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Subject: The ending was anticlimactic rss

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Valdir Jorge
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Montreal
Quebec
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Date: July 16th, 2005

Game: Power Grid

Players: Alexander, Learry, Rami and Valdir (myself)



Our game of Medina finished minutes before the other group's Santiago, so we waited for them to see who wanted to play what next. Johnny went to the other group to play El Grande, while Rami came to our table to engage in Power Grid, a game Learry had brought.

From what I had read here on BGG I was a bit afraid going into this game, it seemed a bit too heavy for my tastes, so when Learry explained the rules in a very short time, I was wondering if something had been left out. During the game he remembered two or three little details, but nothing earth shattering, the gameplay was not influenced.

We used the US map because according to Learry the Germany map on the other side was too complicated for beginners. We rolled dice to see which regions would be left out and Lady Luck decided that the two northern areas on the left (purple and yellow) were out.

The first few rounds of bidding were a bit silly as Learry was the only experienced player, so the three newbies had no idea of the value of each card. After a few rounds, though, the bidding was much more thought out and we knew what we were doing.

I started out in Jacksonville, Learry went for the pinkish area in the middle, Rami and Alexander were in the Northeast. I didn't take the time to survey the map, I didn't notice that by sitting on Jacksonville I was the only one with access to Tampa and Miami, so those two cities "belonged" to me during step 1, I could have connected them last. Instead, I connected them first and was soon boxed in by the other players, with no chance of coming out (except by paying high fees) during step 1, which hurt me a lot. While the other players were sitting on six houses, all I had was four.

Learry did a good job of bottling us all up, he put six houses on that pinkish region and we couldn't come out. We were only "liberated" by Alexander's selfless sacrifice when he paid a high fee to "go over" Learry's blockade and built his seventh city on the blue region.

I had amassed some money during the rounds that I was boxed in in Florida, so as soon as Alexander triggered step 2 with his seventh city, I bought five cities on the Northeast part of the board. I couldn't even power all of them at the time, but I didn't care, I really wanted to get myself out of the hole in which I had been thrown.

The only interesting bidding war happened between Alexander and myself over power plant 50, that one with fusion reactors. I really wanted it and I had the money to spend, so when I took it for bidding, I started already with 60. I think Rami or Learry went something like 65, but then Alexander fell like a hammer: 100! Rami and Learry declined, I went to 120! Alexander was unsure and only raised to 121, I didn't think twice: 125! He didn't want to continue the madness and allowed me to have that power plant.

At the time I even remarked that it was funny, the first biddings went something like: 6, 7, 8, pass, pass, 9, pass. Later on in the game the bidding went much more aggressive, although no other bidding went as high as the one for power plant 50.

Three rounds before the end (of course nobody knew at the time that we only had three rounds to go...) I was sitting at eleven houses and was considering buying five to reach sixteen, one less than the number to end the game. The other players convinced me that it was a bad move, I couldn't power up more than twelve at the time, so I should buy at most one. And that I did.

In the next round I couldn't take the itching and bought four houses, taking me to sixteen, even though I could only provide power to fourteen. I didn't want to buy the seventeenth because I had misunderstood the endgame conditions, I thought that having many cities without power would bring negative VP's.

In the last round, Learry, who was sitting at fifteen houses, bought two and announced that the game was over. As he had more cities with power supply, he won the game. Had I known that unpowered cities were ok, I could have finished the game one round before (by buying my seventeenth house) and I would have won, because on that round Learry could only power ten of his cities.

I didn't like the anticlimactic ending. After almost three hours struggling with the game it was a lot dissatisfying to hear the only veteran of the game say "game over, I won". I'll be ready for next time!

Final Score
Player: Cities
Learry: 15
Valdir: 14
Alexander: 12
Rami: 12
Even though I got robbed in the end by my misconception about the unpowered cities, I still liked this game a lot and hope to play it again soon. Playing with four players was ok. I imagine that five should still be ok but with six the map will be a bit too overcrowded.
 
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Un Streetfighter avec un doctorat
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I know... When I announced the end of the game, I saw how you were all surprised and I thought "uh oh, they did not know that...". I'm sorry if I explained the endgame wrong, I thought I had been clear enough. PG has a non-standard winning condition that from my experience, first-time players have a hard time understanding well...

The game was close though, I had a great time and I'm always up for a rematch!
 
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Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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I've played with many groups of new players, and almost every time people misunderstand the game-ending condition and the victory conditions. I try very hard when explaining the rules to make this clear: "The end of the game will surprise you. The game will end on the turn someone connects 17 cities, but the person who connects 17 will not necessarily win. The winner will be the person who powers the most cities. Often the winner will be someone who powers fewer than 17 cities." By now, I listen to myself as I say this to make sure I'm emphasizing it and saying it clearly. Even so, it doesn't sink in until after the first game.

One approach that helps a little is to give a second explanation one turn after we start Phase 2. By this time, people have gotten the flow of the game down, and are more able to hear an explanation, yet a warning at this point is still early enough to give them a chance to re-adjust their thinking.

If anyone else has pointers about how to explain this key feature of the game, I'd love to hear them.
 
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Rami S
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Definitely a rematch is required.
 
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