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Subject: Post 2-session review rss

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Eric Flood
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The first thing I wish to say in this review is that I have only played 2 games of Power Grid, with players who were also new (one 4 player, one 6 player). Any comment on strategies may therefore not be completely valid.

Power Grid, as so many other popular Euro games, is about resource management and building. In this instance, we have the resources invested into developing both efficient power plants and a power infrastructure in either Germany or the United States.

Power plants can be obtained through an auction method which is always purely advantageous for the last person to obtain a power plant (NOT necessarily the last person in the round). The power plants are made available with a method designed to keep the most desirable plants out of reach until the end of the game. There are several checks in place to keep the less desirable plants out from hindering the game, yet they tend not to be enough. There will be an inevitable round in which a low-mid 30's plant will find its way through and promptly bought, only to be followed with several in the low 20's. These will remain until the end of the game, except for cases of extreme desperation.

The cities are placed in an all-too standard way. Very simple, which is great for streamlining the gameplay, but certainly nothing new, exciting, nor particularly realistic (connecting Seattle to Boise is much cheaper than connecting Portland and San Francisco, despite the lack of mountains hindering the latter).

The factories power up the existing cities through resources (coal, oil, garbage, and uranium [which are a pain to handle, causing many accidents which can only result in massive radiation poisioning]). This also lends itself to an unrealistic situation - powering Las Vegas requires just as many resources as powering Boise.

But these unrealistic flaws do not affect the gameplay in any meaningful way. There are, however, a few flaws that do affect the gameplay.

The largest problem that I am having in this game is that it seems every player will have 2 key turns, in which a line of power plants, which were uninteresting the turn before, suddenly get shifted to include a power plant which the player will desire immensely. If the turn before had been focused on expanding their cities, they can be caught completely off-guard by this development, and have not enough money for this plant they now desperately need. Another player, who happened to save enough money the turn before in preparation for something else this turn, will easily swoop in and take the highly sought-after plant (see numbers 22 and 33 for prime examples). I had a similar problem with the overly-powerful randomization of Tigris and Euphrates recently. I enjoy randomization, but it needs to remain controllable, not subject to one or two random events deciding the game.

The victory condition is also problematic, or at least could be presented better. I have no problem with the victory condition itself, I find it interesting and different. But it has no representation in the game itself. It is, after all, your money-making mechanic turned victory-condition. It would be like the person with the most Residences in Caylus winning, or the player receiving the largest amount of resources in the last round of Settlers claiming victory. There should also be another marker on the city track keeping track of either a.) the number of cities a plaer last powered up, or b.) the number of cities a player is capable of powering up. This would be a great tool for both new players and old. I saw players capable of powering up 15 cities, but having 5 on the board; similarly, I saw players with 10 cities, but only able to power 4 of them. Having a separate marker would both allow a player to keep control of managing the two much better, as well as easily seeing the threatening players at a glance in the late game.

I appreciate the victory condition within the theme of the game, but really, why should the customers able to get power from one measly turn be the deciding factor of victory? A player's ability of keeping their customers satisfied throughout the game, while being similar to other games, is a much more realistic (and fair) condition. Making the victory condition depend upon how many cities you have powered up over the course of the game would make much more sense, and would make that last turn feel so much less artificial.

In all, I enjoy the game, but wonder how it attained number 4 on the rankings. I look forward to reading some strategy articles, and playing through a few more times before issuing a final verdict, but from my limited experience I believe it deserves a 7.5. I'll round this to an 8, for now.
 
