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Subject: Geography imbalance? rss

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Kate S.
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I've played Power Grid about 7 times already, and I've always been frustrated by the seeming geography imbalance. For instance, last night we were playing on the U.S. map. We randomized player order in the beginning, and the players who were able to start on on the East Coast were the ones that were closest to winning the game. The players who started in the West had to overcome bigger connection costs in the beginning, which means less money to bid on better power plants. It seems like there is a huge advantage to having more money in the beginning.

Is this really an imbalance, or is there something I'm missing? There's a huge disadvantage to being the first player in the beginning. How do you compensate for that?
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Luis Olcese
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Player order in the construction phase of the first turn is given by the power plant number. The initial random drawing is for the first auction order, and nothing else. Also, everybody can start in the East coast, but there will be a lot of blocking there.
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Russ Williams
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You are probably missing that players can build their first city wherever they want, so all players are "able to start on the East Coast".

You might check out Power Grid FAQ; this and similar common confusions are treated there.
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Kate S.
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Thanks for the clarification! That changes a lot.
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Ben
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Sounds like you are probably making a number of rule mistakes.

1. You randomize player order for the first auction, then you re-order player order after the auction based on power plant size.

2. Players can place their first power plant in any open city. Everyone can start on the East coast if they want to.

You should check out the Power Grid FAQ. You may be making other mistakes without realizing it.
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Michael Poplawski
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stucktomyshoe wrote:
We randomized player order in the beginning, and the players who were able to start on on the East Coast were the ones that were closest to winning the game.
Note that when you play Power Grid, the players determine which regions of the map will be used and which will not be used in the game. This should not be confused with where the players can build their networks.

Once the game begins, the players connect cities in any map region that is being used based on the turn order determined by the size of their power plants. Dim bulb chooses first.
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Dan F
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I made a similar mistake only it didn't effect the outcome in the same way, the player who started with the smaller connection costs ended with the higher costs and come end game screwed them (me whistle) because other players were able to connect for cheaper and pay much more for resources and power plants!
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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All that being said, yes, geography can screw you. Some maps more than others. With five and especially six, the last person to place usually either has to choose between a not-as-good spot, or to fiercely compete with another player by going head to head in the same territory.
 
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Randall Bart
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stucktomyshoe wrote:
We randomized player order in the beginning, and the players who were able to start on on the East Coast were the ones that were closest to winning the game.

You should have all started on the East Coast then.
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Patrick Riley
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Thunkd wrote:
With five and especially six, the last person to place usually either has to choose between a not-as-good spot, or to fiercely compete with another player by going head to head in the same territory.


I've also seen games in which those who place last are able to box in those who placed before them. Sometimes placing first is a distinct disadvantage.
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Michael Poplawski
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xenongames wrote:
I've also seen games in which those who place last are able to box in those who placed before them. Sometimes placing first is a distinct disadvantage.
The game has an interesting dynamic in that the player who has first crack at creating a network in the first round on an empty map has the weakest plant. There's an incentive to connect a few cities in that first round in order to avoid being boxed in, but a player will likely only have a 1-city power plant to earn revenue that round. The additional cities connected will put them in a less advantageous position for buying power plants the next round (except when playing the Baden-Württemberg map).

Have fun with this dilemma. devil
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Steve Duff
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xenongames wrote:
I've also seen games in which those who place last are able to box in those who placed before them.


Pet peeve of mine, please don't use the words "box in". It makes new players think you can build "walls" of cities that other players can't build through. All players can always build right through any occupied cities, simply by paying the connection costs.

All you can do is make it more expensive for a player to build through your "box in" area. Yes, this can be advantageous, but no one is ever "boxed in" (unless they literally have no money to build and little means of getting any).
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Alex Drazen
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It's not boxed in, but walls of cities do place a significant practical limit on players' budget once it starts costing 30+ in connection costs to build a city.

My own pet peeve is when people say "you can't get boxed in" -- well, not exactly, but there are practical limits on what can be done. There are also situations where you have no legal move to build -- such as if all the city spots are filled in during Step 1 and Step 2, or if you cannot actually build out to the game winning condition in Step 3 (very possible in a 4 player game).

