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Subject: Is it ever wise to outbuild your capacity? rss

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The subject says it all, but I'll expand a bit.

One of the things I like about PG is the little mini-games that are inherent in the design, each of which with its own appeal. If you enjoy auctions, there's is the power plant bidding. If you're a fan of economics and market manipulation, there's the resource market. If you're into network connecting and competing for space on the board, there's the power plant grid expansion.

Me? I'm big on the last item on the list. I tend to keep my eyes on the main area of the board, looking for ways to block, pressure, and otherwise impede my opponents' expansion plans. I like the idea of carving out a little area for myself for cheap expansion later. One danger with this approach is that I'm quite prone to build power plants in cities just to block my opponents plans, even when I'm exceeding my power capacity by doing so, and thus giving up turn order benefits.

This came up a little over a week ago, when I expanded late game into two empty cities just prevent another player from doing so. This sent me to the front of the turn order track and (and I realized this when I made the move) left me completely hosed in the resource market. I was able to power up 2/3rds of my cities via green plants and left over resources, but the game ended on the following turn. Alas, I needed one more turn after that for my plans to come to fruition. I finished in dead last.

SO this got me thinking about the viability of such a move. I'm thinking that the position game becomes less and less important as the game goes on. Early on, when money is tight, forcing a player to spend an extra 8 dollars oor so to build a plant just might be enough to prevent him from doing so. But late in the game, when money is much more abundant, the benefits are miniscule compared to the potential drawbacks. If I block a player and lose turn order advantage, he shrugs, looks through his huge wad of cash, and spends a few dollars more to build elsewhere. MEanwhile, I'm hammered in the resource market at the point in the game when resources matter the most. Seems like a bad move...

But what do the pros think? I'd like to hear your thoughts on the viability on building plants beyond your capacity.

Brian

PS: One of these days I will win a game of PG
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John Bandettini
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If you can power the most, and build to 17, even if you can't power 17, yes. Because you will win.
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Chris Linneman
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I rarely outbuild my capacity but there are exceptions. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is in Step 1 if I am in danger of being fenced in to only 4 or 5 cities with a huge expense (25+) required to get out. If there is a stall, it could cost me a tremendous amount to be stuck.

I think turn order matters throughout the whole game, not just the late game. Yes, the resources are not likely to run out in the early game, but one of the key benefits of being late in turn order (particularly last) in the early game is the ability to buy extremely good plants like the 26 at cost when they come out "randomly" from the deck. I know a lot of players complain about the appearance of these plants and the gift they present to the player last in turn order. But usually that player had to make sacrifices to get to be last in turn order, and presumably they did so hoping for such a "random" gift.

Edit: Of course in John's scenario above, that is also a good reason to overbuild capacity.
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Blorb Plorbst
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To second John, if you can end the game and out-power your opponents -- build out.

A second time you may want to do this is to force step 2. Especially if you're in a tight spot where second builds will be cheaper than connection costs.

I'd say you made a tactical error.
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Darrell Hanning
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1) When you can end the game with a win
2) When you can force the next Step to occur, and need it for future expansion.

 
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Throknor
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If it's obvious a following player will lock you in then it can be a good idea. In Step 1 if it looks like the group will freeze at 5/6/9*, it is very important to get to the max or have an easy way to break into Step 2. It can work to have less than the max if you have a low resource cost so the difference between what others spend and what you make isn't that much. The first person to break the stalemate is usually either the person with the worst income-to-resource cost for each round at the max, or the person who picks up a great plant and wants to exploit it.

Step 2/Mid-game** is all about positioning. Over-expanding is more dangerous than over-bidding since city-count is more directly related to turn order and therefore resource availability. But getting blocked is even worse. If it is clear that there is a city or two buffer between me and a player after turn-wise me I will always consider grabbing them, especially if they can lock me out in the current step. If you can time going for a plant when everyone else wants cities (and vice-versa) it can help a lot.

So to answer your question, constantly buying too many cities is not an overall plan I'd recommend. It is more of a situational strategy that can work out if timed well.

* Whichever it is to just miss Step 2.
** Step 3 can be mid-game, if the players somehow burn through the deck to it without expanding greatly. Not likely but possible.
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Fraser
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JohnBandettini wrote:
If you can power the most, and build to 17 the appropriate end game number, even if you can't power 17 the appropriate end game number, yes. Because you will win.


Absolutely a valid reason, as per an old session report of mine.

Another reason may be that you need to grab the territory before someone else does and you will be able to, or at least hope you will be able to, purchase an appropriate power plant the next turn. Of course if the game ends unexpectedly early that may backfire on you.

Another possible reason is if you are cashed up and/or earning more money than the other players and you are snapping up connections cheaper than if you were to leave them until a later turn.
 
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Randall Bart
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Brian, it is rare that I outbuild my capacity, but I think you have seen it. I built to 15 cities in a 4 player game for the purpose of churning the plant market. I cleared the 12, 14 and 15 plants, one of which came off the deck while I was doing it, and I was talking about it, becasuse it is so rare I do it. It was a game a 3rd Place, but maybe you weren't in that game.

I think building cities to save money on future city builds is rarely useful. Building a city you aren't powering this turn because it doesn't hurt you in turn order, may hurt you in turn order next turn.
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jim raynor
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Like the most, I rarely outbuild my capacity, I especially would not do that because I want to block someone, generally it will hurt myself more.
One exception might be the first turn of step2, after a stall was broken, if I'm the first to build, I'll try to grab as many cheap cities as I can.
 
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Philip R
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Another reason to over expand is you have good knowledge the game is coming to a close in the next turn or so and you have a strategy for powering on the last turn. This means either storing fuel for a future plant you expect to get on the cheap or if the market has many great plants available.

The goal is if you build enough cities (say 5-7), the money you can save on cheaper connection costs and cheaper city locations can add up to 40-80 electros (as well as making your opponents pay more for cities). At that rate, it might be worth while to not fire the 21 or similar but use it to store 3 coals knowing the 36 or 42 is in the market for next round. Going into the last turn, since you know you need to build only one more city and fuel is pre-bought or always available, it leaves calculating the value of plant x very easy and precise.

I have used this tactic and seen it used successfully a couple of times, but situations where this works does not happen often (say 1 out of 6 games and usually only works for only one of the players).
 
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