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Subject: Assessing the importance of starting city rss

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Louis Morneau
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Hi. This past weekend we played our first game of Power Grid (4 new players). It was great and rules were quite easy to grasp. We played on the US map. A post-game discussion came up regarding the influence of the starting city on the game outcome.

The player (who turned up to be the game winner) established his first city in NE US and benefited from cheap connections early in the game (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington). He took advantage of these "savings" to build more connections and thus collect more cash. This headstart kept him ahead all game long. Is city placement a game-breaker (like it can be in Settlers of Catan for example when dice rolls follow a normal distribution)?

One thing for sure: this game will see many more plays!
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Håkan König
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I haven't played much, but I don't think that the placing of your first city is a game breaker - unless you let someone be alone in the area with all the low connection costs. Maybe the question you should ask is "Why didn't I start in Boston so he didn't have access to all those cheap connections?" (Yes, it's allowed. you can place your first city in any of the areas in play, even if all other players have started there - but then again, if everybody is there then you might want to go somewhere else...)
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Bill Eldard
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aquilonien wrote:
Is city placement a game-breaker (like it can be in Settlers of Catan for example when dice rolls follow a normal distribution)?


I would say the answer to your question is No.

But that isn't to say that poor placement doesn't matter to outcomes.
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Doug Faust
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There are definitely places where you don't want to start (West Coast on the US map is pretty poor), but aside from that, I really don't think it matters too much. In the games that I play, the low-connection areas like the NE US tend to get crowded early. I tend to place in the middle of the map, so that if I get cut off going one way, I have alternatives.
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aquilonien wrote:
The player (who turned up to be the game winner) established his first city in NE US and benefited from cheap connections early in the game (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington).
Actually, you have to be careful of starting in that corner of the map.

If your opponents are aggressive, you can get ringed in very easily. To expand, you then have to jump over several cities. Those extra connection costs more than offset the cheap connections at the start of the game.
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I think it's more important to know there are BAD places to start on most maps. Starting in a good area is important, but can be overcome by other player's movements in many ways (blocking off, taking other good starting cities, etc.) Also important to this is which region(s) on the maps are blocked off and not used in the game. I don't think the game is broken in any way in as much as a given city necessarily giving an advantage to the starting player. I've never seen that in any of the many games I've played.
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Jeroen Harkes
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Usually being ahead is not a good place to be, so building more connections puts you at a disadvantage.

You get to be last in the resource and citybuilding phase, so you can easily be denied resources (or at least cheap resources) and be cut of from expanding. The leader is also at a disadvantage while autioning powerplants, but that is less obvious.
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Louis Morneau
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mrorwell wrote:
Actually, you have to be careful of starting in that corner of the map.

If your opponents are aggressive, you can get ringed in very easily. To expand, you then have to jump over several cities. Those extra connection costs more than offset the cheap connections at the start of the game.
I see what happened in our first game: players were not aggressive at all in positioning their first city! Everyone chose a different area. The player in the NE corner was thus able to take advantage of cheap connection costs without being hindered by neighboring players in the first few turns.

Also, we didn't know the value of power plant cards. In the third turn (I think), windmill "13" got auctioned for 26 electro. The player buying it at that price seemed to lag behind the others for the next few turns. Was it too expensive to buy at 26?

Thanks for all the feedback!
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Doug Faust
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aquilonien wrote:
Also, we didn't know the value of power plant cards. In the third turn (I think), windmill "13" got auctioned for 26 electro. The player buying it at that price seemed to lag behind the others for the next few turns. Was it too expensive to buy at 26?
The 13 often goes for more than face value, but I've never seen it as high as 26. It only powers one city, after all.
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Todd Redden
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aquilonien wrote:
mrorwell wrote:
Actually, you have to be careful of starting in that corner of the map.

If your opponents are aggressive, you can get ringed in very easily. To expand, you then have to jump over several cities. Those extra connection costs more than offset the cheap connections at the start of the game.
I see what happened in our first game: players were not aggresive at all in positioning their first city! Everyone chose a different area. The player in the NE corner was thus able to take advantage of cheap connection costs without being hindered by neighboring players in the first few turns.

