[Icehouse] Homeworlds variant: Sinister Standoff

Michael Kelley mwkelley at gmail.com
Thu Apr 9 14:57:30 EDT 2009

On Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 7:25 AM, Joshua Kronengold <mneme at io.com> wrote:

> Harold Tessmann III writes:
> >Hmm. It seems like players should then attempt to finish off someone
> >in a weak position, even if it won't give them the win, just to
> >prevent the person to that player's right from scoring the kill. Has
> >anybody seen that in practice?
> Yep.  Only one player can win, so if you can disrupt someone's
> attempt, you do (and similarly, when planning an attack, you want to
> look out for someone eliminating your target before you can finish the
> job).

The few times I've played Sinister Homeworlds, this always felt like a flaw.

The victory conditions in Sinister force you to pick off weakened players or
not lose. (Or, even more weirdly, aid the player who's aiming to *destroy
your homeworld* or not lose.)  However, swooping in to destroy a weakened
homeworld doesn't help you *win* the game; it just keeps you (and everyone
else) from not losing.

That's a pretty unintuitive game mechanic. I've tried explaining it to two
different groups of first-time Homeworlds players, and it just seemed to
generate confusion & frustration. It broke the illusion that the game is
about a galaxy at war, and turned it back into a bunch of plastic pyramids
on a table.

Has anyone ever come up with a Sinister variant that doesn't have this
problem? Something with a score-keeping mechanic, maybe?

For instance, how about this: "Sinister Standoff Homeworlds"

The object of the game is to acquire 4 victory points (VPs). [Use a stash of
opaque or Xeno pieces to keep score, or just use a scrap of paper.]

At the beginning of the game, the player on your left is your target world.
During the game, if your target world is destroyed, that player is
eliminated and the next player on your left becomes your new target world.

If *you* destroy your target world, you gain 3 VPs and the eliminated
player's target world (ie the player two seats to your left) gains 1 VP. If
*any other* player destroys your target world, the player who destroyed it
gains 1 VP and you gain 1 VP.

Peace Treaty: After two homeworlds are destroyed and there is still no clear
winner, the remaining players may either unanimously decide to "declare a
peace treaty" (in which case, all of the surviving players win) or may
continue to play until a third homeworld is destroyed. After the third
homeworld is destroyed, the surviving players may again decide to declare a
peace treaty or continue the game until there is a single winner.

Ties: If two players reach 4 VP at the same time, the two players may choose
to either "declare an alliance" (in which case, the two players share
victory, everyone else loses) or "go it alone" (in which case, all other
players are eliminated, and the game continues until one of the tied players
eliminates the other, thus becoming the sole winner.)

In essence: it's Last Man Standing with a twist. A 3-person game plays the
same as Sinister, but with 4 or more players, you can win *either* by
destroying your target world and 1 other world (being "Evil", essentially),
or by playing defense and then teaming up to destroy the player that shot
first (being "Good"), or by teaming up with your target world and then
destroying all the other players (being "Really, Really Evil" ::grin::).

I did some of the math and it seems to work on paper, but I'd have to play
it to know if it's any fun.

-- Mike Wheatberry
mwkelley at gmail.com
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