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Stephen Schaefer
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After a handful of plays of Tesla vs. Edison with the Powering Up expansion, I thought I would write up a small guide for beginners to kind of wrap their brain around what all these cards do, why would they want to do this over that, and how does it all fit together. These may seem obvious to experienced players, and I'm certainly not looking to present advanced strategies or how to min/max certain aspects. If anyone has additions or corrections, I welcome them.

Actions and the Game Board

So there are four actions available to players on their turn: Headquarters, Technology, Propaganda and Claiming a Project. But what do they do and why should we do them?

The Headquarters action flips over one of your HQ cards with an icon that matches one of the numbered stats on your luminary card, and activates their respective powers. These are worth a few points at the end of the game, and the powers can help you out quite a bit at various points in the game. We'll explore the powers more in a later section, but for now, know that these are the primary effects of doing this action.

The Technology action moves the players up one of the various technology tracks as long as they have enough total numbers in the Invention (bolt) and Manufacturing (gear) icons for the luminary(s) they use, to cover the requirements to go up the track the desired number of spots. Also, if they meet the finance ($) requirements with their luminary stats (not required to move up), they can file a patent for that technology level (this does not cost money). The primary reason these levels are important, is because you need these levels in bulb (always) and in AC or DC (your choice) before you can develop a city with the Claim Project action.

The patents in particular have three benefits to the player who claim them. Immediately, your stock price goes up according to the level you filed (3 spots for a level 3 patent). Long term, most players hanging out at the level you filed will have to pay you patent fees when they claim a project ($3k if their cube is on level 3 of that tech). Lastly, at the end of the round, if the fame track is leaning towards AC or DC, the highest level patent holder in that technology gets a small bonus increase in their stock price.

What's noteworthy here is that a player claiming a project can choose AC or DC but must use bulb. So bulb patents tend to be stronger because they are employed every time, whereas people may choose AC or DC or even vacillate between the two based on the fame track (more on that later). Also, the strength of the patents shifts up the track as the game goes on - partly because of the higher payout, partly because the stock bonus goes up to the higher level patent - but also because people will move up the track to build bigger projects, potentially rendering lower level patents obsolete. There can be exceptions to this which we will address in a later section, but I believe this generally to be the case.

The Propaganda action allows the player to adjust one or both types of fame tracks and pays out a small amount of cash. The player does not need to use a luminary with the Propaganda (megaphone) stat on the card. The megaphone gives you a bonus if you have it: you can choose to move the AC/DC track, or a cube on the future fame track, up or down that number of spaces. Then when you grab a propaganda card, you move the track indicated on that card. Lastly, you get the amount of cash on the propaganda card, and if you have megaphone points, you also get that number times the phase you're in. So a 1 megaphone in phase 1 gets $1k, or a 2 megaphone in phase 3 gets $6k.

Aside from the cash you grab with this action, the main thing you do is move the two available fame tracks (company present fame track is never moved until end-of-round adjustment). What does this do? The future fame track primarily determines turn order for the bookkeeping phase, and for the actions in the next turn. There's probably a whole discussion about where it's best to be in the turn order and why, but that's outside the scope of this guide. The AC/DC track primarily gives stock bonuses or penalties based on which technology players use to claim a project. But also, at the end of the turn, the player at the top of the fame track gets a stock price increase based on the phase they're in (1/2/3), and the player with the highest patent in the leading technology (AC or DC) gets a stock price increase based on the phase they're in (1/2/3).

The Claim Project action can be used by any luminary; the main requirements to develop a city are technology level and cash on hand. You pay the bank based on the size of the city (the illustration on the board, NOT the level of technology), plus a fee based on how distant you are from one of your other cities and what phase you're in (adjacent cities have no fee), minus a discount for the number of $ stats on your luminary, times the phase you're in. Generally, players also pay patent fees to other players who have patents in the technology (AC/DC) they chose, and in bulb, based on the level of technology where their pieces sit (e.g. claim a level 3 project, pay $3k to the Level 3 AC patent holder and $4k to the Level 4 bulb patent holder).

