Notation: #x means plant x. 2c5 means 2 coal powers 5 cities. c = coal, g = garbage, h = hybrid, o = oil, u = uranium, w = wind. (This is used in another session report.)
After my last game with my brother where he used #25 (2c5) and #26 (2o5) against me, I began to look at how to counter them.
Coal and oil are plentiful in a 2-player game. Thus coal/oil plants like #25, #26 and others that power 5 to 7 cities are very safe (no worry of resource running out) and cost effective. #25 and #26 are especially so due to their early availability.
In my previous game, I attempted to control coal and oil prices by using #3 (2o1) and #4 (2c1). However, they were quickly obsolete due to their low capacities. In my post-mortem, the answer was obvious: use #7 (3o2) and #8 (3c2) instead! Together, they power 4 cities and would be useful beyond the second turn. #7 can really drive oil price up in steps 1 and 2 (2 oil replacement per turn). #8 will drive coal price up as long as there is another coal plant (3 coal replacement per turn in step 1); the presence of another coal plant can be safely assumed.
Still confident from the previous game, my brother chose to use the "more advanced" Germany map, even though I asked him thrice to make sure. We ended up playing the red, yellow and blue area. Then he started the game by buying #5 (2h1), just like the last game. (I let him go first so that I could buy #7. )
After the first two turns, I got #7 and #8 and the groundwork of my strategy was in place. With capacity to power 4 cities, I could wait for better plants for 2 to 3 turns. My brother began to get suspicious when I got such inefficient plants and, I believe, was beginning to think that it would not be such a piece-of-cake after all.
The next plant I got was in turn 6. My brother led and #13 (w1), #14 (2g2), #19 (2g3), #22 (w2) were available. The future market had #28 (1u4), #30 (3g6), #39 (1u6), #42 (2c6). I had driven coal and oil prices up. Garbage and uranium were still expensive. It's easy to be seduced by free power under these circumstances.
My brother was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. He lacked capacity and badly needed a new plant this turn (he had passed 2 auctions). On the other hand, that could hand me #28. Finally, my brother succumbed to his needs and got #22. Luck was with me and #28 moved to the current market. I snapped it up instantly! It was going even better than I expected.
The next turn was interesting. The highly valued #25 (2c5) turned up, but as the first plant in the future market. My brother led and passed on the auction to prevent me from getting it. I passed too as none of the plants were good. My brother connected to 10 cities to maintain his lead position for the next turn; I had 9 cities. At this point, both of us could only power 5 to 6 cities. This was the difference when playing the Germany map, and coal/oil prices being what they were.
Unfortunately for my brother, #24 (2g4) came up, so #25 remained in the future market in the next turn. Thwarted by luck, he got #24 instead. (His hand was forced as he could only power 6 cities at this point.) #25 glided into my hands. It was all too easy.
Good plants were on the horizon and the pace started to quicken. The next turn (turn 9), I led and bid on #30 (3g6). It was time to make garbage expensive! Plus, I could use the capacity. My brother bid $35 for it after checking Step 3 was around the corner (3 garbage replacement per turn). I let him have it and got #33 (w4). #8 finally outlived its purpose. I got rid of it to let coal prices stabilize and make #25 cost effective.
Both of us skipped the next turn because there were no good plants and Step 3 was one turn away.
Turn 11 was a long awaited moment. Finally, the plants we waited so long to fall out of the future market were now available! I led and could choose from plants #27 (w3), #31 (3c6), #35 (1o5), #36 (3c7), #37 (w4) and #39 (1u6).
I could buy #36, but I already had #25. Either I get rid of it (poor ROI), or use 5 coals per turn -- a vulnerable situation. Not that it's no-go, just vulnerable. I bid for #35. My brother didn't challenge me and got #36. Guess which plant I replaced? No brainer: #7 -- time to bring oil prices down! At this time, we were at 10 to 11 cities going to 13, so we had to pay attention to our maximum capacities. (If you read my previous session reports, you’ll know why.)
The next turn, both of us got plants so as to power 21 cities. My brother led and got #37 (w4). I got #38 (3g7) after making sure I could still get resources even if my brother hoarded garbage (10 of them!). I had 13 cities and after a long time wondering how to position myself for the next turn, I realized I could connect 8 cities to end the game, so I did!
I had 21 cities, powered all of them and had $25 left. My brother could only connect to 20 cities (though he could power 21) and had $21 left, a few $ short of his last connection.
I had emerged victorious and more importantly, I had found a way to break #25/#26, even though I used #25 myself. (#26 was removed randomly in this game.) The answer is to make coal/oil scarce so that non-coal/oil plants look attractive. In some turns, I spent $20 to power #7 or #8, and that's equivalent to one city connection.
