Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Like Power Grid—But I'm Still Frustrated

Justin brought over Power Grid and we've played it a couple times.

I have a method for learning games. It goes a lot like this:

1) Ignore all the rules that are explained before starting to play (some people insist on explaining all the rules first—I have been guilty of this as well) but I find that my brain turns off until this process is done. I have even explained to people that we should just skip this step because every word they say is literally a foreign language because I haven't been eased into the milieu of the game.

2) Pick up the rules as I go. By the end of the game I generally have gotten the gist. At this point I generally know how to play, but I do not know how the game ends or the winning conditions.

3) Discuss the winning conditions.

4) Play again all the while discussing the minutae of the Rules, Strategy, and Hopefully grasping the Winning conditions.

We've played Power Grid Twice now, so I should know how to play (the strategy part doesn't always kick in for me, and even if it does, Justin is so good at analyzing raw data on the fly, that his strategy is usually better than mine) but my understanding of the winning condition is a little sketchy.

We played again, and I was playing just to be playing, I wasn't trying to win per se, I was just trying to grasp better the strategy and completely overlooked that I was somehow winning. In My head I'm not supposed to win, Justin is, He had more cities than I the entire game. The game ends when someone gets 17 cities (in a 3 player game—which is all we've played). But the winner is apparently whoever can power the most cities, and if that is a tie then it all comes down to money.

Early on in the game, I payed extra to get better power stations. 
I thought that this was foolish because it was preventing me from being able to afford to buy more cities—four times I was short by a mere dollar. Also at the beginning of the game you decide what section of the map is "yours," and I had chosen the North West—this threw a wrench into the machine in two ways. The West side of the Map is more expensive, because the cities are further apart, so the power conduits are longer. This was eating my funds faster than my opponents who were in the South East and Mid West. It also served to create a bottle neck when moving into opposing territory, which served to prevent me from buying cities when we got to stage two and three.

However—by sheer luck of the Shuffle—larger power stations were not being made available later in the game. We stopped buying (no sense buying a plant that can supply 2 cities, when you already have one that supplies 4 [you can have 3 stations total]) which caused the availability of new plants to slow to a crawl. There are other ways for the available plants to cycle, but it is not nearly as efficient as replacing the empty space created by someone buying from the pool with a new one from the draw pile.

So here's where the game got frustrating. My inability to buy more cities had left me further in the dust in the quest to 17 cities. The power station drought had led to a run on resources; Coal and Oil were getting as Expensive as Uranium. But I was able to power more cities than anyone, so they were not buying more cities, avoiding the end of the game. All I had to do to win, was buy enough cities to end the game, but because I didn't realize this on my own someone was upset that I was winning with someone else's strategy, so I chose not to win the game, and to come up with my own plan. But two turns later I won by being forced into winning by another player under the same winning conditions—I should mention that it was about 1:00 am and I think we had all hit the wall of sleep deprivation toleration. What frustrated me was not understanding the winning conditions.

Within 3 moves it changed from: (a) if J buys his 17th city E Wins because she has the most money; to (b) if I buy Coal it will prevent J and E from powering enough cities to win but I can't buy enough cities to win because of a bottleneck but J will buy that last city just to end the game; to (c) E can power enough cities to win now theoretically but has to wait for the next turn for stage 3 to kick in so J's going to buy enough cities to end the game this turn because J's tired. —The details may be a little off there, but the sentiment is correct.

I won the game, but it was completely unsatisfactory because it had nothing to do with my own scheming, and a lot to do with my not seeing the endgame as it approached.

I think I understand the winning conditions enough now, that if I play one more time, I'll like this game sans frustration.


  1. I do like this game and you were losing until Justin and I got to an impass. If he hadn't been reading his 2 city power station as a 5 city one the game would have played out differently, but such is life (or gaming, if you will). I think you did very well to win under the circumstances. You deserved it because Justin and I didn't see the drying up of our resources soon enough and take proper steps.

  2. I think that I need to play more games. I feel that I am lost in a hole... somewhere.