Breno K.
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Power Grid is an auction game that the auction only takes about 25% of the playing time but holds 80% of the overall importance in the strategy and consumes 30% of your brainpower while playing the game. In this game, 2-6 players fight for 2-3 hours for who gets the best power plants without getting lost in the simplistic logistics of fueling those plants and building houses on the board. There's also a very in-your-face mechanism of trying to hold back the leader that tries to compensate for the fact that this is, at heart, an economic snowball game. Players with money will be able to build more things that will get them more money. If that difference is small, going last in turn order will hamper them and hold them back. If by some chance (cough cough, plant draw factor, cough cough)it's not small, then he's going to stay ahead.

I have no problems with auction games. I love auctions. However, Power Grid is not a good auction game for two reasons:
1) the auctions aren't very good
2) they only take about 25% of the playing time.
I say it's an auction game because buying power plants (through the auctions), is by far the most important part of the game. You can get screwed in many other places in the game, but with poor plants you will definitely lose the game before it's even over. The problem here comes with how the plants are auctioned off: the card draw factor is just too big of a luck factor. A fellow gamer here in brasília that also doesn't like power grid says that the most agonizing decision with this game is "do I keep on bidding on this plant or do I pass and see what's coming up?". The game tries to deal with the card draw factor in a bunch of messy ways (highest card goes to step 3, if somebody buys a certain number of houses that number-plant leaves the market, there's a 4-card preview that sometimes doesn't really act as a preview), etc. Out of the 4 times I've played power grid, always with experienced players, there wasn't a match where I didn't see one player get lucky and another unlucky in the plant draw and win/lose because of that.

The map portion of the game is, at best, silly and practically irrelevant, and at it's worst, annoying. I'm no math hater, you can see my 18xx fan microbadge. but when at the final round you have to sum up 7 different broken numbers in many different combinations to see what is the cheapest route in the map so that you can advance, it's just annoying. You add up 9 numbers and get 128. You add up other 9 numbers and get 127. You add up other 9 numbers and you get 129. It feels like a huge waste of time. The downtime in the game can get pretty big because of that, and since what other players build affect directly what you can build, you can't really plan that much ahead in those final turns. Before those last turns, there isn't much to actually decide on. If you can light it, it's probably a good idea to build it, unless a cheaper spot will show up later due to phase 2. If it's a specially cheap spot, you should get it, even if you can't light it, unless you're saving money for a special kind of plant. Yawn.

The market part of the game is totally linear and uninteresting. A friend of mine who's a fan of the game said "oh, it's amazing how the supply and demand works in the game". What supply? I only see "demand" here. If everyone buys coal plants, coal becomes expensive. That's hardly surprising or dynamic. The game environment doesn't really change with different player behavior, it's always the players that have to adapt to the linear supply of 4-6-3-2 (or what ever it may be).

Power Grid doesn't really make the leap towards "bad game". It's not really unbearable (like Shogun, or Age of Gods). There are some tough decisions to make during the game, but most of them feel like I'm just "doing what I can", instead of actually taking control of my situation. Hey, there were only shitty plants for sale, and I needed to increase my capacity, what could I do?, or, "I had to pay a lot to get that no-fuel plant, and the last player of the round got the other one that showed up for the basic price". In a world filled with good and great games, I really don't find myself with the time for mediocre games like this, specially ones that take 2 to 3 hours and require so much number-crunching.
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I don't know how you're able to get the drive to write a well-crafted review of a game you feel is just "okay," but kudos. You struck on all the problems in PG, a game that is, indeed, far overrated here, in my opinion as well. It really lacks in "tension" and there is very little in the way of painful decisions. Wow, I didn't realize Power Grid was ranked 3 now too...crazy
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BrenoK wrote:
Power Grid doesn't really make the leap towards "bad game". It's not really unbearable (like Shogun, or Age of Gods).


Whoa. Back the truck up.

Shogun is unbearable for you? The remask of Wallenstein, or the '80s game with all the plastic figures?
 
