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Subject: Problems playing Power Grid with six rss

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Pieter
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I am a reasonably experienced Power Grid player, and I consider it my favorite game. I mostly play with 3-5 players. Just twice I played it with 6. I played with 6 last weekend, and the game felt weird and actually unbalanced. I saw several problems.

The first problem was that I could see right from the start who would win. We used the Germany map, and excluded the south region (mainly so that the market would not get messed too much). The first player to place a house went into the west (Ruhrgebiet). I was second, and decided to go to the North (Hamburg). I do not like choosing early, but that was the consequence of getting my favorite 04 plant. Of the next three players, one joined the west, one joined the north, and one went south. I would have expected the last player to go to the west again, but instead he decided to go north. The consequence was that the two players in the west had plenty of cheap room to expand, while the three players in the north were hemming each other in from the very start (me being the biggest sufferer here, because I was in the middle).

Now, in fewer-player games having little room to expand is not a big problem, since by the end of the game everybody has to go everywhere on the map anyway. Not so with six players: you only need 14 houses on the board to end the game. Basically, from the very first turn I (and the other experienced players) knew that one of the players in the west would win, because their connections would be cheap throughout the whole game. And that is how the game turned out.

The second strange thing that happened was that we never got into phase 3. Actually, when the game ended we needed two more rounds before we would reach stage 3. This, again, helped the two players in the west because they used all the 10 and 15 spots of the cities there, and consequently nobody else could infiltrate this area. I have never seen a game not have a phase 3, but it is logical that this happens with six players. The whole deck of power plants is used, but fewer cities are needed to end the game, which leads to less building, and the players being able to end the game with the plants that are normally considered 'mid-game material'.

In our case the game ended early because one of the western players, who could power 12 plants, decided to build 14 houses so that he would win (all the other players had at most 11 houses on the board, and he was last to build). But if he had not done that, I would have ended the game in the turn after that, as I was the only player who could power 15 houses and could easily build up to 15 in the round after (I could have gone to a maximum of 12 in the last round, but since we were still in phase 2 that would have been so expensive for me that I decided to stick with 11 -- 12 would not have won me the game anyway and would have risked an almost assured victory the next round). So the game was going to end before stage 3 in any case.

And before you ask: no, we did not forget to bury high plants in the administration phase, or remove low plants due to stage switching, or nobody buying one, or someone connecting a number of cities equal to the number of the plant. As I said, I am an experienced player and do not forget those things (we actually had to remove 2 plants due to the number of connections).

So, these are the two problems I saw with Power Grid with six players:

(1) The natural balancing of Power Grid does not work with six players, because each player uses only a relatively small part of the board, which is quite different from most other players. This is the result of needing few cities, while having a lot of room.

(2) Stage 3 is unlikely to come out, because the players need fewer cities and fewer plants to reach the end of the game, while the whole deck of power plants is used.

Now, you might not consider these actual problems. I mean, I liked playing the game, even knowing that my chances were reduced from the start. And I enjoy trying to fight out from an underdog position (I almost succeeded here because I managed to invest in ideal power plants). Power Grid is not the only game that is unbalanced under some conditions. Still, I find it an interesting question whether there is a way to return the game's balance with six players, without harming the style of the game.

A possible solution might be a map designed specifically for six players. The Germany map is pretty unbalanced by itself, and perhaps a map which does not have such huge differences in connection costs for the regions would work better. I can imagine a map where there are more regions with a small cheap areas, surrounded by more expensive connections. But maybe a map like that already exists -- does anybody have opinions on that? Or should we have left out the German Ruhrgebiet region, which seems to be game-breaking if not at least 3 of the 6 players start there? Or do we need a 7-region map, and play the 6-player game with end conditions like the 5-player game, but in 6 regions?

Discuss.
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Andi Hub
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I think I have only played about 2 games with 6 players (online on BSW), so I have too little experience to comment on maps, but on the power plant market I will.

Even if there is no step 3, you still have enough end game plants in play. Since you only have to power 14 cities (I know, you could power less or more...), each 4 capacity plant (and maybe even some 3 capacity plants) are actually end game plants. So this changes the importance of all plants. So your point (2) is correct, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, since it is less likely to use the 20 spots in cities, board and starting positions become even more important.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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I've played it once with 6 on the Germany map, and I dont remember anything weird. Of course we didnt exclude anything since with 6p you use the entire map.
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Pieter
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freddieyu wrote:
I've played it once with 6 on the Germany map, and I dont remember anything weird. Of course we didnt exclude anything since with 6p you use the entire map.

