Conejo said: the interpretationand thus the way we play Charles) is rather simple
any allies that have been returned to the box are fair game for him whenever he would gain an ally.
if you encounter Ruby Standish at the TSL, but her card has been removed, you still get her. if you go to Ma's Boarding House and gain an ally, you may choose from the deck or from the "returned to box" deck. the intent seemed as clear as Ashcan Pete's ability to pull from either the top or bottom of decks (you have two choices whenever you have a choice).
That's how we interpreted him at first. And boy is he boring. 1) The rule you are breaking that isn't referred to in Charlie's rule is the game rule that limits the game to 11 allies. Of course, if you incorporate the 11 ally limit, as many have, then you are creating a process that isn't called for. 2) Then you have to decide (interpret) that the term "gain" is the same as the term "take" and FFG was just sloppy in their rule writing instead of "intending" to use "gain" as its used else where and 3) that they mistakenly misused their tense.
In other words, the come up with this clear intention, you have to posit three errors in one short but complex sentence. This is not to say you may not one day be declared correct.
It amazes me that FFG, if they intended Charlie to work your way they wouldn't have written:
Any Phase: Charlie may take Allies that are otherwise out of the game (have been returned to the box) even if doing so exceeds the 11 card Ally limit.
Also your interpretation allows Charlie to take Professor Rice, the main over the top ally, if he every buys an ally from Ma's since any allies are fair game to him.
Conejo said: i do have to say that the context of the ability to the rest of the game wouldn't lead me to believe that you just gain all discarded allies immediately.
Of course I never said that he gains all discarded allies, nor do I think anyone else has. Neither does the rule. Discarded allies are returned to the Ally deck. Allies removed from the game are returned to the box. For example, if Duke is used, it is not returned to the box. (By the way, I have no idea HOW Duke restores Stamina by being discarded. I am reminded of a story I read long, long ago (maybe by Jack London) about a man about to freeze to death, who cuts open his beloved dog and puts his hands inside of the dog to prevent them from freezing.)
The game mechanic that puts ally cards into the box is the Terror Level, which Charlie not uncoincidentally is able to prevent.
And now a question. How does the "context of the ability" indicate Charlie does not gain each ally as is returned to the box? The immediate context of his ability is that Charlie is a politician and that he can prevent allies from being returned to the box by keeping the Terror Level down. This puts a politician at a moral dilemma. How cool and contextual is that!!
This interpretation only breaks one rule. That Charlie doesn't gain all the allies that are returned to the box at setup. This is clearly over the top. However it uses all the terms in Charlie's rule by their standard meanings and and correct tense.
To be clear again: I'm not really saying my interpretation is corrrect. It's just no more wrong that any other interpretation, it uses all the words of Charlie's rules as written except for the setup exception, uses the immediate context creatively as I hope FFG did and most importantly, is a lot more fun. I also maintain it is not out of balance.
Though if Charlie does somehow end up with all 11 allies because the terror level went very high, he'd really have an awesome army and could have some stats in double digits. We've played Charlie about a half dozen times under this rule and he's never gained more 4 allies. Of course, we have not intentionally gone out to maximize him either by letting the terror level climb. The main abuse would probably occur if Glaaki were the Old One but being overrun by Servants of Glaaki is sort of self-limiting as is being devoured when the terror level reaches 10.