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Subject: Lucre: A study of its pros and cons, and potential future rss

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Jack Reda
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Per Zach's request, I will start a thread to talk about lucre.

There are a couple of things worth thinking about. First, implementation. Like with many things, Eon and Mayfair did different implementations on how to use lucre, and what it can be used for. Each side has its defenders. I tend to side with the Mayfair camp, mostly because they encouraged the actual spending of lucre. In every Eon game I played with lucre, players sat on it and never spent it. That, to me, is a dull implementation.

The other thing is the lucre powers themselves. This is a mixed bag. I can't say I'm very impressed with a majority of the aliens. They were novel the first time we tried them out, but we were never excited to use them, and always preferred adding a second non-lucre alien to the mix for each player.

That said, there are a few homebrew lucre aliens that are a bit better, and I think it's worth thinking about good aliens to include, and how old aliens might be livened up.

I have a lot of other ideas about lucre, and I will get to them shortly.
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Geoff Speare
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I'm not familiar with the Mayfair lucre rules. In Eon I've seen a split between spending and hoarding lucre.

Favorite lucre power: Butler. That is what I would like to see in any sort of lucre expansion.
 
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I lost my Cosmic Encounter virginity with the FFG version and only recently got to try the Mayfair version, so I perhaps have a different perspective.

I guess I felt indifferent about lucre, in the games we played of it. Even with a couple of lucre powers in play (Dragon, was one of them), lucre did not seem to have a significant or interesting enough impact on the game, even though it could be spent in various ways during certain rounds.

But to be clear, I feel the same way about the technology deck. Of the twenty or thirty games of FFG Cossies I've clocked thus far (not all of them recorded here, since I play it a lot with the teenagers here at school), we've used the tech deck maybe twice?

So, my feeling is - for both lucre and the tech deck - they are a novelty, but not a must-have game-changing necessity; that is, they add complexity, but not really any depth to the experience of game play.
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Adam McLean
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The thing I like about the Technology Deck is that it doesn't overshadow the main game/mechanics ... it enhances a little what is already established and even if you have it in the game, you don't actually need to use it, you can and it may help you but it's not bigger than the game itself.

Lucre, in my opinion, seems to dominate too much ... if someone is using it, most likely you will too if you want to compete, and it would seem that if one alien is Lucre, they all need to be. Plus, Technology is somewhat unique in that, for the most part, each player will have a different tech and it will influence the game differently, which is in harmony with CE. But Lucre is consistent across the board (Spend this much for this, That much for that, etc.) that it doesn't really contribute to the theme and mechanics.

If it came in an expansion, I think it would need to be a self-contained expansion, that being Lucre, Lucre Aliens, Lucre Cards, etc. That isn't to say I wouldn't like to see it at all, just that it needs to be implemented in an eclectic way. Maybe I'll have to start brainstorming ....


But to be sure, I'm a sucker for CE, so I'd buy whatever implementation it comes in.
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MScrivner wrote:
I lost my Cosmic Encounter virginity with the FFG version and only recently got to try the Mayfair version, so I perhaps have a different perspective.


And then there's those of us with the very unlucrative Avalon Hill version...
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Big Head Zach
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Apparently, it's great if you don't mind fabricating everything that missing, like some forumites have shamelessly done under the false pretense of "Hey veterans, what are your favorite powers to play?"
 
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I support the "Filthy Lucre" Expansion, as I'm sort of indifferent to it as well, and being self-contained would be a good thing.

I'd also buy it, but then I'd probably line up to buy a "Cosmic: You suckers will buy anything" expansion.
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Big Head Zach
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When I get time this weekend, I'm going to read and post both Lucre versions so there can be a comparison, for those who are FFG-only players. We can then discuss the positives and negatives of both and see if there is a way of using both ideas in a brand new version that might appeal to everyone.
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Rob Burns
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Back in 2004, I contributed a post called "Mayfair's changes to the game, with commentary" that's here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/26965. From that post, here's what my thoughts on Lucre were:

