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Subject: Friese’s Fiddly Funkenschlag Flop rss

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T. Rosen
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Power Grid – Friese’s Fiddly Funkenschlag Flop

I generally agree with the masses, the BoardGameGeek masses that is. I heartily concur with the thousands of people who have voted Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, Caylus, Ra, and Age of Steam into the Top 10 on BGG. My tastes and those of BGG at large very rarely diverge, but Power Grid stands out as the most prominent instance of this rare occurrence. Let me start out by saying that I have a profound respect for the design of Power Grid. I think that Friedemann Friese did an outstanding job of interweaving various clever mechanics into a well-balanced game. The supply-and-demand market system for resources is particularly nicely done, and an admirable feat in game design. However, I analogize the respect I have for Friese’s design to the respect I have for classic games such as Chess and Go, or the respect I have for classical music such as Beethoven or Mozart. To be clear, I don’t think that Power Grid nearly rises to the level of any of those four masterpieces, but the similarity lies in the fact that while I respect and appreciate the design of each, I simply do not enjoy playing (or listening to) them whatsoever. I don’t intend to write many negative game reviews; not because I have something against them (they can actually be quite useful to people one a limited budget), but rather just because I rarely find a game I don’t like. In this case though, I think it may be worthwhile for me to explain the shortcomings, as I see them, of Power Grid.

First things first, what will you get in the box and what is it going to cost you? Power Grid comes with a double-sided game board, 132 wooden houses (22 in six different colors), 84 wooden resource tokens (representing coal, oil, garbage, and uranium), paper money, 5 rules summary cards, and 43 power plant cards. Power Grid retails for $44.95, and is published in the United States by Rio Grande Games. The components of Power Grid are generally very good. The double-sided game board is a nice touch, and certainly something that I’d like to see more games (e.g., Ticket to Ride) include to increase replayability. The board has Germany on one side and the United States on the other, which provides excellent variety that many eurogames with maps lack. The paper money leaves something to be desired, but could easily be replaced by poker chips. Finally, one minor complaint with the components is that the wooden resource tokens representing oil are completely round (as opposed to the garbage tokens which have flat edges), and consequently tend to roll off the table quite frequently. Nonetheless, the components are generally well done, especially the double-sided game board.

So what are you doing with all this coal and oil for 90 minutes? The goal of Power Grid is to be able to supply power to more cities than any of your opponents by the time the game ends. In order to supply power to cities you will need to do three things. First, you will need to buy power plants. Second, you will need to buy resources to run those plants. Third, you will need to claim cities on the map as the target for your power. My first complaint is with the instruction booklet for the game, which makes the game seem much more convoluted than it really is. The game simply comes down to building power plants, buying resources, and claiming cities, but the instructions are nearly impenetrable. This complaint is minor however, because most instructions for eurogames make the games seem far more complicated than they really are. Nonetheless, prospective Power Grid players should be forewarned that the instructions may take some time to digest.

The game is divided into 5 phases. First, determine player order (which will affect the order in which you build power plants, buy resources, and claim cities). This is done by putting players in order by the number of cities they have claimed (highest to lowest). This may sound like the player is already ahead because they have the most cities will have an advantage, but the reality is actually the reverse because many of the phases are conducted in reverse order. This is my second complaint with the game. The determination of player order is a huge “catch-up” mechanic to prevent a runaway leader and ensure that the results of every single game are extremely close. I don’t mind catch-up mechanics in general. I think the removal of rings in YINSH and income reduction in Age of Steam are both great examples of catch-up mechanics done right. However, in this case I think the catch-up mechanic is simply too extreme. It is so extreme in fact that players often strive to be in “last place” so that they can be last in player order. This detracts from the game-play significantly because instead of focusing on which power plants to build and which cities to claim, players end up focusing on how to manipulate the game to think they’re in last place, giving them that added boost from player order to claim first place at the very end. Players end up spending 90 minutes trying to be in “last place” to gain the advantage of this excessive catch-up mechanic.

