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Subject: First Play Review rss

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James Caddick
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Firstly some disclaimers. This review was based on my first (incomplete) play of Power Grid. We got some of the rules wrong. It is not meant to guide other people's purchasing decisions, and I would never seek to do that until I've got a few games under my belt. I expect my thoughts to change after repeated plays. Therefore I see this review as a record of my initial thoughts, to measure how much my opinions change with more experience of the game.

The rules: They seemed clear and logical on a first read through. But when it came to playing the game I found that for certain things (like the amount of money players start with) they were not as accessible as they could be. We also got some of the rules wrong, partly becauses of carelessness and partly because some details and modifications to the rules are hidden away.

Auctions: We were slightly disappointed that the auctions were barely contested (apart from a couple of juicy plants). In fact in a lot of rounds no players bought any power plants. When you compare this to the auctions in a game like Princes of Florence it's pretty different.

Resource buying: One or two of the players got a little obsessed with buying up cheap resources, but others thought that for a cost difference of a few elektros it wasn't that important. I was hoping there'd be a little more strategic potential here - players buying up resources to stop others from being able to power their plants. However there always seemed to be more than enough resources to go around (particularly in the later stages of the game when players had efficient plants with low storage potential) so that it wasn't worth attempting this sort of spoiling move.

City placement: I got caught napping here. I did not examine the board very closely (we played the Germany side) at the start of the game and just built my first cities in the yellow area (which happened to be the colour I was playing and the area of the board closest to me). It seemed that the connections in this area were more expensive than other areas and I felt I was disadvantaged because of it. Next time I'll certainly think more carefully about this aspect of the game.

Strategic potential: Quite a bit. Probably. Should take a pass on the question really until I've played some more. The thing I struggled with most is how often to replace my plants. I bought one plant that I never used, fortunately I only wasted 5 elektros on it. We did think there was some potential to buy plants simply as means of storing resources. That way you could buy resources when they were cheap, or seek to deny others access to resources.

Player interaction: Some, probably a lot more once you get to know the game. In the auction phase you can deny opponents power plants, and in the resource phase you can deny them resources. However neither of these channels really delivered much interaction in our first play. Most of the interaction came from the city placement, with a couple of players effectively blocking each other's expansions off while they waited for step 2.

The Mario Kart mechanism: I can see why there is a mechanism by which the leading player is disadvantaged in each phase. If there wasn't then an early lead could very easily multiply up into a game winning margin because of the way the bureaucracy phase works. I'm not usually a fan of this sort of thing, but thought that this was a reasonably unobstrusive implementation.

Maths: Apparently there is some discussion about the amount of sums you have to do while playing this game. I certainly did think there was a lot of adding up to do, but imagine this will get easier with more experience as we develop our intuition of the game.

Final thoughts: I liked the game a lot (as did all those who played it) and am looking forward to playing it again. We have some reservations about the game, but I'm sure at least some of those will be dispelled the more we play it.
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Daniel Rose
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The first time my group tried to play this game we made the mistake of sitting down pulling out the rules and reading through the rules taking turns. Ouch this made things very tough to understand and slow going.

We learned quickly that someone (almost always me since I own almost all of the games we play) needs to have read through the rules so that at least someone has an understanding of what we are supposed to do.

We also made the mistake of pulling out this game and playing it with a time limit set for a first game. This was frustrating because after two hours we were barely started. Also we made some mistakes in rules which made for a very stressful ending.

Overall our first game experience wasn't a good one. However when we got together again which was a couple of weeks later suprisingly everyone wanted to play again now that we had worked out the problems from before. It made for a much better game the second time around.
 
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Randall Bart
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Auctions and resources: In this game, most of the time you should buy your plants for minimum bid and not buy extra fuel. When you are spending more money, there should be a reason.

Mario Kart: I probably would not be interested in such a game, and all Power Grid fans are terribly offended that you would make such a comparison, but turn order is a very important part of the game. This is a game of managing opportunity costs. First place loses a lot of opportunity.
 
