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Jun 18

IGS: Power Grid Play Report

Play report disclaimer.  Please remember that I can only report on what I saw and what I was thinking.  If my report seems to focus heavily on my own actions, this is because it is what I could best explain.  This is in no way an effort to disrespect my opponents!  So without further ado…

This week’s IGS game was Power Grid by Friedmann Friese.  The players in attendance were: Steve, Daris, Nate, and myself.  It was decided that we would be playing on the map of Germany which has a reputation for tight and challenging play.  After a short practice game to refresh for those of us who had not played for a while, we were off!

Starting order is randomly determined and was: Nate, Daris, Steve, and lastly me.  We selected the red, blue, yellow, and brown areas of the map on which to play and got started in earnest.

Initial Auction Phase

There was very little in the way of aggressive bidding and everyone got their plants for close or at face value. I struggled with Nate in an effort to get plant #4 as I would rather have the coal powered plant this early, but he was not interested in letting me have it and won it with a bid of seven.  That left me as the only player without a power plant so I opted for #3 as it would give me the highly coveted last place advantage.

Player       Power Plant

Steve           #8

Daris            #7

Nate              #4

Chris             #3

With turn order now set, we purchased resources, and then it was my turn to build in a city.  Given the low cost of nearby connections, including one free of a connection cost, I built in Essen.  Nate built in Halle on the northeast side of the board for similar reasons.  When Daris built in the city of Frankfurt -M he took the last position for easy access to a city without a cost to connect.  This left Steve with an interesting decision on where to begin.  After some grumbling about it being,” Daris’ fault” for what he had to do, and then remarked something to the effect that he, “Could not allow me to run wild in my area.” and proceeded to set up shop right in my backyard at Dortmund!  Apparently he was unconcerned with Nate having about half of the board to himself, but I did not ask and he did not tell.

End of The First Turn

Player      Power Plants     Cities

Steve         #8                        Dortmund

Daris          #7                        Frankfurt-M

Nate           #4                        Halle

Chris          #3                        Essen

Due to Steve’s close proximity to me I knew it would be necessary to expand quickly as to avoid being pinched against the edge of the board.

Turn #2

Player       Power Plants      Cities 

Chris          #3,#15                 Essen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf

Nate            #4,#10                Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig

Steve           #8                      Dortmund

Daris            #7                     Frankfurt-M

This turn saw me add two cities in and effort establish a small beach head on the edge of the board with multiple paths of access to more cities.  I hate leading in Power Grid, but I hate being penned in with no room for expansion right away even more.

Turn #3

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Chris          #19,!5,#3               Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen

Steve            #24, #8                Dortmund, Munster, Koln

Daris            #13, #7                 Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Wiesbaden

Nate             #10,#4                 Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig

Ahh, so it begins.  Steve moving into Munster and Koln while increasing his capacity to power five cities while only controlling 3 is huge signal that he planning to start expanding quickly.  The squeeze was coming soon.  I was not really excited to purchase plant #19 as garbage is not cheap, but it was by far the best plant available in the active market.  I hoped someone would out bid me even by one, but it was not to be, and I found myself in the garbage business.  Even worse was when Steve purchased plant #24 which also requires garbage, and he would be buying his resources ahead of me for at least a while!

Turn #4

Player        Power Plants          Cities

Chris            #15,#19,#29            Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen

Daris            #28,#13,#7              Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden

Nate             #26,#10,#4              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg

Steve           #24,#8                     Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea

This was a very interesting turn. While many negatives occurred, one huge point of light for me was the acquisition of plant#29!  It is capable of powering 4 cities for just one oil!  As it so happened I only had 4 cities, and it looked like things might stay that way until the second phase of the game.  It was at this point that I decided to to stock pile fuel and lurk at 4 cities rather than paying the price to leap over Steve into open territory.  I had a few important reasons for making this decision.  Even if I did jump over him, I really had no where to go as Daris was gobbling up that area quickly, and I would soon find myself trapped between him and Steve. Also with Nate having free reign in the east, I wanted to make sure that either Daris or Steve had enough room to progress to 7 cities and thus trigger the second phase of the game.  If I jumped in and mucked up the area even worse only Nate would have room to control the phase change.  It seemed unwise to give him such power, as I assumed he would simply build up to 6 cities and pull away in the money department.  So I decided to wait and just power my 4 cities for one oil per turn until the phase change.  If this allowed me to drop into last it would be all the better as I would have first shot to jump into the newly available second position in occupied cities and perhaps even trap Steve and Daris in the process. Patience grasshopper!