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I enjoy writing negative(3 or 4s) and meh-ish (5s and 6s) reviews more than "overall positive"(7s and 8s) reviews. It's one of those funny things, I think it's easier to be more specific about what you don't like than it is to be about what you like. "Too salty" or "too bland" usually contains more information that "just right".
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Opie wrote:
BrenoK wrote:
Power Grid doesn't really make the leap towards "bad game". It's not really unbearable (like Shogun, or Age of Gods).


Whoa. Back the truck up.

Shogun is unbearable for you? The remask of Wallenstein, or the '80s game with all the plastic figures?


http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/320656
It's actually my most-thumbed review
 
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BrenoK wrote:
Hey, there were only shitty plants for sale, and I needed to increase my capacity, what could I do?, or, "I had to pay a lot to get that no-fuel plant, and the last player of the round got the other one that showed up for the basic price".


Hmmm...well aren't these tough decisions?
Do I buy a bad plant now and am able to power fewer cities this turn, or do I buy a better plant next turn?
Do I really push to get an excellent plant for a high price or do I settle for mediocre plant and pay very little?
Can I push opponents to pay more for a plant than is good for them?

From my experience, Power Grid offers very tough and interesting decisions. I do understand, that this game has to much accounting for some players but I really don't see how one can complain that there are no hard and meaningful decisions to be made.
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BrenoK wrote:
Shogun - It's actually my most-thumbed review


Wow. I don't know you anymore.



I welcome a dissenting opinion as much as the next person, and I can understand the frustration where apparent luck comes in and bites you in the butt. All I can say is, I appreciate a game that makes you mitigate the role of luck.

And now I've gotta look up what games *ARE* in your upper echelon...
 
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There are some decisions to be made, sure but the one that weighs the most, by far, is the one that depends on the deck draw factor. You can win or lose the game by the sheer luck factor of what shows up after each auction. The 4 card preview in the market is just a teaser, it's unreliability is very frustrating in such a calculating game like this one.

It's not really that the game "has too much accounting" for me. I'm an 18xx fan, and that probably has 18 times more number-crunching than Power Grid, but it's really the price you pay for an excellent gaming experience. Here you get a meh-ish experience.
 
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BrenoK wrote:
If everyone buys coal plants, coal becomes expensive.

That's supply and demand.

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That's hardly surprising or dynamic.

And since both supply and demand change throughout the game, dynamic!

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Hungadunga wrote:
BrenoK wrote:
If everyone buys coal plants, coal becomes expensive.

That's supply and demand.

Quote:
That's hardly surprising or dynamic.

And since both supply and demand change throughout the game, dynamic!



Supply doesn't change with the demand, so it's not really a market. Its increments are entirely gamey and artificial, almost like a bag that people pull stuff out of. If everyone pulls the same sort of stuff, it will run out. Compare it to a game like Container, or Wealth of Nations, the market in Power Grid is a joke.
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BrenoK wrote:
Supply doesn't change with the demand, so it's not really a market. Its increments are entirely gamey and artificial, almost like a bag that people pull stuff out of. If everyone pulls the same sort of stuff, it will run out. Compare it to a game like Container, or Wealth of Nations, the market in Power Grid is a joke.

Suppliers are under no obligation to react to changes in demand. The resources per turn chart is a valid abstraction of how resources can become available.

There may be more sophisticated implementations of market dynamics in other games, but Power Grid's market does exactly what it was designed to do, helping to balance the auction, resource and build aspects of the game.
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Hungadunga wrote:
BrenoK wrote:
Supply doesn't change with the demand, so it's not really a market. Its increments are entirely gamey and artificial, almost like a bag that people pull stuff out of. If everyone pulls the same sort of stuff, it will run out. Compare it to a game like Container, or Wealth of Nations, the market in Power Grid is a joke.

Suppliers are under no obligation to react to changes in demand. The resources per turn chart is a valid abstraction of how resources can become available.

