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Subject: Kingmaking by not building on final round. What's the etiquette? rss

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Steve Gerber
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I encountered a situation in a three player game of Power Grid recently that made me wonder about proper gaming etiquette. On the final round of the game the first player to build built his 17th substation triggering the end of the game, he was also able to power 17. The 2nd player to build only had enough power plant potential to power 16 and had so far only built 13 but had plenty of cash on hand to build at least 4 more substations. Player 3 had enough power plant potential to power 17 but his ability to afford to build to 17 was dependant on whether or not player 2 chose to build thereby increasing the building costs for player 3. So what if player 2 says, "I can't possibly win so I'm not going to bother building." This doesn't seem very sporting to me and makes building cheaper for player 3 who is still in the running to win. But on the other hand should he build to 16 and then stop or should he build as much as possible in order to make building for player 3 as costly as possible?

I like to see everyone playing to win up to the very end, but it becomes somewhat muddy in this case. Perhaps he should build to 16 and then save his remaining cash for a possible 2nd place tie breaker?

Thinking about this further, what about a 6 player game where only the 1st and 6th to build have enough power plant potential to power 14 cities. If all 4 in between players just choose not to build because they can't win that makes a huge difference in the building options that are available for the 6th player. Seems like the sporting thing to do is for everyone to build to their maximum power plant capacity for their cheapest costs at the end of the game.
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norman rule
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slgerber wrote:

I like to see everyone playing to win up to the very end, but it becomes somewhat muddy in this case. Perhaps he should build to 16 and then save his remaining cash for a possible 2nd place tie breaker?

Thinking about this further, what about a 6 player game where only the 1st and 6th to build have enough power plant potential to power 14 cities. If all 4 in between players just choose not to build because they can't win that makes a huge difference in the building options that are available for the 6th player. Seems like the sporting thing to do is for everyone to build to their maximum power plant capacity for their cheapest costs at the end of the game.


Yes and yes. It's silly to build beyond your capacity, but it's just not in our (my gaming group) DNA to NOT push as hard as possible for the win... or place... or show... or "well, I didn't come in last, and at least I beat YOU!"
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Ben
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In my mind, Power Grid doesn't have a second place. If it is clear that Player 3 can't win unless Player 2 builds fewer than every possible plant, I would have just shaken Player 1's hand and recognized his win. If it were unclear what Player 3 could afford and I were player 2, then I would build until I spent every last dollar. If Player 3 wanted to win, he should have managed turn order better.

At the end of the day, it is a group issue, but I generally expect every player to do everything in their power to make it as hard as possible for every other player to win.
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David desJardins
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chally wrote:
At the end of the day, it is a group issue, but I generally expect every player to do everything in their power to make it as hard as possible for every other player to win.


How do you do that when making it harder for Player 3 to win is the same as making it easier for Player 1 to win?

I don't think there's any "rule" but I think most people would try to power as many cities as possible (or be as close to the leader as possible) if they know they can't win.

I mean, if you know you can't win, you could pick one "target" player at random, and bid up whatever plants they want, and buy all of the resources they need, just for the hell of it. It's legal, but is it cool?
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Fraser
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My opinion is that you should always try and improve your own score, regardless of the fact that you can't win.
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Sonny Blount
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Karlsen wrote:
My opinion is that you should always try and improve your own score, regardless of the fact that you can't win.


If only it were that simple. Unfortunately in Power Grid, many times it is not.

When I reach the point of knowing I cannot win if the other players remain sane for the rest of the game (not always a given), I cease overbidding on any plants. Bid on the plant the increases my capacity the most when it is my turn to put one up, and then buy fuel and cities at the cheapest available up to my maximum capacity to power.

Playing dead is kingmaking, and over bidding, fueling, and building also is. There is a rather straightforward middle ground though:

1) Don't overbid any plant another player puts up for auction.

2) Put up for auction the plant that increases your capacity the most, if another player bids on it, pass and choose another plant.

3) Buy the cheapest fuel and cities available up to your capacity to power and no more or less.
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Julian Clarke
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Effectively, do what you'd've done if you had no idea the game was ending or who was going to win.
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Randall Bart
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chally wrote:
In my mind, Power Grid doesn't have a second place. If it is clear that Player 3 can't win unless Player 2 builds fewer than every possible plant, I would have just shaken Player 1's hand and recognized his win. If it were unclear what Player 3 could afford and I were player 2, then I would build until I spent every last dollar. If Player 3 wanted to win, he should have managed turn order better.