Turn #5       

Player         Power Plants        Cities

Nate             #26,#10,#4              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin

Steve           #24,#8                     Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim

Daris            #28,#13,#7              Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg

Chris            #15,#19,#29            Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen

This was a great turn for me.  I burned 1 oil to power my cities for a crazy net profit.  I wound up in last place with a fat bankroll. Best of all, I could smell phase two coming and I would have first shot at jumping in to new cities!  Patience grasshopper!

Turn #6

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Daris           #28,#13,#7          Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Osnabruck

Nate             #26,#10,#4              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin,Frankfurt-D

Steve           #24,#8                     Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim

Chris            #15,#19,#29            Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen

Phase two here we come baby!  With Daris building in his seventh city it opened each location for a second player to build in, and that was my cue to spend all of that money I had been so patiently saving.  I had the capacity to power 10 cities and I just had to figure out which six I was going to buy next turn as I had the opportunity.  I believe that Nate was the most negatively effected by the start of phase 2.  It did not so much damage him as much as take away the huge geographical advantage he had enjoyed and was in position to exploit. I could not wait for turn 7 to arrive!  Attack grasshopper, attack!

Turn #7

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Chris            #15,#19,#29            Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Koln, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Earfurt, Dortmund

Daris           #28,#13,#27          Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Osnabruck, Munster, Manheim, Sarbrucken

Steve           #24,#8                     Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim,Essen, Dusseldorf, Duisburg

Nate             #26,#10,#4              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin,Frankfurt-D, Kassel

This was perhaps the most pivotal turn of the game.  I spent all but three of my elektro to buy into six new cities giving me a total of ten.  The most important of these cities was Earfurt.  At the time Nate was in it by himself. I realized it was the only gateway between the eastern and western halves of the board, and  If anybody wanted to expand in either direction they were going to have to come through Earfurt.  By filling up the second position I guaranteed that it would be almost impossible for the other players to get across until phase three.  As I could power all ten of my cities I decided to sit tight on expanding until I could acquire better power plants to make a push towards 17..

Turn #8

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Daris           #28,#20,#27          Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Osnabruck, Munster, Manheim, Sarbrucken, Triea

Steve           #24,#8, #21            Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim,Essen, Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Wurzburg, Nuremburg

Nate             #26,#10,#31              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin,Frankfurt-D, Kassel, Osnabruck, Lubeck

Chris            #15,#29, #30          Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Koln, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Earfurt, Dortmund

I took it easy with the expansion this round in order to build money for buying my endgame power plants.  By being in first I was forced to open the bidding on and  #30 was by far the best one available.  I was not excited about this, and hoped someone bid against me just once.  No one did and I was now the proud owner of plant #30.  I chose to replace #19 so as to divest my self from garbage fuel a little.  I am well aware that relying too heavily on one fuel source in Power Grid can be very risky and wanted reduce my exposure to a garbage embargo.  With these three power plants I now had the ability to power 13 cities and wanted more.  In my experience, it is very important that one commit early to buying large enough plants to power the requisite endgame number of cities.  I was in a game once where I could power 16 of the needed 17 cities and could not for the life of me get a seven capacity plant to come up.  This led to a financial down spiral as I was forced to block my closest competition’s fuel source, and eventually led to both of us losing.  Never again!!!  If #30 was all I could get, then so be it!