There may be more sophisticated implementations of market dynamics in other games, but Power Grid's market does exactly what it was designed to do, helping to balance the auction, resource and build aspects of the game.


Oh yeah, those market dynamics like the most successful businessperson gets last choice for resources...and a suppliers biggest customer pays the most per item. Lack of sophistication does not necessarily require complete removal from any basis in reality...except in Power Grid
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Tanakor wrote:
BrenoK wrote:
Hey, there were only shitty plants for sale, and I needed to increase my capacity, what could I do?, or, "I had to pay a lot to get that no-fuel plant, and the last player of the round got the other one that showed up for the basic price".


Hmmm...well aren't these tough decisions?
Do I buy a bad plant now and am able to power fewer cities this turn, or do I buy a better plant next turn?
Do I really push to get an excellent plant for a high price or do I settle for mediocre plant and pay very little?
Can I push opponents to pay more for a plant than is good for them?

From my experience, Power Grid offers very tough and interesting decisions. I do understand, that this game has to much accounting for some players but I really don't see how one can complain that there are no hard and meaningful decisions to be made.


Simple press-your-luck mechanic does not a tough decision make...at least not to me. The bluff move to increase cost to your opponents while sneaking away is fun, but again it's not a tough or "painful" decision.

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Sprydle wrote:
Oh yeah, those market dynamics like the most successful businessperson gets last choice for resources...and a suppliers biggest customer pays the most per item. Lack of sophistication does not necessarily require complete removal from any basis in reality...except in Power Grid

The "most successful businessman" gets first choice at power plants, which is not to shabby, especially since you think it is by far the most important part of the game.

The fact is there is enough tension around the resouce market to make it an integral and important part of a very interesting game.
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Hungadunga wrote:
Sprydle wrote:
Oh yeah, those market dynamics like the most successful businessperson gets last choice for resources...and a suppliers biggest customer pays the most per item. Lack of sophistication does not necessarily require complete removal from any basis in reality...except in Power Grid

The "most successful businessman" gets first choice at power plants, which is not to shabby, especially since you think it is by far the most important part of the game.

The fact is there is enough tension around the resouce market to make it an integral and important part of a very interesting game.


First choice? Are you kidding? Being first in the auctions is horrible, everyone has a chance at interfering in your purchase, and if you lose the auction and there's only crap left, you have to get crap or get nothing. It's a position clearly designed to hurt the leader.

The resource market is just a complement to the plants, there's no real "game" there. The only manipulation there is to stock resources so other people have to pay more. That's it.
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BrenoK wrote:
The only manipulation there is to stock resources so other people have to pay more.

Well, yeah.

But the market also influences the choice of power plants you will buy and/or discard.


...


First choice at auction is very powerful. As long as you pass on buying plants, you still get to choose which ones come up.

Maybe you're playing the game wrong.
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Hungadunga wrote:
First choice at auction is very powerful. As long as you pass on buying plants, you still get to choose which ones come up.

If you don't put up a plant for auction, you're completely out.

If you put one up, you have to bid the base price. If nobody else bids, you have to buy it, and you're out.

It's only when somebody else bids on the plant you auction off, that you can pass on this one (and then you start the auction of the next plant)
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Copy and paste from a well-thumbed rules file here on BGG:
Quote:

Initiating auctions
The next eligible player in normal turn order may elect to
• initiate an auction by making an opening bid (at minimum the number in the upper left of the card) on a plant in the actual market, or
• “opt out.” (Such players are no longer eligible to participate in auctions this round.)


If you don't initiate an auction, you don't get the chance to buy a plant this round. It sucks to be in that position. At least those were the rules that I played with. And even so, you don't really get "the first pick", since everyone can interfere. There's no price for being last in that phase of the game, since you can always jump in the auction if somebody picked what you want.
 
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Hungadunga wrote:

First choice at auction is very powerful. As long as you pass on buying plants, you still get to choose which ones come up.

Maybe you're playing the game wrong.


