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Subject: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bit" rss

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Joe Grundy
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SettlerOfCatan wrote:
I hate how powergrid is so overly balanced that nothing matters until the last 5 mins of the game.

I wrote:
Curious. I had the opposite reaction over my not-all-that-many plays of Power Grid... that in the last couple of turns it was usually a fairly mechanical exercise in number crunching deployment.

I think I've seen both views expressed by other people too. So what do frequent players of Power Grid think... is it all over by the last coupla turns and you're just playing out the result, or is the leadup just light jockeying for position and all the real meat of the game is in that last few turns?
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Allen Doum
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jgrundy wrote:

I think I've seen both views expressed by other people too. So what do frequent players of Power Grid think... is it all over by the last coupla turns and you're just playing out the result, or is the leadup just light jockeying for position and all the real meat of the game is in that last few turns?


Both are extreme views, IMO. I have seen game where the last turn was redundant, and others where it went down to the wire.

Several things make this unpredictable.

1. You can have players make a mistake. Either starting in the wrong place on the board, or buying the wrong power station can put a player behing the 8 ball early. If you get too far behind, even with the advantages that turn order is trying to give you, it may be to late to catch the leader. Some mistakes are subtle, particularly when bidding for power stations.

2. The luck factor due to the random draw of power stations in Step 1. You can overpay for an early big station and have a hard time catching up, or you may miss out on the last big station available before the mid game (where no station available is worth buying) and watch the other players build up a huge cash advantage.

3. Ditto for the draw in Step 3. The seven you need to catch up might not come off the stack.

4. Is it the last turn yet? Sometimes a player is just short of winning on one turn, only to have the others pass him on the next.

Power Grid is too popular a game to have it always play the same way.

My favorite win came in a four player game. One of the others wasn't in enough cities, the second didn't have the generating capacity, and the third couldn't buy the fuel.

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Fraser
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
In my experience the end game is not the last five minutes but is usually being fought out three or so turns from the end. There's usually a few players who have already bought their generating capacity for the end game by then. Then there is the matter of being able to power those plants each turn until the real end of game (bearing in mind as a previous poster has mentioned that if the game goes one turn longer than you expect it to, well the best laid plans and all that...). We usually seem to have a number of players in serious contention too.

Playing to position yourself as the last player in the early to mid game can be quite useful, but then again I have lost to a player who jumped to the lead in turn two and stayed there right until the end of the game.
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Philip Thomas
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Guys, I think Settler of Catan doesn't like Power Grid. Its just this weird hunch I have.

The first couple of times we played Power Grid we got the rules wrong by not taking the largest Power Plant and putting it underneath the deck. So people would win while the game was still in Stage 2.

In the couple of games with the correct rules the last turn does seem to matter, especially when there's a fuel shortage going on.
 
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Daniel Corban
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I would say that Power Grid has both attributes. The people that say the last few turns are mechanical are correct because the end-game actually starts a turn or two before that point. Recognizing when the game will end appears to be a major key to winning. Likewaise, these 1-2 turns before the end-game starts are the only important bit.
 
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Enon Sci
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
SettlerOfCatan wrote:
AllenDoum wrote:

Power Grid is too popular a game to have it always play the same way.


There are quite a few boardgames that are very popular and very uniform in result


Yeah, but what are they rated?
 
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Damien Browne
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SettlerOfCatan wrote:

In the case of power grid any miscalculation you make midgame is balanced by putting you in the last seat and first to build and buy.

I find this to be more of an illusion than most people deem it to be.
A lot of the game can be about jockeying for position, but like Fraser has said, people can be in the lead all game and hold it to the end. Other times you can be last for turn order the whole game and be the winner.

The 'benefit' of turn order saves you $1-2 per resource required to spend in your powerplants. If you only require three resources, this is insignificant.

Buying cities first gives you a benefit in choice, but doesn't always mean you are making the best decisions - you can be blocked in for many turns afterward. You just might choose an appealing area that becomes congested.

The game is about being efficient, more than being 'first' or 'last'.
Purchasing connections for '10' can be more vital sometimes than paying them for '15' and to do that you need to keep last turn order to stay ahead of the curve. Saving $5 per city might be more than saving $$ in early resources, especially if you're not competing in that resource.

In other games, it will be about making the most effective use of connection costs to block players in. It won't matter about how many you have got at this moment, because you're causing other players to be inefficient in their costs, while remaining efficient in yours. In this case, you want less cities, which means you pay more when you get the 15's and 20's so you need to account for that with those uber factories - perhaps some that require lots of resources.

