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Subject: Don't runaway, my leader. Come back! Come back! rss

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Enon Sci
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Runaway leader syndrome. You know it. You've seen it. You probably despise it (unless it's you making the great escape).

I've not played a lot of power grid, but of the two matches I've had the chance to have (table top, I don't BSW) I've seen 1 game pretty tight and 1 game with a strong runaway problem. I'm not sure how prevalent the issue is with Power Grid, but perhaps some advice could be in order.

When encountering this problem, how do you guys go about solving it? Should one go out of their way to target the leader and attempt to mirror their resource demands and plant choices (to hopefully trim their finances at your own expense)? That's the only philosophy I've thought of, but it seems to lead to the same "taking one for the team" issues that plague 3+ player games of Attika (i.e. where the person who adopts the leader blocking position essentially hands the game to those that chose to sit idly by).

Any thoughts on this issue?

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eryn roston
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Power Grid USUALLY is aggresive in countering the runaway leader problem with it's own game design. While I've seen games where one person gains an early lead and keeps it till the end, I've seen many more games where the player near the bottom of the barrel slingshots past the leaders in the final rounds.

There are usually a lot of advantages to being in last place in PG...so much so that a lot of players intentionaly slow down their building to set up favorable positions in the end-game.

-E
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Joshua Noe
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This game is designed specifically to be a criterion race. That is, if you stay in front for too long, you will lose based on sheer "exhaustion". In the case of the game, you are better off, from a monetary standpoint, to stay a little behind the leader, but still within reach. Resources are cheaper, you get to place the first (and hence, cheapest) city. The only advantage the leader has is in deciding auction order, and that is only that he chooses the auction then chooses not to win it to get this bonus all turn.

The key to the strategy isn't simply to mirror the leader, it's knowing how far to stay behind and then WHEN to take the lead. It always looks easy to take the lead, and actually, it is easy to take the lead. It's keeping it the is the problem. You see, if you take it a turn or 2 too early, your opponents are going to be saving money on resources and city placement, therefore able to buy the bigger power plants, and then out-buy the cities such that they have more cities (and the ability to power them) at game end. All the while you'll be spending more money on the same resources and won't be able to get big enough power plants nor afford enough cities to have the lead at game end.

So your observation is somewhat a correct one. If you don't keep up, you can lose early. But if you stay just behind the leader, you are in the best position, and thus can likely win. In this sense, it is, IMHO, the ultimate gamers' game. There is little forgiveness for a screw-up, so it's not a good gateway game. You can fall too far behind and easily lose. Key to victory: Knowing when to pull away.
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Dave Eisen
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Maybe.

My experience with Power Grid is that the rein in the leader mechansisms are less than I would like. Perhaps that is experience with the game's predecessor, Funkenschlag, where the rein in the leader mechanism was strong enough so that being an early leader was downright dangerous. In Power Grid, sometimes it is and sometimes the leader runs away.

For those who don't have experience with the older game, Funkenschlag used the same economic model as Power Grid (board play was different), but was different in that the payout for many many cities powered dropped off much more steeply than that for Power Grid.
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Adam Berkan
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Early in the game I think it's good to be in the lead, but near the end it's better to be a little behind.

Early on there are lots of bad plants so your opponents probably won't get anything too great. Resources are fairly cheap so your oil/coal will probably only cost a few extra bucks per turn. Building last sucks, but early on you can usually expand in some direction. Finally you collect your income, where an extra city or two will make you an extra $8 or $16. This is hopefully less than the extra cash you paid for the resources meaning you're making more money than the guy in last place. You also have expanded fastest so you probably grabbed the most cheap links and you can control when the game moves to phase 2. If you can get a lead of 2 or 3 cities you can run away with the game right here...

As the game reaches it's mid point however things change. Occasionally great plants (cap 5+) will come up for sale, so going last in the auction is very valuable. People tend to have a lot of plants so the coast difference between last and first can be quite large. In some cases you can't even get a resource because it sells out. Building cities gets a lot harder so going first there is better. Finally, the extra income per city is $2/$3. This will almost always be less than the amount you paid for the resources. In many cases it is not economically viable to power some of you cities even though you have the capacity and could afford the resources. Unless you have a lead of 4 or 5 cities, you're probably losing money to someone behind you. At this point you definitely don't want to be in first place.

