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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Power Grid Session

Power Grid
5 player - France

Turn 1: I get the 3 plant for cost, no one else buys any oil this turn, which is nice. I build down in the south first in Montpelier to try to avoid a lot of building  conflict. The brown region in the north means Paris is on the edge of the map for this game. The person with the 10 plant builds to my right, meaning I have to go westward.

Turn 2: The 11 is put up for auction right away, and nuclear costs 3 at this point. When it get bid past 18, I get out of there, and it ends up going for 21. After that my plan is to pass a lot and see how good the plants get. I get good luck and the 21 plant pops! That's the power of taking the 3 or 4 plant and getting to go late in the turn 2 auction. I build westward in Carcassone and dream of meeples.

Turn 3: I move up to third in turn order, because two people built up to three cities. The 23 nuclear plant starts first. I bid it up once, but let someone get it for 25. The 25 comes up next. Even though I have a great plant, do I bid these up and try to get strong plants early at the cost of expanding? The 26 is on deck and might come up. I think it's probably better to build two cities and power 4 this turn than to buy a plant, and hope to get a good plant on turn 4. I have 42 electros at this point, so if I bought a plant, I'm probably not expanding. I build in Toulouse and Perpignan, making a great profit since my two oils cost 3 electro.

Turn 4: After the person in first passes, I put up the 19 trash plant and get it for the 19. It's not an endgame plant, but it expands my capacity to 8 from 5 and trash is in the 4 box and I'm the only one with trash. Since I only have 42 electros, I am only building out one more city this turn (the next extensions are 10 links) so I buy 4 oil and use the 3 plant one last turn, so my trash costs will decrease in the future. I put the house in Lourdes.

Turn 5: I'm in third for this round, which should be ok. The 20 plant is in the market still, but red starts with the 28. I pass on it, wanting at least a 5 capacity plant, and hopefully a 6. The 29 comes up, so the 32 stays on deck. Yellow passes out so I have to put the 20 up for sale. (Coal costs 2 at this point.) Amazingly, neither of the next two players buys the 32 plant! I just buy two coal and two trash and don't plan on firing the 20 yet, so I can build in Bordeaux and Biarritz. I never know whether it's wise to trigger step 2 or not, I just do it if I think it fits the rest of my plan. At this point I have a sneaking suspicion that red is going to run away with it - they have the 18 and 27 wind plants, and all of Paris by themselves. They did have to pay 18 to get out of being boxed in.

Turn 6: The 32 goes right up for grabs, and I expect it to be pricey. I give it up for 44 electros... very tough call. It would have put my cap to 15. I end up having to pass when the best plant is the 29. I am about to build three cities eastward to overlap with yellow and fire the 20 and 21, when I realize it's better to build up to Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand, giving me access to the yellow area of the map, since no one else will get to the southeast corner anyway, so I can take that later. An example of a subtle but important decision that many people might overlook in this position. (I also built Nimes in the southeast.) Whoops, I didn't realize that put me to 10, so I end up firing the trash plant for a tiny profit.

Turn 7: I'm in third and the 31 is on the market and put up right away. This time I'm fighting for it! I end up bidding with the guy who got the 32, which is annoying, but he lets me have it for 52. I think my plants should all be set now, 20-21-31 for 15 capacity, and I can just build to that by next turn probably. Pretty fast game, if it works out that way. The 30 trash plant comes out and gets bid up to 50. No one else has 15 capacity at this point. It probably is going to come down to how crazy the auctions get - if someone can get a good plant cheap they might be able to have a chance. I just build one in Saint-Etienne. Red builds down to try to block me perhaps, but I will build before him next turn since he has 13 cities and I have 11.

Turn 8: Red proclaims he could have won by building out to 15 the previous turn, but he missed it. I'm not sure there was anything I could have done to stop that.I build my last four cities and win the game. Red builds a ton of cities just to show off that he really had the cash. :)

Overall, an interesting and solid game. The resources were used up pretty evenly, so they were all cheap the whole game. I'm slowly gaining an appreciation for and hopefully skill in the building aspect of the game - how to avoid getting blocked off while not giving up too much in terms of cheap connections. I'm pretty good at the auctions part of the game, but there is still a lot to figure out there too! France continues to be a map I enjoy. I wish the online version had some of the newer maps though...