So which technology do you choose and why do I claim projects? Well, claiming projects is the primary way to drive up your stock price. You get an increase based on the size of city (the illustration on the board, NOT the level of technology), and based on the technology you chose (AC/DC), the fame track indicates that you might get a bonus or a penalty to that stock increase.

Inventors and their Headquarters

So the first question I hear when explaining that we get an inventor and a headquarters is, how are these guys different and which one do I choose? There are minor variations in their stats, but they tend to have one or two of everything, the main exception being that Tesla gets 3 bolts and no $. They each have their own special power, and their headquarter cards all have different powers as well, which tends to color the way the game unfolds. Let's briefly look at them in order:

Tesla: 3 bolt, 1 gear, 2 megaphone
Tesla's company ignores bolt requirements when advancing in technologies, unless he was previously exhausted this turn.
Lab: +1 gear when your company takes a technology action.
Works: +5VP when you hold a Level 5 project
Office: +2$ when your company takes a technology action.
Studio: After taking a propaganda action, if using a propaganda card to advance the track toward AC, receive an additional $2k/phase.

So Tesla seems rigged to push the track toward AC, get his tech up to Level 5 and build one of the three level 5 projects on the board. Generally, Tesla is strong in bolts and weak in $, so it's wise to find luminaries with $ to offset that if you want to chase down patents. But the Office frees you up to chase down other stats and still be competitive with patents. Really, Tesla plus lab plus office makes it possible to jump two levels with little or even no help from a second luminary. All the level 5 cities are small and offer double the stock increase, so it's relatively cheap for Tesla to meet his Works requirement for 5VP, and get a stock boost comparable to the bigger cities other people might be claiming. Lastly, if he has the Studio active while trying to push toward AC, he can pocket some extra cash, which can help if he has to jump cities to get to his level 5.

Edison: 2 bolt, 2 gear, 1$, 2 megaphone
Lab: After taking a technology action, move any marker one space on either fame track.
Works: +1VP for each Level 1/2 project you hold
Office: After claiming a project, if the claiming luminary has a megaphone, additionally advance a marker one space on either fame track.
Studio: After taking a propaganda action, if using your luminary's rating to advance the track toward DC, receive an additional $2k/phase.

At first glance, Edison seems to be a DC Tesla, but his powers are more versatile. He benefits from DC being popular but the Lab and the Office allow him to affect either track, meaning he can fiddle with turn order, and he can do it on three of the four available actions. Also, he has to meet all the requirements for technology, but no $ are necessary to file patents while he's face-up, and more importantly, he doesn't pay patent fees when claiming projects. Because Edison's Works bonus is for Level 1 and 2 cities, he's more apt to jump around and grab the ones that give him extra points. And with adequate $ discounts and no patent fees for low level projects, he can do that jumping around at minimal cost, but for a smaller stock increase. But to really make use of all that fame tracking, you need luminaries with megaphones, and as we'll discuss later, it's entirely possible for megaphones to be in short supply if you're not careful. So keep an eye out for those.

Brush: 2 bolt, 2 gear, 1$, 1 megaphone
Brush receives an additional $1k/phase discount when he personally claims a project
Lab: $2 bolt or gear when Brush is personally involved in a technology action
Works: $5 VP if you hold at least one Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 project
Office: You may ignore the primary effects of any future event cards. This does not prevent the stock adjustments.
Studio: Immediately set your company fame marker to 1 on the future track.

Brush is a little harder to pin down than other inventors, since he does a lot of different things pretty well but they don't necessarily feed off each other. Probably the best place to start is his Works bonus, which requires him to get a bunch of different projects to score. So how do we make it easier for that to happen? Well, he can use the Studio to jump to the top of the fame track, which could help make sure you have the best chance to get the cities you need ahead of other players. Since the lab can be applied either to bolt or gear, he has a lot of flexibility to double-jump in technology, though he's unlikely to get patents in that case. Ignoring the effects of event cards is a huge boost, and is particularly helpful to save money, since 9 of the 21 event cards have you paying extra money somewhere. Add that to the additional discount he gets when claiming a project himself, and you have a character who has a bit of an easier time leaping up the technology tracks, getting first crack at cities, and saving money in the process.

