Hey guys... sorry if its long, just want to get the idea formed for a good discussion.
There have been many threads regarding snowballing and poison pills in regards to player buyout and game balance. I wanted to throw out an idea to see if there could be something to develop towards.
First buyout advantage is HUGE. I would argue that a competent/marginally skilled player who makes first purchase wins ~90% of the games played in a 4 player FFA. Naturally that win rate declines with 6 players (8 is anarchy), but I'd bet a dollar or 3 that its still above 75%. Reason being, the increase of production capacity via acquired claims in and of itself produces a (delayed) steamroll effect. So the question remains, how to reward player buyout without creating what amounts to an unbeatable opponent.
Freeze the acquired company for a 12 hours, with purchased company stuck with whatever production is on the board, that production is unable to be changed, inventory unable to be sold (but continuing to stockpile), buildings are invulnerable to BM effects with exception of Mag Storm. Any auto supply buildings granted free cash to continue, debt accrual because of power or life support continues. During that time purchaser gets access to splash window giving options of number of claims to acquire. With a "you can't take it ALL" being implied, but take what is most valuable to you with an additional, but not crippling "pay the piper" tax attached. Additionally, the invulnerability of purchased company marginally nullifies multiple player BM targeting that usually accompanies a buyout and stock jump, but delays the stockbump for 1/2 of a day.
Player A (Scientific) buys Player B (L4 Expansive) with it comes 15 total claims. Player A must now decide what to take. If they choose ALL claims, then a % of debt is also acquired (30% for first 5 to start but sliding 10% for every 2-3 claims?) and forfeiture of cash and resources. Conversely, the player can choose say 5 claims (30% of total available) and receive all resources in inventory, 70% of cash on hand, and only acquire 30% debt (of 30%) Player A also gets any black market effect purchased but unused. Wanting 100% of cash/resources (liquid assets grouped) reduces max claims available for acquisition by 40%
Window would be a simple drop-down (right side of UI) for claims desired with changing calculations for each perk and debt penalty listed below. Window disappears when selection is confirmed. Player A would also get a 2 cycle debt interest payment reduction of 40% for first cycle 20% for second. This makes buyout timing a factor (but not critical) rounding to next day/cycle post buy out, but not so much of an issue as to distract, while giving Player A time to reset and address new debt and strategy going forward.
The 12 hours continues to tick until deadline where Player confirms settlement terms, Player B gets "nano-teched" out of existence from map, resources go to resource stockpile that gets transferred to Player A. All resources not claimed by Player A get put on the market causing an announced "surplus" bounce that all players will react to, but only Player A has knowledge of how much the market will swing for each resource, allowing another advantage to Player A, but astute Players C and D will have noted what was in production on buyout and position themselves as they see fit. Following settlement and building removal, a 15 second protection on abandoned tiles is dropped to allow Player A to chose any especially good resource tiles.
The percentages and and everything else to be tested and balanced for each colony type, I'm just throwing them out there for discussion sake because they sound reasonable. The idea of acquiring NO debt during a company purchase is just... wrong. Assume 100K debt with 30K cash in above, or 150K debt and 50K in cash, and the penalties for Player A is enough that they have to manage, but the claims/resources/cash bump is enough to limit the pain to a pinch that SHOULD be felt. Player A has their rewards, Players C and D still have a fighting chance.
I know there are a few scenarios that could throw this out of whack but it was getting long enough already. I welcome your comments and hopefully a lively debate leading to a better formed idea.