The second phase involves buying power plants in auctions. This phase is actually quite clever because 8 power plants will be visible, but only 4 of them are available, with the other 4 making up the “future market” so players can see what will be available eventually. Each player has an opportunity to select a power plant, which then puts that plant up for auction for everyone to bid on. Players don’t always want to buy another power plant because each player can only have a maximum of three power plants, and if you buy a fourth plant then you must discard one of your previous plants. The third phase involves buying resources to run these plants. There are four different resources in the game (i.e., coal, oil, garbage, uranium), which correspond to the different types of power plants. As I mentioned previously, I think the system for buying resources is both the most clever part of the game’s design and simultaneously one of the biggest shortcomings of the game. The system for buying resources is extremely clever because it involves a supply-and-demand market where the price of resources in high demand will rise and the price of resources in low demand will fall. Only a limited number of each resource is made available each turn, and as less of each resource is available, the price of that resource rises accordingly. This is the first of two examples of the catch-up mechanic interfering drastically in the game. Players buy resources in reverse player order, so the player with the fewest cities buys resources first and the player with the most cities buys resources last. Resource prices rise during this phase so that the last player to buy resources ends up paying significantly more than the first person. Consequently, players strive to be last in player order so they can buy resources first, which is not only counterintuitive but also an instance of the catch-up mechanic dominating gameplay. While this system for buying resources is very clever, it is also one of the sources of my third complaint with Power Grid. The game is extremely “fiddly,” by which I mean that gameplay does not flow smoothly because players constantly have to refer to the chart in the rulebook for refilling the market. This bogs the game down, distracting significantly from the interesting part of choosing power plants and selecting cities with the menial task of managing the resource market. This problem of the game being too “fiddly” is also manifested in the “future market” for power plants mentioned earlier. The “future market” is another example of a clever design that ends up distracting too much from gameplay by requiring constant player management. This is because players have to constantly monitor to make sure the worst plant does not have a lower number than the lowest number of cities held by any player, or else that plant is removed. In addition, the best plant has to be placed on the bottom of the deck every turn. Moreover, if no plant is bought on a turn then the worst one is removed. Finally, the market has to be rearranged every time a new plant is drawn so that they are in order again. This is simply too much. Even after playing the game a few times, players still have to refer to the rules, and still often forget to do one or more of these crucial steps. In recognition of this problem, the instructions even highly “Important rules, often disregarded” on the back cover, which is convenient, but rather than solving the problem, simply demonstrates that there is a problem with players accidentally disregarding rules. Managing the resource market as well as the power plant market is just no fun, in addition to the fact that it is time consuming and is easy to screw up.

The fourth phase involves claiming cities on the map. This phase is the second example of the catch-up mechanic interfering with gameplay because this phase is also conducted in reverse player order. The player that is in “last place” has the opportunity to claim cities first, which is a significant advantage since only a limited number of players can claim each city, so some players are inevitably blocked out of cities they wanted to claim. As a result, players try to hold back from building too much at many points in the game so that they can be in “last place” and gain the advantage of this catch-up mechanic. This phase is not quite as “fiddly” as the management of the power plant and resource markets, but is still excessively confusing because not only is the game divided into these 5 phases that I am describing, but it is also divided into 3 “steps.” These “steps” are important to this phase because during the first step only one player can claim each city, during the second step two players can claim each city, and during the third step three players can claim each city. However, the demarcations separating these “steps” are very arbitrary and not well integrated into the rest of the gameplay. The game transitions from the first step to the second step once one player has claimed a total of seven or more cities. This arbitrarily affects gameplay because players try to manipulate the system to enter Step 2 when it is most favorable to them. Step 3 begins as soon as the “Step 3” card is drawn from the power plant deck, and then allows a third player to enter each city. I can see the advantage of having these distinct steps so that players must claim different cities in the first part of the game, but the way the steps are demarcated and implemented leaves much to be desired.