Thomson: 2 bolt, 2 gear, 1$, 1 megaphone
Thomson's company ignores gear requirements when advancing technology, unless he was previously exhausted this turn.
Lab: +1 bolt when your company takes a technology action
Works: +2VP for each Level 4 project you hold
Office: Your stock price is not reduced when shares of your company are traded.
Studio: Advance both AC and DC tracks one space for free, but you may not claim a patent.

Thomson can be a beast if he can get to level 4 and start using those cities to drive up his stock. For his Works power, Thomson needs to get as many Level 4s as he can, and even though there are three on the east coast and two more for each additional player, they're clustered together at either end of the board. So while Thomson can sweep through a section of the map without jumping cities, so can any other player. Meanwhile, the Lab and Studio blend with his inventor power to help him cruise up the tracks to get his technology to Level 4 quickly. AND... only Louisville and Cincinnati in the 4p section are medium-sized cities; all the other ones are large. So taking these cities add up to huge stock price increases. And that's where his Office comes in. If Thomson's stock doesn't go down when sold, people won't be selling his shares to exert downward pressure; that can only come from event cards, which affect everybody. If anything, people will buy into Thomson if it looks like he'll be the most valuable stock. And if that happens, they're almost incentivized to help him succeed.

Maxim: 2 bolt, 2 gear, 1$, 2 megaphone
Maxim pays only half the regional reputation penalty (rounded up) when he personally claims a project
Lab: After taking a technology action, gain $2k/phase
Works: +1VP for each group of your cities unconnected to other groups
Office: $1k/phase after trading or purchasing stock
Studio: Immediately take $5k/phase from the bank

Maxim's strength is in piling up cash and jumping around to build cities. His Works card prompts him to keep his cities unconnected, but his power dilutes the extra cost he might otherwise incur. Plus, with his Lab and Office, he can take money when doing technology as well as propaganda, and then again every time he plays the stock market. And his Studio can be a money bomb he drops at any time, and only gets better the longer he waits. So he doesn't get the help with requirements like some of the other inventors but he makes up for it in cash.

Walker: 1 bolt, 1 gear, 2$, 2 megaphone
When Walker personally takes a propaganda action, she may also advance one technology marker one space if that space already has a patent. If so, pay the patent holder cash equal to the patent level.
Lab: +1 bolt and gear when Walker is personally involved in a technology action.
Works: +1VP per city in largest group of connected cities.
Office: Not required to pay patent fees to other players.
Studio: Immediately set the AC/DC fame marker to either end of the track.

Walker has no particular strengths, but her powers paper over any disadvantages she may have to the other inventors, freeing the player up to pursue just about any strategy. If she does propaganda, she can get a free "catch-up" tech action by paying a couple bucks to the patent holder. If she does technology, the Lab boosts her to 2/2, which combined with the $ rating makes it easy for her to advance and grab patents on her own if she prefers. In fact, by burning a second luminary for an extra bolt or gear, she can jump two spots on the track and still claim a patent. Her Studio lets her set the AC/DC track to her favor if it's been moving against her. Best of all, with the Office activated, and the fact that her Works power requires her cities to be connected, her best play is to go around claiming adjacent cities, with no distance penalty, no patent fees, and potentially a significant discount to the city cost.

Luminaries, Propaganda and Events

Tesla vs. Edison is a model game for generating cash and turning it into points: paying to claim projects that elevate your stock, buying and trading shares, and endgame cash literally becomes points. But it takes a lot of different types of cards to help get you there. Your inventors and headquarters are only the beginning.

Luminaries are additional characters that help your inventor (who is also considered a luminary for gameplay purposes). They have no special power, but they have stats that can be used for additional actions. At the beginning of each phase, players bid on luminaries until they each have one. With two turns each phase, that means players typically get 18 actions over the course of the game.