Lucre: Mayfair made extensive changes to the Lucre system. Lucre was now distributed partially based on how many home planets you had, which makes defending more important, if you want Lucre anyway. Accumulated Lucre now no longer added to challenge totals, meaning it was essentially worthless if it wasn't spent and could possibly be a target for Pirate (thus weakening an already weak Alien power, sorry opinion filtering through ). Mayfair did greatly expand the possible things you could do with Lucre. Frequent contributors to rec.games.board.ce (namely Patrick Riley and Gerald Katz) have commented that EON's Lucre rules are "simple", and Mayfair's are "flexible" but "complex". To say that EON's Lucre rules are "simple" does not mean that there aren't interesting decisions; in fact, in a discussion on rec.games.board.ce from 1993, Nick Sauer makes a fascinating case for why EON rules actually make the choice between hoarding Lucre and using it to buy cards a very difficult one, based on the average value of a card you could buy from the deck. Patrick Riley has developed a set of Lucre rules that try to combine the simplicity of EON Lucre rules with the flexibility of Mayfair's rules; it's at the Warp( www.redamedia.com/warp) if you are interested.
Verdict: A wash. I prefer EON's Lucre rules. We play with a house rule that "hoarded" Lucre is worth only half a point each towards challenge totals, but it's possible that this tips the balance toward spending too much. I think really this comes down to preference. Kevin Maroney has argued that Mayfair's Lucre rules, with their increased possible uses for Lucre, are more subtle and challenging. Perhaps more analysis is needed.

I think we only played with my house rule (1 Lucre being worth only .5 point towards a challenge total) once or twice. Like I said, it seems to play well but really encourages spending. But after posting this, I seem to remember reading more things that swung me back toward a wholehearted embrace of Eon's Lucre rules.

Perhaps FFG should take a good luck at Patrick Riley's hard work before deciding whether to introduce Lucre into their edition of the game.

Finally, allow me to say this: there are some "classic" Lucre powers I really like. Extortionist is a perfect Jabba the Hutt that can find himself with some very good cards, and is a good foil for Healer. I personally enjoy Hurtz and Eon's Lloyd, but you do have to be a good salesman to use them, and I can understand why they just might not make it into published CE again. I made a revision of Pirate that allows him to declare one of his Encounters as a main player a "raid", putting the Lucre in the challenge at stake (plus some extra from the box) and then Pirate and his allies (if successful) must find a way to divvy up the loot in one minute or it's lost back to the box. It's probably way too wordy, but hey.

Lastly, Ethic and Force DO NOT NEED to be Lucre powers!!! It's frustrating to me that the good ideas behind these powers get flushed down the toilet with all the bad stuff of them and of Lucre implementation in general. Patrick Riley proposed a revision to Ethic that just makes it a non-Lucre power, here it is:

"Every time you are a main player and reveal an Attack Card in a challenge and lose, you collect 4 consolation cards at random from your opponent. If he does not have 4 cards, you take the cards he does have. You may discard any of these consolation cards that you do not want."

That's a cool power! There doesn't need to be a Lucre payoff.

I completely re-worked Force into a power that can view what's coming up in the deck, and if called upon, can offer two cards to the "Force user" who then selects one, allowing Force to keep the other (you can see how Fido inspired it). I think the revision that's at the Warp could be simplified even further... hmmm... anyway, my point is that the idea of Force does not demand Lucre!

Looking forward to more Lucre analysis...
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rjburns3 wrote:
...I personally enjoy Hurtz and Eon's Lloyd, but you do have to be a good salesman to use them, and I can understand why they just might not make it into published CE again. ... I completely re-worked Force into a power that can view what's coming up in the deck, and if called upon, can offer two cards to the "Force user" who then selects one, allowing Force to keep the other (you can see how Fido inspired it). I think the revision that's at the Warp could be simplified even further... hmmm...


On second thought, Hurtz, Lloyd, and Force have major MAJOR drawbacks in being dependent on another's whim. I remember trying out my Force revision, and despite the benefit to the other players, it was never called upon. That's a serious problem and I know other CE players are really bugged by that. Heck, I'm bugged by it and I didn't think I would be.

Perhaps a better Force implementation would be to, as main player, look through the top 15 card of the deck, and take any Artifact you choose from what's there. "Through the Force you can see many things" and Emotion Control is reminiscent of a Jedi mind trick...
 
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Jack Reda
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Maybe Force could be an "I obey the letter of the law if not the spirit" sort of alien, wherein whenever he is invited by a player to ally, he gives them a Force token. He can ally or not at that point as normal, but now that a player has been "tagged", Force can use his power to "help" them whenever he wants. It may still mean he ends up getting invited less often that he would without this ability- but then the use of his power isn't a bad thing.