Just played a game last night on BSW that was truly odd. US map, Northeast and middle south (red) eliminated. Blue (4, first to place) started in Las Vegas; Red (3, second to place) took Savannah and Jacksonville; Yellow (2, me, third to place) took Minneapolis and Omaha; and purple (1, last to place) took Knoxville and Atlanta.

My first build was Chicago, which placed a significant practical limit on what Red and Purple could do in Step 1. Somehow I even got Cincinnatti and St. Louis on later turns, which I think was a huge mistake on the part of Red and Purple. Ultimately, Blue built to start Step 2 by skipping to Duluth (extra 6 to skip Fargo, which I didn't understand at all) which meant that when I wanted to build two, I had to go to Cheyenne and Denver, rather than Fargo and Duluth.

Blue ended up winning by 17 electro, as I had to pay 15 for several cities in the west in Step 2 (although I did get Seattle, Portland, Santa Fe, and San Francisco for 10 each) because Red and Purple were filling up the east coast fast. Blue had saved up a ton of electro because he got a lucky drop (25 at cost) when I took the 33 and went for a "get lots of electro cheap" strategy (firing the 28 and 33 at a cost of only 6 every turn); he paid a 30+ fee to jump into Savannah, because he was at risk of having the "can't build to 17" problem that is common in a 4p (since he could only get up to 14 cities in the western 2 regions, and one in the middle region).

When Purple and Red finally got out of the east, they were either paying lots of 20 cost cities in Step 3, or a huge connection jump. In the end, I lost to Blue by 17 electro -- had to pay too much for the 50, and had I bought the 46, I don't think I could have built an 18th city to win it. I also perhaps should have considered building my last 3-4 cities in the 20 spots in the east with cheap connections, rather than 10/15 spots in the west (I was trying to take the 10 cost options from Blue, who ended up using the 20 cost options in Florida instead). Red and Purple were way, way behind -- a function of their budget keeping them from escaping the southeast (plus their questionable starting position). One oddity: Blue had reached 15 capacity with only 4 cities, so they got scared and started buying lots of plants early.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that while you cannot be blocked from reaching a region, you certainly can be prevented from building - either by prohibitively expensive connection costs, or by all of the legal spots on the board being filled up (I've even seen a Step 2 four player game where no one could build out until Step 3!).
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David Jensen

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In my first few games I immediately felt this ‘great imbalance’. Lower connection city costs were so tempting I always fought for them even when I knew space was limited. Then as I matured I realized getting your own space of 5 or 6 cities to claim for yourself was important. I’ve learned yet another key important strategy but first, read how FF came up with the connection costs.

In Board Games with Scott he interviews FF (the designer), who admits that the geographic regions may seem imbalanced and the real life (miles/kk) distance from each city is how he assigned connection costs. I got the feeling play testing or some algorithm was not involved and I was appalled! He concluded that the connection costs didn’t matter since everyone has to eventually (earlier or later) pay the connection costs. … its not until recently that I see how this imbalance is corrected.

After a lot more games and some great coaching by PG veterans there is a way to ‘correct’ this imbalance. The solution is to value the first rounds plant purchase as a means of bidding for turn order, and not just resource cost! but city selection. The resource cost for the #3 plant is awful! but when obtained you’ve earned the right to place first and grab whichever city you choose. The beauty with the #3 plant is that even in the second round you’ll still have first crack at placing cities. It’s going to cost at least one run round of unbelievable inefficiency, but you’ll be able to play first. The #4 plant often goes for 9E on most boards not only because of its efficiency but because of its place in the turn order for cities. Don’t underestimate that turn order!

In short - and I could have saved a lot of writing - auctioning for plants (ie first turn placement) is a way to balance out the otherwise unbalanced geographic regions. After playing a few times with this understanding I’ve recognized that certain maps increase the value of some of the lower cost plants. Brilliant! Paying 4E for the #3 plant, unheard of!

Wish me luck! I’ve written many a failed strategy idea here on the forums as I continue to learn this wonderful game. =)
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Paul Oakes
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xenongames wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
With five and especially six, the last person to place usually either has to choose between a not-as-good spot, or to fiercely compete with another player by going head to head in the same territory.