Uhh, picking first is *definitely* a disadvantage. The person who picks last is guaranteed to be able to buy a plant at cost by just passing until everyone is done (and they still have the right to bid on anything else). There is no advantage to getting to pick the plant.
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I'm the other guy quoted in the review. I've never ever seen the map or the market influence the outcome of the game. Sometimes they annoy you and sometimes they might kick you out of the third place (the best I've ever seen the market do - and only because Breno went banana's in order to give the game one more turn). The game is always won or lost in the auction.

As you are always short of some change to build a city, some players get the illusion that the map has something to do with it. It doesn't - the lack of money can be always traced back to an auction. The winner is 90% of the time the guy that did better in the auction. And the auction strategy is simple, bland and can be easily damaged by luck.

Further more, all risks taken in the game can be severely punished. I say that's an accountant game not because there's simple math involved, but because winning do not require any creativity or boldness. The most conservative player has a much better chance to win. He will vary his plants, never pushes the auction far, will always hold a little back to build a lot on the last turn. Or, worse, will manage to stay a little bit more ahead and never be dethroned of his position.

With the mechanism to punish the guy ahead, the game approximates the scores and you think the match was tense. But, really, if you pay attention you can always tell when you are out of the game - and it is going to be in an auction.

Sorry, I'm in a bad mood. My review of the game is a little more forgiving: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/331065 .

Ah, and I don't like Shogun either. The cube tower is the coolest thing ever until all your cubes hit the floor in a less important battle, just before your big one.
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BrenoK wrote:
the card draw factor is just too big of a luck factor. A fellow gamer here in brasília that also doesn't like power grid says that the most agonizing decision with this game is "do I keep on bidding on this plant or do I pass and see what's coming up?".

Since there is almost no way to guesstimate (especially when cards have been removed), the decision appears to be a rather contrived one. Why not simply ignore the uncontrollable and accept a measure of unpredictability? Taken to the extreme, the game should not be played at all according to your fellow player: any decision on your part might help another player more than it helps yourself, so 'the only winning move is not to play'. That more or less hammes a stake through many games, by the way.

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Out of the 4 times I've played power grid, always with experienced players, there wasn't a match where I didn't see one player get lucky and another unlucky in the plant draw and win/lose because of that.

Sure it's all due to luck of the draw? What about the plants already in the player's possession? Fuel situation? City grid topology? Those aren't irrelevant to your argument.

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You add up 9 numbers and get 128. You add up other 9 numbers and get 127. You add up other 9 numbers and you get 129. It feels like a huge waste of time.

This is not particularly convincing. And even if this constructed argument were common with the game, it should be fairly obvious that you can put blocking another player first since the costs wouldn't matter to begin with.

That said, obviously you enjoy being a computer. I prefer to be a human. It is fairly easy to figure out the cheapest or close-to-cheapest positions by using a few heuristics: low numbers are usually good. Only when needing to 'build through' would you require a few calculations to determine where to begin, but even then it's about looking for patches of small numbers. If there isn't a clear optimum, introduce other constraints. And it's not as if you are given a completely new map all of a sudden---you've stared at it for a long time already. If you still haven't got a feeling for the 'cheap spots' (if anything by watching what other players spend on hooking up cities), well, then noone can help you, I'm afraid.

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..., and since what other players build affect directly what you can build, you can't really plan that much ahead in those final turns.

Precisely. Powergrid isn't a deep strategical game, instead has strong tactical elements. Holding the basic nature of the game against itself is in my opinion a little silly. Whether you like that nature is a different can of worms.

Quote:
Before those last turns, there isn't much to actually decide on. If you can light it, it's probably a good idea to build it, unless a cheaper spot will show up later due to phase 2. If it's a specially cheap spot, you should get it, even if you can't light it, unless you're saving money for a special kind of plant. Yawn.

Writing down basic strategy is one thing. Seeing it through quite another. This holds for any game.

Quote:
In a world filled with good and great games, I really don't find myself with the time for mediocre games like this, specially ones that take 2 to 3 hours and require so much number-crunching.