The fifth and final phase is called “Bureaucracy,” which I know inspires much excitement in all of you. This phase allows each player to earn money to buy power plants, resources, and claim cities in subsequent turns. This phase also requires the players to refill the resource market according to a chart in the rules that varies the number of resources added depending on the resource, the number of players, and the Step. It’s not a fun chart to read, but you better get used to it because you’ll be referring to it quite frequently during the “Bureaucracy” phase. Finally, this phase requires players to manipulate the power plant market by removing the best power plant and placing it under the deck so that the best plants come out during Step 3. Bureaucracy has never sounded so fun. Players repeat these five phases until one player has claimed a specified number of cities, which varies depending on the number of players, at which point the player who can supply power to the most cities is the winner. Then the players count leftover money to see who actually won because there is often a tie.

This gives rise to the fourth shortcoming of Power Grid, which is that the results of the game are generally too close. What? How can that be a shortcoming? I know, I also tend to like games that have close results so that everyone can feel like they have a chance until the very end. The problem with Power Grid is that the results are often so close that the game is a tie. This requires players to count who has the most money leftover as a tiebreaker. I find that games which rely on a tiebreaker to determine the winner are generally unsatisfying, especially when the tiebreaker is something like how much money is leftover. I know that this encourages players to carefully manage their money throughout the game when buying power plants, resources, and cities, but it leads to too much calculation during the game as players try to find the best deal, and results in the game bogging down as everyone does mental math. The problem with the results being too close is not one I have with other games, it’s actually unique to Power Grid, and perhaps it’s not something that other players have a problem with, but it is an interesting example of how the catch-up mechanic dominates gameplay by keeping everyone in the running until the bitter end.

As I said at the beginning, I have significant respect for the intricate design of Power Grid. However, I have found that the game has a variety of shortcomings and is not any fun to play.
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Tony
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Re: Friese’s Fiddly Funkenschlag Flop
Just a quick note about the "fiddliness" of the game. There are some fantastic player aides here at the Geek. They are so good that I would almost call them mandatory - they help with initial setup at different scales, easing the pain the the "Bureaucracy" Phase, and generally making the game even better than it is.

That doesn't address your other concerns, but then we disagree about whether or not those items make the game better or worse.

Thank you for the fair reasoning for your dislike of the game. I disagree with your opinions on this game, but applaud your ability to put them into words.
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James Cheevers
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Tom,

While I respect your opinion, I can't disagree more with your take on the game... well fiddly.. yes.

Could it be down to the group that you're playing it with?

Your main problem with the game is due to the 'catch-up' mechanic and the fact that it forces everyone to play for last place. Personally I prefer to play from the lead and watch what everyone else is buying. For me, it is as much of a 'playing the other players' type of game.

This also applies to the end game, where we study each others positions and wait for the right moment to pounce. Sometimes you can end the game quickly by timing it right. Tiebreakers only figure into the game about half the time, if that.

Of course, it's a different game for everybody and I defend it as it is one of my favourites.

Well written review though.

Peace

James
 
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Ryan Olson
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Just wanted to state, that while I disagree with you, this is a well written article, and explains your issues with the game very well. I am going to give you a thumbsup.

Also, it takes a brave soul to rip a popular game . But also to do it in a constructive way. Well done.
 
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T. Rosen
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Thanks Tony, James, and Ryan for your comments. I certainly expected the vast majority of people on BGG to disagree with my opinion, but hoped that you wouldn't mind my criticisms, as long as I explained myself reasonably thoroughly. As I said, I respect the game, and can certainly understand why it's so highly regarded, so I hope you all continue to enjoy it, and maybe some day I'll see the light

Sal M wrote:
Just a quick note about the "fiddliness" of the game. There are some fantastic player aides here at the Geek. They are so good that I would almost call them mandatory - they help with initial setup at different scales, easing the pain the the "Bureaucracy" Phase, and generally making the game even better than it is.
That doesn't address your other concerns, but then we disagree about whether or not those items make the game better or worse.
Thank you for the fair reasoning for your dislike of the game. I disagree with your opinions on this game, but applaud your ability to put them into words.