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Ernie Lai
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i can't help but think that you're getting some rules wrong.

blueatheart wrote:
There will be an inevitable round in which a low-mid 30's plant will find its way through and promptly bought, only to be followed with several in the low 20's. These will remain until the end of the game, except for cases of extreme desperation.


if low 20's plants aren't being bought, i find it hard to believe that a 30 would be available on the top row, you do realize that only the 4 lowest #'d plants can be auctioned? (except in step 3) also, the lowest plant gets discarded from the market when certain conditions are met (beginning of step 2, beginning of step 3, when no one buys a plant in a turn, when someone builds to cities >= to an available plant #)

blueatheart wrote:
The largest problem that I am having in this game is that it seems every player will have 2 key turns, in which a line of power plants, which were uninteresting the turn before, suddenly get shifted to include a power plant which the player will desire immensely. If the turn before had been focused on expanding their cities, they can be caught completely off-guard by this development, and have not enough money for this plant they now desperately need. Another player, who happened to save enough money the turn before in preparation for something else this turn, will easily swoop in and take the highly sought-after plant (see numbers 22 and 33 for prime examples).


if a plant can be flipped and immediately placed on the top row, it shouldn't be any better than the plants which were already on the bottom row, which all players should be planning and budgeting for since they will likely be available in the top row in future rounds. i don't see how you can be caught off-guard, as all you need to do to insure you can meet the minimum bid in at least the next 2 auctions is to save enough money to buy the lowest plant on the bottom row. the game is all about managing your money.

blueatheart wrote:
There should also be another marker on the city track keeping track of either a.) the number of cities a plaer last powered up, or b.) the number of cities a player is capable of powering up. This would be a great tool for both new players and old. I saw players capable of powering up 15 cities, but having 5 on the board; similarly, I saw players with 10 cities, but only able to power 4 of them. Having a separate marker would both allow a player to keep control of managing the two much better, as well as easily seeing the threatening players at a glance in the late game.


the # of cities a player is capable of powering up is easily seen by just adding up their plants. having 5 cities but capacity for 15, or having 10 but capacity for 4 both sound like examples of poor play to me.
 
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Paul Bryant
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I have played more 2 player games of Power Grid then not and I have to agree with the above posts.

It is a mix of skill and luck but knowing when to by is part of the skill and helps reduce the luck and as stated getting the last choice on a plant is not always the best. When you wait to let someone buy that 5 city coal plant in hopes the 5 city nuclear will slide and a 2 city windmill comes up and fills that nuc's spot you just got burned.

It can be hard to tell who has the lead if it is close but taking a look at the persons money and how many cities they have will give you a good indication. Can they buy all the cities they need the next turn? Also if they do can they power them all or do they need to get a better plant? These are pretty easy to figure out towards the end at a glance. One thing that makes it a lot easier is to use chips instead of money. That way you get a more accurate assessment.

One bit of advice I would give you that has been given many times before is don't rely on the free power too much especially when you are in step 3. It will hurt you.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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I've only played a half dozen games of PG, but I have to say, I think you're wrong, wrong, wrong that one or two random events will decide the game.

Balancing cash reserves (to buy the great power plant when it shows up) vs. spending to expand and increase your income is a key part of PG strategy. There will be one or two auctions with a single great power plant. You won't know the exact turn. But they are coming, so if all the players but one spend all their money, the one will get the great plant for a bargain, and they rightfully win.

Note that if you spend all your money, and miss out on the great power plant, that doesn't mean that you are in any trouble. As long as at least two players have a lot of money saved up, the great power plant will be bid up until it's not such a great deal any more. It's only when just one player has money that there is trouble.

So please, play some more. Then you will see. There is much more strategy than you think.

(PS - As noted above - a track for "cities that can be powered" would be a pain and is totally unnecessary. Just scan the power plants in front of each player and you know the number. No need to be always moving around a counter to have the number duplicated.)
 
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Ernie Lai
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blueatheart wrote:

If the turn before had been focused on expanding their cities, they can be caught completely off-guard by this development, and have not enough money for this plant they now desperately need.


one more thing... even if you spent all of your money on one turn, your income from powering cities that turn should be more than enough to buy any plant that's available. if not, then you've mismanaged your money either by building into cities that you can't power, or by not saving enough money for resources to fire up your plants.
 
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