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Subject: Changing the flow of the Doom track rss

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Brian M
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We've found that Arkham Horror tends to have the opposite feel that it should - in the begining, there is a frantic rush to seal gates. Later on once you have a few gates sealed, you can move at a very relaxed pace. In fact, it often becomes apparent there is no way for Old One to appear at all, since there aren't really enough gate locations to build up enough Doom tokens, which also leads to the problem that its actually very BAD to close (without sealing) a gate, since it just lets more Doom tokens appear!

We tried changing things a bit, and really liked how this worked out.

Edit 8/2009: This variant has changed over time, and since people keep occasionally ask about the 'StormKnight' variant or look for it, I thought I should keep it up to date. However, after much debate and more plays, we're back to the good old original version! We found this does work fine with Dunwich.


When you draw a gate at a location with no gate, place a gate and a monster as usual, but DO NOT add a Doom token.

When you draw a gate at a location with an active gate, add a monster at the location and ADD a Doom token, but do not place extra monsters.

When you draw a gate at a sealed location, do not place a gate or doom token, but place one monster at every open gate (as you would have when a gate opened where there already was an existing gate in the normal rules). (This represents dark forces mobilizing in direct response to your investigator's efforts).

This seems to nicely alter the flow of the game. Early on, the Doom isn't building up, and you can actually afford to close gates. As more gates build up, the Doom track builds up faster. Seal gates, and its a big boon - but you will face more of a threat. And there's never a "safe" point where you know the Old One will never appear.

Edit: Whoops! Forgot to mention a minor thing. We did start out the doom track with one token on it.

More Edits: Our other standard house rules are:
1) If it comes to a battle, the GOO receives 7 extra doom tokens -2 doom tokens for each sealed gate. So if you have 2 seals, the GOO has 3 extra doom. If you have 5 seals, it has 3 less doom than normal.

2) We don't remove allies as the terror track increases. Instead, when you get to freely recruit an ally, draw a number of allies equal to 10 - the terror level and pick from those drawn. For the rumor that removes allies, start a marker at the terror level and move it upwards for each terror increase or ally discarded - if it hits 10, the rumor is failed.

Another Edit: Just for the record, credit for this variant goes a lot (probably more than me) to Nightmare.

Edit 8/09: The following was another variant that was used at some point. Since its no longer in use I've spoiler blocked it out to clearly mark it, but left it for completeness.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
We've kept tinkering around with variants; as the new expansion comes out, things change around. However, I don't have Dunwich, so any suggestion may fall apart with an extra board.

Last time we played we tried this:

At the start of the game, place a Doom token on the 0 space of the terror track. This is the Threat track. (It has nothing to do with the Terror level, that's just a convenient place for it).

Place one gate with one monster and one doom token to start the game as usual.

When a NEW gate opens:

1) Increase the Threat track by 1.
2) Roll a number of dice equal to the new Threat level.
3) For each die that scores a 5 or 6, place one monster on the gate that just openend.
4) If any of the dice scored a 1, add 1 Doom token to the doom track. Only add 1 Doom no matter how many 1's came up.

When a DUPLICATE gate opens:

1) Add 1 Doom token to the doom track.
2) A monster surge occurs.

This worked nicely for slowing down the start a little, but making duplicate gates even nastier and making new gates get progressively worse as the game went on (but not usually as bad as a duplicate gate). This also hopefully fixes the 'stalemate' problems some people reported where they just focused on closing gates; while closing a gate is actually a good idea in these rules, its still going to overwhelm you eventually.

The only question is what to do on sealed gates. Last play, we had sealed gates be safe, but that led to a lack of tension once we had 4 gates sealed. I'm thinking of trying:

When a SEALED gate is drawn:
1) Roll a number of dice equal to the Threat level.
2) For every two dice that scored a 5 or 6, place one monster at that location (even though it is sealed).
3) If at least two dice are scoring a 1, place a doom token on the doom track.