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Bill Gallagher
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It certainly takes a few games before one starts doing well. A few comments:

Auction: Remember that if no one buys a plant, the lowest numbered plant is discarded and replaced. Thus there shouldn't be more than one or two rounds in which no plants are purchased. Thus the #6 plant does not become a bottleneck. (Note that unpurchased plants are also discarded when someone reaches the number of cities equal to the power plant number.)

Generally one does not buy a power plant merely to store resources on it. If an opportunity arises to get a juicy plant a round or two before it can be fully utilized without significantly impacting network expansion, then short term storage of resources is appropriate.

Yeah, bidding on certain plants (especially as Phase 3 approaches) can get heated. That's where the math can get a bit tedious (How much can I afford to pay for that plant while still leaving enough for the fuel I need and planned network expansion?).

Resource buying: It's not until the latter part of the game where it becomes a good move to purchase resources primarily to deny someone else. If someone is trying to operate two or three coal plants, it can be easy to deny them the respurces needed for at least one of those plants.
 
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Tom Grant
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TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Firstly some disclaimers. This review was based on my first (incomplete) play of Power Grid. We got some of the rules wrong. It is not meant to guide other people's purchasing decisions, and I would never seek to do that until I've got a few games under my belt. I expect my thoughts to change after repeated plays. Therefore I see this review as a record of my initial thoughts, to measure how much my opinions change with more experience of the game.


So why not post it as a session report instead?
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Tom Dickson
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As people get more used to the game, you'll find it runs better.

We have yet to have a game where nobody buys a plant in an auction round.
 
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Randall Bart
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bombcar wrote:
We have yet to have a game where nobody buys a plant in an auction round.

You are buying too many plants.
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T Jesper Edmark
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Also remember that each player can only own 3 power plants at any given time. If a fourth is built one of the old ones must be scrapped (in a 2 player game the cap is 4).
 
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Pieter
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TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Auctions: We were slightly disappointed that the auctions were barely contested (apart from a couple of juicy plants). In fact in a lot of rounds no players bought any power plants. When you compare this to the auctions in a game like Princes of Florence it's pretty different.

Yes, most auctions are barely contested. Except for a few crucial ones. PG is not at all like PoF. In PoF, almost always it is beneficial to buy something at an auction. In PG, it is often beneficial to skip an auction. In general, with PG you should only buy what you need, when you need it. If you spend more, you are playing a weak game.

TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Resource buying: One or two of the players got a little obsessed with buying up cheap resources, but others thought that for a cost difference of a few elektros it wasn't that important. I was hoping there'd be a little more strategic potential here - players buying up resources to stop others from being able to power their plants. However there always seemed to be more than enough resources to go around (particularly in the later stages of the game when players had efficient plants with low storage potential) so that it wasn't worth attempting this sort of spoiling move.

And this is where your inexperience with the game really shows. PG is about the very last elektro. With some experience, you'll find that you are very often just a few elektro short of acomplishing what you really need to accomplish to win. Buying resources which you do not immediately need might cost you the game.

TaxpayersMoney wrote:
City placement: I got caught napping here. I did not examine the board very closely (we played the Germany side) at the start of the game and just built my first cities in the yellow area (which happened to be the colour I was playing and the area of the board closest to me). It seemed that the connections in this area were more expensive than other areas and I felt I was disadvantaged because of it. Next time I'll certainly think more carefully about this aspect of the game.

And this is funny, because it seems you think that initial city placement is an important part of the game. It really is not. Often it does not matter much where you start on the board, because in the end you will expand into territories where your opponents are starting, while they have to expand into your territory. If anything, it might be beneficial to start in a "more expensive" part of the board. It means your early developments will be slower compared to your opponents, so that you will lag behind a little and thus get all the benefits of being in last place. And then, when the endgame approaches, you are expanding into the cheap areas where your opponents cannot build anymore, and you quickly pass them all.

TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Player interaction: Some, probably a lot more once you get to know the game. In the auction phase you can deny opponents power plants, and in the resource phase you can deny them resources. However neither of these channels really delivered much interaction in our first play. Most of the interaction came from the city placement, with a couple of players effectively blocking each other's expansions off while they waited for step 2.