I don't get your point. Player 1 has not won. If Player 2 doesn't build, Player 3 wins. Player 2 is free to play however he wishes. If you get the short end of the kingmaking, you should have manged the game and the meta-game better.

In Seattle it was traditional that I got the short end of every kingmaking decision. I consider that an honor.
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Sonny Blount
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Barticus88 wrote:
chally wrote:
In my mind, Power Grid doesn't have a second place. If it is clear that Player 3 can't win unless Player 2 builds fewer than every possible plant, I would have just shaken Player 1's hand and recognized his win. If it were unclear what Player 3 could afford and I were player 2, then I would build until I spent every last dollar. If Player 3 wanted to win, he should have managed turn order better.

I don't get your point. Player 1 has not won. If Player 2 doesn't build, Player 3 wins. Player 2 is free to play however he wishes. If you get the short end of the kingmaking, you should have manged the game and the meta-game better.

In Seattle it was traditional that I got the short end of every kingmaking decision. I consider that an honor.


Power Grid is unplayable if players take their king making grudges out on each other.

I would manage that particular meta-game with either a different game or different players.
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Sonny Blount
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Unhalfbricking wrote:
Effectively, do what you'd've done if you had no idea the game was ending or who was going to win.


Nonsensical. Your decisions in Power Grid are based on when the game ends.
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alan beaumont
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What's the etiquette?
slgerber wrote:
Player 3 had enough power plant potential to power 17 but his ability to afford to build to 17 was dependant on whether or not player 2 chose to build thereby increasing the building costs for player 3.

I seem to recall that money in hand is held closed, so unless you are player 3 you cannot 'know' player 2 is going to be a kingmaker. So if player 1 is making this claim you can shrug it off as whining because keeping money might win you a tie break in the also rans.

If you are playing money open this is the kind of thing that happens. Solution: Play with closed money.
 
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Ben
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Barticus88 wrote:
I don't get your point. Player 1 has not won. If Player 2 doesn't build, Player 3 wins. Player 2 is free to play however he wishes.

As I noted, it is a matter of group dynamics and expectations. If Charlie is player 1, perhaps I let player 3 win. In most cases, however, I don't.

But, in general, my approach to the problem is simple. Player 1 had finished his turn. He has won or lost based on his own efforts. Player 3 had yet to take a turn, and whether he wins depends on Player 2. In that situation, I generally prefer Player 2 to prevent Player 3 from winning. While I certainly understand why some of you see Player 2's turn as a choice between "letting" Player 1 win and "letting" Player 3 win, I don't see it that way. To me, by managing turn order well and completing his turn prior to Player 2's turn, Player 1 has won the game. The only thing that would stop him from winning the game is if Player 2 made a non-sensical decision to make victory easier, rather than harder, for the player to follow.

In other words, because Player 1's turn is finished, I view the problem as a choice between "letting" Player 3 win or "preventing" Player 3 from winning. I think that's an easy choice. In fact, if I were Player 3 in this scenario and Player 2 refused to build, I would concede. It certainly would not feel like a victory to me. On my account, it would be a much harder case if both Player 1 and Player 3 came after Player 2.
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Kevin Brown
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misteralan wrote:
slgerber wrote:
Player 3 had enough power plant potential to power 17 but his ability to afford to build to 17 was dependant on whether or not player 2 chose to build thereby increasing the building costs for player 3.

I seem to recall that money in hand is held closed, so unless you are player 3 you cannot 'know' player 2 is going to be a kingmaker. So if player 1 is making this claim you can shrug it off as whining because keeping money might win you a tie break in the also rans.

If you are playing money open this is the kind of thing that happens. Solution: Play with closed money.


The money is all trackable, so it is possible and with some players even probable that they know exactly how much each player has.


In regards to the OP, I would not build past my capacity.
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alan beaumont
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pilight wrote:
misteralan wrote:
If you are playing money open this is the kind of thing that happens. Solution: Play with closed money.


The money is all trackable, so it is possible and with some players even probable that they know exactly how much each player has.

This is very tricky, unless you allow note taking, so there is a different etiquette issue there. Which raises the mischievous question: If two different players make claims about how much money player 'X' has, who do you believe?
 