No, you do not. The rules state that with 6 players, you only use 5 regions. Using 6 regions would have alleviated the problems, as the last player definitely would not have gone to the north, giving all players sufficient room for expansion.

As I understand it, Friedemann Friese specifically added the five-region limitation for 6 players to add diversity. But I wonder whether that was a good idea.
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Pieter
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ringo84 wrote:
However, since it is less likely to use the 20 spots in cities, board and starting positions become even more important.

True. Unfortunately, starting positions are what you have least control over. It is not about where you start, but where other players start. And that is why I think balancing needs work with 6 players.
 
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Andi Hub
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
ringo84 wrote:
However, since it is less likely to use the 20 spots in cities, board and starting positions become even more important.

True. Unfortunately, starting positions are what you have least control over. It is not about where you start, but where other players start. And that is why I think balancing needs work with 6 players.

Well, this sentence was meant to agree with your concerns, not to alleviate them.
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
freddieyu wrote:
I've played it once with 6 on the Germany map, and I dont remember anything weird. Of course we didnt exclude anything since with 6p you use the entire map.

No, you do not. The rules state that with 6 players, you only use 5 regions. Using 6 regions would have alleviated the problems, as the last player definitely would not have gone to the north, giving all players sufficient room for expansion.

As I understand it, Friedemann Friese specifically added the five-region limitation for 6 players to add diversity. But I wonder whether that was a good idea.


Where is that rule? Looking at the PDF version of the rules I have I see...

"Place the board in the middle of the table, choosing the side you wish to play on. The map is separated into 6 areas, each with 7 cities. In each game, the players choose which areas they will play in. We recommend one area per player. Of course, the areas chosen must be adjacent. During the game, every player can play in
all the chosen areas."

Nothing mentioned about only using 5 regions for 6 players.
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Page 7 under subject "Exceptions, changes and special things".
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fh13 wrote:
Nothing mentioned about only using 5 regions for 6 players.

As noted in the later comment, see later in the rules. Similarly a 2-player game uses 3 regions, not 2.

This and many other common rule errors are covered in Power Grid FAQ... well worth reading!
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Joe Pastuzyn
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If you have the second power plant deck, there is a published mega-variant which uses all six regions for six players and goes to a higher house count as well. The variant uses the larger power plants from the new deck so the game goes two or three rounds longer than normal which could be longer than you would like to play. I like to play this variant with five players as well as the map seems more expansive at first, but you quickly run into each other as in normal Power Grid. The auctioning for the plants that power 7, 8 or 9 cities becomes critical.
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I have played at least 4 or 5 times with 6 players, and don't remember ever seeing trouble. One of my favorite games ever was a 6p, the game ended with a tie, me coming in 2nd by 1 electro.

If two players were in the West, all by themselves with so many free cities, why didn't somebody from another region build into the West?
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Pieter
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wmshub wrote:
If two players were in the West, all by themselves with so many free cities, why didn't somebody from another region build into the West?

It could not be reached in time. Some expensive connections had to be bridged, and the western players made sure that they built outwards before building inwards.

I am not saying that it was completely impossible, but unfortunately there were only two really experienced players at the table: one of the guys in the west, and I. It would have helped me a lot if the player in the north-west would have tried to invade the western region, because it would have given me more room to grow. But I am averse to trying to steer other players into 'attacking' a third player, especially if I would get an advantage out of it. They should discover the game by themselves.
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Marcel Sagel
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I have played Power Grid with six a number of times (at least five times, maybe more), and I can't recall a game where we didn't reach Stage 3 - although often the game ended on the first turn of Stage 3. (On the other hand, I recall one game where we went straight from Stage 1 to Stage 3 - with six players you burn through the plant deck faster.)

As for starting positions, yes, they can have a big impact on the game but I don't think this is unique to the six player game. There are always configurations where the last player to choose can throw the game one way or another depending on where (s)he starts. I do admit, with six players the board is more crowded and thus this effect is more pronounced.
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I've played six players quite a bit on many different maps. Two main things a) it takes longer and b) it is usually much tighter, i.e. there is competition for territory.
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
but unfortunately there were only two really experienced players at the table

So, you had a less-than-optimal experience playing at max player count with mostly inexperienced players? How unpredictable! :/

Seriously, my initial response to your OP was "Play better." Nice to find out that it was actually the correct response...