This would make Sealed gates much safer than open gates, but not totally risk free.

I'll give more comments when we get a chance to try it.

This houserule hasn't been used in ages, but was left for completeness:
The other change we made, which is really quite separate, is to reduce the number of monster strength trophies need to "cash in" to 3 (or 6 for those that would normally cost 10). One gate trophy would replace 3 strength. This lets you actually get to buy more stuff, and have more fun in choosing what to get and actually getting things like allies.


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Alex Rockwell
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This is interesting. It makes it so you really want to close gates (as opposed to only wanting to close them if you can seal them).

I dont think it would work well for 1-2 players though, but it seems very interesting for the middle numbers.

What do you think of my cultist player variant? The cultist player can collect tokens and turn them in to increase the doom track, among other things. You can get to an end where the players are rushing to win before the cultist can push the doom track to the max.
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Sean McCarthy
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That's a very interesting idea, and it looks really cool. I'm pretty sure it will have some side effects (as all major rule changes do) but I think it has a lot of potential when the kinks get worked out.

I'd be very interested to hear about people's experiences with this or similar ideas.
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Brian M
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Quote:
I dont think it would work well for 1-2 players though, but it seems very interesting for the middle numbers.

No idea how it would work for 1-2. I've been playing games almost exclusively with 4 characters, so I don't really know how the game goes with lower numbers. I suspect it would be much harder (with any rules set).

Quote:
What do you think of my cultist player variant?

Sorry Axelfrog, it looks like a workable idea, but the concept of making a co-op game into a competitive game is not something that appeals to me
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Scott Forster
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I like this variant. Under the current rules, there is a serious dis-incentive to closing gates -- there's a right way (seal) and a wrong way (don't seal). The only time there's an incentive to do it the "wrong" way is if you're extremely close to having too many gates open and there are few doom counters, which doesn't seem too likely if the method so far has been to seal gates from the beginning.

This variant looks like it gives you different benefits depending on your choice, which feels like better game design.

Before I unleash this on my friends, have you played enough to get an idea of how this affects the game length? I'm concerned that a slow start on the doom track will add some time. If it adds too much, it's probably something my group wouldn't want to deal with...
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Court
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I also really like this idea - well thought out and sounds like a fun way to ramp up the challenge for those who are having an easier go and/or want a change of pace.

I do think, per the designers concept, that with 1-2 playes, it is better to play two investigators a piece - which makes this a good gameplan even with fewer players.
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Matt Crawford
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We have also found the doom track to stall in the second half of the game espicially if you focus on sealing gates and the gates you do seal are the most active, so we tried your variant.
Below is a turn by turn run down of the doom track for a 3 player game we played last night, we recorded both the variant and original rules.

        Doom track
Gate     V  O
Opens   0  1
Opens   0  2
Active   1  2
Opens   1  3
Opens   1  4
Active   2  4
Active   3  4
Active   4  4
Active   5  4
Opens   5  5
Opens   5  6
Active   6  6
Sealed   6  6
Sealed   6  6
Opens   6  7
Opens   6  8
Sealed   6  8
Active   7  8
Opens   7  9
Sealed   7  9
Sealed   7  9
Sealed   7  9
Investigators won with 6 sealed gates.

Key
Opens - A new gate opens
Active - Active gate
Sealed - Location sealed
V - Variant rules
O - Original rules

Our approach to the game definitely changed everyone could could now see it was important to close gates not just to gain them as trophies but to slow the advance of the Doom track. I think the variant only partially worked it certainly gives you more incentive to close gates rather than just sealing them. Ironically this resulted in far more new gates opening making the original rules work much better.
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Brian M
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Quote:
Ironically this resulted in far more new gates opening making the original rules work much better.

Could you elaborate at all on what you felt did not work well? I'd definetly like to hear any details.
Its interesting to see the difference between original and variant doom version, but I'm curious how you tracked it. We've tried that as well, but it gets a little tricky since we occasionally close gates that we really wouldn't have bothered closing and not sealing in a normal game. So far, our rough estimates have always indicated that we would have gotten fewer doom tokens with the regular method.

