"Bad" phase intents...

Hi everybody, first post here (but definitely not the first time reading…).

So this happened today. We decided to reboot a crashed campaign we started two years ago. Last time, among many mistakes that led to its downfall, we were too interested in gaming the Infection mechanics, and ended up really “hurt” by the Scene-Maneuver Disconnect.
So this time we went back to the world-as-burnt, remade the characters a little, and decided to play from the beginning instead of right in the Usurpation as last time. And more important, letting the Infection choices flow organically, for better or worst, from the fiction up (as, we now realized, the rules intended). So far, so good.

Our planet (World Burning here if you can read spanish… ) is a once-thriving, now dwindling, gas-exporting outworld, ran by an Imperial Steward (Infiltration PC-FoN) carefully balancing the rest of the power players that want to grab the final piece of the cake. Specially, the Merchant League Chief (GM-FoN) who wants to go full free market on the place, selling it all up and covering everyone else with tons of unpayable debt (with the turmoil, unadvertedly helping the vaylen cause). In opposition, our Viceroy (a.k.a Lord Steward) and its allied PCs move forward an industrializing, protectionist agenda: add value to the gas locally, refine it by our own, stop the financial bleed and regulate customs so the planet can grow back economically and unite politically.
(Any parallels with my country’s -Arg- last 25 years of history -or more- are of course, up to the reader…)

So anyway, that’s the fiction. We go ahead and choose phase intents based on that. Aside from enabling/avoiding the Vaylen infiltrate our society, ¿what else? The GM explains he wants the economy to go down yes, but for the real outcome of lowering Quarantine level (if people and trade and everything else is coming and going freely, then the rules will sure become more flexible… specially if the planet is Indifferent to Vaylen). A little far-fetched, maybe, but we abide.
Now our turn. In the game’s terms, we could go with changing the main export (from Raw Materials to Refined Goods) or raising Regulation Levels, and both would be clear expressions of what’s going on in the fiction.

Only both help the Vaylen.

Changing Raw Materials to Refined Goods, gives vaylen 1 point in the next phase, takes 1 from them in Invasion; and takes 1 from us in Usurpation. So it’s a 2 point swing against us in the next phase, or a 1 point total change. Against our side.
Tightening the economic regulation is even worse: going from Loosely to Moderately gives the enemy 3 points in Usurpation and takes 1 from us in the Invasion… and going all the way to Tightly is just plain self-destructive.

It feels quite counter-intuitive that letting the market flow freely be a problem to the vaylen and viceversa: if the humans open up the incoming containers, fight smugglers harder, and scrutinize the flow of goods… ¿how is that better for the worm?

Ok, maybe there are reasons… but anyway ¿what would you suggest us to choose instead? ¿what would you do in our situation?

I don’t really have a suggestion for a better intent but my assumption on the disposition changes is that loosening regulations hinders the black market, which is a boon to the Vaylen…lots of smuggling, backroom deals, etc.

In our game I’m the GM and playing the Vaylen side in the Infiltration phase. My phase intent is also to decrease regulation because the FoN is looking for cheap workers to increase her bottom line. Her solution is to import some (easily hulled) Vaylen creations as very cheap labor, but she needs regulation on migrant labor to be eased so she can do it. It hurts the Vaylen disposition…but the fiction is in line and it’s also going to create an in-place strike force when the Vaylen FoN in the next phase hulls them: Boom, a bunch of Ksatrien warriors in the middle of everyone’s mines (on the assumption that other mines will adopt the workers to cut their costs once regulations are eased). Getting that fiction to happen is worth losing a point of dispo (or however much it is). My Vaylen clan leader FoN is pretty powerful anyway so I think she can make up the difference.

Doubt that helps but just figured I’d share how we’re doing it.

I’d pick something totally different as a phase goal. The most obvious is to force their Usurpation Figure of Note out of play so they can’t make a disposition roll at the start of that phase. The other possibility is to change your Planetary Attitude from Indifferent to Educated or Personal Experience which will net you a pretty big change as you’re currently getting slammed in your overall disposition.

M: Thanks, it helps, at least by showing we’re not the only ones faced with this dilemma. We ended up taking the same choice as you did, pick the intent anyway, out of respect for the story. We figured that in the unlikely case we win it, the points carried over would nullify that negatives; and if the vaylen wins it won’t matter anyway (only as colour for the compromise we manage to scrape out).

Colin: Yes, those are the best moves in the numbers, but we wanted to pick an intent that was related to the fiction, bottom-up so to speak; and there’s no way those two could relate to what’s going on in the story: the next Vaylen FoN will show himself as an ally of our side (until we figure his nefarious plans), so acting against the first FoN does not mean shutting the second out; and so far there’s no reason to make this about public awareness of the worm.
Those are surely good intents for the Usurpation phase (look, they’re among us!), though…

The important thing is that picking phase intent is something that is done at the player level and not at the character level. For example, forcing the (nomally allied) Usurpation FoN out of play doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going after him antagonisticly. Maybe it means you play up the ally part so strongly that he can’t get time to move against you. Similarly, having an Infiltration goal to change the Planetary Attitude to Educated means you should have a maneuver where you discover Vaylen on the planet (which shouldn’t be hard, since the whole purpose of the Infiltration phase is to get worms onto the planet) and then a maneuver where the human side does some planetary education about the worm (which, again shouldn’t be to hard due to one of the human FoNs being the planetary steward).

I guess what I’m getting at is that while it’s important to have phase goals that make sense, it’s equally important to remember that they are guidelines about where you want the maneuver to end and that a lot happens between the beginning of the phase and the end of the phase. If you pick something that doesn’t quite work as a phase goal, it’s up to the players to use their beliefs, scenes, and maneuvers to shape the story so that when the phase is over the goals and compromises work.

Lastly, Burning Empires works best if you play the Infection macro game optimally (or at least as close to optimally as you can get). As I was mentioning, looking at your starting disposition numbers you’re 18 in the hole across all three phases (actually, the totals on your page don’t add up right, I think it’s 27 v 19, 25 v 23, 31 v 24 which gives a 17 disposition deficit to the humans) so making “system-first” phase choices and then letting those choices guide your maneuver selections is the best way to make something out of a pretty bad starting position.

Regardless of all that, I hope you enjoy yourself!

(Yeah, they might not add up right, because we made some changes on the fly before starting to play and I edit them right there while I was listening to the other players…)

Hmm, interesting…we could always maneuver to make the intent make sense, after the fact… Anyway, we’re kinda settled right now. WE could change it, but after the first maneuver was played, it doesn’t feel right. I’ll talk about it with the group (specially, the GM) and we’ll see what we do.
Thanks again!