Turn #9

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Chris            #15,#29, #30          Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Koln, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Earfurt, Dortmund, Halle, Lepzig, Magoeburg

Nate             #26,#10,#31              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin,Frankfurt-D, Kassel, Osnabruck, Lubeck, Dresden, Rostock

Daris           #28,#20,#27          Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Osnabruck, Munster, Manheim, Sarbrucken, Triea, Aachen

Steve           #24,#8, #21            Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim,Essen, Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Wurzburg, Nuremburg

Everyone spent this turn expanding and trying to prepare for a quick surge to 17 cities as the endgame approached.  The most important thing to happen this turn was our entrance into phase 3 of the game.  As no one purchased any of the available power plants the lowest one dropped off the market and when we drew to replace it the phase 3 card was revealed.  Everyone was glad to see this as it filled the market with better plants than were previously up for auction.  However, after some reflection I realized this could be a bad thing for me as I would have to bid first.  I based my decision to jump back into the lead on the auction market that I saw, and would now have to deal with something all together different.  I needed a strong power plant and none that could power seven cities had come up in the initial spread.

Turn #10

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Daris           #28,#20,#32          Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Osnabruck, Munster, Manheim, Sarbrucken, Triea, Aachen, Duisburg, Essen, Dusseldorf

Nate             #26,#44,#31              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin,Frankfurt-D, Kassel, Osnabruck, Lubeck, Dresden, Rostock, Munster, Fulda, Torgelow

Chris            #38,#29, #30          Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Koln, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Earfurt, Dortmund, Halle, Lepzig, Magoeburg

Steve           #24,#8, #21            Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim,Essen, Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M

This is when things really started to get tight.  Given the plants available I opened the bidding on #34.  At this point I had no reason to suspect that I could power 17 cities this turn.  The price of uranium had dropped dramatically, and given that #34 can power five cities for one uranium I decided to make a play for it.  If I won the auction I would watch the rest of the power plants purchased carefully.  If I thought 17 cities built with 15 powered would be enough I would go for the win.  If not, I would look to win next turn with hopefully a larger plant revealed in the auction.  As it turns out, Steve had his eyes on #34 as well and we bid it up to around 50 elektro until I caved hoping a larger plant might replace it after the sale.  I was in luck!  Power plant #38 was placed in the market and if I could win it I would now be able to power 17 cities provided I could acquire enough fuel.  This was a very real concern because it requires 3 garbage to power 7 cities.  With Steve having a garbage plant, and buying resources in front of me, I had good reason to fear he would clean out the supply.  If this happened and someone else could build 17 this turn I would be finished!  I had little choice as none of the other plants presented any better options, and thus I went for it.  Nate and Daris, possibly fearing the garbage shortage, let me have it for face value. At least I got a bargain!  When the time to purchase resources came around, Steve did in fact purchase all of the remaining garbage, and put me in a difficult spot.  I knew it was now impossible for me to win on this turn and looked to position myself for a guaranteed win next turn.  This required me to power only four cities and save some garbage to fuel next turn.  The combination of the resource refill rate and Steve’s maximum capacity to hoard garbage meant that I would have enough money to buy 17 cites and the fuel to power them all next turn.

Turn #11  Game Ends

Player        Power Plants     Cities

Daris           #40,#20,#32          Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Kassel, Wiesbaden, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Osnabruck, Munster, Manheim, Sarbrucken, Triea, Aachen, Duisburg, Essen, Dusseldorf, Koln

Chris            #38,#29, #30          Aachen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Koln, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M, Fulda, Earfurt, Dortmund, Halle, Lepzig, Magoeburg, Kassel, Frankfurt-D, Torgelow, Berlin

Nate             #26,#44,#31              Halle, Erfurt, Lepzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Schwerin,Frankfurt-D, Kassel, Osnabruck, Lubeck, Dresden, Rostock, Munster, Fulda, Torgelo, Wurzburg

Steve           #24,#39, #21            Dortmund, Munster, Koln, Triea, Sarbuchen, Manheim,Essen, Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Wurzburg, Nuremburg, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt-M, Aachen, Osnabruck

The biggest action that took place in this round was Nate over stocking on coal to stifle Daris from powering 17 cities.  This was not overt king making as it guaranteed his second place finish and the IGS is a league that keeps a season long score.  At the time of his decision he was not absolutely certain that I had enough money to build into 17 cities myself, and so he was taking a chance that he might be able to win with 16 powered.  As it turned out I could build enough and power all of them giving me the game!!!