We've only played with the variant 4 times so far, so its not exactly extensive, but we've been happy with it. Its also handed us our only defeat, which really wouldn't have been a problem in the regular rules - we picked up around 5 or 6 doom tokens with only 2 gates open! In the regular rules this would be an ideal gate draw - with only 2 gates open, you don't get enough extra monsters for it to matter much.
(Things were pretty wacky though - we actually got 3 of our doom tokens out of Independence Square, hitting it twice, then shortly later reshuffling and after the shuffle hitting it twice in fairly short order again)

Quote:
Before I unleash this on my friends, have you played enough to get an idea of how this affects the game length? I'm concerned that a slow start on the doom track will add some time. If it adds too much, it's probably something my group wouldn't want to deal with...

I'm sorry, we have not really been tracking game length - it has also seemed to vary a great deal with how things happen to work out.
I can see some added time from the variant - time spent closing gates you wouldn't close in the regular game. But I can also see some reduced time - you don't get as many 'monster swarms' in the middle/early. Reducing the monster strength cost to 3 to purchase also speeds things up a little for getting resources faster.
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Sinister
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Maybe there's something I'm missing here but it seems you extend the game dramatically by doing this. In an 8 player game would the GOO even ever come out? If the only time a doom token can be placed is when mythos card lists a gate that's already open and you have players keeping every gate closed then the odds are pretty slim on adding doom tokens, except maybe the turn after a portal is open (simply because is takes a awhile to explore). The odds of adding doom tokens at all (in large player game), as long as you making closing portals your goal, seems pretty slim. Is there something I haven't thought of?

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Matt Crawford
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I think both sets of rules suffer once gates are sealed. If you look at the Mythos cards or just play the game 2 or 3 times it becomes very obvious that 4 of the gates should be sealed before any others. Once 3 or 4 of these are sealed the difficulty (and worse tension) of the game drops right off. Were finding this happens with the doom track half way or just above so there isn't much chance of it going to the top (note the terror track is high at this point). This is really my only contention and .

Quote:
I'm curious how you tracked it.

We played the game using your variant then each time a Mythos card was drawn recorded the effect on two seperate doom tracks. If a gate opened 1 token was added to the original track, if the gate was active we added a token to the variant track. What we didn't do was try to second guess whether a gate would have been closed had we not used the variant.

Quote:
We've only played with the variant 4 times so far, so its not exactly extensive, but we've been happy with it.

Considering it was only one game I don't put to much stock in the figures. We'll certainly try the variant again but I think with some additional difficulty tweaks.

We did all agree that the original rules would work much better for our group if the incentive to close gates was higher.

Overall I'm really enjoying the game it's just a bit too easy for my taste (thats after about 7 plays). My personal preference is for these sort of games to be very hard, both Doom (FFG) and Lord of the Rings (knizia) I enjoyed for this reason. There are many ways to increase the difficulty so this isn't a problem.

Quote:
In an 8 player game would the GOO even ever come out? If the only time a doom token can be placed is when mythos card lists a gate that's already open and you have players keeping every gate closed


Imagine a 1 player game the doom track would shoot up. Don't forget though 3-5 is the recommended number of players, the further you move from that the more the rules seem to become stretched.
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Brian M
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Quote:
In an 8 player game would the GOO even ever come out?


Yeah, I can see an 8 player game not working well with this, since you would have so many people to close gates. We've been playing with 4 characters (usually with 2 people playing two characters each) and I can't judge it for anything outside of that. The one game we played with 6 players (by normal rules) made us hesitant to even try it with that many players again - just too much down time, not really enough for that many characters to do.