I've also seen games in which those who place last are able to box in those who placed before them. Sometimes placing first is a distinct disadvantage.


I'd go further than that _ I deliberately buy high number stations in Round 1 so I can place late - what do you prefer: placing first or placing once you've seen where the others are. The extra cost is irrelevant at that stage as you'll have plenty of money until you buy a large power plant, and the late resource buying is not a problem as the other players shouldn't have a lot of storage capacity.

Also, I intensely dislike the USA map with its isolation of the West, while realistic it gives a very odd phase when some players are forced West at great expense.
 
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Russ Williams
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PaulinTheLion wrote:
Also, I intensely dislike the USA map with its isolation of the West, while realistic it gives a very odd phase when some players are forced West at great expense.

Nobody's forced west; if it seems too expensive, they simply join the others in the cheaper connection areas.

(Insert obligatory observation that some people erroneously believe that only 1 player can start in a given colored region. I assume you know that's not true, but I'll mention it since it always comes up in these threads...)
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Bryan Thunkd
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russ wrote:
they simply join the others in the cheaper connection areas.


and have to compete for space head to head with another player which means that they (and the unlucky soul they crowd around) are going to have a harder game than those who don't have someone sniffing around their neighborhood from turn one.
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David Jensen

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PaulinTheLion]I've also seen games in which those who place last are able to box in those who placed before them. Sometimes placing first is a distinct disadvantage.[/q wrote:


I'd go further than that _ I deliberately buy high number stations in Round 1 so I can place late - what do you prefer: placing first or placing once you've seen where the others are. The extra cost is irrelevant at that stage as you'll have plenty of money until you buy a large power plant, and the late resource buying is not a problem as the other players shouldn't have a lot of storage capacity.

Also, I intensely dislike the USA map with its isolation of the West, while realistic it gives a very odd phase when some players are forced West at great expense.


In that scenario, you are building last and don't you find that when others connect before you in the second and even possibly the third round you have made it expensive to jump them? My question assumes you still fight for lower cost connections and try to stay crowded; or when you buy a larger plant do you sometimes move to a less dense region.
 
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Sonny Blount
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It is also not uncommon to see players blocked from building 17 cities on US tunnel maps and Italy.

That's a real block as in no cities available anywhere on the board to build.


Which is why on certain maps the 3 goes for 6 and the 4 for 11.


There are some maps were there are 4 ok opens and building last isn't a problem. But the idea of building last so you can block someone is something I would only do when playing inexperienced opposition, I would rarely expect to get away with that with experienced opposition.


And as a footnote, 1st build in a 3er is often problematic. Usually 2nd to open is the best position. Because the middle is far better than the sides (come stage 2 you can expand either way without competition, the 2 outsides have to compete for 2nd builds over your cities and can't get to the other sides), if you are 1st to build and open in the middle the other 2 players can squash you from both sides.

The general theory of building early in turn order is find 5 or 6 cities on the side of the map and make it impossible to safely build behind you.
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David Jensen

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Thunkd wrote:
russ wrote:
they simply join the others in the cheaper connection areas.


and have to compete for space head to head with another player which means that they (and the unlucky soul they crowd around) are going to have a harder game than those who don't have someone sniffing around their neighborhood from turn one.


In my most recent games, I'm finding it common to have three players fight over the absolute lowest cost region (ie Paris) then the other players seem to almost agree to have their own expensive regions for themselves.

Of note; if more than three fight over the lowest region; some one is out of the race early. If the other two try fight over territory in one loses.

PS - I mention losing; becuase I don't think that someone necessarily gets a huge advantage by some one elses mistake; mistakes end up making a flat ouloser of someone. And! its worth nothing that a crowded space isn't necessarily lost by the person who made it crowded!

What I'm trying to suggest is that the lowest cost region isn't necessiraly where everyone must go. There can be 'freedom' in another more expensive area.
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Michael Poplawski
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The best places to build may not look like the best places to build....
The best place to build a network isn't necessarily where the connections are the cheapest, and building where it appears to be expensive will discourage competitors. That can be to a player's advantage.