I think your arguments are a bit on the weak side, to be honest, especially if I look at your list of good to great games. I wouldn't touch half of those with a pole citing many of the criticisms you wrote down yourself. It's undoubtedly due to acquired tastes, personal preference, and more. That said, I'm not expecting you to make a 180 degree turn on Powergrid---that would be silly and naive---yet there is some hope that you will concede that what you perceive to be the game's weak points are stronger than you give them credit for. I'm not saying the game is flawless, I am saying that your comments seem rather ad hoc.
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Quote:

Since there is almost no way to guesstimate (especially when cards have been removed), the decision appears to be a rather contrived one. Why not simply ignore the uncontrollable and accept a measure of unpredictability?


Because this does not feel like a game of unpredictability. There's too much number crunching for that. Put a card draw factor in 18xx and see how well it works

Quote:
Sure it's all due to luck of the draw? What about the plants already in the player's possession? Fuel situation? City grid topology? Those aren't irrelevant to your argument.


Plants already in player's possession is deeply affected by card draws. The topology hardly ever presents itself as a real issue, only here-or-there. In my last game of it, a player made very unwise choices in building her first city and buying fuel. However, since she had good plants, she was able to recover all the way to 3rd place. Had the mistake been in the plants (didn't upgrade his capacity properly), then I'm sure it would've been impossible to recover.

About enjoying being a computer, you can't really expect a player to go by "feeling" in a game in which money can be so tight. Because of the catch-the-leader mechanism, power grid games usually end being very tight. You can see this even on the board, with the market mechanism, where players force others to buy more expensive fuel by stocking it in their plants... if this was a "go-with-your-gut" kind of game.

Quote:

Precisely. Powergrid isn't a deep strategical game, instead has strong tactical elements. Holding the basic nature of the game against itself is in my opinion a little silly. Whether you like that nature is a different can of worms.

You misquoted me, this was a part of the argument as to why the game has a lot of downtime. It requires a lot of calculation that in many cases cannot be done beforehand. I have nothing against tactical games.

Quote:
Writing down basic strategy is one thing. Seeing it through quite another. This holds for any game.


The thing is, none of those decisions are interesting, or hold any deep in-game consequences. If you don't buy a house, you'll have more money for the auction. If you buy the house now, you'll have less money for the auction. Unless it's a gross mistake (like starting in the south in the Italy map) I don't see early choices shaping the endgame. The plant draw does this with much more strength.

Quote:
I think your arguments are a bit on the weak side, to be honest, especially if I look at your list of good to great games. I wouldn't touch half of those with a pole citing many of the criticisms you wrote down yourself. I am saying that your comments seem rather ad hoc.


What do you mean ad hoc? My latin's a bit rusty, but that means taylor-made, right? Yeah, my comments were taylor-made to address the faults of a specific game:

I think the number-crunching this game requires is not worth it due to the luck factor of the plant draw. I don't think the map building and the fuel market are important enough for the time they take in the game. I think the fiddly and artificial rules try to deal with the inherent issues of the game's clunky system, but they don't add much strategy to it

To draw a comparison, this game is entirely unlike Brass, in which the game's clunky system and artificial rules work beautifully, the map is as decisive as the upgrades, and the resources behave in a much more interesting and dynamic fashion, players can effectively hinder others without having to hurt themselves while doing so, etc.
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zinho73 wrote:
I'm the other guy quoted in the review. I've never ever seen the map or the market influence the outcome of the game. Sometimes they annoy you and sometimes they might kick you out of the third place (the best I've ever seen the market do - and only because Breno went banana's in order to give the game one more turn). The game is always won or lost in the auction.

The auctions are important, but they are not everything.

I have replaced an end game power plant (a 5 city coal plant) a few turns from the end of the game with a 5 city power plant that used another fuel simply because the coal was too expensive. To me, that's the market influencing the game and the outcome of the game. I won that game. I have seen a player unable to power his biggest plant three turns in a row because he was shut out of the resource market for that type of fuel by other players buying it first.

