Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Power Grid at PrezCon

I had two tries at Power Grid (designer Friedemann Friese, publisher Rio Grande) during PrezCon this year.  This is a game that I love to play but at which I certainly have no degree of mastery.  In other words, both my games were learning experiences.  We played on the map of Germany in both games. 

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
I have a tendency to move out aggressively in terms of building power plants and connections, because I like to build up an income base early on.  The first game was no exception.  I think I led the pack in income per turn for most of Phase 1.  The disadvantage of my approach is that the more cities to which you are connected (or the bigger your biggest power plant as a tie breaker), the later you come in turn order for purchasing fuel resources and connecting to new cities.  The quickest way to build high-capacity power plants is to buy plants that are big fossil-fuel-burners.  Buying resources late in the turn means paying the highest prices for coal and oil.  So I really had a strategy that couldn't last. 

But the real problem in my first game was that Aaron Buchanan was at the table.  Aaron is a terrific game player, and in our game he had built plants up to a capacity of 13 cities.  Late in Phase 2, we were all hovering around ten cities connected and powered, when suddenly Aaron made new connections to five cities in one turn, which brought his total connected cities to 15 - the trigger for game end.  None of us was expecting that.  Although he could only power 13 of them, it was more than any of the rest of us, which won him the game.  I finished third of five, for what that was worth.

In the second heat of Power Grid, I played among a delightful group of players, all very good.  Kathy Stroh, Jake J., Leslee E. (if I remember right), and a fourth whose name escapes me.  I followed largely the same strategy (because, frankly, I couldn't think of what else to do) except that I bought a couple of nuclear plants to reduce my dependency on fossil fuels.  It's a good thing I did, because late in the game, Kathy and the player to her left colluded to deplete the coal market and made it impossible for Jake to power what could have been a game-winning 17 cities (if he had the connections).  The game ended with four of us tied powering 16 cities.  The tie-breaker is cash, and Leslee and Kathy were tied with five electros each.  The third place player had three electros, and I was dead broke, finishing fourth in what was by far my closest game ever.  Both Leslee and Kathy advanced to the semifinal.

My good friend Grant G. made it to the Power Grid final, where he faced Aaron Buchanan and Bill Crenshaw, among other top-notch players.  They decided on the central Europe map for the final round.  Grant finished in fifth, which he attributes to an unfortunate early selection of location.

I would like to get Power Grid, which is ranked 5th overall on boardgamegeek.com, but it does not come well-recommended as a two-player game, and it takes upwards of two hours to play.  I have doubts that it would work for my wife and me in our late-afternoon gaming sessions.

Next post:  Tickets, please...

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