Side note: There is an underrated aspect to playing online - you have to learn how to play being different colors! I was grey for the first time ever this game, and it threw me a bit.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Rondel Games

I've now played three of Mac Gerdt's Rondel games, and I wanted to talk about my impressions and thoughts about them. I have played Antike, Imperial, and Navegador. I will probably give Hamburgum (the second one in the series) a try at some point, since my friend Andy (yet another Andy different from any mentioned in previous posts) has a copy and wants to play it more. I'll talk about them in their chronological order of publication. I don't personally own any of them, but I am considering purchasing two of them, as you will soon find out.

For those of you who haven't played any of these games, the rondel is a mechanism for selection of actions that limits your choices each turn. Typically the actions you can perform are short and sweet, so all of these games have a nice flow to them, which is a big plus. The basic idea is that there are 8 spaces in a circular track, and you have a pawn that travels clockwise along the track. You can move your pawn one to three spaces, then do the action there. The games generally provide some mechanism for paying a cost to move further if you would like to, which generally happens in the end game. The big differences in the games are the themes (civilization, war profiteering, or navigating/market manipulation). It's also of note that there is zero luck in any of these games! Here are the three rondels to give you the idea.

I played this one last year at our now annual tradition of traveling down to D.C. to my college roommate's place for a long weekend of games. The rondel is applied to building civilizations in this game, and you build up fortifications, armies, technology and leaders through the actions on the rondel. This was the first game that I have won my first play of and then didn't want to play it again! Despite the elegance of the rondel, there was something lacking. I was able to build up a few temples, get a VP lead, and turtle my way to victory. Maybe there is more there, but I am not seeing it - so I'd rather play another rondel game instead.

I bought this game for a friend, and we've only had the chance to play it twice. The nature of winning in Imperial is very counter-intuitive, so it didn't blow me away at first, but I'm sure that is just me needing more plays. I'm really looking forward to giving it more of a chance. The main notion in Imperial is that you can buy stocks in countries during World War I - England, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy; and the pawns on the rondel belong to the countries rather than the players! Whoever has the most stock in a country gets to manage that countries turn, which could including building factories, building units (armies or fleets), moving their units, or collecting taxes. The interesting and strange thing about this game is that despite its wargame trappings such as an area map with units who fight it out, you don't really care about conquering territory or winning wars all of the time. Sometimes you just want to have two countries you are investing in fight so that you can collect more profits. I definitely need to play this again soon, especially since it exists on BSW. It's also worth mentioning that they have released a sequel game called Imperial 2030, which features a map of the entire world.

I played this twice at TotalConfusion, an annual gaming convention that's not too far from here and whose gaming room is run by some friends of mine. I highly recommend the convention for anyone who lives in the New England region. I finally played this again yesterday, and really enjoyed it. Unlike Antike, I won this game and felt like it was a worthwhile victory. I was able to find a strategy niche that avoided what other players were doing, and made it pay off. In Navegador, the board is a map of sea zones that lead in a pretty linear fashion from Portugal to Nagasaki. The rondel options include building ships and hiring workers, buying buildings (two of which can let you buy ships or workers more efficiently), sailing your ships, and selling a worker for a victory point multiplier. The rules to this game are incredibly elegant, and I like how there are a variety of seemingly legitimate strategies. When you sail two ships into an unexplored zone, you reveal some colonies that can be later acquired through one of the other rondel spaces (Colony), and you receive an exploration token. There is also a market for the three types of goods that a colony may provide - sugar, gold, and coffee. One of the really interesting aspects is that the market can be pushed in either direction by the players. When you go to the Market space on the rondel, you can choose for each good whether to sell (based on how many colonies of that type you have) or to process (based on how many factories you have of that type - which are the other buildings you can buy in the Building action). The processing has a different payout that the selling. The victory point multipliers you can buy are based on number of: colonies, factories, exploration tokens, cathedrals (the worker building), and shipyards (the ship building). The game ends when all of the buildings are built, or someone gets to Nagasaki. This game feels like a 9 to me - at this point, I can't imagine saying no to it when someone proposed it to play, but I wouldn't choose it 100% of the time. The playtime also seems to be a bit shorter than Imperial, but you get a very satisfying experience for the time invested. I'm very impressed and would strongly consider buying it.