If you want to see the map influence the game, try the Korean map. Tight! It is easy for two or three players to be blocked in during a six player game.
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Karlsen wrote:
zinho73 wrote:
I'm the other guy quoted in the review. I've never ever seen the map or the market influence the outcome of the game. Sometimes they annoy you and sometimes they might kick you out of the third place (the best I've ever seen the market do - and only because Breno went banana's in order to give the game one more turn). The game is always won or lost in the auction.

The auctions are important, but they are not everything.

I have replaced an end game power plant (a 5 city coal plant) a few turns from the end of the game with a 5 city power plant that used another fuel simply because the coal was too expensive. To me, that's the market influencing the game and the outcome of the game. I won that game. I have seen a player unable to power his biggest plant three turns in a row because he was shut out of the resource market for that type of fuel by other players buying it first.

If you want to see the map influence the game, try the Korean map. Tight! It is easy for two or three players to be blocked in during a six player game.


I've seen a map, I don't know each one as I just had the chance to glance it, in which there are some drawings in several regions. It looked like those regions couldn't be powered by nuclear plants, but I can't be sure. This map sparkled my interest. To this day I have played EUA, Germany and Italy - I found Germany the most interesting because it is balanced so at least the problem with a bad starting spot like in Italy is not going to happen. Yes, I recognize that the Italy map influences the game - in a very bad way. But I guess that's what I miss on Power Grid, some sensible map strategy that could make a difference. The last game we played the OP was cornered in a very little piece of the map, I even delayed phase 2, so he had to pay more one more turn but, ultimately, what made him loose was a very poor set of plants in the auction - he was unable to upgrade when he had to. The only person who could upgrade optimally won.

The Market can influence the game a little, yes. Not nearly enough on my opinion, but it can happen. However, in my group, exchange a 5-plant for a 5-plant would spell doom. Would you spend more than $30 in resources to power up your current plant? Never happened to me. This last game I payed a lot for the coal and it didn't even got to 20 (maybe 21). Not even close to the price of the cheapest plant in the table - and even if the price matched I would still have to buy the resources for the new plant! Ugh! The stars were aligned to you, man.

Of course you can pay a little bit more here and there, but if you play with a healthy dose of common sense, you will navigate the map pretty easily and you won't be paying the maximum amount for the resources either. But what I'm trying to say is this: a great move on the map won't win you the game; a great move on the auction will. A bad move on the map is recoverable - a bad move on the auction isn't. So, there's nothing more important than the auction. Power Grid turns out to be an auction game with very little time spent on the auction itself. At least for my tastes.
 
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zinho73 wrote:

I've seen a map, I don't know each one as I just had the chance to glance it, in which there are some drawings in several regions. It looked like those regions couldn't be powered by nuclear plants, but I can't be sure. This map sparkled my interest.

That is the Central European map. The rule about no nuclear power plants is that if your network is those regions only you may not use nuclear power plants to power cities. However, if you have one city outside of those regions you are free to use Nuclear Power plants wherever you want. Vienna is slightly for interesting. If you have Vienna in your network you get a discount of 1 Electro for each trash you buy.

You should try the China map, it has a planned economy, which means until step 3 starts (or close to it, I don't have the rules handy to check if I am 100% correct) the Power Plants come out in numerical order, there is no future market, in all turns except for the first turn the market consists of # of players minus one power plants (i.e in a five player game only four power plants will be available in an auction round) and the Power Plant market is not replenished during the auction phase. This makes the whole auction phase quite different.


zinho73 wrote:

The Market can influence the game a little, yes. Not nearly enough on my opinion, but it can happen. However, in my group, exchange a 5-plant for a 5-plant would spell doom. Would you spend more than $30 in resources to power up your current plant?

From recollection I would have been paying a minimum of 26 per turn to power my plant if there was enough coal left at all. I replaced it with a plant using a resource that nobody else had so I was saving at around 20 Elektros per turn after buying it. I think I used it for at least two turns, maybe three. Lesson: Beware of coal plants on the Italian map
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