In a 2-player game, you need to use #7 and #8, but with more players, it would be safer to use #10 (2c2) and #12 (2h2) (may not come up). Once other players switch to alternative resources, it's time to ease the coal/oil usage and put pressure on other resources! Garbage and uranium are easy to drive up. It's easier to do so in a 2-player game because we can have 4 plants.
My brother lamented that he played a bad game this time round by making a series of mistakes. He started off by claiming he wasn't using any strategy! Then he said his first mistake was letting me have #28, the first attractive plant to appear. I agree, but this is not a fatal mistake. I thought that my brother's real mistake was not getting a nuclear plant, so I could power 4 cities using #28 with just $6. That really saved me a lot of money. To be fair, better nuclear plants didn't appear until very late. To counter me, he needed to downgrade to #23 (1u3).
Then my brother said he shouldn't let me get #25. Actually, I didn't plan on getting #25, and I would do just fine without it, so I disagreed with him here. On the other hand, I believe my brother shouldn't have gotten #30 (already owning #24), but he thought it's better for him to control it than me!
The last mistake he made, my brother claimed, was not preventing me from getting capacity to power 21 cities. If he had done so, the game could have lasted one more turn. But he conceded that then both of us would have 21 powered cities and I would still win based on my cash. So it didn't look like he could have done much to affect the outcome on the last turn.
I didn't think I was particularly lucky in this game, although it might appear so. Drive fuel prices up, your opponent makes wrong decisions due to the present prices, that's not luck.
This game revealed a "flaw" of Power Grid. By mid-game, I believe it was already very difficult for my brother to win unless he got 2 to 3 lucky breaks. However, we still need to play until the end to resolve the game. This is not an enjoyable experience. I definitely didn't enjoy my last game very much (having made strategic errors early on).
Power plants aside, my brother made careless mistakes when connecting cities too. I didn't really go all out to box him in this time (didn't work the last two times), but he had to break out twice; once to prevent a potential box-in, the other to maintain his lead. Anyway, I was always short of a few $ to block him effectively. (My main aim was to drive coal/oil prices up.)
We still took 2-1/2 hours to play 12 turns, taking about 15 minutes per turn. It looks like this is not going to change, given our analysis paralysis. It didn't feel slow during the game, though.
Also, this time we played with plastic poker chips to avoid damaging the paper money (lots of transactions). That didn't really improve the gaming experience. Maybe real poker chips will help.
- Last edited Sat Oct 21, 2006 3:17 am (Total Number of Edits: 6)
- Posted Sat Oct 21, 2006 12:53 am
Nice report! It sounds like you're an experienced Power Grid player, but if you don't mind the suggestion, the next time your opponent leads off by purchasing the #5, buy the #4. When he buys the #5 and you buy the #7, he gets to purchase enough fuel for the first two rounds for $5, but when you buy the #4 instead, you're the one who gets enough fuel for the first two rounds for $5, and your opponent's cost goes up to about $9. When you add in the fact that having the #4 will let you build first and be in better turn order position again the next round (as long as you build only one city), it's clearly the plant that will give you the highest relative profit in a two player game when your opponent purchases the #5.
Good luck in your future games.
Thanks for the compliment. I'm not really an experienced player, just that I keep detailed notes during the game to create these session reports. (I track auctions, cities built and powered, but not resources and cash on hand except at key points. I don't use these information during the game. )
Your suggestion is probably ok, but I think jockeying for the last player position is not necessary for the first turn. Right now I'm leaning towards connecting 2 cities in my first turn, so I might as well get a 2-cap plant.
Why do I want to build 2 cities?
There is some tactical play on the map. In a multi-player game, connecting first could be dangerous, especially if you play against my brother and I. We're definitely going to operate in the same area.
The tactical aspect remains there for 2-player, but only in Step 1. This was why in the last game, my brother was forced to keep connecting to cities even though he could only power 6. If he didn't, he would be boxed in and he'll have 6 - 7 cities compared to 9 on my side (if I play optimally).
There are times you want to connect 2 cities turn one, even when you cannot power them; but they do tend to be rare.
For example, in a 4 player game you have the 5, against the 3-4-8 (quite common). In this case the 5 plant can build 2 cities and most likely not impact turn order, since the 8 will probably build two.
This also happens in 3 player games (e.g. 3-4-8 and 4-5-8).
When a lot of very low numbered plants are behind the 10, making it less likely that someone will get a lottery ticket in 2nd auction. If in this game board positioning is crucial, save or protect your territory.
[Note: lottery ticket = that fantastic plant drop into the current market for the last player in the auction, for purchase at minimum price. If a lottery ticket is possible, I will often let people behind me in the auction get good plants, to slide farther back in auction order.