Some players may be just a bit bothered, that players in this game bid against one another for a particular gene package. Doesn't seem somehow to quite capture it as a model. It seems like it would be more like you have a take-it-or-leave-it chance to acquire a new gene package every now and then. So with that in mind I started thinking of new ways to play the game. This approach of each player having their own deck may also make solitaire play of the game easier since otherwise resolving auctions is always difficult. It may turn out to be a good way to learn the game if one is without opponents.
Some other considerations in its favor might be: (1) answers the complaint of not enough happening on each turn; (2) there is probably less downtime for players who have no interest in certain auctions which do not affect them; (3) there is probably increased tension as each turn there are 4 unknowns to reveal.
The setup to this variant requires a lot of shuffling of cards which are difficult to shuffle. But since cards are being gathered by type, thorough shuffling is even more important than usual. Instead of normal shuffling methods then, I suggest that the deck to be shuffled be placed face down in an empty game box top and swirl them around until well mixed. Then draw cards out from various places in the box to form the decks. This seems to help ensure a good card mixture.
Instead of the REVEAL AND AUCTION CARD PHASE, players now simply each draw the top card from their deck and secretly inspect it. If the card is DNA or a Genotype which the player wishes to puchase, he places it face down on top of his gene points. If it is another type of card or he does not wish to purchase, he places it to the side of his gene points. Then players resolve cards one by one in this revised player order:
Handling Cards in this Phase: DNA cards which have different DNA packages depending on size are priced at highest cost of all the options available.
If a DNA or Genotype card is not purchased, it is placed in the player's gene pool for possible later purchase. On any turn in which the player does not purchase his current card, he may instead purchase a card from his pool. This card costs 2 genes more than it would have had it been purchased on the turn it was drawn. A player may discard a card from his gene pool and receive 1 gene. This card goes to a common gene pool however is available for purchase by the first player who wishes to purchase it on the next turn. In case of multiple players wishing to purchase a card, resolve in player order.
Apart from the above, the game is played and won as usual.
Currently we are playing AM once a week at Wednesdays, with a rule modification to the bidding system which works like a charm. We introduced a cost in gene points for each DNA card (it is written directly on the card) depending from the number of Bs, Gs, Aas, etc and from their relevancy to the game. Every player receives one gene and two DNA cards each turn (one to be discarded) and put this card onto his archetype paying the cost in gene points.
So it's virtually more difficult to build strong and invulnerable species in a couple of turns and the game is more enjoyable.
Several times I've heard the complaint that AMF is too "fiddly". By this, I guess what is meant that people dislike having each turn to expand populations, move them around, resolve extinctions and then remove the extincted counters. Perhaps it seems like busy work and much ado about nothing?
I'm not sure I would ever be in that camp with this game, but for any who might be, perhaps this variant will help.
The key assumption is that in the 5 million years per turn, every genotype can reach everywhere. Thus Population Expansion and Movement are abolished. Every genotype is automatically considered in every biome on the map that it could possibly be in. (Note that if using the Optional Holding Zones rules and some bridges close, then there can be separate, unreachable zones that must be handled separately.) Then extinctions are conducted as normal. As a practical matter, resolve all of this by going through biomes one by one to see who survives in them. You can save some time by skipping hexes in which nothing has changed and in which no predator wishes to make a different game-warden decision.
Note that countermix limitations are still in effect as is turn order so that if one genotype should run out of counters and it is earlier in the turn order than other competing genotypes, it must decide where its counters will be first and then those genotypes acting later may fill in any remaining spaces.
The first edition game counts populations (and thus the score) only once, at the end of the game. Viewed as a simulation, this is the only "correct" way to do it, thus emphasizing the survival of genetic traits.
In the second edition, populations are counted twice, once at the end of the Mesozoic Era and once at the end of the Cenozoic. This compromise is a bow to the that that American Megafauna is a game.
The following variant is also concerned with the game balance aspect, but takes a different approach. Since the timing of the current scorings are essentially arbitrary, it feels better to instead tie them to actual game events. In particular, they are tied to occurrences of the very types of catastrophies which influence scientists in demarcating the different eras in the first place.
As in both editions, points are scored at the end of the game. However, points are not scored at the end of the Mesozoic Era. Instead, whenever a Catastrophe occurs, before resolving it, count and record points.
Results were as follows:
Instead of the REVEAL AND AUCTION CARD PHASE, players now simply each draw the top card from their deck and secretly inspect it. When all players have had a chance to view their top cards, they are resolved in the order listed below. Within each phase, resolve cards in usual player order, i.e. rrrr, mmrrr, rm, mmm.
Apart from the above, the game is played and won as usual.
- Catastrophes:In this phase, any player who has drawn a Catastrophe reveals it. All players receive genes for Catastrophes as usual. The Catastrophes are applied as usual.
- Biomes:In this phase, any player who has drawn a Biome reveals it. Only the drawing player receives genes for a Biome. The Biomes are placed as usual.
- Immigrants:In this phase, any player who has drawn an Immigrant reveals it. Any Genetic Drift on the Immigrant card applies to all players. The Immigrants are placed as usual.
- DNA and Genotypes:Players do not reveal these cards immediately. Instead, first decide whether or not to purchase the card. If the decision is yes, then place the required number of genes beneath the card. When everyone is ready, then reveal all the cards. Allocated genes are spent and cards applied as usual. The costs of various cards are as follows: