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Subject: Why Power Grid is a good game and not a great game and should not be in the top 50 BGG (opinion) rss

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Tim Gilberg
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dboeren wrote:
For what it's worth...

I pretty much agree with the OP about Power Grid.


Really?

Your own post doesn't suggest so.

You think it has major runaway leader problems where the rich get richer?
 
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Cmdr_G wrote:
It is not that that you have runaway leaders as that you can have runaway losers, and they become the drag that does put a negative spin on the game.

Almost any game gives the player the option to play badly, but Power Grid has less of a runaway loser problem than Settlers or Acquire.
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Scot Ryder
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Power Grid should be in the BGG Top 50 for one and only one reason: Power Grid is in the BGG Top 50. It's a community driven ranking system and reflects the community not any single one of us.
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herendil66 wrote:
this game is not for everybody and caveat emptor definitely applies.


Actually......Caveat Emptor only applies to Property Law.
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It seems like you dislike the game for some of the same reasons I like it. Well, to each their own.

EDIT to add:
In case I wasn't clear-- Kudos for the review. Your reasons for not being as fond of the game as for example I am strike me as matters of taste more than anything but I doubt your tastes will be unique. People with whom they resonate more might see more substance in them.

Still, I see your review as adding in contrast to what a BGG user gets when researching this game.

As such, even while i disagree, well done.
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Jae
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After reading all of the comments here and the OP's replies, I fully understand why he can't win at the game. He clearly doesn't understand how the game works.

There is no runaway loser problem. I've been at the very tail end for the bulk of a game and won with a sneaky multi-building build (winning with power to only 6 cities!). I've only won a handful of times being the clear "leader". And being in the middle of the pack is useful, but not always a game changer...the sneaky guy biding his time at the "bottom" can overtake and overwhelm the other players if they aren't paying attention.

This is only a resource management game by coincidence. The game is solidly a market simulation game. If you understand markets, you should understand this game.

Monopoly better than PG, are you serious? Do you actually know why monopoly is lambasted, or do you just think it is a knee-jerk reaction to a mass market success? There is little to no strategy in Monopoly. In fact, the only real strategy I am aware of is to control the housing supply, which isn't exactly easy to pull off. Other than that, you roll, move and hope you don't go bankrupt. There is no control in Monopoly.

Not enough strategy choices? I've tried and succeeded with six different strategies in Power Grid. Sure the number of viable strategies is much more limited than say Agricola, but IMHO, this is a plus, not a negative. Agricola has so many paths to victory, half of learning it is just figuring out what a viable path is. (I happen to hate Agricola because it is too tedious and too open).

Ugly art, components too small? Valid arguments. I personally pimped my set to correct this. With red lego crystals for uranium (I happen to like the coal, oil and trash markers), and poker chips instead of paper money. As for the board, I actually like the pipes and never gave it a second thought. But if you don't like how it looks, that is a fair critique.

Not top 50 material? I personally think PG may be one of the most deserving games in the top 10!

I am actually curious what qualities you think a top 50 game should have, without specifically mentioning any games, just qualities.

My criteria:
1. relatively simple rules to teach (I specify teach as I'm capable of slugging through difficult rules and clarifying them very adeptly...so a hard rulebook can still be a fantastic game!)

2. sensible components (quality doesn't matter if the components make sense and support game play, anything can be replaced...)

3. Good match from theme to mechanics of game. (the theme should suggest how to play the game.)

4. Good replay value; varied set up, maps or other factors that allow for a large number of variable game paths.

5. play in a reasonable amount of time, or at least not feel like you played for as long as you did.

6. Fun to lose (you learn something from losing)

an example of my top 11 (not in order) to match with my criteria:
Power Grid
Kingsburg
Ghost Stories
Factory Fun (Cwali version)
Ubongo
Roma
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
McMulti/Crude
Taluva
Battlestar Galactica
Galaxy Trucker
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Gordon Roach
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@mumu
I made I typo in my rush to work at 5am this morning, so forgive me while I stand corrected, I would have used 'Phase'.



I was thinking at work today that this is a one strategy, which by default means that it is not a strategy game. What you are doing is tactical tweaks to maximize your position. Thus it really should to me not be listed as a strategy game.

Strategy games offer more than one route to the end, and they may vary in the number or type of tactical options within the strategy.

A board game should be rated not just on its play, it should be rated on various aspects. You balance this to get a rating. Because there is no strategy it should rate low, the choices are tactical and limited in scope. It has lower production qualities in presentation relative to cost. It has other qualities, it is an elimination game without eliminating, at least in Monopoly you can be eliminated and in Chess you can retire. It is resource management that tries to deny that. It is a race game because it has just one path, and its whose first to the end, yet it is not a race because being ahead is a penalty.

It has the interesting mechanism of the auction to try and balance the game. Yet it also tries to balance again with the income as you get higher, the gains diminish rapidly. Having 2 balancing mechanisms suggests that the game is not balanced, and in practice neither really succeed, yet without the other this game would be rather unplayable.

It reminds me of getting into the sweet spot of something, cruising, not to fast and you can't stop or basically you lose. You have to maintain momentum to be at the end and slip forward to win. It has a very competitive style of play, the people I know that dedicate lots of time to gaming it are all very competitive, there is no social aspect to this game. Interaction is limited to the auctions and resources in the main, you can work blocks on people in step 1 and that could see them hurt so bad they never recover.

In balance I think this game is not really a Euro although it dresses like one, it is not a strategy game, its not the best presented. It is aggressive, unforgiving, and for what you ultimately doing, longish Never finished in 90 minutes, 120+++ typically). It is competitive, an elimination game without elimination.

I see a lot of this game in auctions, it is a game that really does not suit everyone, yet it has a hook that some find irresistible.

So if this game is a niche game, it needs a niche rating. In a mainstream rating it does not make top 50 material for alot of people for many reasons. As somebody has already said it is a game that got voted up early, and now getting it back into a better perspective is going to be very hard, like coming from behind in the game itself.

Perhaps when we rate games we need to factor in various things more than is done. Chess by comparison is competitive, has more strategies, comes in all forms of presentation from amazing to cheap and nasty, and the rules are pretty solid, allows lots of strategy and many tactical options, and depending on your choices of timing, much quicker. Ticket to Ride route builds, manages resources, competitive, visually appealing, solid rules and quicker play. All are ranked much lower.

BGG ranking becomes very emotive, we need some way of balancing it out.

For me its outside the Top 50 because it fails in what it depicts itself as, lack visual appeal, mechanisms that don't quite work, and the leader is not a leader, yet a person behind the curve is probably a loser already.

I am not selling mine, it has a place in my collection with the right people.

G




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Ed
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buzhannon wrote:
For example, Twilight Struggle is #1 right now. I don't think that most who try it will like it. Of those attracted to that type of game, TS seems to be their favorit.

I think by definition most who have tried it do like it and that's why it's number one. I'm not a fan of whatever niche TS represents and was skeptical when I first sat down to play it but immediately bought a copy after that game. It's a great game and appeals to a lot of people.
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Steve Bauer
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ed95005 wrote:
buzhannon wrote:
For example, Twilight Struggle is #1 right now. I don't think that most who try it will like it. Of those attracted to that type of game, TS seems to be their favorit.

I think by definition most who have tried it do like it and that's why it's number one. I'm not a fan of whatever niche TS represents and was skeptical when I first sat down to play it but immediately bought a copy after that game. It's a great game and appeals to a lot of people.


To be in the top 10 almost everyone that rated it had to give it an 8 or higher and it needs to be rated by enough people to overcome the dummy ratings. TS has a average rating of 8.32 which if anything under-represents how many people consider it a very good game. 80% of the people who have rated it give it a 8 or higher. All of the games in the top 10 are there because 4 out of 5 people who rate games agree it is a great game.

Edit: PG is a little lower at 75% giving it an 8 or higher, so only 3.75 gamers out of 5 agree but another .75 gamers said it was a good game by rating it a 7.
 
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Cmdr_G wrote:
@mumu

For me its outside the Top 50 because it fails in what it depicts itself as, lack visual appeal, mechanisms that don't quite work, and the leader is not a leader, yet a person behind the curve is probably a loser already.



While I tend to agree that PG is not for most "normal" people I am curious how you would change the rating system on BGG to bump PG out of the top 50?
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Randall Bart
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Big Bad Lex wrote:
herendil66 wrote:
this game is not for everybody and caveat emptor definitely applies.


Actually......Caveat Emptor only applies to Property Law.

Caveat lector, then
 
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Alex Brown
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This is a good review, and you should post it or ask mods to change the listing to get a wider audience.

I don't particularly like Power Grid, but this is more a discussion about ratings now. Whether a game should be rated higher is a moot point; frankly it makes you out to be a jerk or snob if you think you know better.

A better point is: why do people rate some games higher than others? It is a more respectful question, and I'd argue it's would lead to more interesting debate.
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Gordon Roach
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@capadotia

I think this needs a new thread to discuss revised ranking scores.

I will only add that I look at a game in its entirety, the cost, the ease of play and ease of learning to play as that can differ, the look and quality of the components, the fun factor and this is variable, the replayability, is this something I need special people for or can I get anyone in the group (we have retired people in 70+ down to teenagers in our group), theme (thinly pasted Euro scores less), duration of game (and is it close to that advertised, it can effect the fun factor as long tedious games that might have moments of fun will score lower with me), weight or intensity. That probably covers it.

Perhaps a new thread some place if people want to continue.
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Vince Lupo
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I like how the game gives most players a chance to win all the way until the very end.
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Andy Holt
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Neo42 wrote:
I like how the game gives most players the appearance of a chance to win all the way until the very end.


FTFY
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Eric Brosius
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People should know that skill makes a big difference in Power Grid. If you get outplayed by any significant margin, you are going to lose. As a result, many first-timers will have little chance to win. (Though I seem to play with opponents who pick up winning strategies quickly and I've seen first-timers win a number of times.)

This is not a game in which you can roll a big fistful of dice at the end and, if you roll enough 6's, overcome a game-long deficit. It is certainly possible to play in such a way that you have no hope in the last turn or two.

It seems that many of the BGG Top 50 games share this trait, for example:

Twilight Struggle
Agricola
Puerto Rico
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Power Grid
Le Havre
Brass
Dominion

I've just listed 8 out of the Top 10. I left out Eclipse, the #7 game, because I haven't played it yet, and I left out Dominion: Intrigue because it's really the same (for the purpose of this list) as Dominion. So there's no Top 10 game that meets your criteria.

If you were to claim "Why the BGG Top 50 may not be the best place to send new boardgamers to find starter games" I would agree with your hypothesis, with the caveat that some people will enjoy these games from play 1, even if they don't win or come close to winning.
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Cmdr_G wrote:
I will only add that I look at a game in its entirety, the cost, the ease of play and ease of learning to play as that can differ, the look and quality of the components, the fun factor and this is variable, the replayability, is this something I need special people for or can I get anyone in the group (we have retired people in 70+ down to teenagers in our group), theme (thinly pasted Euro scores less), duration of game (and is it close to that advertised, it can effect the fun factor as long tedious games that might have moments of fun will score lower with me), weight or intensity. That probably covers it.


What you are doing here is creating some subjective criteria for what makes a good game. This is fundamental when reviewing a game. However it is purely subjective.

According to my own criteria Power Grid is more thematic, more accessible, more strategic, more replayable, and has better art than Agricola. Power Grid provides more fun and a more interesting social experience than Agricola. To each his own.

The one issue I take with your initial premise is that you seem to imply that your criteria for judging a game is more "correct" than any criteria that would rank Power Grid so hightly. This is certainly not the case.

Agricola provides many strategic options, but in order to do so it carefully controls and limits player interaction to the worker placement part of the game. The focus in Agricola is on effeciently building up a farm that provides maximum number of points. The player interaction as provided by the worker placement is important, but not in the way it is with Power Grid.

Power Grid has multiple intersecting levels of player interaction. Coming up with a strategy requires working within and around the limits placed on you by your opponents. In Power Grid you can't say, "I'm going to focus on a late build Plutonium strategy." Because your opponents have much more to say in how you implement your strategy than they do in Agricola. (In my opinion this is why Power Grid is fundamentally a better game than Agricola.)

As such I think you have it backward, Agricola is the race, a cross country race if you will. Players are working in parallel to accomplish their goals. Sure there's some jostling and drafting, but how you accomplish those goals is primarily a function of the terrain, not your fellow racers, and is therefore more transparent and unchanging from game to game. Power Grid is like a soccer game or a boxing match. Your strategy is primarily a function of who you are playing against. And as such strategy is elusive, amorphous and changes from game to game and even from turn to turn. But saying there is only one strategy in Power Grid is like saying the only strategy in soccer is to put the ball in the goal.

You'll find many early Euros based on Power Grid's style of player interaction rather than Agricola's more recent style. Settlers of Catan, El Grande, Tigris and Euphrates, Age of Steam, Tikal, Taj Mahal, etc., are all like Power Grid in this regard and consquently much better games than Agricola.

I think what your post alludes to is that there has been a sea change going on in board gaming, or at least among "Euro" games. A slow transformation that really started gaining momentum with Puerto Rico's popularity. Euros now have a completely different feel and style than they used to have. But that does not mean Power Grid is inherently inferior.
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Tim Gilberg
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capadotia wrote:

While I tend to agree that PG is not for most "normal" people I am curious how you would change the rating system on BGG to bump PG out of the top 50?


Easy.

Take his ratings. Make those the official ratings for the entire geek.

Oddly enough, I note that many who complain about the rankings of particular games have a rather similar solution in mind.
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Evan Stegman
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Here's the reason why it is ranked so highly: other people like it more than you do even with any problems it might have.

So it is ranked appropriately: it's ranking is an accurate reflection of BGG of how much the community likes it (at least according to the forumula that is used on all games.).

So to say it shouldn't rank so high is saying:



Ok, not really.

It is more saying that people shouldn't like the game more than you not that they shouldn't like it at all.

When you say "It also in my mind shows that the ranking of the game really is very flawed" you are saying, in effect, other people are wrong for liking the game more than you.

You can say other people's opinions are wrong all you want but that is not quite how opinions work.