Finally at the end of the game you don't care how much money you make but are rather concerned with expanding to the target number of cities and running your plants at full capacity. As soon as you have the money to do this you want to immediately start expanding to maximum size. At this point it doesn't really matter where you fall in turn order as long as you can afford your expansion and can get the resources you need.


A good power grid player then is happy building a small lead in the early game. The skill is identifying when it is better to save your money and fall behind. Then the skill is identifying when you have enough money for the final push.
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Joshua Noe
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Ze Ace wrote:

Finally at the end of the game you don't care how much money you make but are rather concerned with expanding to the target number of cities and running your plants at full capacity. As soon as you have the money to do this you want to immediately start expanding to maximum size. At this point it doesn't really matter where you fall in turn order as long as you can afford your expansion and can get the resources you need.


This is very, VERY true, and I agree 100% with Ace's comments BUT a caveat:In a 2-player game, money is everything. Remember, in 2-player, the game ends when one player builds his 21st city. That is, every city on the playable board is taken by a single player. To be honest, in every 2 player game I've played (and it's a good number), both players were able to build and fire 21 cities in that last turn. Thus, it comes down to whomever has the most money.

While this sounds not as cool as with multiple player games (I will admit, I prefer a 4+ player game the best), it adjusts very nicely in that you really have to manage your money throughout the game, since you know that you both will likely get the 21 cities AND fire them all. This makes "drafting" behind the other player even more tense and exciting.

For these reasons, this is by far, my personal favorite game on The Geek.
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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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Play a few more games, I have found once people have played a couple of games things are usually very tight at then end. There may be peaks and troughs during the game, but I find it actually quite rare to not have to count the money because two or three or more players have powered the same number of cities on the last turn.
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Just call me Erik
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schuwa wrote:
The only advantage the leader has is in deciding auction order, and that is only that he chooses the auction then chooses not to win it to get this bonus all turn.


While sometimes being the leader does give you an advantage at auction-time, most of the time it doesn't. Almost any decent plan you want is bid up by the other players, and there's no guarantee you won't get stuck with a plant you try to stick to one of your opponents.

Not only that, the player going last has the option of buying ANYTHING that comes up for bid, and if he's last one to buy, gets to buy whatever she wants for face value. Though any player could end up being the last one to buy a plant.

There really is no way to stick it to someone with turn order in the auction phase. Hurting the leader or helping the Sir Lastingplace are both done as much as can be expected, IMHO.

schuwa wrote:
So your observation is somewhat a correct one. If you don't keep up, you can lose early. But if you stay just behind the leader, you are in the best position, and thus can likely win. In this sense, it is, IMHO, the ultimate gamers' game. There is little forgiveness for a screw-up, so it's not a good gateway game. You can fall too far behind and easily lose. Key to victory: Knowing when to pull away.


Absolutely agree. I rate it a 10 for this reason. There is not just strategy in what to do, but WHEN to do it. And every valid strategy you could think of is balanced by another one. Save up and "Gin"? Don't forget you can't make money as fast as the people who build constantly, and they're taking your valid connections. What about taking an early lead? Problematic but possible. I've seen just about everything work at least once.

Power Grid hasn't a Runaway leader problem, but rather a "Fade-away Loser" problem.
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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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unixrevolution wrote:
While sometimes being the leader does give you an advantage at auction-time, most of the time it doesn't. Almost any decent plan you want is bid up by the other players, and there's no guarantee you won't get stuck with a plant you try to stick to one of your opponents.

So, so true. I was burnt by this in my most two recent games, I put a plant up for auction and minimum price and all the fools passed leaving it for me at face value gulp I didn't want it, but if I was to have a chance at one of the better plants lurking in the future market, it was a risk that I had to take.
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James Ludlow
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Karlsen wrote:
unixrevolution wrote:
While sometimes being the leader does give you an advantage at auction-time, most of the time it doesn't. Almost any decent plan you want is bid up by the other players, and there's no guarantee you won't get stuck with a plant you try to stick to one of your opponents.

So, so true. I was burnt by this in my most two recent games, I put a plant up for auction and minimum price and all the fools passed leaving it for me at face value gulp I didn't want it, but if I was to have a chance at one of the better plants lurking in the future market, it was a risk that I had to take.


Often, the correct play here is to pass first. If the good plants are in the future market, you really don't want to be the one to offer up the first pile of junk. Let everyone pass their turn, burn an extra plant, and jockey for position for the next auction.