If the offense invites Force and gets a token, is the defense going to NOT invite him and have a potential disadvantage? And maybe if Force is drawing from the Reward deck, or can only bestow relatively good cards, I suspect players wouldn't be all that apprehensive about inviting him. I will give this a test go on my own time.... heheheh.
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Ken H.
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I like Lucre. In the old days, when we used to play this game 50+ times per year, we used Lucre for most games. It was just the normal way to play. In fact, if we had only 5 players (instead of 6) we would put the 6th color in the destiny pile anyway, and rule that you got an extra lucre if you turned up that color (and then draw again). We also played the rules a little looser -- you could buy cards at any time (didn't have to be a main player).

In hindsight, I now see that the Eon lucre rules were not that good. Mayfair rules look much better, although I've never played them.

I agree that the game does not need lucre, but I hope it is added eventually.


rjburns3 wrote:
Lastly, Ethic and Force DO NOT NEED to be Lucre powers!!! It's frustrating to me that the good ideas behind these powers get flushed down the toilet with all the bad stuff of them and of Lucre implementation in general. Patrick Riley proposed a revision to Ethic that just makes it a non-Lucre power, here it is:

"Every time you are a main player and reveal an Attack Card in a challenge and lose, you collect 4 consolation cards at random from your opponent. If he does not have 4 cards, you take the cards he does have. You may discard any of these consolation cards that you do not want."

That's a cool power! There doesn't need to be a Lucre payoff.


I agree -- it's a cool power without lucre. However, I always viewed the design of Ethic is a bit of an "editorial comment" from the designers. Ethics can be bought, for the right price.... I like this aspect of it -- not sure I'd want to see it changed.

rjburns3 wrote:
On second thought, Hurtz, Lloyd, and Force have major MAJOR drawbacks in being dependent on another's whim.


I always liked Lloyd, and especially Hurtz. These are such creative powers. I've played each one several times, and I can absolutely confirm that what you mention is a big drawback. It may take a few games before the group realizes it, but after that your strength level goes way down.

However, I think Force is the exception. The power to essentially do anything is so unbelievably huge, that the other players really have no choice but to buy into it. The power could be paraphrased to say: "You have the power to receive arbitrary amounts of lucre from other players. Then, if you feel like it, you may decide who wins the encounter." When somebody is about to win, there is at least one other player who is looking for some way to block the win. He's not going to way, wait, I don't want you to be stronger. The game is over if he doesn't use you.

Because of this, even before it gets to that point, the guy who's losing is eventually going to pay you. Surely he will part with 1 small wafer-thin lucre in order to win the challenge. After that, he is no longer losing, so the new loser is willing to pay you. The more dramatic you are with your power, the more people will pay you.

In the end game, you collect lucre every time the defense needs to stop somebody from gaining a 5th base (and of course you stop them, outside of a zap). Of course, you can take lucre from the guy trying to win also. Taking his lucre doesn't obligate you to give him a strong effect. Then eventually, it's your turn to go for your 5th base, and by that time you have all the lucre. Under Eon rules, you have probably +20 to your attack by this point. Now even a zap won't stop you (like it would against those wimpy Warriors and Warpishes).

 
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Barney Bustoffson
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I too probably feel the same about lucre that I do about tech. I don't feel like I need tech in the game very often. But I do like to add tech in every once in a while. I probably added lucre to 1 game out of about 12. If we were playing several games of CE in one session, lucre might come up in our third game.... if it's only one game in an evening, or even 2, we probably wouldn't add it in (or tech for that matter). And it's only something I would add to the game if everyone playing was experienced. I sort of feel the same way about Agricola. I prefer the family game most of the time, and add in the occupations and things less than half the time I play (unless everyone at the table has played it a lot). The occupations and minor improvements slow the game down. CE gets slowed down a little more with lucre in it, but it's also a game with virtually no down time, so plays smoother even with lucre.

I want to officially challenge Kevin W to implement lucre in a smart and fun way. I know quite a bit about the trials and tribulations of implementing something called Tech to CE for many years, and it was always a bit clunky. Kevin's tech rules are elegant and easy to use and tech is a good expansion. I bet he can make lucre just as good, if he's up to the challenge. :D
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Just a Bill
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No, I said "oh, brother," not "go hover."
I had a fledgling thought on those aliens that have the drawback of requiring cooperation from the other players to "let" you use your power. (I'll put the idea in the context of Force, but the principle could be applied more widely.)

At the end of each encounter in which you were not called upon, you place a Cosmic Token on your alien sheet (you are marshaling your force-strength when it is not being "used" by others). The tokens let you do stuff; what this is, exactly, would depend on the specific power and what the designer wants it to do, but the obvious things are releasing your ships from the warp, buying cards, adding to your totals in encounters, etc.