Quote:

Being able to build and buy first allows you to shoot ahead which penalizes you in subsequent turns and allows others to sit in the last seat and the hamster wheel of powergrid spins on. Then, 5 minutes to the end, you get a choice of how much to bid on your last plant, this is such a chore, I bring a calculator or notepad to do the addition. After that one decision, there is no real tension last turn as everyone just builds as much as they can for as little as possible. The reason power grid plays the same is because it doesn't reward creativity or player interaction.


There is more to it than that. Where you purchase is as important as when you buy it. Sometimes you want to take that first position, sometimes you need to hold back. Learning which is better when makes the game rewarding and never twice quite the same.
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Harald Torvatn
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
jgrundy wrote:
SettlerOfCatan wrote:
I hate how powergrid is so overly balanced that nothing matters until the last 5 mins of the game.

I wrote:
Curious. I had the opposite reaction over my not-all-that-many plays of Power Grid... that in the last couple of turns it was usually a fairly mechanical exercise in number crunching deployment.

I think I've seen both views expressed by other people too. So what do frequent players of Power Grid think... is it all over by the last coupla turns and you're just playing out the result, or is the leadup just light jockeying for position and all the real meat of the game is in that last few turns?


I think this depends entirely on the relative skill of the players.

If one is much better than the others, it is quite likely that she will start the last few turns with an advantage so great that the last few turns does not matter. This will create the impression that the last turns does not matter.

If, on the other hand, players are equally skilled, they will enter the endgame in aproximately equal positions, and when the game is over, it is obvious that the result could have been different if something had gone different the last few rounds. This will create the impression that only the last turn matters.

It is also obvious if you look closely at the game that things matter all the time. There is a balance in the game, but some of the things you can gain early is not subject to that balancing. You may save money early. This will help you in the endgame, but will not cause you to be hit by the balancing mechanic, so early game clearly matters. Also it is possible to increase one's power supply capability in the last round, so that matters to.


 
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Joe Grundy
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In the games we've had, it's not that the last few turns didn't matter to the outcome, it's that the last maybe two complete turns were entirely calculable, and each player did what they already worked out they had to do. You could say, we felt we were just playing out the script we had written in the mid-game. There seemed to be no more ponderable decisions to be made.
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Fraser
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
jgrundy wrote:
In the games we've had, it's not that the last few turns didn't matter to the outcome, it's that the last maybe two complete turns were entirely calculable, and each player did what they already worked out they had to do. You could say, we felt we were just playing out the script we had written in the mid-game. There seemed to be no more ponderable decisions to be made.


If I'm not the first to build on the last turn, I never get to do what I want to do - them other players just grabs all my cheap connections shake

Usually I just have to wait until I see what is left when it my turn and see if I can still do what I wanted to do within the number of elecktros I have.

I'm usually playing with four or more players, how about you Joe? We always have stiff competition at the end game.
 
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Werner Bär
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In my experience, each player needs to buy at least one big power plant in the last two turns (maybe except central europe). How can you calculate in advance if you don't know what the order of plants will be?
 
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Harald Torvatn
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
jgrundy wrote:
In the games we've had, it's not that the last few turns didn't matter to the outcome, it's that the last maybe two complete turns were entirely calculable, and each player did what they already worked out they had to do. You could say, we felt we were just playing out the script we had written in the mid-game. There seemed to be no more ponderable decisions to be made.


I have never seen that.

Sure you may have worked out what you want to do, but the other players usually interfere:

If somone builds many cities, you may want to build almost as many, in order to not have to many to catch up. But if you also want a good place in the turn order, and all the others builds much fewer cities, you must choose between having to catch up few or a good place in turn order.

If you want a powerplant and want it cheap, you must choose between those two when another player wants it.

If you can calculate how much the others will bid, your opponents must be very easy to calculate, and if you can't, I dont understand what yo mean by calling the last rounds calculable.

Choises like that always pops up. If they do not in your games, I am tempted to beleive you are playing something wrong.
 
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Joe Grundy
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Maybe it's a feature of playing with only two or three players, as per all our (not many) games.

We found we had bought sufficient capacity plants before the end, our last city builds tended to be in diverse locations, and we had a tendancy to have specialised (somewhat) in different resources. If not, one of us would have tended to have stockpiled or pushed the market in a previous turn so (a) didn't need and (b) didn't have room to buy enough off the market to mess with anyone's plans in the short term.