I suppose you could always make their be a cost of 1 or 2 clue tokens just to close a gate, which would make it less trivial to do.
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I am suprised that you are able to seal that many gates to have a problem. In most of the game I have played, clue tokens are a very valuable commodity (esp. when playing against Hastur). Are you really getting that many clue tokens/Elder Sign cards that it is trivial to seal gates?
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Ok here's my thought on gate closings. This should make the seal the gate game more difficult.

2 gates for:
Hibbs, Silver Twilight, science, historical society

These should take 5 clue tokens or an elder sign

6 gates for

graveyard, black cave, unnamable

These should take 6 clue tokens or an elder sign and a clue token

10 gates for

Woods, independance square, witch house, unvisited Isle,

These should take 7 clue tokens or and elder sign and 2 clue tokens.

I think this would increase the difficulty nicely.
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Miguel Duran
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That's a nice solution as well. I like the idea of making the "stronger" gates take a bit more work than the cheapies. After all, all Ancient One incursions into our reality are not equal.
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Brian M
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I should note that our intention was not entirely to make the game "harder" - though we did feel the odds of the GOO arriving were fairly slim.

I can't say I really mind if the game is winnable most of the time. Unlike a game like Lord of the Rings, where I find the enjoyment being trying to "beat" the game, with Arkham I find most of the fun in seeing what sort of things happens, and what interesting stuff you get to do, and the small scale challenges of whether or not you can resolve the rumors, or close a difficult gate, or fight a tough monster, or find a way to rescue a trapped investigator.

Basically, we feel like the tension in the game is very backwards. At the beginning, you are sort of feeling panicked as the doom track starts building quickly and lots of gates are opening.
Then you start getting a few gates sealed, and get to a point where you can just sort of sit back and relax - you've got a few gates open, but a lot of them that keep trying to re-open just do so on the spots you've already got sealed, or pop up on existing gates and just give you a few stray monsters.
We feel that this should sort of go the other way around; at the start of the game you should feel like you have some time, and then it should get more and more desperate as the game goes on.
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Scott Forster
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I wonder if some sort of method to allow a seal to be broken would be worth trying?

Just off the top of my head, I was thinking that maybe a seal could only prevent that gate from opening two or three times. Enough to give you a respite, but not so comfortable that you can just sit back and take your time getting seals 5 and 6 down.

Proposed method: when you seal a gate, put three elder sign tokens on it. Whenever that location comes up, remove an elder sign token. If no token remains, the gate opens as normal.

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Darrell Pavitt
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This variant uses breakable seals:


http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekforum.php3?action=viewthrea...
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Jacobo Cagigal Gonzalez
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The StormKnight variant seems interesting, but has some problems, like the extension of the game playing with more players if they keep the gates closed. Why not to add only this modification to the rules: when you draw a gate at a sealed location, place one monster at every open gate.
The filling of the Doom track remains as in the original rules, adding Dooms tokens when opening new gates. This way sealing a gate continues to be good, but not so good! Every Mythos card this way has a nasty effect: or it opens a gate adding to the Doom track or it adds monsters to the game.
Now when you seal a gate you know that its more difficult for the GOO to appear, but it is also more easy for monsters to appear, easily representing the crescent mobilization of the evil and the increasing of terror.
The rules modification this way is minimal which is another good point.
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Brian M
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jacoboca wrote:

The filling of the Doom track remains as in the original rules, adding Dooms tokens when opening new gates. This way sealing a gate continues to be good, but not so good!


I see a few problems with this. First, it will bog the game down with even more monsters, which can really slow things up. It doesn't neccessarily make the game "harder" - if the investigators get really tooled up, they can handle monsters, especially if they are careful never to "cash in" the really tough monsters.
Second, it maintains the same problems - its still a very bad idea to close a gate. Sure, you may avoid a few monsters, but you get a Doom token instead! Monsters can always be defeated eventually. And once several gates (especially if you seal the active gates) are sealed, you can still reach a safe point where, unless you close a gate, not enough new gates can open to cause the GOO to make an appearance.