The idea is that your power grants a benefit if they call on you, or a different benefit if they don't. The growing pile of tokens should ideally produce tension that makes players afraid to not call upon you.

There are lots of dials to twist here: what can you do with the tokens? does using them remove them from the sheet? does a player calling upon your power flush all your tokens from your alien sheet, or just prevent you from gaining another one that challenge? The possibilities are many, and depend upon the design goal of the specific power.

Inverse version: start out with a pile of tokens on your alien sheet, and as players call upon you for assistance they remove a token, throwing it into the box, to represent using up a little bit of your strength. In this version, the alien starts out very strong and gradually weakens as the game progresses, sort of like a backwards Warrior/Sapient.

I think this concept could fix the problem of "I never got to use my power" while simultaneously making it fun to be these aliens and watch your opponents nervously eyeing your growing token pile.

If giving your opponents the choice to let you use your power nerfs it, then I say make it a Hobson's choice.
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Just a Bill
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No, I said "oh, brother," not "go hover."
Now, back on topic...

I played a lot of games with Eon lucre, and while it was never a blockbuster mechanic, it always felt comfortable having it there. Some players just let it accumulate on their star disc the whole game, and others blew it all on tokens and (usually) cards. Once in a while something amazing would happen because of Lucre, but not every game -- and that was fine with me.

What I dislike about Mayfair lucre is that you have to have a chart in front of you to use it. Fail.

So my number-one request to FFG is that they keep Lucre simple; if it requires a price list, the whole mechanic will never make it onto the table in my house.
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Bill Martinson wrote:
Now, back on topic...

I played a lot of games with Eon lucre, and while it was never a blockbuster mechanic, it always felt comfortable having it there. Some players just let it accumulate on their star disc the whole game, and others blew it all on tokens and (usually) cards. Once in a while something amazing would happen because of Lucre, but not every game -- and that was fine with me.

What I dislike about Mayfair lucre is that you have to have a chart in front of you to use it. Fail.

So my number-one request to FFG is that they keep Lucre simple; if it requires a price list, the whole mechanic will never make it onto the table in my house.


This is a really good point. The mechanic was in many ways an excuse for other powers -- keeping the mechanic simple avoids the "cities and knights" effect yet gives some more design space for power additions (which involve more manageable complexity).

 
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Good discussion, keep it going!

My first bit of 2 cents is that I would limit the amount you collect (in a fairly major way). I want lucre to be more valuable because it's more uncommon. Then lucre-earning powers are actually powerful.

When you are getting a pile each turn, you can buy a few things, no sweat, and still have money leftover. I also might even like to see limits on how much you can keep (making room for lucre powers that let you keep more). Still noodling all this, mind you.
 
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Carl Olson
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Bill Martinson wrote:

What I dislike about Mayfair lucre is that you have to have a chart in front of you to use it. Fail.


What I especially liked about the Mayfair Lucre rules was that you could actually semi-control what happened to you sometimes. One small step against the chaos. Options are good.

If you do away with *all* tables, then you are reduced to one or two options that people can easily remember, which makes Lucre simply another ability for a couple of powers. Ho hum.
 
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No, I said "oh, brother," not "go hover."
carlj wrote:
If you do away with *all* tables, then you are reduced to one or two options that people can easily remember, which makes Lucre simply another ability for a couple of powers. Ho hum.

I don't buy that one bit. You could say the same thing about encounter resolution (A/A, A/N, N/N), ship retrieval, compensation, rewards ... the list goes on and on. All of these things have simple resolution that you learn once and remember without needing a chart. Saying that you need a table to keep things from getting boring is like saying you don't know how to make something that's both fun and elegant. Cosmic isn't an RPG or a miniatures game; it should never need a lookup table. Ever. (And anyone who thinks it's boring without tables is playing it wrong.)
 
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Carl Olson
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Bill Martinson wrote:

(And anyone who thinks it's boring without tables is playing it wrong.)


Thanks for the insight. I've reflected upon my 32 years of incorrect playing and now I'll have to change everything. :-)
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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I love Lucre and really liked the Lucre powers (Butler, Dragon, Pirate among my favorites). I've only played the EON version, but I *like* that version, since it's very simple and doesn't overbear the game with yet more rules (like some other FFG games). You either keep them for a boost in a challenge, or you risk them for better cards and (sometimes) that extra token/ship you need for a base.

