TI4 is a 3+ player game, therefore if you only have two people you are pretty scuppered and your options are: don’t play; use one of the internet’s homebrews, which knocks out phases and adds restrictions ORRRRRR you could do what we did and play the 3rd player between us.
Now this sounds strange but if you both lay down rules at the start on how the NPC will react to different situations then it flows quite well and can actually make the NPC quite formidable.
Each faction card has a race trait.. be it militaristic, mercantile, expansionist or diplomatic. This is your NPCs overriding drive, therefore if the diplomatic race is given the option of attacking someone or being diplomatic, they will more than likely be diplomatic. Secret objectives and object cards also drive NPCs goals; therefore it will be very unlikely to carry out an action that will scupper its chances to achieve its goals. To add a bit of an X-factor to the game and to recreate players being unpredictable we used the dice to help with decisions and if the NPC declared war on another player, or another player declared war on them, then the opposing player took on the role of making military and agenda decisions for them.
Control of the NPC- The NPC is controlled by both players until war is declared against it, or it declares war on another player; control then shifts to the none combatant. If both players are at war with the NPC then both players still control it.
PC moves/decisions – Both players must play the NPC as if they were the NPC, this means taking action that might be contrary to the player’s own side. Decisions should be made between both players and a die rolled to deal with decisions and disagreements.
Picking a faction – Between you, choose an NPCs faction. This should be a different type of faction than you are both playing, so if one of you is expansionist and the other mercantile then the 3rd NPC should be diplomatic or militaristic etc. Conversely, if both PCs are the same sort of faction then the NPC should be the same as you, so there is no ganging up.
NPC secret objectives and action cards – these are usually secret and so cant be seen by other players, but as both players will be controlling the NPC they should be visible to both. The only time cards should be hidden is when war is declared and the opposing player is solely controlling the NPC.
NPC faction traits – Should follow its main core trait, therefore if it is a militaristic race, it should build fleets and look to win through conquest if applicable, whereas if it is a diplomatic race, it should be aiming to gain influence and using diplomatic stratagems.
NOTE: Objectives should override racial traits and therefore if it is easier to achieve objectives that are contrary to the NPC’s racial trait it should aim for it instead. Eg. The race is one of peace and diplomacy but all the objectives are conquest ones. It is therefore in the NPC’s interest to look to take planets and destroy enemy fleets.
Decision making using a Dice
It is important that an NPC acts unpredictably at times and therefore a dice should always be thrown, even if certain NPC actions are agreed by both players. This provides an interesting turn of events and can create more drama within the game.
For Example: in our game, the NPC had attacked me because I was the easiest way to achieve its objectives BUT I was able to weather the attack and turn it back. Using my turn to counter-attack and wipe out one of his big fleets. I then proceeded to move around and started taking his unguarded systems. It soon became apparent that if I continued I might overstretch myself and my brother would be able to swoop in and attack me. Luckily, for me I thought, a new objective came up that aligned the NPC and my interests. I, therefore, stated that as I was the leader of a merciful race and I would not wipe out his final fleets and take his homeworld If he sued for peace and used his remaining fleet to move north towards my brother’s now menacing fleets.
My brother could see that the NPC race was likely to be wiped out and therefore lose the game and we agreed that the only option was to do as I requested. So we assigned a roll of 1-9 as an acceptance of my generous offer and a 0 as his sticking 2 fingers up and refusing on principle…. We rolled a 0. The NPC, a bitter foe and still reeling from the destruction of his fleet through caution to the wind and decided to ignore my offer; this caused me a massive headache. As much as I could have defeated him, his demise did little to help my victory as my brother was just sitting there watching us tear pieces out of each other. I, therefore, had to change my plans, build up and hope I could finish off the NPC and turn against my brother before he got too emboldened.
There is no chart or table to look at, you judge odds on the situation and on agreement with the other player. If for example, like the above, the NPC, if he was actually a player, would do X, or Y then stack the odds in that direction and add an additional factor to make it unpredictable.
- An Agenda doesn’t affect the NPC but will shaft its main rival – he’s therefore more likely to vote with you against said foe: on a roll of 1-9 the NPC votes with you, on a 0 he stays quiet.
- The same Agenda comes up and it’s the same rival but he’s got a big fleet currently on his border – the NPC is less likely to want to do anything to rock the boat but conversely, the agenda will cause the rival some big problems, so set the odds at 50:50
The NPC will activate and move to where its advantageous to do so and where it is likely to achieve more objectives and or resources. If it is felt there are multiple options then you just split hexes into numbers and roll a dice; again, should you want a bit more unpredictability, add in a roll of a 0 as they do something completely different.
Common sense should be used here and if the NPC is going to attack, they should only do so if they have sufficient forces to give the a good chance to succeed or if a decision dice was rolled and a 0 came up.
This way to play means you can use every phase and will feel like there is a 3rd player. Myself and my brother used it twice and it worked perfectly. BUT, and this is a big BUUUUUTTT, this way of controlling an NPC is very dependent on the two PC players 1. Being trust worthy enough to play on the spirit of the game and 2. Aren’t going to take advantage of the “roll a dice to decided disputes” rule to try and advance their own cause.
If you are playing someone you don’t know, or if you have one of those friends who’s possible “that guy” then maybe this way to play isn’t the best option for you but if you know the person you are playing and you want a fuller experience then give it a go and let us know what you thought.