Also, we didn't know the value of power plant cards. In the third turn (I think), windmill "13" got auctioned for 26 electro. The player buying it at that price seemed to lag behind the others for the next few turns. Was it too expensive to buy at 26?

Thanks for all the feedback!
That is probably what takes the most experience to figure out - how much to bid for power plants. A lot of their value is tied up in availability and cost of necessary fuel, which also relates to the map and the number of players. I've seen some early plants that power 2 cities with split fuels go way higher than their expected cost. Some players like to monopolize one fuel type, like garbage or nuclear. Game end plants are the hardest to figure, and can be a winning determinant. Plants also have a big factor in determining player order. And, since IT'S ALL ABOUT TIMING in this game, having the most costly power plant can be a big set back to the goal of victory.
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Matt Albritton
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aquilonien wrote:
Also, we didn't know the value of power plant cards. In the third turn (I think), windmill "13" got auctioned for 26 electro. The player buying it at that price seemed to lag behind the others for the next few turns. Was it too expensive to buy at 26?
In our games, the 13 rarely gets bought at all. It puts you in poor turn order exactly when the good 4-5 cap plants start coming out. The 13 is just not worth the cost most of the time. Only in expensive map configurations it could be worth buying.
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David desJardins
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Yes, it's very common that one player gets a big advantage (or disadvantage) during the initial placement phase.
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Randall Bart
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aquilonien wrote:
Also, we didn't know the value of power plant cards. In the third turn (I think), windmill "13" got auctioned for 26 electro. The player buying it at that price seemed to lag behind the others for the next few turns. Was it too expensive to buy at 26?
On the third turn, the 13 is too expensive at $13.
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Tim Gilberg
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Yes, it's very common that one player gets a big advantage (or disadvantage) during the initial placement phase.
Um, no, it's not.
 
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Gilby wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
Yes, it's very common that one player gets a big advantage (or disadvantage) during the initial placement phase.
Um, no, it's not.
Um, yes, it is.

I've seen it happen frequently. Even if you haven't seen it happen frequently, how can you prove it's not common? Maybe it doesn't happen in your games because of the way you and your associates play. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen frequently with other players.
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J S
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Um, at the same time, just because you do see it happen time and time again, does not mean it's common. Maybe it only happens for you and the OP, compared to the number of people who play it, that would still indicate that it is not common. If people are getting huge advantages through initial placement, that advantage/disadvantage can be blamed on the other players, who are not making them pay up for connections/resources.
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Players should try to avoid giving opponents a big advantage in the initial placement. If someone places in a low-cost area like the Northeast, someone should build relatively close.

This phenomenon is even stronger on the Germany map, where the red area (Rheinland) is cheap. Often two people start right on top of each other in the red area, while others spread out in the more costly areas. If this happens you tend to get a reasonably even start.
 
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David desJardins
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opks22 wrote:
If people are getting huge advantages through initial placement, that advantage/disadvantage can be blamed on the other players, who are not making them pay up for connections/resources.
Sure, of course. Part of what makes it common is that the game isn't always played exclusively by world champions.
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Randall Bart
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Sure, of course. Part of what makes it common is that the game isn't always played exclusively by world champions.
Yup. When players don't learn from their mistakes, they keep making them.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Gilby wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
Yes, it's very common that one player gets a big advantage (or disadvantage) during the initial placement phase.
Um, no, it's not.
Um, yes, it is.

I've seen it happen frequently. Even if you haven't seen it happen frequently, how can you prove it's not common? Maybe it doesn't happen in your games because of the way you and your associates play. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen frequently with other players.
Hmm, it seems the unconvincingness of the personal experience argument works both ways.

"Even if you've seen it happen frequently, how can you prove it's common? Maybe it happens in your games because of the way you and your associates play. But that doesn't mean it happens frequently with other players."

