Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mistborn House War - Two Player Variant?

Within just a few days after GenCon, my Kickstarter copy of Mistborn: House War arrived on my porch. While I didn't get a chance to play it this year, I did demo it at last year's GenCon, and its promise hasn't lessened in my mind since then. The game's only problem, however, is that it requires at least three people to play. Which means I'm still waiting for the opportunity in the midst of a very busy schedule to get together with my game group and try it out.

In the mean time though, I've been thinking about how the game might be adapted for only 2 players (or possibly even just one). Having played a lot of Scythe recently, I was intrigued by the Automata feature of that game, which essentially uses a deck of cards to substitute for the actions of a human player. While I wasn't ready to develop something quite that complex, I was curious if I could come up with a simple set of rules to govern a "dummy" player who the two human players would be competing against.

You see, at its heart Mistborn: House War is a social, semi-cooperative resource management game. Everyone's working for the same end, and you work together to solve Problems before they "erupt" and make the overall situation worse. You do this by contributing your own resources and agreeing with everyone else how much Favor you'll receive for your aid out of the total available. But at the same time, you're all individually competing to earn the most Favor, which is awarded for each Problem solved before it "erupts." You can read my review here for more details.

My design strategy looked something like this:
  • Make the "dummy" player always act out a simple script. In this case, it always plays a card during a deal, always gets any Favor that won't divide evenly from any deal it participates in, and only solves Problems during its turn if it can do so without any help. 
  • The human players have to agree on any actions that the dummy takes; if they can't agree, determine the result randomly. Furthermore, they can never decide to target the dummy player with negative consequences unless those consequences are equally applied among all three players.
  • Finally, to incentivize the players to deal with the dummy more often, any time a Problem "erupts," it increases the Unrest track by one. And should that track reach 8, the players lose. This is in addition to whatever the normal consequences printed on the card when it "erupts," even if that includes additional Unrest.
I'll be testing this with my wife over the next few weeks. It's been a fun diversion and let me enjoy playing the game without having to wait for a full group of friends to come together to play.