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Subject: Power Grid: Bullet-structured Rules rss

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Mario Lanza
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I don't know if you found Power Grid's rules clear and usable; I didn't. I am an advocate of usability in all things and will usually cough up my 2 cents after I've pondered something a while. I posted my take on how Power Grid's rules might have been make more useful and clearer.

My approach to rewriting is entirely unconventional. I don't know if it will be a leap forward in rules authoring, but I am open to comments and criticisms. At first the structuring may take you by surprise, but I think once you get used to it, it may actually work quite well. Take a look and let me know what you think.

http://boardgamerspastime.com/?p=28

Eventually, once I get some comments on the draft, I'll post the final revision here on The Geek.

--//--

In light of my rules criticism I feel it only appropriate to offer praise for the game itself.

There is no doubt that Friedemann put incredible efforts into putting together one of the most interesting, most fun games that I have seen since getting into games. I appreciate every moment he poured into it! It is nothing shy of brilliance.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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I read your rules. I'm interested in PG, but have never played or read the "official" rules. I thought your rules were pretty clear, I think I could play a game after reading them, but I had some suggestions/questions as I read:

- In the "power plant cards" section, you talk about an example "to the right" of a cost and power of a plant. I couldn't find the example.
- Section references need numbers or something. It's 7 pages of rules, and when something talks about "the xxx section," it can be hard to find. Numbering the sections, so you could say "the xxx section (3.2)" or whatever, would make it easier.
- Changeable "grey" values need to be stated near where they are used in addition to at the end. I like the final tables, but wherever you have "15" in grey, you should have a box to the right with the value of 15 for each player count. It's really annoying to be constantly flipping back and forth.
- You mention "phase 3" before the term is defined. When you must mention a term before defining it, you need a short explanation.
- In your description of phase 2 a value that changes based on player count is missing its grey block.
- In the final tables it says that only sometimes is the 13 card removed (I assume this means "at the start of the game," it isn't totally clear), but the rules state that you always put the 13 card on top of the power plant deck. Is this only done when the 13 card is removed, or is it always done?

That's it. Again, I found the rules clear, I was just keeping track of issues as I read, but none of these were huge deals. I hope this is helpful!
 
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Mario Lanza
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wmshub wrote:
I read your rules. I'm interested in PG, but have never played or read the "official" rules. I thought your rules were pretty clear, I think I could play a game after reading them...


Excellent. I truly wanted someone who had never played the game to read them. I reading your comments closely.

wmshub wrote:

- In the "power plant cards" section, you talk about an example "to the right" of a cost and power of a plant. I couldn't find the example.


Ahh, the importance of testing... Somehow in all my editing the picture got dropped. I added it back.

wmshub wrote:
- Section references need numbers or something. It's 7 pages of rules, and when something talks about "the xxx section," it can be hard to find. Numbering the sections, so you could say "the xxx section (3.2)" or whatever, would make it easier.


I'll think about clarifying this in the next draft.

wmshub wrote:
- Changeable "grey" values need to be stated near where they are used in addition to at the end. I like the final tables, but wherever you have "15" in grey, you should have a box to the right with the value of 15 for each player count. It's really annoying to be constantly flipping back and forth.


I never intended that you should flip back and forth. Normally, I would think that the reader should just read through the rules "as is" and then once he understands the game (given any number of player) he would simply reference the appendix chart as he actually was setting up to play a game. I view these greyed facts as changable varaibles that don't matter mach in order to understand the rules. I merely wanted the reader to be aware that these facts might change.

Originally I wrote out "x" instead of a grey number. (e.g. the game ends when any player grows his network to include x cities.) And then I added in fine print "(see player number adjustments in the appendix for x)". This seemed too cumbersome and made the text more algebraic than readable so I simply substituted a common value.

wmshub wrote:
- You mention "phase 3" before the term is defined. When you must mention a term before defining it, you need a short explanation.
- In your description of phase 2 a value that changes based on player count is missing its grey block.


You lost me. I searched the rules and see that Phase 3 appears only before "Phase 3: Buying Resources" and I did mention further above that "the game is played over 5 phases."

wmshub wrote:
- In the final tables it says that only sometimes is the 13 card removed (I assume this means "at the start of the game," it isn't totally clear), but the rules state that you always put the 13 card on top of the power plant deck. Is this only done when the 13 card is removed, or is it always done?


Good point. It will accounted for in the next draft.

wmshub wrote:
That's it. Again, I found the rules clear, I was just keeping track of issues as I read, but none of these were huge deals. I hope this is helpful!


You were exceedingly helpful. I appreciate your effort on this!

Thank you.
 
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Mario Lanza
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generalpf wrote:
Would you mind writing the rules for Reef Encounter?


