Halesowen Board Gamers – Power Grid Deluxe, Europe (17/12/2014)

At this, last halesowen session of the year (With Christmas Eve/New Years Eve not being ideal dates ^^), there was a fairly small number in attendance of 8. Mark had eminent domain out and seemed eagar to play, while Dave got Power Grid: Deluxe out, with the europe map for it being the only PG map not played this year. I really have no desire to play eminent domain, so I joined in the Power Grid group with Dave, Simon, Suzy & Mike (I may be remembering incorrectly…but I think the only other time I’ve played power grid was again just because I wasn’t interested in eminent domain =P).

Power Grid

I don’t know that there’s much in the way of differences for this power grid ‘deluxe’ map, although I think the low numbered power plants that weren’t out from the start getting shuffled into the main deck is a difference to the norm. From what the regular players were saying, I think the market also changed more than the 1st to 2nd phase, but I didn’t really notice anything special with that. There’s also a couple of small ‘ease-of-play’ changes, to make some elements clearer (Like who’s bought a power plant in a given round), which I quite appreciated having only played once before. Finally, the map is prettier, which is a bit over-whelming before you start, but clear and functional as soon as there’s pieces down on it.

Gameplay, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a race to have the most generators across the map, which you can actually power up in a given round. Each round consists of a few parts – Players buy power plants in a basic auction (The 1st player picks one, players take turns bidding, when everyone passes the last bidder gets the plant and pays their bid, each player can have a maximum of 1 plant per round). Next players buy resources, starting from last place, with a market that works such that the more people buy, the more expensive things get (I.e. being in last place is good, because fuel is cheaper for you). The next thing to happen in a round is that people buy power plants on the map, paying a cost for each connection followed, and for actually building a plant – At first each city can have only one, but later a 2nd & 3rd can be placed in a city by different players, but at a higher cost.

Finally, players can spent the fuel they have to power up their plants. They then receive money based on how many cities have hence been powered, which is roughly 10/plant at first (Plus 10 ‘free’), but on a reducing scale, such that as you approach endgame you’re gaining maybe 6/additional plant rather than 10. At the start of the next round, player order is updated (The player with the most plants built going first), resources generated and it begins again. When someone first builds their 7th plant, ‘phase 2’ begins which just changes resource generation rates and allows a 2nd plant on each city. ‘Phase 3’ begins when the power plants deck is gone through once, which changes generation again and allows a 3rd plant on each city. The game ends in the round that someone builds a 15th power plant (Regardless of whether they can power it), with the winner being the person to power the most in that round.

* I should mention, the blocked off areas were Russia and the area south of Russia.

I’m not sure what to say about our actual game. Start positions seemed somewhat favourable to me/Suzy (To me anyway), as we blocked off a corner each, while the more experienced players clustered rather aggressively in the middle, where connections were much cheaper but there was less available space for expansion (I did still start very close, but grabbed 2 cities that made it very expensive to push past into the area behind me, which is to say Sweden/Norway.. I think).

In terms of early power plants, I was first player but let the first couple of plants I bid on go to other players (A coal and an oil plant), ending up with a gas/oil combined plant as noone out-bidded me (The player starting the auctions would lose out on buying a plant if he passes, so you have to bid at least the minimum for the first turn at least) – although this did mean I could power both of the cities that I started with.

For the next few turns, I pushed out into the heavily contested area as much as I could, as it both made it even more expensive for people to get into the area behind me and was generally cheaper than expanding there yet anyway. Dave carved a little corner for himself where he could hold 4 cities that were cheap to power, Simon went Southwest and Mike just pushed out through the cracks (He was surrounded so fairly limited I think on where to go). Suzy also pushed into the middle rather than into the corner behind her. My first somewhat aggressive move of the game was to slip a plant in behind Suzy in Birmingham, which was a bit more expensive than the area behind me, but not too much (I think 22+10 instead of 17+10), and was somewhat necessary as the middle area was too tight for me to spread out into. My confidence got a bit hurt when she revenge-expanded, paying a ton of money but slipping a plant behind me into Stockholm, which was a pain as that would be an expensive space to skip over.