The luminaries are only marked for phases 1 and 2; that's because a few extra ones come out at the beginning of the game. The ones left over combined with the second phase cards equal two phases worth of cards. And as an extra incentive, there are two shares of everyone's stock that get distributed to the luminaries. So in the second and third phase, you'll get a luminary and a share of someone's stock, and you'll know in advance what's coming out in phase 3.

There are 9 luminaries for each of the three phases, 27 in total, with a variety of different stats. The most plentiful stats are bolts and gears, which appear on about 70% of the cards. Most of those are only a value of 1, but about a half dozen of each are 2s, and Michael Faraday has an amazing 3 bolt. Megaphones are less plentiful, appearing on only half of the cards and never higher than 1 value. $ are the most rare: only 11 cards in the whole deck have a $ value, and only 4 of those are rated 2. To sum up, a lot of luminaries can help you out at least a little with the technology track, but not as many can give you a propaganda bonus, and only about 2 in 5 can help with filing patents. And depending on the number of players, only 6 - 18 of them will get to the table. Be prepared to rely heavily on your inventor for propaganda or patents if you're not able to get more of those stats, and Edison in particular can have his HQ powers hindered in this way.

Propaganda cards come out onto the table at the beginning of each phase, and are available for a single user per turn to whoever can claim them with a propaganda action. They all allow some kind of motion on either the future track or AC/DC track, and some kind of cash bonus.

The cash bonuses on the propaganda cards fall within a range based on the phase you're in: phase 1 cards give $2-4k, phase 2 give $5-7k, and phase 3 give $8-10k. They also vary by phase in which tracks they affect. Phase 1 cards somewhat favor the future track, while phase 2 cards slightly favor the AC/DC track. Phase 3 offers an even split, with three cards each to move one track or the other by two spaces.

The event cards come out at the beginning of each turn, and have some significant effect on the players, and in most cases will have some kind of secondary effect on everyone's stock prices. Some of these cards have a super powerful effect that gets auctioned off for one player's benefit, like moving you up the technology track or getting an extra action for your inventor. But many of them benefit the winning bidder at the expense of his opponents. The rest of them are usually bad for everybody.

Each of the three phases have seven event cards, of which two will come out during the game. Let's look at the stock adjustment first. 4 of the phase 1 cards raise stock values, while the rest do nothing. In the second phase, you have an equal number of cards (3 each) that move stocks up or left(lower). In phase 3, 5 of the cards exert downward pressure on the market, so be prepared for the final two events to feel brutal.

Looking at the primary effects, a little less than half of them have an auction power, with the greatest concentration (4) coming in phase 3. So don't forget to hold back a little money to bid on these powerful cards. There are also several events that make it more expensive to conduct business in some way, mostly in the first and third phases. There are also a couple cards that make the technology track more expensive, or hinder the development of your HQ, so be prepared for anything when it comes to events.

Final Scoring

In the end, you will score points in four areas: cash on hand, HQ cards built, cities that meet your Works condition (if the card is active), and most importantly, the shares you bought in the various companies. Even in a well-rounded game, points from stocks could amount to 2/3 of your final score easily, but ignore other areas at your peril. Failing to develop the office will cost you ten points on average, and in practice probably quite a few more.

The HQ cards have great powers that make them useful unto themselves, but flipping over 1/2/3/4 of them during the game are also worth 1/3/6/10 points at the end of the game. And flipping the Works card in particular means that the act of claiming projects, aside from driving up your stock value during the game, can also translate into end game points. Stock shares are worth 6/5/4/etc points based on the ranking of the companies' stock values from highest to lowest. So every share you buy is worth points at the end, even if it's only 3 points. Probably the best way to think about endgame cash is to treat it like one more share of a stock. First place is worth six points whether you end with $1k or $100k. So at endgame there is seldom a reason not to buy whatever stock you can with the cash you have left. It's difficult to conceive a situation where you have so much cash you'd be guaranteed a high placing, only to spend so much money on a share that the points you lose in the final cash ranking is greater than what you gain from the stock.
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