Stay thoughts on another way to do Doom tokens (totally untested, just a stray thought):
Place a Doom token when a new gate appears, as normal.
When a gate is closed, place a "Doom" token on that space. If a gate appears in that space, remove the doom token but do NOT place a token on the doom track. (Now closing gates is still a good thing).
When a gate opens in a space that already has a gate, put an Eldar Sign token in the next space on the doom track - this does NOT count as a doom token. However, if a gate opens on an existing gate and there already is an Elder sign token on the Doom track, flip it over and turn it into a doom token.
That mixes up both ways a little.
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Brian M
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Just wanted to note that we played a few games with this variant with just 2 characters. It worked pretty well - each game was a very tense race, but we managed to win each time. Against Hastur, we did need to go on a desperate hunt for an Elder Sign as his Doom track was only a space or two from being filled. We also found the terror level going up quite a bit with only two players.
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Jason Cordova
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We just used this variant with two people against Shub-Niggurath. The experience, for us, was much, MUCH better. Awesome variant! We liked that the doom track was linked to how long you let gates stay open. Also, there was no ridiculous monster flooding early on (an element of the game that we find extremely tedious). We did alter the variant a little bit by also tying the doom track to the terror track, with a doom token being added at 3, 6 and 9. The cool thing about doing this is that even when we had several gates sealed, the GOO had an alternate, albeit a bit slower, route to gaining strength. Also, we found that we didn't need to lower the values of monsters and gates needed to purchase things. It was down to the wire, with Shub-Niggurath at 10 doom tokens (of 12) when we sealed the sixth gate. It's worth noting that had we not sealed the gate, the next Mythos card would have caused her to awaken (one doom token for an existing gate and the monster spawned would have gone to the outskirts, causing the terror level to rise to 6, which would have been the second doom token).

Thanks, Stormknight!
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Corey Konieczka
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You brought up a good point about the game getting 'easier' as the game progresses. I am sure this is intentional as the sealing gates represent the GOO weakening. He finally gets banished when the investigators weaken him enough.

__________________________________
Off the top of my head, here is my solution to the fact that this wouldn't work with lots of players:

I suggust that you keep everything in your varient the same except advance the doom track when a new gate opens AS WELL.

Since this would make the game rediculously difficult, I suggust removing a token from the doom track WHENEVER a gate is sealed. This makes the eldar signs not as powerful as getting them is almost entirely random.
--------------------------

I'll probably stick to the official rules, but to those who think the game is too easy, I'm sure there will be new challenges for you in the future
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Jonathon Wong
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Hi StormKnight, your idea seems great! And thematically sound as well. I wish we saw your variant before we mangled up the rules (with houserules) ourselves!

We would like to compare your houserules with ours, and possibly adopt some, if not all, of your houserules into ours. But most of all, we would really like you to help us test AND correct our houserules. Would you do that? We haven't placed any credits (name mentions) on our houserules yet, because we drew it up only to make AH gameplay feasible and enjoyable, not to gain reputation/credit. But if you contribute to our houserules, your name will be prominently mentioned in the houserules published there (we might publish it on some website eventually). Help us!

Our houserules are at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/858939 .
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Jonathon Wong
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StormKnight wrote:
This seems to nicely alter the flow of the game. Early on, the Doom isn't building up, and you can actually afford to close gates. As more gates build up, the Doom track builds up faster. Seal gates, and its a big boon - but you will face more of a threat. And there's never a "safe" point where you know the Old One will never appear.

We've also tried this variant, but it got into a "runaway problem". How? Say players have closed the gates, leaving just 1-2 open. They now want to buff up their characters, go spend some money/trophies. But in the time that they do so, gates pop up again. At times, and when unlucky, a short shopping spree can be fatal.

We've removed the "max open gates" defeat condition. We've also redefined the "monster surge" by confining the surge to just the gate concerned, not EVERY open gate. With that, we also introduced a "turn counter" to actually bring in more monsters as the game wears on longer.

