The so-called Help the Little Guy Variant was essentially a building block for what I am now calling the Balance of Power Variant. I feel that this new Variant, which uses several of the same rules as the old one we tried, works fairly well to do the things we wanted it to do.
Balance of Power
All the rules of History of the World stay the same except for the following:
New Rule #1
During the first Epoch there is no passing of Empire Cards. Instead, Empire Cards are distributed randomly with each player getting one card, which is the Empire they will be for the first Epoch.
While there is some strategy for picking Empire cards during the first Epoch, that strategy is primarily based on the cards in your hand and in fact even considering that is still fairly limited. Also, while some Empires are slightly better than others, they are for the most part even.
This rule was put in place because previously a die roll determined who got to look at cards and pass them if they didn’t like it, thus before it was also essentially random (a randomly determined person getting the advantage based on a die roll) and this helps expedite game play and causes less conflict with the other rules we have changed.
New Rule #2
At the end of each Epoch a first place through last place order will be determined based on which players have the most victory points. When players have the same number of victory points, the player whose Empire in the previous Epoch had the lower Empire Strength is consider to be ahead of the other player with the same victory points. If there is a tie for Victory Points and Empire Strength the player who went later in the previous Epoch is consider to be ahead of the tied player.
Exception to New Rule #2: While the above rule is used for all Epochs including Epoch Seven, it is not used for determining who has won the game. See the rules for Winning the Game: Ties in the rule book to determine the winner of the game.
New Rule #3
The Preeminence Markers from the Hasbro game are not used in this variant. Instead, two sets of Preeminence Markers are used. One set is called the Primary Preeminence Markers and the other is called the Secondary Preeminence Markers.
The Primary Markers have numbers between four and six on them and there are three copies of each number. The Secondary Markers have numbers between one and three on them and again have three of each number. The person who has been determined to be in first place gets a Primary Preeminence Marker and the person who is determined to be in second place gets a Secondary Preeminence Marker.
Just as a note, we have been using playing cards for the new Preeminence Markers. We used a deck with a blue back for the Primary and a red back for the Secondary Markers.
New Rule #4
At the beginning of a new Epoch the player who has been determined to be in last place draws two Empire cards. That player then chooses one of those cards to either keep or pass and then returns the other to the deck where it is shuffled back in. Then the player who has been determined to be in second to last place chooses two cards and does the same as the previous player. At this point play progresses with the player in third to last place, however this player does not draw two cards but only draws one card as per the normal rules of History of the World.
We felt that since the top two players were getting bonuses that it felt natural to limit the drawing two Empires and picking one to only the two players in last place. As mentioned in my other post the idea was to prevent the players who were doing poorly from getting the worst Empire in the batch when they chose to pass a mediocre card and then were forced to take what was left which of course has a chance of being worse. While this will not completely prevent the two players in the last positions from getting bad Empires it does give them more options without completely skewing the game.}
As I said, the rest of the game basically plays the same way. While these rules do not fix all of our problems (for example the fact that Reallocation is a pathetic Major Event), it does make the game feel more balanced. At the same time that the players who are winning are pulling further ahead, the players that are losing are given a chance to catch up.
If anyone does try playing this way I would love to hear about it in the comments!