is- in fact, it might be a little underpowered. Remember, your bonus is utterly useless outside your home territory, meaning that in the late game when you should have a sprawling empire, it doesn't help much. And turtling will mean death- I mean, with only 3 or 4 SCs actually within your home, once the outside falls, enemies with a horde of armies can surely start taking your SCs, even without any neato special abilities to aid them. And some, like the Spy or Sorceror, can even get around your defenses without too much trouble. I thought the main advantage of the Nationalist was that you basically don't have to defend your homeland- you can send all your troops out on the attack, because again, if there's even one army remotely near, it can pretty well safeguard you.

                That said, your walls idea is pretty neat, even if weaker than the Nationalist. Maybe the walls apply to all your SCs, not just home ones? And some other minor bonus?

                Hmm... I'll have to think about your Son of Neptune idea. I will say that I assume you mean coastal to land for "unless you let a water province revert back into a coastal province, in which case the fleet would be destroyed," right?
                All syllogisms have three parts.
                Therefore this is not a syllogism.


                • #9
                  Hmm... I'll have to think about your Son of Neptune idea. I will say that I assume you mean coastal to land for "unless you let a water province revert back into a coastal province, in which case the fleet would be destroyed," right?
                  I was thinking more along the lines of a fleet being landlocked, but the idea can be played with to tweek the balance.

                  Your right though, the walls ability is a little weak as is, it probably would be better to have it as a ability for all the SC's. As for nationalist, as I look at again it's not as strong as I thought it was.

                  Of course it's hard to get much more then a rough idea of how powers balance against each other without alot of playtesting though. I might be interesting if nobody knew what abilities each player had until they used them, put a little more bluff in the intial game.
                  ku eshte shpata eshte feja
                  Where the Sword is, There lies religion