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FallCon 19 - Koalition in Calgary
Sat Sep 23, 2006
Version: 2 (15 countries, all played)
Koalition is played each year at FallCon. This session report will describe the game played, outline the benefits of the FallCon Koalition spreadsheet tool which improves the flow of the game, and mention some game options that introduce variety. I moderated the game, and had a blast. Hopefully everyone can now share the experience.
First, as a caution, I have never read the actual rules to the game. Usually I prefer to know and understand the rules of a game I moderate. But since I learned the game at FallCon, as played the FallCon way, this did not seem a hindrance. Please feel free to add comments regarding rule choices and playing modes.
During the initial demonstration for the new players it was clear Koalition players can be divided into three main groups: A) those who know the game; B) those who have played the game but do not really remember it; and C) those who have never seen the game. As a C player I won the game at FallCon 18, so luck can overrule the advantage of the A and B players.
FallCon Rule #1
"The Rules stay in the box".
The Politician Cards, Action Cards, and Leader Markers are placed in the centre of the table. An experienced player outlines the rules which also defines the specific variations to be played that game. Any rules questions are decided by consensus among the players. When a rules question arises it is resolved quickly and amicably. If only the negotiations went that smoothly ...
Your moderator felt comfortable accepting the moderator and scorer duties due to FallCon Rule #1.
FallCon Table Setup
Players sit in a U-shape around three sides of a table close to a wall. The players can see each other and the cards played on the table. The moderator has a PC and a projector. The FallCon Koalition spreadsheet tool is projected onto the wall to provide common information to all players. This year it was suggested to enter the player names in their seating order around the table. As moderator that was an excellent suggestion and improvement, making it easier to collect scoring information from the players. It worked well.
The most frequent instruction to the Moderator during the game (they were not quite phrased as requests) was "Move the cursor". It seems the newbie moderator had an innate ability to leave the cursor covering the one cell someone wanted to see. At least that means the tool was helpful.
FallCon Game Setup
Country Cards are shuffled and left in a stack. One is turned over at the start of each country round. With the spreadsheet tool projected on the wall the players know which countries remain, and their sizes, but not the order they will be contested.
Politician Cards and Action Cards are shuffled together and 7 are dealt to each player. Some players get few action cards, some get few politicians. The player with the fewest politicians is thus motivated to play all his action cards that round so he gets politician cards for the next round. This skews the game towards an active use of the action cards. The players like it that way. Most countries were contested with fresh hands of cards.
Since the prior year champion was not playing, the first player for Country #1 was decided randomly. It was not clear if the prior year champion: A) had to be player #1, B) chooses player #1, or C) chooses player #1 by rolling a D10.
First Country Jitters
It seems an unwritten truth (FallCon18 and FallCon19) that the players will try to play the first country leaving the Leader Markers in the table centre to then be assigned at the end of card play. Suggestions or questions from the moderator do not shorten this errant path. Halfway through the second round of cards for the first country the players finally changed their minds and the leader markers were distributed. Now the game was underway.
When an Experienced Player played an Action Card, he tended to "take control" of that round of Action Cards, asking players, in turn, if they wanted to play an action card, until the Action round ended. When a newer player played an action card, one of the experienced players would take control. As moderator this worked fine for me. Perhaps something like a Vegas Craps ON/OFF marker could be used to distinguish Action-only mode from Politician-Action mode.
Last Card Face Down
The last Politician Card was played face down. Once all have chosen their last card, then play resumes with just that one card. Of course sometimes a player has no more politicians, so they played action cards. And some played action cards instead of politicians. These last-minute ambushes were often quite effective. The odds of seeing a vest/waistcoat as last card were low.
Tallying the Votes
Negotiations seemed to start as soon as the last card was played. Experienced players as experienced party leaders had a distinct advantage here. Once the moderator could get each Party Leader to add up their delegation seats, and put them into the Tool, then the minimum Koalition size was known to all.
Negotiating the Koalition
The Tool identifies all feasible Koalitions for that specific combination of party seats. The players wanted to do it all themselves, so the tab of feasible Koalitions was never displayed. This gives a distinct advantage to the leaders of the two larger party blocks, as it makes it harder for the smaller blocks to unite and form a bottom-up Koalition ahead of the big dogs and their top-down recruiting.
During the negotiation the moderator stayed apart from the discussion, just as a head of state awaits the forming of a governing Koalition and the determination of its leader, the prime minister, who will head the government. Before the handshake the players were wheeling and dealing, testing their options. After the handshake among the party leaders in the Koalition there were a few unsatisfactory Koalitions that were sent back for more negotiation. We debated using a 5 minute time limit, with a 1 minute warning. It would have been moot this day, as the longest negotiation was under 2 minutes.
Koalitions were found for all countries, which means no election results were infeasible for government. Of the 24 possible Koalitions, the 4 party ones: Rose-Hat-Lemon-Church and Rose-Leaf-Lemon-Church can be hard to put together.
Amusing Tangent #2
As Moderator part of my role was to validate Koalitions after the handshake. This entails asking the leader of each party if he is indeed in the Koalition. In one election the one player with a Church politician, thus leader of the Church party, got egged; and thus he had to relinquish the leadership marker. His Church party was now leaderless. This experienced player thus had no leader trying to bring him into the Koalition. So he insisted on negotiating on his own since the purple church can join with the most parties. It was finally explained to the other leaders that bringing in the church would invalidate a Koalition since there was no leader to shake hands and say yes. He did keep trying; eventually a Koalition was formed without him.
Not-so-Amusing Tangent #3
With the pairs of politician-levels in the Green Leaf party, we had one election where the green party had two players tied for leader. While some players debated what to do to fairly treat the two Green Leaf co-leaders others negotiated a koalition as the two Green Leaf leaders tried to fend for themselves. This situation can happen in other parties as well, so it would be good to clarify how it will be treated ahead of time.
Amusing Tangent#4, Noise Levels
This year our Koalition game was right next to the Circvs Maximvs chariot race. Last year we could hear them across the room loudly cheering as chariots got knocked out of the race or suffered major damage, and it got hard to think at a few spots. This year they must have been quieter at the Forvm. Or maybe we just couldn't hear them. They may have some comments regarding some of our noisier negotiations.
Scoring the Country
At FallCon this year, as last year, players could score Politicians in multiple Koalition parties for the same country. This makes it harder for the moderator who has to go around the table once for each party in the Koalition, rather than just going around once. The second party tended to be rare, and usually was just a point or two that did not really affect the outcome.
As moderator-scorer scoring was the hardest job. The moderator had to add a one-digit number to a two-digit number IN HIS HEAD (previous total on screen and current score this round) and enter the total into the tool. I had eighteen eyes looking over my shoulder helping with the addition, and I felt each one. After that the Tool did all the hard work.
Amusing Tangent #5
For one country the same player had the leader marker for both Roses and Hats. His 2-party koalition was negotiated, shook, and announced even before the final vote totals went up. He scored both the 4-point leader bonus and a 3-point leader bonus. The table felt quite chilly. They might play this rule differently in the future, we will see.
Party Bonus Points
For the first time, this year, the Tool kept a running count of the leader bonus races. It showed the player scores of points earned and party bonus points they would have if the game ended right then. This made the scores after each round more helpful. It also made the final totals very easy to compute. Those same eighteen eyes verified the bonuses were correct, and the winner was crowned.
Would I moderate again? Heck yes.
Would I moderate without the Tool? Probably not.
What were the standings? Oh, right. The game is supposed to be about the players, not the moderator.
As I have reached my RSI daily limit, I will have to add more later. PLease feel free to comment on rules variations that work well for you.