Power Grid plays fine with 6, if most of the players are even moderately experienced.

That said, reading board position and its implications is one of the more difficult skills in Power Grid, and if you're not willing to give pointers, your play experiences are going to suffer until people get up to speed.


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Jeff Thornsen
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These concerns are not specific to the 6 player game.

Initial city placement is crucial in all player counts. If one player is left with a cheap part of the map without competition, they are much more likely to win.

The major difference in 6-player is that the lower 4 Capacity plants become end-game plants, and Step 2 begins at 6 cities.

I have seen games end in Step 2 with other player counts - it usually requires a power plant stall and then the player with the highest capacity saves enough money to build out before the other players can get their capacity up.
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Pieter
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Faranim wrote:
Initial city placement is crucial in all player counts. If one player is left with a cheap part of the map without competition, they are much more likely to win.

I don't think it is. With 3 or 4 players, all players will spread out to most of the map. A quick start is compensated for by having more expensive connections later in the game, and vice versa. With 5 players, this no longer holds, but there is more room in general than on the 6-player map.
 
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Pieter
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fnord23 wrote:
Flyboy Connor wrote:
but unfortunately there were only two really experienced players at the table

So, you had a less-than-optimal experience playing at max player count with mostly inexperienced players? How unpredictable! :/

Seriously, my initial response to your OP was "Play better." Nice to find out that it was actually the correct response...

Actually, there was only one player at the table for whom the game was new.

You can start being sarcastic, but that's cheap. Your response "play better" is not correct and even naive.

If you read my original post with a bit more attention, you will see that I give OBJECTIVE reasons why six players is more unbalanced than less than six. And the core of those reasons is that the maps are unbalanced in general, but with less players that unbalance is alleviated by the players having to expand to most of the map anyway. That's the self-balancing mechanism of Power Grid that no longer holds with six, and I was ONLY wondering whether there are maps for which this is less of a problem.
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I wasn't being sarcastic. "Play better" is real, legitimate, correct advice. It applies to an awful lot of complaints about particular games in general, and posts on BGG in particular.

Your "objective" reasons are actually subjective (and have been refuted by most of the posts so far); with better play, they either don't show up, or don't matter.

Hint: "Balanced" maps would be boring and uninteresting. "Unbalanced" maps provide gamespace for clever, interesting play and real decisions. Or bad play and decisions, if people don't understand that the map matters.
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chize wrote:
Page 7 under subject "Exceptions, changes and special things".


Hmmm will re-read the rules then! Damn fine print!
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fnord23 wrote:
I wasn't being sarcastic. "Play better" is real, legitimate, correct advice. It applies to an awful lot of complaints about particular games in general, and posts on BGG in particular.

I have seen my share of uninformed posts. I am not in the habit of posting uninformed opinions. That's why I provide game-based reasons for my remarks, which aren't even complaints -- just observations. And I do not appreciate my post getting waved away as Yet Another Newbie Complaint.

fnord23 wrote:
Your "objective" reasons are actually subjective (and have been refuted by most of the posts so far); with better play, they either don't show up, or don't matter.

Actually, the way I read the posts at least in this thread, is that there are agreements with my statements, next to posts which say they haven't noticed this (which is perfectly valid).

fnord23 wrote:
Hint: "Balanced" maps would be boring and uninteresting. "Unbalanced" maps provide gamespace for clever, interesting play and real decisions. Or bad play and decisions, if people don't understand that the map matters.

Did you hear me say that I wanted maps to be balanced? I said that the unbalance of the maps in general DOES NOT MATTER (and in fact I do appreciate it). The only problem I see is that with 6 players, the INHERENT unbalance makes the game quite different from how it plays with less players. That initial starting positions are suddenly much more important, which IMHO is harmful as you do not have that much influence over them. And I was wondering if perhaps there are ways to create maps that are a better fit in this respect when there are six players in the game.

But that was all in my original post. So I will stop defending that now, because that was NOT what my post was about, and an answer along the lines of "you should play better" is not helping answering my question at all and in fact a bit insulting.
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Flyboy Connor wrote:

A possible solution might be a map designed specifically for six players. The Germany map is pretty unbalanced by itself, and perhaps a map which does not have such huge differences in connection costs for the regions would work better. I can imagine a map where there are more regions with a small cheap areas, surrounded by more expensive connections. But maybe a map like that already exists -- does anybody have opinions on that?