Thanks for suggesting the player aides Tony, I'll have to check those out and see if they reduce the fiddliness for me. I really like BGG and use it for all sorts of things, but for some reason have never got into using it for player aides. They seem very popular and sound very useful, so I should get on that bandwagon one of these days, especially for games like Power Grid where they might be especially helpful.

solove wrote:
Tom,
While I respect your opinion, I can't disagree more with your take on the game... well fiddly.. yes.
Could it be down to the group that you're playing it with?
Your main problem with the game is due to the 'catch-up' mechanic and the fact that it forces everyone to play for last place. Personally I prefer to play from the lead and watch what everyone else is buying. For me, it is as much of a 'playing the other players' type of game.
This also applies to the end game, where we study each others positions and wait for the right moment to pounce. Sometimes you can end the game quickly by timing it right. Tiebreakers only figure into the game about half the time, if that.
Of course, it's a different game for everybody and I defend it as it is one of my favourites.
Well written review though.
Peace
James


Thanks for contrasting my experiences with the game with yours James. It's always interesting to see how the same game can be played very differently by different groups of players. It's one of the reasons why I regret not having the chance to attend conventions. Perhaps with a different group of opponents, I'd enjoy Power Grid more, that's certainly possible, but I suppose there are enough games that I do enjoy with my current group of players that it's probably easier to just play those rather than change friends, heh.

Yollege wrote:
Just wanted to state, that while I disagree with you, this is a well written article, and explains your issues with the game very well. I am going to give you a thumbsup.
Also, it takes a brave soul to rip a popular game . But also to do it in a constructive way. Well done.


Thanks for the thumbs up Ryan, I'm glad to hear that you see fit to recommend my review even though you disagree with it. I tried to be as constructive as possible, and not too negative about the game, and hope that came across in the end product.
 
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Throknor
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Summary: (Or what I got from reading your post and am responding to: )

1) I like some games, and dislike others.

2) I like the components, except for the money.

3) I felt the instructions could have been laid out better.

4) I found that the catch-up mechanism seemed to discourage dominance strategies and encouraged players to build slowly.

5) I found the plant auction and resource refilling interesting ideas but I also found them a chore to keep up with.

6) I disliked the 'Steps' concept.

7) The games end too close.

First off, assuming I got them clearly I can understand all of your points. However, I found them to be pluses and not minuses. To address your major points as I see them:**

I feel the 'Catch-up' mechanism is done well, isn't too powerful and is intuitive. It doesn't overtly aid poor play, but does prevent someone who gets lucky in early auctions from running away with the game early. In this manner it is almost an anti-kingmaker. In a game with five or six players the first couple of players are not going to have a good choice of power plant, but they don't end up burned by it later. This keeps the game interesting for all.

In the games I've played it has generally been 5 or six players. What usually happens is one player handles the plants, another the resources, a third the bank and a fourth watches the city counters / turn order. Granted each is better performed by experienced players, but even inexperienced players had their roles down by mid-game. As such no phase bogs the game down any more than, say, the roll/resource phase in Settlers, and then game keeps up a decent pace.* Going along with that, tracking the Steps isn't that hard, once you have a couple of games under your belt.

Personally, I enjoy games that are close, and I view the money not so much as a tie-breaker as just information to be compared. Usually the first person to be able to build enough cities will end up with enough money to win anyway, as it takes good financial sense to get there. There's nothing I hate more than spending an hour and a half in last place and knowing it. In Power Grid it seems most of the time you can get through 2/3's of the game before you know you can't win, and even then there's a shot if you can score the right power plant.

I'm not bringing up these points to argue with you, but to point out that what you find as shortcomings others may find as assets. An 'eye of the beholder' thing, so to speak. I do have one gripe with the game though:

* It can be susceptible to analysis paralysis. The reality is there are very few choices each player has: expand cities now, or wait; buy resources or make do with what I have; upgrade a plant or not. But even so some players can get bogged down, especially in the buying city phase. I think the game would benefit from a one or two minute timer. In a six player game there should be plenty of time to have options when your turn comes around. It's one thing at end-game when you are figuring out if you can build enough to end the game, but there's no reason to take five minutes to decide to build into your fourth city.