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Werner Bär
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slgerber wrote:
On the final round of the game the first player to build built his 17th substation triggering the end of the game, he was also able to power 17. The 2nd player to build only had enough power plant potential to power 16 and had so far only built 13 but had plenty of cash on hand to build at least 4 more substations. Player 3 had enough power plant potential to power 17 but his ability to afford to build to 17 was dependant on whether or not player 2 chose to build thereby increasing the building costs for player 3.

As player 2, i would build to 16, and hope for 2nd place (if player 3 doesn't have the money to build to 17, i have a chance)
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Steve Gerber
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While it is true that player 2 has the legal right (in accordance with the rules) not to build it still seems like bad gaming etiquette. In my mind it amounts to quitting the game early which I think most gamers would agree is very bad etiquette. It's true that strategically it sometimes makes sense not to build in Power Grid but only if there is going to be another building phase ahead. If the first player to build triggers the endgame condition then everyone knows that this is the last chance to build and so should build substations to match their maximum plant capacity and then save their remaining cash for tie breaking. The rules clearly state that the game ends immediately after phase 4 thus I think it is only fair that all players continue building with the intent of maximizing the number of cities that they can power in order to finish the game properly.

Looking at it from a different perspective, if you were at a tournament where prize money was awarded to all players based on their endgame ranking ($200 - 1st place, $100 - 2nd place, $50 - third place, $20 - 4th place, $5 - 5th place) wouldn't every player want to make sure he powered as many cities as possible even if he didn't get first place?
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Steve Gerber
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chally wrote:

In other words, because Player 1's turn is finished, I view the problem as a choice between "letting" Player 3 win or "preventing" Player 3 from winning. I think that's an easy choice. In fact, if I were Player 3 in this scenario and Player 2 refused to build, I would concede. It certainly would not feel like a victory to me.


Yes, I resonate with this opinion. In a multi-player game where player interactions heavily influence the outcome of the game it seems that the only fair thing is for all players to continue making decisions that raise their own score and lower the score of their competitors all the way through until the game is fully finished.
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When I play Powergrid, I always try for the best place I can get. Winning is best, but coming second is better than third, and so on. Place is determined by cities powered at the end, with ties decided by money.
I respect the opinion of people who say there is one winner, and everyone else is an equal- but I disagree strongly. That's not how I play. Play to win, play for place, be fair.

In the example given, P2 cannot improve his or her position by building all those extra connections. P2's position will be determined by the power plants s/he owns. Why build to interfere with P3? Why is there any expectation that this should happen? P1 and P3 are equivalent as far as P2 is concerned.

Edit: the important detail is that P1 has already triggered the endgame. P2's best score is to ensure s/he powers 13 as cheaply as possible. Restricting P3 to 16 connections does not alter the fact that P2 is going to come third.
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Werner Bär
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Ozludo wrote:
Edit: the important detail is that P1 has already triggered the endgame. P2's best score is to ensure s/he powers 13 as cheaply as possible. Restricting P3 to 16 connections does not alter the fact that P2 is going to come third.

Read again. P2 has built to 13, but can power 16. P3 hasn't built yet. P2 can come 2nd if he builds to 16, and P3 only manages to connect 16 cities and has less money left.
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Werbaer wrote:
Ozludo wrote:
Edit: the important detail is that P1 has already triggered the endgame. P2's best score is to ensure s/he powers 13 as cheaply as possible. Restricting P3 to 16 connections does not alter the fact that P2 is going to come third.

Read again. P2 has built to 13, but can power 16. P3 hasn't built yet. P2 can come 2nd if he builds to 16, and P3 only manages to connect 16 cities and has less money left.

In that case, P2 should build to 16, choosing connections that maximise the chance he will have more cash than P3.
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Kevin Brown
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misteralan wrote:
pilight wrote:
misteralan wrote:
If you are playing money open this is the kind of thing that happens. Solution: Play with closed money.


The money is all trackable, so it is possible and with some players even probable that they know exactly how much each player has.

This is very tricky, unless you allow note taking, so there is a different etiquette issue there. Which raises the mischievous question: If two different players make claims about how much money player 'X' has, who do you believe?


In our group, it would be the one everyone calls "Rain Man"...