The UK and Ireland map might work well with six, although I have only recently acquired it and not played with more than four yet. Because players can start a second network on the other island (at a "connection" cost of 20) it means less chance of getting blocked. And step 3 is designed to come slightly earlier, with two power plant cards being placed below the step 3 card when setting up.
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
fnord23 wrote:
I wasn't being sarcastic. "Play better" is real, legitimate, correct advice. It applies to an awful lot of complaints about particular games in general, and posts on BGG in particular.

I have seen my share of uninformed posts. I am not in the habit of posting uninformed opinions. That's why I provide game-based reasons for my remarks, which aren't even complaints -- just observations. And I do not appreciate my post getting waved away as Yet Another Newbie Complaint.

fnord23 wrote:
Your "objective" reasons are actually subjective (and have been refuted by most of the posts so far); with better play, they either don't show up, or don't matter.

Actually, the way I read the posts at least in this thread, is that there are agreements with my statements, next to posts which say they haven't noticed this (which is perfectly valid).

fnord23 wrote:
Hint: "Balanced" maps would be boring and uninteresting. "Unbalanced" maps provide gamespace for clever, interesting play and real decisions. Or bad play and decisions, if people don't understand that the map matters.

Did you hear me say that I wanted maps to be balanced? I said that the unbalance of the maps in general DOES NOT MATTER (and in fact I do appreciate it). The only problem I see is that with 6 players, the INHERENT unbalance makes the game quite different from how it plays with less players. That initial starting positions are suddenly much more important, which IMHO is harmful as you do not have that much influence over them. And I was wondering if perhaps there are ways to create maps that are a better fit in this respect when there are six players in the game.

But that was all in my original post. So I will stop defending that now, because that was NOT what my post was about, and an answer along the lines of "you should play better" is not helping answering my question at all and in fact a bit insulting.



I have played more than 40 games of 6 player Power Grid, and fnord23 is quite correct. 6 player Power Grid is balanced just fine and you just need to develop your play.

If you are not sure about how the other players will open, they buy a high numbered plant in the first round and build second to last. Buying the 4 plant and making your open was a risk you took which didn't pay off. There is a level of sub optimal play that Power Grid cannot balance, but if you open late and keep a low turn order it is very, very hard for anyone to shut you out of the game.

Lots of Power Grid games end in stage 2 at all player counts. If this is not to your advantage then learn how to manage the market to avoid handing the game to the player with the highest base capacity.
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Pieter
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Sonny Blount wrote:
If you are not sure about how the other players will open, they buy a high numbered plant in the first round and build second to last. Buying the 4 plant and making your open was a risk you took which didn't pay off.

Ah, but there's the gist. It was the player who took the number 03 plant who actually won. And he won for a large part because after the first round, the other players left him in a position where he could profit enormously from the unbalanced nature of the region he was in (not the only reason, BTW, he was a strong player too).

Regardless of how good you are, there are always players who have to pick their starting spot first, and they are depended on what other players do. And if all players try to take higher-numbered plants, then the players who are RANDOMLY assigned to auction off a plant first, will get stuck with a lower-numbered plants. So if it is the case that players with lower-numbered plants run more risk of getting a bad starting position than those with the higher-numbered plants -- which arguably is the case -- then basically you are saying that some RANDOM players in a six-player game are forced to run the risk that they end up in a bad starting position.

The whole point is that in games with less players, bad starting positions are far less likely to occur, as every player will have to expand to most of the board. I am quite willing to accept that, in general, in a six-player game it is best to start with a high-numbered plant, whereas in games with less players it is better to start with a low-numbered plant. But that still means that if all players are equally experienced, some of them are forced in a rather inferior starting position.

Of course, in all multi-player games, a victory depends only partially on what you yourself do -- and if all players are equally experienced, probably the players in the better starting positions will get attacked by the others, to level the playing field. The thing is that it looks to me that you can rely much more on your own strengths in Power Grid games with less players than with six -- and that that is caused by the unbalanced nature of the board (again, which is not a bad feature per se, but has bad effects with six players).

But I am repeating myself. I am going to stop doing that now.
 
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It sounds to me like you had two good players, yourself and the winner. Your other players, while in general not beginners, were weak enough to select starting cities a bit erratically; you got screwed by this, the winner got a gift that was big enough to give him a good chance of winning right from the start.

Sure, this might happen more often with 6p than otherwise, but still something like that can happen with any player count in power grid.
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