As we came close to phase 2, there was a bit of a tense round where just about anyone could have pushed it into happening, but noone really wanted to. Had I been earlier in placing plants I think I would have triggered it (Mistakenly), but as I was in 1st place (Hence last to build) I had the benefit of knowing noone else would and left it for a round. In the following round, noone else seemed to want to push it again, but I was no longer last to build, so burnt a ton of money in expansion to get another city in the corner by Suzy, another one protecting the corner from further ‘invasions’ and a couple East of stockholm at fairly high cost due to Suzy’s annoyingly placed plant in Stockholm ^^. I was only able to power 8 of the 10, but I think it was worth it thanks to having a fairly safe area for another 3 plants (While Suzy was sharing the area, that actually made it less likely for anyone else to push in, and still had some decent priced areas to build in that I almost certainly wouldn’t get blocked out of thanks to being in phase 2).

The next round was a buying fest, as phase 2 makes a lot of cities available to build in all of a sudden. Dave went from 4 to 8 plants for example, with everyone else having similar jumps in size. At the start of that round, I’d managed to swap one of my ‘powers 2’ plants for a ‘powers 5’ (I had 4-2-2 before, hence 8 powered), and I snuck a plant down South, as it was actually about the same price as my nearby options at the time, and secured that I’d have cheaper buys later. Suzy ignored my attempt at blocking out the area East of Stockholm and again, as phase 2 lets you share, stepped through to make things a touch more expensive for me there while also securing that she’d have plenty of plants for the endgame.

My next couple of rounds were all about getting capacity. I got to 13 plants (Leaving the 2 in the corner and noting what they were going to cost me so I could have spend as much as I wanted to get the capacity, knowing what amount to leave aside). I ended up with a renewable energy ‘powers 4’, which was not ideal but the best I could get, meaning I just wanted to try and get a ‘powers 6’ or ‘powers 7’ of some kind. In the 2nd to last round, Simon got past me in terms of plants build and the amount he could power, but fortunately I think just didn’t quite have enough money for a 15th plant that round (He was on 14!). This did however also have the effect that it made it clear the next round would be the last.

In said last round, Mike & Dave were both well, scuppered already. They’d unfortunately not been able to get the capacity to compete, so, post buying power plants which was extremely easy to do (We’d hit phase 3 a round or two before, which means 6 are available, and are all fairly good ones) as noone bothered to bid-war on each other, Mike took the opportunity to ‘brown out’ Simon, who was set to have 16 plants all powered (While Me/Suzy easy looked set for 15) – a ‘brown out’ being buying up all of the available resources, such that someone can’t obtain the fuel they need to actually power their plants, Suzy also had coal plants and did the same, such that Simon was only able to power 11 of the 16 he had at the end. Fortunatey for me, the plant I’d picked up in that last round was a renewable that powered 6. It had been a touch more expensive than other options, but meant I had 0 need for fuel (I had a gas/oil 5, but already had the fuel from the round before).

In the plant buying round, Dave/Mike did what they could to block the cheaper options for the players closest to winning, but, as I mentioned before, I had a cheap couple of options in a corner so far removed that it would have cost insane amounts to get there and block me, which wouldn’t really have made a huge amount of difference (I could have built elsewhere at higher cost, but I still had enough money to do so). Suzy was able to build a ton of plants in that round, doing her last 4 from 11 to 15 to match my number of them.

The game ended with a tie between me and Suzy with the tie-break on money going in my favour by only about 20 money (Considering the cheapest extra plant to build at that point was about 25+, that was close!). I’m not sure of the orders between the others, but I think Simon was dead last thanks to the heavy denial on fuel locking him to 11 maximum powered, while Dave/Mike were just a plant short of their goals (Mike actually wasn’t far off from the win only a round before, but had passed on a gamble of a good plant coming available, and lost that bet, so couldn’t get the capacity).

I had a lot of fun with this game of Power Grid, thanks largely to a strong starting position that meant I didn’t feel too much stress over where I could build (I tend to struggle to enjoy area-control style games when things are too tight, as it can feel more like work than play). I think that the experienced players (Although they were new to this particular map) made certain mistakes in terms of not putting enough pressure on me & Suzy (We’d both played just once before), but I enjoyed winning anyway =P

Afterwards, it was a bit of an early finish, but the only game set to be played looked like Love letter, which I don’t really like to play except with non-gamers (As its’ to introduce people, but a bit stale in gameplay for me personally), so I left people to it, wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and headed off till the new year! Thanks to all who were there, it was fun =-)

PS – My apologies that I left a dirty plate/glass up there…I remembered when I was already in the car and driving that I’d eaten upstairs, bit unfair of me to leave it to someone else to take downstairs, sorry =P

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