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Edwin Nealley
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slgerber wrote:
I encountered a situation in a three player game of Power Grid recently that made me wonder about proper gaming etiquette. On the final round of the game the first player to build built his 17th substation triggering the end of the game, he was also able to power 17. The 2nd player to build only had enough power plant potential to power 16 and had so far only built 13 but had plenty of cash on hand to build at least 4 more substations. Player 3 had enough power plant potential to power 17 but his ability to afford to build to 17 was dependant on whether or not player 2 chose to build thereby increasing the building costs for player 3. So what if player 2 says, "I can't possibly win so I'm not going to bother building." This doesn't seem very sporting to me and makes building cheaper for player 3 who is still in the running to win. But on the other hand should he build to 16 and then stop or should he build as much as possible in order to make building for player 3 as costly as possible?...


It sounds like the best that Player 3 can hope for is a tie-break situation with Player 1, and that Player 3 may end up with less cash left than Player 1 even if they can build to 17 cities after 2's turn is taken.

Player 2 is only king-making if they deliberately do less than they could to advance during their turn, so the question is: what is Player 2's most reasonable choice?

I would say that if Player 2 can build to only 16 cities and still prevent Player 3 from making 17, that would be my 1st choice personally, even if this involved selecting a more expensive way to build to 16 cities in order to block Player 3 (e.g., create optimal city connections matching your own plant capacity and fuel on hand, and cause maximum disruption to others you might still finish ahead of.)

Otherwise, building to 17 cities might not make any difference- Player 2 may spend enough that Player 3 just stops at 16 and finishes ahead in 2nd on tie breaks, or Player 2 stopping at 16 cities may not prevent Player 3 from building to 17 and passing Player 2 on # of cities.

At that point I would say your play may fairly vary- you may permit Player 3 to build ahead and let them try to 'take down Barticus (1)', or you may build to 17 and still fail to end ahead of Player 3.

It would just be group dynamics as to which option you choose; you might want to point out the futility of whichever choice you made as you congratulate the winner.
 
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David desJardins
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herendil66 wrote:
Player 2 is only king-making if they deliberately do less than they could to advance during their turn


I'm not sure that's a common point of view. I think that Player 2 is kingmaking whenever, by their choice of actions, they determine which of the other players will win, in a situation where they can't win.

Kingmaking is unavoidable, in this view. The challenge is just to do it in a way that doesn't ruin the enjoyment of the game.
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Jason Reid
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I don't care about last-round Kingmaking, and try to influence my groups not to sweat it, either. It doesn't bother me on an emotional level.

If I played well, but not well enough to avoid being trapped in that situation, then I congratulate myself for the good things I did and then try to figure out how to improve things so that next time, Kingmaking isn't a factor.

On an intellectual level, however, I would prefer Player 2 to play their best move (whatever that means to them). If they only player they can improve their standing in relation to is Player 3, then I think they should play that move. At the very least, Player 3 will then have a better chance to learn how they put themselves in a precarious situation, and maybe how to avoid it next time.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
herendil66 wrote:
Player 2 is only king-making if they deliberately do less than they could to advance during their turn


I'm not sure that's a common point of view. I think that Player 2 is kingmaking whenever, by their choice of actions, they determine which of the other players will win, in a situation where they can't win.

Kingmaking is unavoidable, in this view. The challenge is just to do it in a way that doesn't ruin the enjoyment of the game.


I usually consider it Kingmaking if a player is acting sub-optimally in a way that impacts another player, or if they have to choose which player to target (if player 1 is probably not going to be able to win, but chooses a more expensive city player 2 might want over a cheaper city player 3 might want, etc).

The thing you have to remember about getting screwed by turn order in Power Grid is that it's your fault, because the turn order is determined by a player's actions. A lot of the strategy of PG is maneuvering for turn order at crucial points. Being last player usually means you chose to make more money or take a better power plant, and if you get outmaneuvered and can't afford your cities because of turn order, you lost. That's a big part of how Power Grid works.

So if player 2 arbitrarily chooses to not build anymore and give up
1. That's poor sportsmanship (there are plenty of games where you can see your inevitable defeat coming, but it's weenie move to just stop playing or stop trying. This is a game about powering cities and making money, you should try to power cities and make money)
2. They're breaking Power Grid and the way the game is intended to work, where turn order has a huge impact. If one player chooses not to make turn order matter for another player, the game breaks down.
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