PG is a highly interactive game, even if you do not see that on first play. For instance, suppose that you are going to buy a power plant, at a time when nobody else buys. It might seem that there is no interaction here, but actually, your choice of plant is (or should be) highly influenced by the resources that your opponents need, and the number of cities they can supply with their plants. That might be called "passive interaction", but interaction it is. You cannot win PG from good players without keeping very close taps on what your opponents are doing.

TaxpayersMoney wrote:
The Mario Kart mechanism: I can see why there is a mechanism by which the leading player is disadvantaged in each phase. If there wasn't then an early lead could very easily multiply up into a game winning margin because of the way the bureaucracy phase works. I'm not usually a fan of this sort of thing, but thought that this was a reasonably unobstrusive implementation.

Personally, I like this mechanism very much. The leader is punished, so you might want to lag behind a bit. However, if you get too far behind, you will be unable to catch up again. I often make a tactical choice to not build every house I can supply, just to be able to get a good plant in a later auction. Then again, at some point I usually will decide that it is a good time to make a sprint for the endgame, and leap beyond my opponents. It is all about timing. Leaping too early or too late will cost you the game.

TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Maths: Apparently there is some discussion about the amount of sums you have to do while playing this game. I certainly did think there was a lot of adding up to do, but imagine this will get easier with more experience as we develop our intuition of the game.

If anything, the amount of math increases, but it will indeed become easier to do.
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James Caddick
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Quote:
And this is funny, because it seems you think that initial city placement is an important part of the game. It really is not. Often it does not matter much where you start on the board, because in the end you will expand into territories where your opponents are starting, while they have to expand into your territory. If anything, it might be beneficial to start in a "more expensive" part of the board. It means your early developments will be slower compared to your opponents, so that you will lag behind a little and thus get all the benefits of being in last place. And then, when the endgame approaches, you are expanding into the cheap areas where your opponents cannot build anymore, and you quickly pass them all.


Really? I found that because my early connections were expensive my early growth was slow which meant that I couldn't earn enough cash to catch up in cities later in the game. Surely 10 elektros early in the game is more valuable than 10 elektros later in the game? This is for 2 reasons: (1) early in the game 10 elektros can be about a third of your income, later on in the game it will only be a 10th or so. (2) The multiplicative effect of early money. Imagine I'd spent that extra 10 or so elektros on an additional city, rather than expensive connections, that extra city will yield me extra revenue every round of the game (assuming I can power it). Therefore I think it is an advantage to start in a cheap area so that you can expand quickly, gain a lead in money and pay the higher connection costs of other areas when you have more money and can afford them.
 
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Joseph Cochran
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I would tend to agree that early placement is important. You may or may not want to be in first place, but you want to be ABLE to be in first place at any point, and starting with expensive connections can hamstring you (especially toward the end of Step 1). You need both cheap connections, and some way to make it tough for people to pen you in as you near 7 cities. If you're behind on the economic churn, even if you have more room to grow later, you won't have the money turnover to do it.
 
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Pieter
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TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Really? ... Surely 10 elektros early in the game is more valuable than 10 elektros later in the game? ... Therefore I think it is an advantage to start in a cheap area so that you can expand quickly, gain a lead in money and pay the higher connection costs of other areas when you have more money and can afford them.

Really. It is true that early money is worth more than late money. However, being in last place is actually worth money too. You buy resources cheaper, you have your choice of connections, and have the best chance to buy the best plants.

Furthermore, what you often see is that in an area with cheap connections multiple players are competing, and they are in each others' way, making their connections more expensive again.

I would say that if you are in a cheap area on your own, and your competitors are all in more expensive areas, then you probably have an advantage. To make use of it, you should expand quickly early. But you must take into account that you will need more money for resources, and will have problems buying the plants that you want.

If, however, several players are competing in a cheap area, I much prefer to be in an expensive area on my own. I may be expanding more slowly, but I need less money overall.
 
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Jeff Bridgham
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
TaxpayersMoney wrote:
Really? ... Surely 10 elektros early in the game is more valuable than 10 elektros later in the game? ... Therefore I think it is an advantage to start in a cheap area so that you can expand quickly, gain a lead in money and pay the higher connection costs of other areas when you have more money and can afford them.