Things like this are possible, but I'm more interested in offering up one or two templates for publishers to use as good models.

Are Reef Encounter's rules pretty bad, or were you only joking?
 
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mlanza wrote:
generalpf wrote:
Would you mind writing the rules for Reef Encounter?


Things like this are possible, but I'm more interested in offering up one or two templates for publishers to use as good models.

Are Reef Encounter's rules pretty bad, or were you only joking?


I don't think it was a joke... more like humorous irony. Having just read Reef Encounter's rules they make Power Grid seem well-written. Very dense and not at all intuitive.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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Quote:
I never intended that you should flip back and forth. Normally, I would think that the reader should just read through the rules "as is" and then once he understands the game (given any number of player) he would simply reference the appendix chart as he actually was setting up to play a game. I view these greyed facts as changable varaibles that don't matter mach in order to understand the rules. I merely wanted the reader to be aware that these facts might change.
If I were to play the game, I would read the rules through once, then during play read through as we went. The first time it would be nice to see the relevant tables right away, just because I was curious how the number changed; the second time it would be critical. After the first play I'd probably only use the "master tables" in the back, right, but before then it would be so much nicer to have each sub-table copied wherever it is used.

Quote:
wmshub wrote:
- You mention "phase 3" before the term is defined. When you must mention a term before defining it, you need a short explanation.
- In your description of phase 2 a value that changes based on player count is missing its grey block.
You lost me. I searched the rules and see that Phase 3 appears only before "Phase 3: Buying Resources" and I did mention further above that "the game is played over 5 phases."
See "Power Plant Market": "A plant is removed from the marked when...(3rd bullet)...the lowest number plant is removed when Step 3 arrives." Sorry, it was step 3, not phase 3, but in any case as I read I had no idea what step 3 was. Was it part of a turn? Part of the game? The third thing a player does in this phase? So it needed explanation, or you need to move "the steps of the game" up above this reference.

And I agree, it would be nice to see you rewrite Reef Encounter. I've only seen it on SBW, and I could understand the rules, but not so easily...but that may be simply because of the utterly bizarre terms used. "Algae Cylinders"? "Polyps"? "Open ocean"? Etc.

Best of luck with your rules, when you get v.2 up I'll be happy to give it a read as well!
 
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Werner Bär
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I only took a quick look, didn't read the complete rules. Some observations:

1. I think a list of contents at the start of the document would be very useful, if you want to check some rules during the game.

2. I miss the point that the lowest numbered plant is removed from the market at the end of the phase in which step 2 is reached.

3. Some points should be marked as examples, for example "The 14 plant, shown earlier, depicts 2 garbage." or "In the picture on the right ...". Prefix it with "example:", or better use another font (italic?)

4. "Transitioning into step 3", "Exception": (see how it would be useful to have a numbered table of content?): Removing the step 3 card and the lowest numbered plant is delayed. But the shuffle of the power plant deck occures immediately.

5. In "Phase 5: Buerocracy", you write that during step 3, you remove the highest numbered plant from the game. During step 3, it should be the lowest numbered plant instead.

6. In "Transitioning into step 3", in "Remember:", you write that you remove the lowest numbered plant instead of putting it at the bottom of the deck. However, putting the lowest numbered plant at the bottom of the deck wasn't mentioned before in the rules. This together with 5. is impossible to understand for someone who doesn't know already the correct rules.

7. "Power plant cards", "A plant is removed from the market": If you list the possibilities, include the remove
- if no player buy a plant in phase 2 (yes, it is in phase 2, but it also belongs here)
- when step 2 starts
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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You mean something like http://www.xs4all.nl/~ijdwerbt/Short-RE.pdf ?

To be very honest, when I wrote the text, I found there is no way to make Reef Encounter 'easier'. The way I did it was to make definitions of game material very explicit, introduce some additional text pointing out how all the actions fit into the big picture, and give some hints and tips for strategies and tactics to try out. That's as 'easy' as the game gets, and I make no attempt to make it appear otherwise. If people keep putting off playing the game, they're scared of something else: dark water, scary monsters of the deep, whatever.

I should move the link to Reef Encounter's entry, by the way, but since we are talking about it here... We'll see :-).

Back on topic, I found the bulleted approach too cumbersome for learning a game. What you do is akin to the structure of a wargame, with clauses, subclauses, and sub-subclauses. That works great for a procedural game, where every turn is organised around a fixed sequence. (Reef Encounter is not procedural, so bullets won't work.) But in Power Grid's case, there's simply too many bullets (subbullets even!) to remember, and they all look alike. I prefer prose, and in that respect the rules of Power Grid are good. When they say something, they say it clearly and without ambiguity. It's the when that is sometimes troublesome.
 
