OK, so whores of the Old West isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but in rattling out Ace of Hearts I also figured that it would be a good way of representing a number of other conflicts where social skills and political capital are the currency of choice rather than violence. An obvious choice for this sort of thing is the scheming and conniving that goes on in the courts of the great and powerful. Everyone’s all politeness to each other’s faces while, at the same time, planning to stab each other in the back and manoeuvring for power.
This is a very short version of what will probably become a more full-blown article in Autopsy. These are guidelines, not a complete game substitute/replacement.
For the purposes of this example The Empty Throne, seat of power for the Imperial Dominion, rests in the capital city of Praxia, atop the Isle of Kings in the storm-tossed coast of Galdran. The Empire’s power is unmatched and unquestioned but the last emperor has died without a clear heir. The players take the place of those who are vying for the position of Emperor and seeking to gain the vacant throne for themselves. Players could take the role of spymasters, nobles, generals, court magicians, anyone who might have a shot – in some fashion – of ascending to the throne.
Victory Points & Game Length
The standard in Ace of Hearts is to play for Players x5 victory points. This is great for the short, sharp, vicious rivalry of the girls in the old west but for The Empty Throne you probably want a longer, more strategic game so I’d say at least Player x10 would be a better way to go.
- The Palace is the seat of power, to not be seen here is not to be taken serious (Place 10 chips on The Palace)
- The Golden Lily is a place where the great and the powerful may go to indulge their vice, whatever it might be. Many back room deals are done here (Place 5 chips on The Golden Lily).
- The Merchant Quarter houses the great trading houses of The Empire and their support, while distasteful, is vital to anyone seeking the throne. (Place 5 chips on The Merchant Quarter).
- The Cathedral is the seat of the priestly orders. While officially above such petty things as politics, in reality they can swing things one way or another by making their approval or disapproval implicitly obvious. (Place 3 chips on The Cathedral).
- The Thieves’ Isles form part of the rag-tag band of rocks that seems to follow in the imperial isle’s wake. The people here exercise little power but can be… useful. (The Thieves’ Isles starts with 1 chip).
Angels & Devils
Players can make these up themselves, though I’ll provide for random drawing in the expanded article. Some examples might include:
- Angels: Beloved of the people, devout, skilled duellist, dripping with gold, honourable.
- Devils: Keeps the old religion, bastard son, impoverished house, foreign, honourable (yes, that can be both).
Again, a full set of these would have to wait for a complete article in Autopsy. So instead I present an alternative to using the card draw.
Each player makes up five of their own crises, writes them down on a piece of paper and folds it, placing them in a pot. Obviously you’re going to create crises that can be solved with your Angels and backstory, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll draw one of your own crises to deal with or that it’ll bear any resemblance to the crisis you made up by the time it can get to you.
Some examples of crises might include:
1. The Emperor had a bastard son that nobody knew about and he is trying to make his own claim to the throne. If people believe him, if people follow him, then you will not be able to claim it for yourself.
2. The Emperor’s journal says damning things about all of you and has fallen into the hands of the Bard’s Guild. All your chances could be dashed to pieces if they start to sing songs or tell tales from the dead Emperor’s memoirs.
3. The Courtesan, Lady Amshaar, has the ear – and other body parts – of many of the most influential courtiers at court. She knows this puts her in a position of power and influence with regard to the succession and has been making overtures that she’s willing to put her weight behind the right candidate, if he can win her favour.