The challenge mode of the game differs from the Casual mode of the game in that it adds three rulesets: collaboration, environmental and difficulty level. Challenge mode is much more asymmetric than Casual mode and will extend playing time by about 150%.
It is highly recommended to play Simulation Theory in Casual mode before attempting Challenge mode. The rules on this page are additions and changes to the Casual mode rules - visit that page for instructions on how to play.
"Arkfall" - 4 Players - Stone Reality Scenario
"Decontamination Protocol" - 3 players - Prison Reality Scenario
In the Challenge mode, players can choose to collaborate when two or more players intersect on the same challenge card with the same trait instead of fighting each other. Collaboration means that two or more players are joining forces with their characters to beat a challenge together. To compute the final trait score that interacts with the challenge card, the players who are collaborating elect one player that can use their full trait score (e.g.: the player with the highest score in that trait might be the best option), and the rest use only half of their score. Round down any fractions from the final combined score.
COLLABORATION AND TREASURE CARDS
When two players beat a challenge together while collaborating, only one player can keep the treasure card obtained. The treasure card is drawn and revealed, then the collaborating players can agree to assign the treasure to the player that needs it more.
If there is a disagreement, the player with the highest trait score can forcibly take the treasure for him or herself. If there is a tie, the players have to roll a dice to break the tie.
COLLABORATION AND DEFEATED CHALLENGE CARDS
When two or more players beat a challenge card together, who gets the challenge card? This is resolved the same way as with treasure - the player with the highest trait can simply take it. If the players agree, the defeated challenge card can be given to a player with a lower score. Ties are broken by dice rolls.
In Challenge mode, Exploration is an alternative option to Challenging a space on the board. To Explore, in the planning phase, a player places their dice on the Explore icon on their Character board instead of a trait. In the Action phase, a player that chose to Explore looks at the Challenge card in the coordinates they have selected (if it is not from a higher Reality) and returns it to it's space face down without showing the other players. If multiple players Explore the same space in a turn, each of them look at the card, then it is returned face down - there is no combat. If the space is Challenged at any time, the card is turned face up and remains that way (as usual).
Exploration is a useful tool to gain information on a tile if you are worried that a rival will steal the loot from you if you miss with the initial Challenge, or to gain information without risking death.
Environmental rules add flavor and variation to Simulation Theory. Each Reality has a different global effect for all players on that reality. Depending on the order of the reality, the effect can also vary.
Apply the environmental rules below, depending on which order the Reality in question was used.
For example, The players agree that the order is Stone Reality (1st), Ark Reality (2nd) and then the Prison Reality (3rd). Use the environmental rules for Reality 2 (“Hull Breach”) for Ark Reality, and Reality 3 (“Lockdown”) for the Prison Reality. The first reality never has any environmental rules.
TO whom do the environmental rules apply?
Environmental effects only take effect on a player when that player is on that reality. For instance, if a player ascended to the prison reality, the third reality of that game session, the "Lockdown rule" will then come into effect for him or her, but not affect the other players who have not ascended to that reality yet.
The STONE REALITY
Reality 2: "Voices from afar" - Every time a challenge is beaten in the Stone Reality, turn to face up all the other stone reality cards in the same row (horizontal).
Reality 3: "Dragons wrath" - A powerful dragon hunts the stone seekers. Whenever a Stone reality challenge is beaten, roll 1d6. If the result of the die roll is higher than the trait currently used by the player, that player undergoes Descension (See below).
The PRISON REALITY
Reality 2: "Blackouts" - Every time the turn ends, turn all face up Prison reality challenge cards face down.
Reality 3: "Lockdown" - Automated sentries hunt down the escaped inmates. The lowest trait value face up Prison reality challenge card has its trait score doubled. If there is more than one face up prison reality challenge card with the same lowest trait value, double all of them. If a player has their character killed by a challenge card in the Prison reality, that player undergoes Descension (See below).
The ARK REALITY
Reality 2: "Hull Breach" - At the beginning of each turn, before players set their dice, take the topmost, and then leftmost challenge card and shuffle it back into its challenge deck. This can be a card from any reality.
Reality 3: "Apoxia" - The oxygen levels on the Ark are plummeting due to a compromised life support system. Each turn when players in the Ark reality make their selection, they can only select one dice: The Red or the Black, and then roll the other dice to randomly determine the other coordinate. If the roll results in the selection of a blank space, that player undergoes Descension (see below). A roll resulting in six will simply be treated as a miss.
In the turn sequence, players on the Ark Reality will reveal only one dice and then roll the second dice in full view of all the other players.
Some environmental rules use Descension and indicate an effect that 'Descends' a player(s). Descension is the reverse of ascension where a player is demoted to the lower reality instead of going into the next reality. The player returns the highest reality character back into its corresponding character deck. Next, that player loses a treasure card from the highest reality, shuffling it back into the corresponding treasure pile. Then place the previous reality's challenge cards into all the vacant spaces from left to right, top to bottom.
Example: If a player undergoes descension from reality 3, that player returns the reality 3 character to the reality 3 character deck. Discard a reality 3 treasure and shuffle it back into the reality 3 treasure pile. That player uses his or her old reality 2 character. He / she then places reality 2 challenge cards from the reality 2 challenge deck to fill in all the blank spaces.
If a player is in his or her first (lowest) reality and undergoes Descension, nothing happens.