** I should add I was taught how to play by experienced players, and have yet to play a game with less than three players who have played before. I will readily admit this may have helped me learn certain points smoother than I would have with all new players. So I can't really judge the game when learning it as such; however, it is one of those games I bought after only one play (for what that's worth).
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David
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Having the most money at the end (assuming you're all powering the same number of cities) shouldn't really be considered a 'tie breaker' - it's not a tie at all, the amount of money you have at the end is part of the primary winning condition. Power Grid is all about efficiency. Once everyone knows how to play and understands the basic strategies, it's not uncommon to have several people at the same 'level' by game end. Then it comes down to money. How well did you spend those fifty electros? Did you squander too much on surplus fuel? Did you buy that large powerplant too early? Or maybe you held onto the #13 for too long? Every single electro is important in this game.

The bureaucracy phase isn't so bad once you delegate specific roles to some of the players - one refreshes the market, one pays out, one manages the power plant turnover, etc. The whole thing can be done in less than 30 seconds.

Yes it is a fiddly game but I enjoy it soooo much. Definitely my favourite game of all.
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Mark Bigney
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Thanks for the review, Tom. I will say this: You are not alone.
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David desJardins
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I don't think it's right to think of money in Power Grid as a "tiebreaker". Accumulating money is a main objective in the game; the player who has more money (while not falling short in capacity) is actually ahead, and deserves to win. A "tiebreaker" is when the game has to go to some arbitrary mechanism to distinguish between two players; e.g., a game based on victory points where among two players with the same number of VPs the win goes to the player who scored the most on the last turn. Or something like that.
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Greg Cox
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I've only had one play so far but you've summed up my thoughts on the game. Great review.
 
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Eric Dodd
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A well-argued review. I have had one bad game experience out of a dozen plays, but it was a still a good social experience.

You obviously have to like (or stand) the book-keeping, and learning this game with out help was not straight forward. I really recommend the "reworked" rules by Mario Lanza which clear up uncertainties and put a lot of pertinant information in handy tables.

The 'ketchup' mode to me is just another feature of Power Grid to play for, like the varying price of fuel and the type and timing of power plant purchases.

 
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David
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Red Wine Pie wrote:
The 'ketchup' mode to me is just another feature of Power Grid to play for, like the varying price of fuel and the type and timing of power plant purchases.


Hi Eric, what is the 'ketchup' mode?

 
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Matthew Wills
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DaviddesJ wrote:
I don't think it's right to think of money in Power Grid as a "tiebreaker".


Agreed. When I teach the game I tell people the winning conditions, then note that it is most likely that the winner will be decided by who has the most money.
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jbrier
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To quote Michael Jackson: "You are not alone.. I am here with you..."

I also have very lukewarm feelings about Power Grid. I used to think the game was great but the fiddliness not only of moving the pieces around but also just of all the petty mental work that needs to be done is annoying.

Compare to Puerto Rico which allows for a fairly intuitive approach to gameplay and offers limited options upfront, or Princes of Florence which offers a compact space to make strategic decisions. Power Grid is admirable for its uniqueness and engaging mechanics but it doesn't hold up well as a game experience.
 
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Matt Albritton
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Actually, concerning holding up well, I find Power Grid miles above Puerto Rico. (I can't speak for Princes of Florence because I've only played it maybe 60 times) I've played PR over 700 times and I'm done with it. Not too bad for any game, mind you! It gave me a lot to think about and mull over, but the interactions aren't that diverse and games are now very "same-y" and boring.

