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Subject: Teaching the newbies rss

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the difference between a "crowd" and a "mob" is one push
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"First of all," I and Gill, my fellow game explainer, declaimed, "this is an especially brutal economic game."

"So," Keith (or was it Bob?) stared at me quizically.

"Well, it makes Power Grid look like a cakewalk."

There were sage looks at the table and two experienced gamers took a moment to pray -- smart women, those two.

The explanation of all of the intricate, interlated mechanics went so far over their heads that not even the Hubble telescope could have pinpointed it. Still, we had to rely on osmosis. Something would sink in. My girlfriend took her usual route of least resistance, saying, "I will learn by playing," to which Gil and I simply shook our heads.

They quickly got to understanding the roles and their special abilities, along with the auction that accompanied them. We explained the relative values that they should spend, and to save cash for the rest of the turn. And so, with extravagant fanfare, the first turn had begun.

As I had won the first auction (in my usual "I will outspend you because my testesterone levels are off the charts" manner) and grabbed Lady Steam and a massive globule of water. The next character auction was bloodier than the first, as the players realized what was at stake. The third was less bloody. But with the fourth -- and last one for the final good -- the claws came out; whew, but boy was I glad to be out of this one early.

The Venturer auctioned off his shaft and won it. We placed our own shafts, not worried about that tricksy die in the first turn. Tanks were bought and placed, and many goods were made. They cursed at me and my triple threat of tanks, as there was much gnashing of teeth sent in my direction. Production came and went, and then we were off to sell our goods.

After the first turn I had not made too much money, but had insured a dearth of tanks for subsequent rounds by holding onto all of my energy. I also bought a Certificate (and those would serve me well).

By this time everyone had a firm grip on what had happened, and the first turn quickly came to an end.

In turn 2 we repeated many of the jolts, stratagems, and errors that had occured in the first turn. By now, though, my plan of not allowing too many tanks to be made available worked hand-in-glove with my poor cash showing in turn 1. The other players diversified: I was smoking through energy and a little water, while two of the others had gone into crystal and energy, Gil was pumping out water like there was no tomorrow, and Kieth (or Bob) held a position of producing all three.

By the end of this turn I had sold enough energy to have enough money to get me through the remaining two turns and, by going first, I crashed that market, hamstringing the other players. What I had not realized was that I had humstrung myself as well and was not able to take advantage of the soon to be burgeoning ore market. I bought another Certificate and was surprised when the other players did so as well.

Turn 3 was when the game changed. I was stuck producing water and energy, and was unable to switch my tanks. I told each of the newbies in turn, "Whichever one of you gets into ore right now will win the game." The first player to go, Linda, ignored me and instead increased her crystal production. Ruth also ignored my prescient advice, focusing on water, energy and crystal. Gil had his own problems, as his position in the previous two turn orders left him unable to buy low and sell high. Keith (or Bob), however, listened. He had purchased enough energy the previous turn to power whatever he needed and quickly changed all of his tanks to ore and upgraded his ore ship.

Here I bought yet another Certificate and readied myself for a push in the last turn, taking advantage of prices as well as I could. My plan was now to crash all of the other markets. Unfortunately ore was climbing as quickly as I had predicted and,despite Keith's selling of it in copious amounts, it kept climbing. Mind you, he was especially helped out by going last in the turn order, as ore had climbed 8 spots before he even had a chance to sell. More Certificates were bought by the others.

The last turn featured bloody auctions and shrewd manuevering. Keith had saved enough goods to buy a tank from Earth, being the only player able to do so, as the planet was out. The other players scrambled to convert to ore and some to crystal. My shot at victory lay in water and so I made the last turn decision to get into a market nearly everyone had vacated.

Except for ore, which remained relatively high, and crystal, which was middling, I had managed to collapse the remaining two markets and was able to, you guessed it, buy yet another Certificate. Save for Keith, who had sold more of his ore at stratospherice prices, the other players cursed my name as they watched their goods become less and less valuable by the nanosecond. Ruth was especially hard hit, her 7 waters and 5 energies wound up selling at the rockbottom price.

In the end I had been right. Keith won with two turns of expensive ore sales, though not by much. I was within 25 points of him. The others struggled at -100 (Linda), -130 (Gil), and nearly -180 (Ruth).

All in all, though, it was a good game and everyone of the newbies seemed eager to play again. Once their brainburns had healed.


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Ryan Dicorato
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The way the market works in this game is perfect, I think. You really have to be thinking a hundred turns in advance. It's insane. I only played once and I ended up going fourth in the first round. When it came my turn to buy I bought out all the ore I could from the market leaving little there for tank production and causing the price to sky rocket by turn two.

I didn't end up winning, but doing that really caused my opponents to change their game plan and kept the game closer than it probably would have been since I was really unsure what I was doing. The player that went first in the first round bought out all the crystal. It stayed at pique prices nearly the whole game as well.

Great read and good to see that the newbies were willing to play again after the way it went. This is a game I can see people hating after the first play because of how much you pay for your mistakes.

There is no way I could get my friends to play this game.
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Linda Baldwin
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Oh, yeah, I wants me some revenge on this game!

Oddly, I've never cared much for Power Grid (although I don't outright hate it any more), but Planet Steam really grabbed me. I always had the feeling I was "getting" something just a BIT too late. (Of course, I can see that happening for many, many games to come.) The gorgeous graphics don't hurt either.

Really want some more tries at this, but that price tag still has me a bit spooked. I want to KNOW I'm gonna love the game before I plunk down that kinda cash.
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Thoughthammer now has this at just a shade under $100.
 
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Linda Baldwin
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So I heard. Still counts as a chunk o' change in my book.
 
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