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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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jdludlow wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
unixrevolution wrote:
While sometimes being the leader does give you an advantage at auction-time, most of the time it doesn't. Almost any decent plan you want is bid up by the other players, and there's no guarantee you won't get stuck with a plant you try to stick to one of your opponents.

So, so true. I was burnt by this in my most two recent games, I put a plant up for auction and minimum price and all the fools passed leaving it for me at face value gulp I didn't want it, but if I was to have a chance at one of the better plants lurking in the future market, it was a risk that I had to take.


Often, the correct play here is to pass first. If the good plants are in the future market, you really don't want to be the one to offer up the first pile of junk. Let everyone pass their turn, burn an extra plant, and jockey for position for the next auction.


I agree, but when there are other player who may actually want or need the silly little three and fours that you don't want, then the decision making becomes much more difficult meeple

I am certainly a believer in combat passing (i.e. pass, to stop the good plants getting into the hands of the opposition).
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Adam Berkan
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Karlsen wrote:
Play a few more games, I have found once people have played a couple of games things are usually very tight at then end. There may be peaks and troughs during the game, but I find it actually quite rare to not have to count the money because two or three or more players have powered the same number of cities on the last turn.


Having money at the end of the game is great for breaking ties, but it is far more critical to be one of the tied players than to be rich. In the last couple of turns you have to spend whatever it takes to expand. Being later in turn order helps make that expansion a little cheaper, but there's no point being in last place after someone wins the game.

The middle of the game is when you need to be efficient and make your money. The end of the game is a race, not a time to make money.
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Tim Gilberg
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dkeisen wrote:
Maybe.

My experience with Power Grid is that the rein in the leader mechansisms are less than I would like. Perhaps that is experience with the game's predecessor, Funkenschlag, where the rein in the leader mechanism was strong enough so that being an early leader was downright dangerous. In Power Grid, sometimes it is and sometimes the leader runs away.


Yeesh.

So because it's possible to execute a strategy where you grab a lead and keep it, this game has a problem?

Wow.

Amazing.
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Patrick Sullivan
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I run into gamers often that dislike it when games have a runaway leader problem. I think it's easy to prevent in the beginning and furthermore, Power Grid continuously punishes the leader. My friend who hates it often wants to quit the game when someone gets an early lead. I find that to be ridiculous.
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Enon Sci
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Great ideas, strategies and tips.

I personally dislike it if a game doesn't offer a means for the players to rein in a leader if one gets out of control. Having mechanisms built into the core mechanics are nice, but it all begins to feel a touch artificial if the game also doesn't allow player devised strategies to work along side.

I guess, in the end, I like to feel like my actions corralled player A or B (i.e. a balanced counter strategy to their schemes). Knowing the game beat them out of the lead by virtue of mechanics alone seems cheap.
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Jonathan Bates
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Karlsen wrote:
unixrevolution wrote:
While sometimes being the leader does give you an advantage at auction-time, most of the time it doesn't. Almost any decent plan you want is bid up by the other players, and there's no guarantee you won't get stuck with a plant you try to stick to one of your opponents.

So, so true. I was burnt by this in my most two recent games, I put a plant up for auction and minimum price and all the fools passed leaving it for me at face value gulp I didn't want it, but if I was to have a chance at one of the better plants lurking in the future market, it was a risk that I had to take.



I played only 3 games at this point, and 2 of the games i won ( won the third too.. lol ), THIS exact strategy was in question both times.

I had the monopoly on oil as 4 other players were stuck with everything else because i had bought one of the OOO and a OO , there was another OOO=6 ( i think ) in 7th position at auction.I was first to act, there were A LOT of good plants available in the first row, so i started thinking for a while ( bluffing actually, i knew what i wanted =P ) and started going crazy, and you won't believe it, but 3 of them ( 6 players game ) were stupid enough to buy plants in front of me, and i had the occasion to hook the OOO=6 ( i was way ahead, money-wise at this point ), 2 turns later, bam. Good game.

The game juste before that, the exact opposite happened to me, we were closing on the 3rd phase, and i knew one of my opponents had a sigh on the 5th plant, , it has been going down from 8th to 5th since the beginning of the game, and i passed on auction TWO turns in a row ( i also had the lowest plant number ) to cripple him and make money... it probably was the deciding factor, i think.

From this point i realised bluffing was a BIG BIG part of the game...
 
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Andrew Swan
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schuwa wrote:
This game is designed specifically to be a criterion race.

I believe you mean criterium race, in which case I totally agree!
 
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