If only two players are competing for a resource, I recall I couldn't calculate a situation where it was beneficial to buy more than you needed... it cost you more to push the market up than the price it added to their purchase, and then the market would be higher for you as well in your next turn, at which time you can't buy more than you need any more because you've already filled your unneeded storage capacity.
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Harald Torvatn
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
jgrundy wrote:
Maybe it's a feature of playing with only two or three players, as per all our (not many) games.

We found we had bought sufficient capacity plants before the end, our last city builds tended to be in diverse locations, and we had a tendancy to have specialised (somewhat) in different resources. If not, one of us would have tended to have stockpiled or pushed the market in a previous turn so (a) didn't need and (b) didn't have room to buy enough off the market to mess with anyone's plans in the short term.

If only two players are competing for a resource, I recall I couldn't calculate a situation where it was beneficial to buy more than you needed... it cost you more to push the market up than the price it added to their purchase, and then the market would be higher for you as well in your next turn, at which time you can't buy more than you need any more because you've already filled your unneeded storage capacity.


If the other players buy sufficient capacity long before the end, they must build cities much slower than otherwise possible. A player who instead builds an empire in which his capacity is matched by his number of cities should win easily against such players. I know he will have a bad place in turn the order, but this will be amply compensated for by powering more cities and thus earning more money. (Especially if you have specialized in different resources, because then there is really no penelty to buying resources last).

Maybe you have all read to much on boardgamegeek about the vitues of a good place in turn order, and thus is to shy about building cities?

 
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Jim Lynch
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I have seen the game go both ways. Last 2 games I played:

To the wire: I was in first and thought I had a lock on the win. Second place player buys out the resources I need to power my plants, so I can't deliver power to many cities. By blocking my win, player 2 spent so much money he can't build to 17 cities. Player 3 has just enough to build and power 17 and wins!

Mechanical: First time player buys 3 coal plants - everyone else diversifies. First time player manages to buy plant 29 (one unit coal/oil powers 4 cities). No one else has coal. With a cheap coal monopoly, first timer builds momentum and wins easily. No one had any real leverage to slow him down - even if the rest of us had spent money to switch to coal it wouldn't have done much as the coal was selling for $1 or $2.

I think one of the great things about Power Grid is that the variations are great enough that there isn't a dominant strategy. Mechanical endings can probably be traced back to a poor choice by someone early on - but the number of choices is huge. And there is the luck of how the power plants were shuffled...

I am convinced that there is an advantage to having the lead. Building and powering that one extra city and getting paid more should offset higher fuel prices. But I have yet to win in any consistent manner with the "sprint to the front" strategy.

BOTTOM LINE: Power Grid is a great game. If it ends mechanically (and you weren't the winner) you will likely be able to look back at some weak move you made (or didn't defend against) early on.
 
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Stephen Schaefer
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
SettlerOfCatan wrote:
There are quite a few boardgames that are very popular and very uniform in result...


Right, like Monopoly. Everybody has a copy, and every game ends in a very bitter argument and somebody stomping away from the table.
 
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Adam Berkan
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Re: Last few turns... "mechanical" or "the only important bi
The last turn is always mechanical after the auction. Even if you can't plan what you'll do until the player before you goes, you'll always do the same thing:

Buy enough resources to power your plants
Buy enough resources to deny the leader what he needs
Buy enough cities to match your capacity as cheaply as possible
(Very rarely buy a city to block a leader)

The only time it isn't this scripted is if you can stall the game one more turn by denying the leader resources or prevent him from building cities. Of course in this case it wasn't really the last turn after all.

I find that a lot of games come down to the last auction. Usually it's Phase 3 and there's a small number of 7-cap plants on the market. It's important to make sure that one of these is true:
1) You have the most capacity and can build more cities and get fuel for more cities than your opponents capacity.
2) You can tie your opponent on capacity but think you have more money.

Otherwise you need to make the big plant sufficiently expensive that the leader will not be able to afford enough cities after buying the plant. If you're playing with open money then this is a long painful calculation. With hidden money it's a gut-call.

When you guess right, the game goes another turn and hopefully you can get a big plant cheaper than your opponents and turn that into a win.
 
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Alvin Chen
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I've also been in the situation where the last phases of the last turn can involve some kingmaking among undecided frontrunners. In more crowded boards, the last-round purchase of city connections can greatly impact costs for the remaining players. Growing in one direction may increase costs enough to hurt one player while leaving another player free to expand as hoped. I guess we've been close enough that the last auction isn't enough to determine the winner; the board interaction makes the crucial difference. Certainly, a lot of factors influence efficiency, sometimes even to an either-or result.
 
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