Wednesday, January 23, 2013

System Shopped: Settlers of Catan's The Thief - Houses of the Blooded

Settlers of Catan's The Thief
System Shopped:  Houses of the Blooded
by Tobie Abad

Settlers of Catan is the award-winning board game by Klaus Teuber which has been published by Mayfair Games, which features four players as the competing settlers in a fictional land called Catan.  As players create settlements, roads and cities, they gather Resources whenever the rolled dice matches the numbers of regions they are in contact with.  However, whenever the dice roll a seven, no one in the game gathers any Resources and a wooden figure called the Thief moves.  The Thief allows the player who rolled the dice to steal a Resource from another player.

People who have played the board game, and have also played John Wick's Houses of the Blooded, can easily see nice parallels between the two games.  The importance of producing resources and gathering the necessary components for further development are present in both and count among the fun elements that do not exist in other games.   So why not add the infamous power of the Thief into your Houses of the Blooded games.

Currently, in Houses of the Blooded, a region fails to produce Resources when the region in question suffers from Trouble.  Each region has a number of dice to be rolled for Trouble checks.   There are Roadmen who can help deal with Trouble, and the Ven character himself can opt to spend his own Season Actions to resolve Trouble in his Province.

If you wanted to add the Thief to your Houses of the Blooded games, these are the ways you can do it:

The Unlucky Seven.
Whenever you roll for Trouble, there are now two ways that the dice work.  The first is the same as the usual rule:  Any dice that come out as a one means the Region is Troubled and will not be producing any Resources.

The second is this:  Looking at that same roll, if the dice rolled total seven, then the Thief comes into play.    Yes, this means it is impossible with only one die of Trouble, probable with two dice, but trickier with three.   What happens when the Thief comes into play?  The player who rolled the dice has a region that does not generate Resources that turn.  Roadmen and Season Actions cannot be used to allow Production to return, but can be used to end Trouble.

The lost Resource is then randomly redistributed to one of the players.  All the players roll a die and who ever rolls the lowest gets the lost Resources.  This may be the same player who activated the Thief.  What happened?  Well, the Thief STOLE the Resources, then resold it to the Ven for a happy profit.  The exchange  clearly will only hurt the player who lost the Resource, unless he happened to be lucky enough to have repurchased it back.

The Thief:  A Named Trouble Vassal.
In this version, a new kind of Named Vassal is added to the game.  Trouble Vassals are non-playing characters who can make the life of the players worse.   Whenever Trouble is rolled, the cause of the Trouble can be caused by these Vassals.  Other players can bid Style to have the Trouble Vassal "working for them" for that particular moment of Trouble.  The winner of the bid then benefits from the Trouble that was caused.  In this case, the Ven who lost a Resource was a victim of this Vassal.  Thankfully, this however means the Trouble instantly ends within that same season, even without the use of Roadmen or Season Actions.

On the other hand, the winner of the bid then receives the lost Resources.
And the game as a whole as a whole new story worth exploring.

Trouble Vassals CAN be killed, assassinated, or interacted with during stories.  However, even when one dies, a new one eventually surfaces.  So the game will pretty much always have a Trouble Vassal, so long as the players want one to be part of the game.

New Vassals, and Rogue Actions
Ven have Spymasters, Roadmen, Valets, and more.   Now, they also have Thieves that work for them.  These are new Band Vassals that can be hired by a Ven.  Unlike most Vassals, however, are harder to maintain.  In addition to the One Season's worth of Food per Year, the Thieves Guild requires a Season worth of Luxury to be given also once a year.

Thieves Guild: Band Vassal
Each Rank of Thief Guild represents ten thieves that work for the Ven.  Each Rank represents another ten thieves.  A Thief Guild has one Season Action per Rank.  This Season Action can be used to attempt an Rogue Action called Steal Resources.  Steal Resources can only target Ven who have rolled Trouble for one of their Regions.  If more than one Guild wants to steal from that Ven, the Guild with the higher Rank goes first.

Rogue Actions are like Espionage actions, wherein the roll is against the Region's Security.  If the roll is successful, the Guild steals that Region's "lost Production" due to Trouble.  A Guild can only steal as much Resources as their Rank.  Rogue Actions are done in Phase 3 of Season Actions.  The Ven themselves cannot do Rogue Actions with their Season Actions.

So if there are any remaining Resources, other Guilds can attempt to steal it as well.
Rogue Actions, when successful, resolve the Trouble in that Region.

Queen of Thieves: Master Vassal
When you increase a rank 3 Thief Guild to the status of NPC, you gain a Queen of Thieves.  The Queen of Thieves is an NPC, complete with Virtues and Aspects.  She may add to your Thief Guild's Rogue Actions as a character.  She, however, requires an additional Season of Luxury one a year.

The Queen of Thieves can add her Cunning to all Rogue Actions committed by the Thief Guild.  She can also take a Season Action to to Steal Resources on any other Ven's Regions, even those that are not in Trouble.  She rolls her Cunning + Thief Guild rank against a Region's Security to steal Resources.   And just to be clear: using the Season Action of the Queen of Thieves to assist the Thief Guild does not reply the Guild's Season Action.

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