Our games have always included Lucre, and they tend to play out rather balanced between hoarding and spending. Usually, until the very end of the game, players had just over 4 lucre (spending about what they earned, and keeping in the same relative power as everyone else). Then at the end, a last ditch effort to win the game, all lucre was spent for that killer card.

-shnar
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Ken H.
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My group used to buy the top card on the deck if it was shiny, but not if it was old. Shiny cards were more likely to be Flares, or one of the cards from the later expansion, such as the Attack 40. Outside of shiny ones, nobody bought cards until the game was on the line.
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I agree with Reda in that Lucre was never essential to the game and that the Mayfair rules were better. By better, I mean more interesting and better balanced.

And you need a chart for Lucre the same way you need a chart for the building costs in Settlers or the reference sheet in RftG - that is, maybe you need it for the first dozen games you play, but then you remember it. It isn't brain surgery. From memory, without looking:

3 for a Token from the Warp
4 for a card from the Deck
3 for +1 before cards are revealed
6 for +1 after cards are revealed
7 for a random unused Flare
10 to discard a card

Now I'll look it up. Yep, I was right. And it's probably been years since I played CE with Lucre.

Whenever we played, we didn't bother using lucre at all unless someone had aa Lucre power. There really isn't much point to incorporating the lucre rules without one or more lucre powers in the game.

Whenever we played with Eon rules, we always hoarded it.

One of the main problems with Lucre (both Eon and Mayfair) was with some of the specific Lucre Aliens. The Force has already been mentioned. No one wants to pay for something without knowing what they'll get. It's likely to be helpful to the Force player as much or more than it is to you, and it may not even be helpful to you.

The Mayfair aliens that had problems were the Gnome - a weaker version of the Warrior, who loses power if he spends his lucre; and the Entrepreneur - not a bad idea, but too little reward to make it worth much - sort of like the Zombie in that you've got more access to your tokens, but you have to risk lucre, and even if you win, you only get a few lucre back, which are worth about 1/3 of what they were in Eon rules, the maximum you could ever get at once was 3. Better to ally with defense and get cards worth 4 each.
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Just a Bill
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No, I said "oh, brother," not "go hover."
carlj wrote:
Thanks for the insight. I've reflected upon my 32 years of incorrect playing and now I'll have to change everything. :-)

No problem. I'm here to serve. ;-)

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
3 for a Token from the Warp
4 for a card from the Deck
3 for +1 before cards are revealed
6 for +1 after cards are revealed
7 for a random unused Flare
10 to discard a card

Yuck. (And don't forget there's also a formula for how much Lucre you get each turn; I think it was rich-get-richer, but I can't remember now.)

It's nice that you can remember this after umpteen games, but you aren't the only player in the universe. We also have to think about the learning curve for new players, the impact this makes on those new players' assessment of the game, etc.

Anyway, this is a pretty good example of a brute-force approach. Mayfair could have achieved almost the same pricing model and done it much more simply by sticking with Eon's original valuation and reducing the number of pricing levels on their chart:

1 for a Token from the Warp, a card from the Deck, or +1 before cards are revealed
2 for +1 after cards are revealed, or a random unused Flare
3 to discard a card

It's still a list everyone would have to memorize or repeatedly consult (and thus still clunky), but at least it would have been less to memorize. Did they really need the Flare to cost 16% more than the post-reveal +1?(Rhetorical.) I'm pretty sure Peter would say that Cosmic was never intended to be that precise.
 
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Ken H.
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Bill Martinson wrote:
(And don't forget there's also a formula for how much Lucre you get each turn; I think it was rich-get-richer, but I can't remember now.)


It was somehow based on how many home planets you have. I think that's a nice idea, since it adds incentive to protect your home system.

Quote:
1 for a Token from the Warp, a card from the Deck, or +1 before cards are revealed
2 for +1 after cards are revealed, or a random unused Flare
3 to discard a card


Not bad. My only disagreement is that a ship is not worth the same as a card draw. Maybe make it: 1 lucre = 2 ships OR 1 card OR +1 pre-reveal.

Then again, the problem with your simplified formula is that it doesn't leave enough variability for the "formula". I like the idea of gaining 0 to 5 lucre based on your home system.

Anyway, the key thing to me, regardless of other factors, is to make it so you MUST spend the Lucre. No automatic +1 to your total merely by having the lucre sit there. That is nothing but an incentive NOT to spend it. What good is an expansion that encourages you not to make use of it. (Of course, we always used it anyway, but hindsight is much clearer now.)

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