Final Standings

Player          Cities Powered

Chris                 17

Nate                   16

Steve                 15

Daris                  12

Final Thoughts

It was a very hard fought game that came right down to the wire.  Everyone played well, and I probably enjoyed this game more than any of my prior plays of Power Grid.  I believe that a few key plays led to my victory, and that without them I could have easily had a last place finish.  The most important was my explosive purchase of six cities in turn 7.  It allowed me to escape the corner Steve had me trapped in and clog up the board for everyone else.  Even though it required more patience than I wanted it to, biding my time and allowing Daris to trigger phase 2 made all the difference.  My mvp power plant was #29.  Powering four cities for only one oil was a lifesaver in the efficiency department right when it was most needed.  Lastly, realizing that I could only be sure to power 17 on turn eleven if I held back on turn ten.  I was not pleased with having to only power 4 cities on the tenth turn of the game it was responsible my victory in turn 11!

As usual, it was great playing with all of the guys from the IGS and I look forward to our next session!

3 comments

  1. Steve Jones

    Very nicely done, Chris; this was enjoyable read and it’s interesting to see things from an opponent’s perspective. A few points:

    1) I was indeed concerned about giving Nate free reign in the East (and in fact, I mentioned this aloud) but two things led to me choosing you as my victim. The first was that, beyond his first two connections, his subsequent connections were more expensive. Secondly, since Nate was lower in the season standings, I decided it was to my benefit to give advantage to the player least likely to catch me for first place. Metagame concerns aside, I would probably have still chosen Dortmund as my starting location in a stand alone game because there really weren’t any good choices left, due to our constrictive board configuration, and because of the cheaper connections at the start.

    2) I did not realize how critical Erfurt was until after you had cut off access to it for Daris and I. I have never played a game of Power Grid where one city was so strategically important. In this case, it was the only city linking the East and West sides of our board and I didn’t even realize this until it was too late. I was too busy worried with other aspects of the game to even consider the board geography. Good on you for being aware of this!

    3) I made a critical mistake on turn 8 when I built to 11 cities, meaning to only build to 10 and keep myself in last place in the turn order. Instead this put me in 2nd place, which put me at a huge disadvantage for resources and builds on the next turn which was the turn you shut down my garbage plant by buying out that resource, which cut my production from 10 all the way down to 6. The reason I made this mistake is that I always try to make sure I never build more cities than I can power, but because of how constrictive this game was I felt I had to break out on the previous turn and built one more city (9) than I was able to power. On the next turn, I had it in my mind that I was at 8 cities (since that’s all I could power on the previous turn) and built 2, which I thought put me at 10… I didn’t even need the 11th city at the time, I could’ve still built in the same location on the next turn!

    3) The way the power plants came out in this particular game was really unusual. The were several auctions where I let a decent power plant go when I should’ve bid it up more because I was playing the odds that one of the high capacity plants would drop and I would be the only one to get it or at least have only one other bidder to compete against. Inevitably, a lower capacity plant than the one that just sold would always drop. Indeed, there was a long run of obsolete plants dropping on the last few turns – that was really frustrating and I think could be posed as another negative aspect of this game.

    Still, it was a very tightly contested game with high tension throughout – I think I enjoy the Germany map more than the U.S.A. map despite our strange configuration.

    Cheers!

    -Steve

  2. Steve Jones

    hmm… seems I misnumbered my points; apply a +1 modifier to the last…

  3. It is funny that you would bring up the aspect of seeing things from the perspective of an opponent. Heather asked me, when I told her about writing play reports,”Are you sure you want to let everyone see how you think about games?” Then she said,”Won’t it hurt your chances of winning in the future?” I agreed that these were valid concerns, but that I felt by discussing tactics and strategy it would only serve to make all of us better and thus increase our enjoyment of playing the games!

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