(Note: this is just a point about the logic of the argument; I have no particular opinion about whether it's common that one player gets a big advantage or disadvantage due to their initial city placement. I've seen it happen a fair number of times, and not happen a fair number of times.)
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David desJardins
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russ wrote:
"Even if you've seen it happen frequently, how can you prove it's common? Maybe it happens in your games because of the way you and your associates play. But that doesn't mean it happens frequently with other players."

(Note: this is just a point about the logic of the argument
The "logic of the argument" tells you that if you ask a few people about the frequency of an observation, and some of them have never seen it, while others have seen it frequently, then it must be happening quite a bit. Let's say I've seen it in a quarter of games, and Gilby's never seen it in his games, the most straightforward statistical conclusion would be that perhaps it happens in an eighth of games, which is still "very common".
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DaviddesJ wrote:
russ wrote:
"Even if you've seen it happen frequently, how can you prove it's common? Maybe it happens in your games because of the way you and your associates play. But that doesn't mean it happens frequently with other players."

(Note: this is just a point about the logic of the argument
The "logic of the argument" tells you that if you ask a few people about the frequency of an observation, and some of them have never seen it, while others have seen it frequently, then it must be happening quite a bit. Let's say I've seen it in a quarter of games, and Gilby's never seen it in his games, the most straightforward statistical conclusion would be that perhaps it happens in an eighth of games, which is still "very common".
Less than 40 datapoints is not statistically valid. You cannot make a statistical conclusion off 2 datapoints. You might be sampling 2 norms or 2 outliers. You have no way of knowing without sampling a lot more datapoints.
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David desJardins
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Jester wrote:
Less than 40 datapoints is not statistically valid. You cannot make a statistical conclusion off 2 datapoints.
You're wrong. Do you have a degree in statistics?

More points help to reduce the uncertainty. But there's nothing at all wrong about drawing statistical conclusions from a few data points. Sure, there's some chance that only one person in a thousand sees any significant number of unbalanced starts, and you just happened to get that one person in your small sample. But it's not very likely. The empirical frequency is still the unbiased estimator of the true frequency.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
russ wrote:
"Even if you've seen it happen frequently, how can you prove it's common? Maybe it happens in your games because of the way you and your associates play. But that doesn't mean it happens frequently with other players."

(Note: this is just a point about the logic of the argument
The "logic of the argument" tells you that if you ask a few people about the frequency of an observation, and some of them have never seen it, while others have seen it frequently, then it must be happening quite a bit. Let's say I've seen it in a quarter of games, and Gilby's never seen it in his games, the most straightforward statistical conclusion would be that perhaps it happens in an eighth of games, which is still "very common".
Perhaps we are using the word "frequently" in different senses. I assume you mean that overall, looking at the total population of Power Grid player and/or Power Grid gaming sessions, the phenomenon occurs frequently (e.g. let's say more than 50% of the time). If so, then I think your argument is flawed in the same way that it would be invalid for me to say "A majority of people that I encounter in my life (living in Poland) speak Polish, therefore a majority of people speak Polish."

I.e. the argument seems based on the idea that your group sample is representative of the population as a whole. Which may or may not be true; I have no idea, and it seems a leap of logic to assume it; you seem far more analytical and skilled than a typical gamer, for instance, so I might predict that you personally are not representative of the gamer population as a whole.
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David desJardins
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russ wrote:
Perhaps we are using the word "frequently" in different senses. I assume you mean that overall, looking at the total population of Power Grid player and/or Power Grid gaming sessions, the phenomenon occurs frequently (e.g. let's say more than 50% of the time).
When I said I thought unbalanced starts are "very common" in Power Grid, I meant that it happens enough that people need to worry about it, and conversely that your shouldn't regard it as extremely unusual when it happens in a game. That might be only 10% of games, but that's still plenty to make it very important to think carefully about your starting choices to try to avoid starting out in a hole.

If you thought I meant anything like 50%, then I'm sorry for being so imprecise.
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