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Rod Spade
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I believe that the number of plants removed from the deck is incorrect in 2 places:

In the main text, the "grayed" number is not correct for a 5-player game.
In the appendix, the number for 4 players is not correct.
 
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Jim Cote
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DWTripp wrote:
I don't think it was a joke... more like humorous irony. Having just read Reef Encounter's rules they make Power Grid seem well-written. Very dense and not at all intuitive.


I disagree. Reef Encounter rules are very well written and complete. The problem most people have with them I think is that the theme is almost completely inaccessible. We have no way to put the concepts of the game into real-life perspective, so it reads like a brain surgery reference book.
 
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Mark Biggar
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I've always thought that the Power Gird rules would be much more understandable, if one simple change was made. Swap the terms "Step" and "Phase". Use "Step" for the parts of a turn and use "Phase" for the three major phases :-) of the game. Players always get these mixed up because it seems to be backwards from usual english usage. Of course it's not helped that the card ot enter "Step 3" actually says "Pahse 3" ;-)
 
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Billy McBoatface
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mark_biggar wrote:
I've always thought that the Power Gird rules would be much more understandable, if one simple change was made. Swap the terms "Step" and "Phase". Use "Step" for the parts of a turn and use "Phase" for the three major phases :-) of the game. Players always get these mixed up because it seems to be backwards from usual english usage. Of course it's not helped that the card ot enter "Step 3" actually says "Pahse 3" ;-)
Having just read the rules, calling the three phases of the game "steps" seems as irritating as the "internal/external conflict" terms from Tigris & Euphrates. Totally confusing term when a simpler one exists.

"Step n" always means "The nth thing you do." In Power Grid, Steps 1, 2, and 3 are not things you do, they are time periods. Very, very strange choice to use that.
 
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Mario Lanza
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I'm leaving today to go out of town on gaming, so my apologies if I am not able to give the warranted thought and replies to some of your comments. If I have time before I leave I may respond.

Just didn't want to leave everyone hanging thinking I wasn't being mindful of your thoughtful replies.

Thanks, all.


PS: As far as Reef Encounter goes, I don't remember having much trouble digesting the rules. I may give thought to rewriting another set of rules if people can come to a concensus on a popular (fairly recent) game whose rules are bad. That is a big MAY: I don't want to get in the habit of rewriting rules as it takes a GREAT deal of time to do it well... and according to some of the comments I still have plenty of room for improvement.

My real goal is to provide a couple good models that publishers might use (and again, only if the fine folks here on the Geek think my *final drafts* of these models are solid and worthy of modelling).
 
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Rooster Robinson
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I just bought the game and will be playing it this weekend with my crew.

I read the original rules and am still confused as to what to do when, I was actually very surprised at how poorly written they were, I mean the english isn't even right half the time. Anyway, after reading Puerto R. and P. of Florence rules I thought Rio grande had some of the best rule writers in town. guess not. More to your point, the rules for those games are written closer to a Bullet point style than PowerGrid.

I'll read your rules tonight and let you know what I thought.

Peace,
Rooster
 
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Mike Bazynski
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i found these rules to be much less clear then original ones. it might be because i got everything on first reading (of original ones), except for how exactly (beside number of players in one city) do different steps differ:

1. it is really hard to tell in which step which plant gets removed at phase 5 unless you read original rules (biggest steps 1 & 2, smallest step 3).

2. it is really hard to find what exactly changes in which step.
as a proof try to quickly find the information that at the begining of step 2 after phase 4 cheapest plant is removed (or so i believe after reading original rules)

i have not found this anywhere, but what's more it's not at all obvious where in the new rules should you look for it. In the original you go to "steps of the game" => "step 2" and read everything about that step.

in the new ones you go "steps of the game" => "step 2", learn nothing valuable, realise you have to search for "step 2" in the rest of the document before you realise that the information is in fact nowhere.

what is very very cool is the table in the appendix showing the different parameters change with different number of players. this is hugely valuable.

1 suggestion - i found it really strange that both rules do not give a table for money payed for different amounts of cities powered. i read the rules (both) before getting my hands on the game itself, and really wished a small picture of the player aid card were present somewhere...
 
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Mike Bazynski
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one more:
"Each player in turn order may elect to
• choose a plant in the actual market to put up for bid, or
• choose to put up no plant for bid. When “opting out” in this way a player may not bid for plants put up by other players later in the round."
"Subsequent bids of increasing value are made (only as money on hand permits) proceeding clockwise by any player who has not already
• acquired a plant in the current round, or
• passed when it came their turn to bid in the current auction."

quote 1 suggests after opting out you are out of bidding, quote 2 suggests you are not.
 
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