And note I have not said one word defending Power Grid. Any flaws it may have are irrelevant to the ranking. The only thing that is relevant to the rankings is people's opinions of those flaws.

It appears that other people's opinion of those flaws is not as harsh as yours but they are just as correct or "flawed" in their opinions as you are in yours.

Even if you are 100% correct in every opinion you expressed, that does not mean other people's opinions are "flawed" if they are different from yours. Thats how opinions work.
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Steve Duff
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Cmdr_G wrote:
I made I typo in my rush to work at 5am this morning, so forgive me while I stand corrected, I would have used 'Phase'.


That makes your correction:

"When it is a player's turn to choose a power plant to auction, he may choose not to start an auction and, instead pass. If he does so, he cannot bid on other power plants in later auctions in this Phase."

instead of the original:

"When it is a player's turn to choose a power plant to auction, he may choose not to start an auction and, instead pass. If he does so, he cannot bid on other power plants in later auctions in this Round."

Sorry to belabour the point, but I still don't see how this was a "very important" issue for you. There is only one auction phase per round, so Round and Phase are synonymous here, and substituting one for the other makes no difference in game play.
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Curt Collins
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dougbass68 wrote:
You seem to feel that Power Grid has a runaway leader problem, despite the turn order mechanism used to prevent this. Did you not find it to be sufficient? Personally, when I play where are players are equally experienced, I find there is no such problem.

I'm not sure I agree with you about the resource management comment. I don't see resource management as a defining characteristic of Power Grid, certainly not when you compare it to something like Le Havre. To me, Power Grid is much more of an auction and network building game.

I agree that the artwork isn't attractive and it sounds like this is very important to you. While I am also drawn to games with nice artwork and appealing components, I'm very glad I tried Power Grid. It's my only 10.


It does have a runaway leader problem. Though the "leader" may not have the most current points, the person in the best position will usually find themselves increasing the quality of their position in relation to others playing the game.
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Mark Delano
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Spleen wrote:

It does have a runaway leader problem. Though the "leader" may not have the most current points, the person in the best position will usually find themselves increasing the quality of their position in relation to others playing the game.


Although it's possible that some games of Power Grid will have a player who is in the best position throughout the game and is able to leverage that position to increase their lead, in practice I don't think it happens that frequently.
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Gordon Roach
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@Jae
I never ever have said I could not win, I can manage wins in this like most games I play. That said, winning a game does not elevate it's status, nor does losing. I used to be great at Dominion for example, now our eldest girl has been beating me regularly for the last year. I like to compete, losing does not cloud my judgement.

As for 6 strategies in PG, there is only one, just one path to the end, and you win by getting there first. There are no other alternative scoring mechanisms, nor paths of development. You can't make a plan before game start, each turn, in fact each phase is tactical decision making, and much of it can be reactionary. Thus there is no strategy game.

Quote:
This is only a resource management game by coincidence. The game is solidly a market simulation game. If you understand markets, you should understand this game.


Seriously? A market game works with supply and demand. There is no real supply and demand, supply in the game is resources to burn, eg fuel. There is no demand as this in a market situation is driven by the market, ie the customers. There is no demand, its an artificial bubble created to force interaction with other players and race to the end, deny resources or drive up the costs. Players know what is going to happen each turn due to the strict turn order, you know what costs will be, you know what cash people have and what they need to buy, you know how many houses you get to light up, you know what you might get to purchase in the future. The Dice Tower's Ryan Metzler states he can't beat his accountant friend. This is how predictable it can be, and I am certain they have way more experience than me. Chess has this level of predictability.

As you set your own demand, and the game sets the supply, this is not a market simulation.

Regards,

G

 
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Cmdr_G wrote:

@Steve
It should read;-
When it is a player's turn to choose a power plant to auction, he may choose not to start an auction and, instead pass. If he does so, he cannot bid on other power plants in later auctions in this Step.


G


This is completely incorrect. There are only three steps in the game. Step one is the early game, Step two starts when a player buys their sixth or seventh city (depending on number of players), and Step three starts when the Step Three card comes up in the plant market.

By your reading of the rules (the incorrect one), if you pass on starting an auction then you can't bid on a plant until the next Step.

If that's how you are playing the game, then perhaps your dislike of the game comes from playing it completely wrong?
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I think the BGG admins should stamp a big red banner at the top of the BGG Rank with "WARNING: this is a popularity rank. In no way we imply this reflects the tastes of any BGG user in particular nor we think you should like these games in the precise order they are presented here. Furthermore, If the BGG rank doesn't match exactly with your particular rank, we suggest you take it as a proof that your taste and/or discernment is vastly superior of that of the majority".

EDIT: I perfectly understand the issues the OP has with PG (which I don't share), even if he had just wrote, "man, Power Grid is a t*rd". It's the whole "over/underrated" thing that I still don't get.
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