With about the same number of games of Power Grid, I am still seeing new, very subtle things going on with this game. Interactions in this game are very high, yet not always apparent. Which plant types to buy and when, how much to bid, how much extra resources to take (if any), which cities to build into, (thus making more money), or choosing to stay back (thus saving money in position advantages), which plants to fire if not all of them. How many cities do I need to power now to be able to build out next turn, in two turns? If I can't build out on the 17 city curve, do I have enough time to get to 18 capacity? Can I end it now with 15 capacity even though others have more than 15, because I feel that they can't build to 15?

The game is about balance. If your opponent ever gets out of balance, there is always a way to exploit it. Being in the bottom order doesn't reward bad play nor guarantee a win and being in the top of the order doesn't hurt too bad because you are making good money and may be able to build out to win if other players try to stay low at the wrong time.

To me, this is one of the best games out there. Period.
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A thoughtful game that;s not for everybody
As I analyse this review, it seems that there are three things that really bug the author about this game:

1. Oil barrels roll off the table. The barrels have flat sides on the top and bottom. If you store the barrels upright, you won't have to worry about them rollling off the table. Actually, top and bottom are indistinguishable, but since there are no actual contents that can spill, you can store them upright or upside down and it won't matter.

2. Too muching book-keeping. Split up the "chores" between the players. One person can be the banker, another in charge of the resource market, a third in charge of the power plants. When we play, everyone is eager to see what the next power plant will be, eager to watch the resource market fill up (since we're adjusting our strategies based upon what we think we'll have to pay for current or potentially useful resources once we get to our turn, and most of all, eager to collect the cash once we fire up our power plants!

3. Lowest to highest play. This is the big one, isn't it? You've written quite a bit in your review, but most of the points you make come back to this one mechanic. In a real sense, even the auction benefits the lowest player, because the last player to choose a power plant a) has no one bidding against him, and b) has seen the maximum number of power plants tumble from the future market into the actual market. The fact that this game rewards "backwards play" is not unique - backgammon is a game where backwards play can be very profitable. This is not "gaming the game", it's playing the game the way it was meant to be played!

Power Grid is a game of balance and foresight, so it won't appeal to everyone. It's not just buying the biggest power plant and gridding the most cities. You have to pay attention to the TYPES of plants your opponents are buying, because that will determine the resources they're going after, not to mention how each player grids the board. And as someone else pointed out, this is a game where every dollar counts, so you can't be frivolous at auctions.

This is a truly thoughtful game, and currently my favorite Euro. And my 12 year-old daughter loves it, too!
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David Brain
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I have to join the camp that supports every one of these observations. There is a clever design here; I simply don't have "fun" when I'm playing, because the whole game is about optimising decisions that you can't assure the consequences of, thus rendering some of them moot. The auction round can be very tense, or it can be completely undermined by the random draw of the perfect plant. The fiddliness of the book-keeping simply doesn't improve with repeated play - any game that needs a table that changes according to the number of players and works differently during the three different stages is going to be unrewarding.
And the board play is absurd. It is forced to use a snake-game mechanism to try and make for interesting decisions; what actually happens is that a bad choice at the start can cost you the game without you being able to do anything about it (a problem that Settlers has, except that at least there the trading lets you have some form of escape clause.)

Yes, I can see that there are subtleties here that deserve closer inspection. I just think that the game simply isn't "clean" enough for what it could have been.
 
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David
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Scurra wrote:
I just think that the game simply isn't "clean" enough for what it could have been.


It's the clunkiness that gives the game its charm. In some twisted way, the flaws mentioned make this game almost perfect in my mind.
 
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Hunga Dunga
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Scurra wrote:
I simply don't have "fun" when I'm playing, because the whole game is about optimising decisions that you can't assure the consequences of.

If you COULD assure the consequences, how much fun would that be?

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Paul McKinney
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I got to play this for the first time at BBG.CON. Although I need to play it a couple of more times before passing judgement, much of the game had the same feeling of when one tries to figure out how much change they should expect back after making a purchase with a some micro opimizing thrown in. Sooooo exciting! The game could turn out to be a game I really like but my initial impression has not wowed me like I was hoping.
 