The game has a very strong balancing mechanic (the turn order), and the maps are in no way meant to be balanced (the connection costs are based on real-world distance and terrain), so it takes some experience to learn how to play the game and avoid pitfalls.

Enjoy!
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Sonny Blount
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If you watch many games with 4 experienced players on BSW, you will observe that the opening builds for the US map in particular are virtually solved.

I could pretty confidently tell you that at the end of round one the plants out will be 3,4(for 9 electro),5, and 8, and depending on active regions, the cities built will be Washington+neighbour, Minnesota/Chicago+Omaha/Kansas City, Billings+Denver, Birmingham+neighbour, or Savannah+neighbour. The fix for the Northern tunnel is a 1 build with the 9 plant in Boise and the Southern tunnel is Oklahoma City+neighbour.
 
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David Jensen

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Sonny Blount wrote:
If you watch many games with 4 experienced players on BSW, you will observe that the opening builds for the US map in particular are virtually solved.

I could pretty confidently tell you that at the end of round one the plants out will be 3,4(for 9 electro),5, and 8, and depending on active regions, the cities built will be Washington+neighbour, Minnesota/Chicago+Omaha/Kansas City, Billings+Denver, Birmingham+neighbour, or Savannah+neighbour. The fix for the Northern tunnel is a 1 build with the 9 plant in Boise and the Southern tunnel is Oklahoma City+neighbour.


I look forward to our next match Sonny. =) I'm going to use this - it's not cheating since you share this open source.

@ Poplawski - thanks for your contribution to this thread.
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Paul Oakes
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russ wrote:
PaulinTheLion wrote:
Also, I intensely dislike the USA map with its isolation of the West, while realistic it gives a very odd phase when some players are forced West at great expense.

Nobody's forced west; if it seems too expensive, they simply join the others in the cheaper connection areas.

(Insert obligatory observation that some people erroneously believe that only 1 player can start in a given colored region. I assume you know that's not true, but I'll mention it since it always comes up in these threads...)


What I was commenting on was the expansion phase, where you need to find a large number of cities to grow from the phase 1 upper limit to the game end. You can be forced West by an absolute shortage of city sites meaning you can't get to your target number, or the economics forcing you that way if, for instance, there are scattered cities in Florida and New England that you need, meaning you have to make expensive jumps to get to both of these blocs. In that case it will be cheaper to head West, but you're probably not going to win at that point anyway.

And yes, I do know the rules, and I too am astonished at the frequency basic rules errors crop up, showing what a lousy rule book it is (the new cheat sheet for beginners on

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/86160/info-sheet-for-begin...

is excellent, BTW).
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Paul Oakes
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notyetsuperman wrote:
PaulinTheLion]I've also seen games in which those who place last are able to box in those who placed before them. Sometimes placing first is a distinct disadvantage.


I'd go further than that _ I deliberately buy high number stations in Round 1 so I can place late - what do you prefer: placing first or placing once you've seen where the others are. The extra cost is irrelevant at that stage as you'll have plenty of money until you buy a large power plant, and the late resource buying is not a problem as the other players shouldn't have a lot of storage capacity.

Also, I intensely dislike the USA map with its isolation of the West, while realistic it gives a very odd phase when some players are forced West at great expense.[/q wrote:


In that scenario, you are building last and don't you find that when others connect before you in the second and even possibly the third round you have made it expensive to jump them? My question assumes you still fight for lower cost connections and try to stay crowded; or when you buy a larger plant do you sometimes move to a less dense region.


It depends on the map: in extreme nastiness maps this is so much of a problem I probably won't do this opening strategy, but in a "friendly" map with a preferred area (France, Germany) this is almost mandatory, as I want to see how busy Paris/ The Ruhr and the nearby areas are before going there. Even if you pick an area where you expect a quiet start there's always the possibi;ity of someone building a few places away and threatening some of your targets.

I should also say that most of my games have competent players who have varying levels of experience of Funkenschlag - from pretty hard core to played it a few times, and none of the others has played any of the maps (beyond the initial 2) to death - playing on BSW you probably need to assume near perfect play, and you can be confident as a newbie that the others won't try to crowd you to apply a handicap. My resistance to playing on-line is weakening - I registered on BSW yesterday, but didn't have the time for a game.
 
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