In effect, the "turn counter" could easily represent the building power of the GOO. How? By making monster surges more deadly (more monsters pour out) as the players take longer to complete the game. This is a very straightforward way to "increase stress" toward endgame, without "increasing the likelihood of game mechanics breakdown" (via runaway "monster surge" incidents with original rules).

There's another "game mechanics breakdown" with the gate variant you mentioned (as with the original rules). Players usually don't like to lose because a series of unlucky Mythos draws busts the gate limit. They also don't like to see the Doom Track advance for no visible reason. However, if they see an increasing tide of monsters busting the Terror Track, and subsequently the Doom Track, they can FEEL the defeat coming. Even if they lose, they feel that they've fought hard.

Imagine the city getting increasingly filled with monsters. And imagine players having had the time (during early stress-free stage) to buff up characters. We often see climatic batman & robin or "league of super heroes" working together to stem the increasing tide of monsters.

Of course, as you would have deduced, once the terror track reaches 10, any further increments are made on the Doom Track instead.

NOTE!! One of the major improvements you made was to the gate opening tempo. Even though it's practically different from ours, your rules effectively achieve the same goals in slowing down the "early game". We have 4 major areas in our houserules (one of which you actually solved, but we repeated the solution with another variant). Help us with the rest?

The MAJOR difference between your "gate opening tempo" solution and ours is this. We allow players to WORK to mitigate the frenzied pace, rather than just "tell them it's easier now because the rules say so". We actually tried your "gate tempo" solution before, but got shot down by "strategy purists" who told us (literally) "Not To Cheat". Oh well. So we crafted our houserules to actually REQUIRE the player to do some work to mitigate the frenzied pace. Have a shot at it. But for the record, your variant works very well and effectively in correcting gate opening tempo in early game.

Still, even with the corrected gate opening tempo, we still had problems with ANTI-CLIMAX. It's the seals. Players seal a few of the 4 hotspots, that's that. We've now removed the victory condition of 6 seals (you can have at most 6 seals, but that doesn't win the game, only slow the gates down). The "turn counter" smoothly crescendos the difficulty as the game wears on, EVEN WITH 6 SEALS! Players actually peek at the "turn counter" to quickly see how difficult things are becoming.
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Mr Mahon
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We used this variant as we felt that having to seal gates every time you close them shouldn't be the only reasonable option. We also wanted to make the game put more pressure on us as the game progresses.
We also used "monsters in the sky add 1 to terror level" variant, as we simply never experienced terror level exceeding 3-4.

We liked the variant, but it isn't without weaknesses...
The biggest weakness of it was making the game take a lot more time than before. Our games against Azatoth took about 6 hours each (4 players). The doom track managed to reach 8-9 and terror level: 8.
We managed to win by sealing 6 gates.

We liked the longer game because it gave us more RPG feel when you can play and become familiar with your character, and develop it a bit. But OTOH we didn't really expect such long games.

The main effect of changing the flow of the Doom Track was that closing (buit not sealing) gates simply buys you time. You can make the game longer (and thus: allow the characters to pump up on equipment, allies and skills) by closing and not sealing gates. The doom track hardly ever moves if you manage to keep the number of gates low (we reached Doom of only 8-9 after 6 hours, with pretty good knowledge of the rules). This means you can avoid even Yig's or Ithaqua's arrival.

Sealing the gates (especially the more dangerous ones) is more hazardous now, which we liked. If you close one of the 'frequent' gates, the monster surges happen more often, and the Terror is harder to control - which we liked, because previously we didn't have any problems with keeping ther Terror level low.

If you allow the number of gates to grow beyond your control, you can expect doom track advancing. This can also hapen if you leave one or more of the 'frequent' gates open. But if you can keep the number of the gates under control, you will most possibly never allow the Great One to wake up. I know Azatoth has long Doom Track, but as I said - with Doom of 8-9 at the end of the game, preventing the arrival of any Great One should be possible.

Still, I think we'll keep using this variant, but I wonder if the Doom track's progress isn't too slow.
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