Really. It is true that early money is worth more than late money. However, being in last place is actually worth money too. You buy resources cheaper, you have your choice of connections, and have the best chance to buy the best plants.

Furthermore, what you often see is that in an area with cheap connections multiple players are competing, and they are in each others' way, making their connections more expensive again.

I would say that if you are in a cheap area on your own, and your competitors are all in more expensive areas, then you probably have an advantage. To make use of it, you should expand quickly early. But you must take into account that you will need more money for resources, and will have problems buying the plants that you want.

If, however, several players are competing in a cheap area, I much prefer to be in an expensive area on my own. I may be expanding more slowly, but I need less money overall.


This is also somewhat board specific. If I was playing on the Germany board I would not get too upset starting in a more expensive area. But on the US map, I would not want to be the only person starting out in the west. And, if I was the only person to start in the south on the Italy board, you might as well start the funeral procession now!
 
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Pieter
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jebry wrote:
This is also somewhat board specific. If I was playing on the Germany board I would not get too upset starting in a more expensive area. But on the US map, I would not want to be the only person starting out in the west. And, if I was the only person to start in the south on the Italy board, you might as well start the funeral procession now!

I quite agree. The US connections from west to east are incredibly expensive. Still, if it is a game where everybody will NEED to expand into the west area (e.g., a 3-player game), then I again would have no problems starting over there.
 
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Jeff Bridgham
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
jebry wrote:
This is also somewhat board specific. If I was playing on the Germany board I would not get too upset starting in a more expensive area. But on the US map, I would not want to be the only person starting out in the west. And, if I was the only person to start in the south on the Italy board, you might as well start the funeral procession now!

I quite agree. The US connections from west to east are incredibly expensive. Still, if it is a game where everybody will NEED to expand into the west area (e.g., a 3-player game), then I again would have no problems starting over there.


Well, to each his own. You will have to be very careful to make sure you build first (though second might work out) in step two because two good players will do their best to make sure you stay bottled up in the west and force you to jump to build.
 
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Scott Agius
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I would have to say starting cities and starting plants that go with them is one of the most important rounds of the game.

Most of the time you want to be in cheap to mid-price (with good potential) areas because it has a two-fold effect, one, you get access to cheap connections and two, you force other players in to more expensive areas.

If you are later in the turn order then yes going in to a more expensive area is necessary as jumping in with too many others in a cheap area tends to just lose everyone in that area the game while the person who is in a stable area wins.

In a situation where you can't access cheap areas you want to be close to them so that you can build your first few cities towards the cheap area, limiting the opportunity of those players who have lots of cheap cities to choose from or just to provide you with early opportunaties to grab them later.

On the other hand when you jump in to cheap areas, because you do it first/second then you need to secure enough cities to stop people blocking you in. Just because you have a plant that only powers one, buying one city is not enough to stop someone else buying two around you and crippling you while giving them enough options to expand either way after you've had to pay extra to jump connections to stop being blocked and have to live with those cheap areas around you being stolen.

Also, most people build only one or two cities on turn one and on the odd occassion 3, so the lower plant numbers who build first still stay early in the turn order for plants and fuel even when buying two cities to secure board position.

In almost every game i play i go for the number 4 plant and build first as the number 3 isn't that great but is worth considering if there is a really appealing area on the map, going second to build isn't bad either.

Going later in the turn order isn't killer but you become more limited and to win you need to play a more aggressive game against those who have better positioning, but not to the detriment of yourself.

While it's true that in the end you usually all need similar cities, i usually only play with 4 or 5 players and the cheap locations will be blocked for those who start too far away from the cheap areas and more often than not its the other players who need to jump and pay extra costs to get to the nice locations while getting to the slightly more expensive regions is usually less competitive.

I will add that a lot of this depends on the map you are playing, i prefer playing the maps like USA/France with noticeably cheap areas as they play faster and i mostly play online so not all the maps are currently on BSW either.

Quite long but hopefully of some interest. I do win more than my fair share of games so i muct be doing something right?!
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