Powering to victory

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With many games, people who have played the game before have an advantage against those who have never played it. With some games the advantage is small, and with others it is more material. I suspect Power Grid is one of those games that the first time player has a real disadvantage. However, there’s no other way to master the game than by playing it.

Why am I telling you this? Last week, Azriel, Peleg, Roslynn, and Sheer joined me for a game of Power Grid, using the USA map. It is a long, meaty game, with plenty of tough decisions each turn. Sheer and I were the only ones who had played it before, so we had the advantage.

Roslynn made an early mistake that somewhat handicapped her in the first few rounds, but recovered well. I don’t think she ever came close to winning, but was making much better use of her resources the more that time went on.

Azriel took a wind and nuclear power strategy as far as it would go, but he lost out when the power plant draw was not suitable. If he had not concentrated on wind and nuclear power, he might have done better, though there was fierce competition for the other resources.

Of the first time players, Peleg did the best, and really did not put a foot wrong. He might have bid more aggressively for power plants in the last couple of rounds, but there was always the risk of running out of raw materials, so maybe he was right.

Sheer and I were taking turns at leading the pack, all the way up to the last round. Then, courtesy of a little luck in the power plant sequence, and an unusual touch of timidity by Sheer in the auction, I managed to secure the best power plant combination. I duly built up the number of cities to claim the win.

I would prefer the game were a little faster to play, but otherwise it is a fine piece of work. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, so we should be able to give it another spin soon.

Thanks to all who came for making it another fun night.

 

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Power to (some of) the people

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We (Ben, Peleg, Rosalynn, and I) started with a game of San Juan, the cut down card game version of Puerto Rico.

Ben’s early card combination put him into a winning position that none of the rest of us were able to challenge.

With Sheer arriving, we then split into two game groups.

Peleg and I tackled Android: Netrunner, the asymmetric two player living card game of ‘a dystopian future.’ It was more of a training game for Peleg, as I was familiar enough with the game, but it was his first time out.

I took the Runner and he played the Corporation. It was cool for me to try the other side, having only played before as the Corporation. Peleg did a not bad job of holding off my attacks on his servers – I suffered a couple of ambushes that could have been deadly. But a rule misinterpretation by me gave me an edge I should not have had. Ah well. We will fix that for the next time.

The more I play this, the more I like it. It was encouraging that Peleg enjoyed it, and both Ben and Sheer showed a willingness to play it in the future.

Meantime, the remaining players tackled the excellent Power Grid. I was only a distant spectator, but did see the finale when Ben claimed the win just ahead of Rosalynn.

I thought Rosalynn had played it before. She claims otherwise. In that case, her challenge was a fine piece of play, as Ben is no slouch at Power Grid and Sheer has at least one win under his belt. So, well done to Ben for the win, and to Rosalynn for making him work at it.

Thanks to one and all who came. It was a good night.

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New kid on the power grid

I used to be environmentally friendly...

I used to be environmentally friendly…

This week’s session saw Sheer, Yehuda and I play Power Grid.

Sheer hadn’t played it before, but was keen to try it out. That meant Yehuda had to do his usual excellent job of explaining the rules (more on this later) before we got started. However, it was well worth it as we had a close and exciting game.

Experienced players of Power Grid may like to know that we used Yehuda’s excellent house rule. This means you can see the next power plant before it becomes available. This helps with planning. It also removes some – but by no means all – of the luck element.

Yehuda got off to an excellent start and managed to trap me in a cycle of death with my oil based power plant. I needed oil. We had driven down the supply. Yehuda had successfully manipulated the turn order so he bought all the oil each turn, leaving me short. (Fortunately, I had stockpiled, but was running out.)  Then, in a rare blunder, Yehuda lost the desired turn order, and I was able to buy the oil before him. That got me out of a hole, and meant I was still in contention.

Look at all that cheap coal and garbage...

Look at all that cheap coal and garbage…

Meantime, Sheer was patiently building up his resources. When it came to developing his network on the board, he struggled a bit – especially at the beginning of the game. However, with some help from Yehuda (and encouragement from me – “Don’t build! Don’t build!”) he recovered well enough to match us both. (Damn!)

When we entered the final rounds, Yehuda was well placed, but the power plants did not fall as favorably as they might, and that left Sheer and me with an opportunity to win. I had a good stockpile of cash, and could have built as many cities on the board as anyone else. Unfortunately for me, the available power plants were also not a good match, and I was snookered. (“Snookered” is a technical expression, common in the UK, politely expressing a state; an unfavorable state!)

That left first time player of the game, Sheer, with a chance to win on his own. He duly claimed it. Well done, Sheer.

If nothing else, that win confirms the following:

  • Yehuda’s rule explanation was very good. (Yes, too good!)
  • There is no longer any need to be kind and gentle to Sheer. He should be considered a suitable candidate for a good old fashioned stabbing in the back, the same as everyone else.
  • There is no longer any need to give him advice. Indeed, he should be advising us!

More seriously, it was good to play Power Grid again. I like it a lot, though the luck element is still higher than I think many gamers realize. That having been said, skillful play will – over the piece – succeed. So, let there bo no doubt that Sheer deserved his win. And the bottom line: Yehuda and I had fun even though we lost.

Thanks for coming, guys.

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Kingmaker

This week’s gaming session saw David, Laurie, and Yehuda join me for Power Grid and R-Eco.

pgrid2

For a change, we played Power Grid on the Italy map. After a surprisingly extended discussion about which of the areas on the board to use, we finally decided on the north, and set about the task of building up our grids.

Incidentally, David had not played this before, but Yehuda’s usual, excellent rules presentation got him off to a decent start, and he soon cottoned on.

There is one luck factor in the game: the availability of power plants. Yehuda has a house rule that tempers this somewhat by disclosing the next power grid in the queue. It’s a good rule, but we went without it. Probably the house rule favors the more experienced players, so it helped David not to use it.

Indeed, although Yehuda was doing well, both David and Laurie had built excellent power grids.

In the end, because I could see the game was slipping away from me, I became the kingmaker by triggering the game end when I could not possibly win. That took the victory away from Yehuda and gave it to Laurie, just ahead of David. I gave myself a moral victory having managed – for the first time in a long, long, time – to build a network of 17 cities. OK, so I could only power 7…

After that, a shot of the excellent filler R-Eco which Yehuda used to get back to his winning ways.

Thanks to everyone who made it a good night.

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From card play to power play

dipg

This week’s group session was a cosy two game encounter that absolutely flew past.

First up was Dominion (Intrigue). Susan has steadily been building up a reputation in this deck-building game, and she showed Yehuda, Laurie and me why that was so with an effective demolition of us all. Well done, Susan!

Next up was Power Grid. We had all played it before, apart from Susan, and she was unhappy in the early rounds at her performance. (Not as unhappy as I was at my performance, but that’s another story.)

Yehuda played his usual efficient game, and Laurie tried to keep close. I was well out of it with some bad, bad choices. But, surprisingly, Susan slowly worked her way back into the game and ended up being Yehuda’s only serious competition. Laurie’s early challenge faded. Yehuda did win, but Susan was damn close. A great performance for a first timer.

A good time was had by one and all. (Though iOS7 appears to have eaten my snaps!)

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