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David Brain
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Hungadunga wrote:
If you COULD assure the consequences, how much fun would that be?
Touché. I think what I was trying to say (badly) was that for the weight of this game, you should be able to see where you're going to get screwed over, if not how, and be able to plan accordingly. Although this is true with the resource market (and I admire that component, at least to a limited extent), the other parts are not so good.
My main bugbear (as you could probably tell!) is with the board play - some people make the most extraordinary decisions here that defy all logic, resulting in a very unpleasant experience.
 
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Jae
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verandi wrote:
Compare to Puerto Rico which allows for a fairly intuitive approach to gameplay and offers limited options upfront, or Princes of Florence which offers a compact space to make strategic decisions.


Puerto Rico: I don't know if I'd call it so much intuitive as, if you're playing with experienced players, you have to play by the script or you will lose. That smacks of a programmed game, not really choices, just motions in perfect play.

Princes of Florence: Solitaire tetris with an auction mechanism. Yeah.

don't get me wrong, I like PR and PoF, but I just don't get the fuzzy feeling from playing them that a "TOP TEN GAME" should give me.

Power Grid delivers...in SPADES SIR, in spades.

A game so fun, I even enjoy getting beat down from time to time.

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I think the catch-up mechanic is simply too extreme. It is so extreme in fact that players often strive to be in “last place” so that they can be last in player order. This detracts from the game-play significantly because instead of focusing on which power plants to build and which cities to claim, players end up focusing on how to manipulate the game to think they’re in last place, giving them that added boost from player order to claim first place at the very end. Players end up spending 90 minutes trying to be in “last place” to gain the advantage of this excessive catch-up mechanic.


I think you miss that this is a "FEATURE" of the game. It accurately depicts how things work in the REAL WORLD. People tend to buy from the little guy, usually to save a buck. The BIG guys tend to have to shell out more cash to enter markets, and suppliers tend to charge them more, because they know they can. Of all the simulations I've played, I feel powergrid is the most accurate.

And to note, you may want to try playing the game with different groups. Of the 50+ games I've played, I only recall having to tie-break on cash twice.
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Jae
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One thing we do agree on, however, is CASH.

Paper money sucks.
This game highly benefits from tokens, coins or beads. (I use glass beads).


Other than that, I do have one gripe with the game.
It almost requires a calculator, I highly recommend having n/2 handy where n is the number of players.
 
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Mark Tyler
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Thommy8 wrote:
The determination of player order is a huge “catch-up” mechanic to prevent a runaway leader and ensure that the results of every single game are extremely close.


Complaint: Power Grid's catch-up mechanic forces an artifically close finish.

Scurra wrote:
And the board play is absurd. It is forced to use a snake-game mechanism to try and make for interesting decisions; what actually happens is that a bad choice at the start can cost you the game without you being able to do anything about it (a problem that Settlers has, except that at least there the trading lets you have some form of escape clause.)


Complaint: Making a poor choice early in Power Grid can make it near impossible to catch up.

I fail to see how both complaints can be true. Sounds like the anti-Power Grid camp needs to get their story straight.

IMHO, Power Grid strikes a nice balance between rewarding sound strategic play with just enough luck (or uncertainty) to prevent the best player from winning every single time.

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David Brain
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Ah, now that's a reasonable point that almost loses it through facetiousness.

The "catch-up" mechanisms in Power Grid are indeed horribly artificial, and result in fake close finishes. In some games (e.g. Elfenland) this is a part of the design that feels clever. In this it feels as though the game needed an arbitrary end-point or it would never stop.

Having said that, this doesn't mean that the board mechanic isn't broken I still believe that weird play on the board will stop you from ever catching up, artifical systems or not. But that's my own personal bugbear with the game that happens to come on top of all the other observations that were made in the original review.

It's still an excellent piece of game design: I just wish that, out of all the economic engine efficiency games that are out there, this wasn't the one that had risen to the top because I think it is just as flawed as all the others...
 
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