The rondel games are getting better and better, as Mac Gerdts is seeming to become a stronger game designer. Imperial currently sits at 33 on BoardGameGeek, and Navegador is at 77. Antike is at 198 and Hamburgum is at 248. Apparently the theme of Hamburgum is city building and sounds like a more typical euro than Imperial or Navegador, so I might like that as well. These games all seem to be worth at least trying out to see if you like them.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Stone Age Session

We got to play a game of Stone Age with two friends yesterday, Jasper and Alanna. Jasper has incredible intuition with games, even when his five year old daughter is distracting him, and he lost to my wife by a few points. Stone Age is definitely more of a game (i.e, there is more skill) than I thought, an opinion I've come to through my inability to win it. I had recently finally won a game online, which was nice, but I'm still awful at Stone Age. I actually don't find the dice feel like a huge factor to me in the outcome of the game, although a bad early food roll might be the biggest potential impact dice roll. Here's how the game started out:

Turn 1: Alanna takes a baby, Bronwen takes farm, I take tool.
Turn 2: Bronwen takes farm, I take baby.
Turn 3: I take farm.

Is this a mistake? Should I go to a starvation strategy right there and pass up the farm and instead take another baby? One thing I had wondered was whether the people in the first two seats have an advantage, but in this game Jasper did well from the fourth seat.

I got a few cards early - the 3 x hut card, a 2 x hut card, and a 2 x farm, but then had a hard time getting any more farms - so on turn 7 I decided to forgo the farm and start starving my people. I was having a hard time keeping up with food requirements, which seems to be difficult for me when I am in seats 3/4. It's possible that my strategy/style in this game has swung from overvaluing the cards to undervaluing them and rating huts too strongly. Overall, I really like Stone Age. I would play it at WBC but unfortunately it usually conflicts with other games that I like.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brass Strategy Question 1

I'm working on learning how to play Brass well by playing regularly online, and a great way to learn is to thoroughly analyze situations with other players - so please comment on this post and discuss!

The situation deals with being the fourth player on turn 1. The first three players developed on turn 1, leaving iron costing $4. My hand did not allow for building a coal mine, so I built a level 1 cotton mill in Colne. During turn 2, one of the players developed two more ports, putting iron up to $5, another built a level 2 port and took a loan, and the third built a cotton mill next to the port and flipped it. It's now my turn to end turn 2, and if I spend less than $7, I will get a double turn. What do you do?

My hand is: Blackburn, Lancaster, Liverpool, Macclesfield, Preston, Stockport, Shipyard, Burnley.

One possibility is to built the canal and flip my cotton mill. Another is to build a coal mine in Burnley and take a loan, then build an iron works in Blackburn - but is that too many level 1 tiles? I could also build a second mill, this time in Macclesfield, and try to flip both of the mills in one action later on. Would you ever develop for $10?


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Puerto Rico Review

Puerto Rico

Currently ranked 3 on BoardGameGeek, Puerto Rico is the classic medium weight eurogame. I have taught this game to more people than probably any other game I play. Some of my students are able to play it within an hour long period, which is amazing considering the game length is usually 75-90 minutes. In Puerto Rico, you are creating an independent infrastructure for producing goods, which you can turn around into money (to build more infrastructure) or victory points. You also get points for your infrastructure, and bonus points for end game buildings based on certain conditions. The main mechanic in the flow of the game is role selection - each player picks one of the actions that every player then executes in turn. The person who chose the role gets a small benefit towards that role.

The Good
The role selection mechanism leads to a wonderful sense of flow. Every player is faced with choices at a very fast pace, which leads to an excellent sense of engagement with the game. This is in strong contrast to earlier games where each player owned their own turn while the other players waited. It seems like most popular games now have some form of turn interleaving.

There's a great sense of satisfaction from seeing your buildings pay off in ways that snowball into further success. There is a nice spectrum of strategy where you live - do you build towards a lot of buildings or do you focus on creating a lot of goods and shipping them. One of the huge decision points is when to go for buildings in the mid-to-late game that help you gain victory points (Harbor, Wharf) or those that get you money (Factory, Large Market).

The Bad
The most common criticism of Puerto Rico is that the chaos in the game generated by the player's choices can mean that player order really affects your outcome. If you are seated on the left of a player who makes controversial choices, you might either benefit huge (if they pick a role that benefits you right away) or destroy you (start competing with you for the same type of goods). To me, this factor doesn't affect a ton of games, and is really only troublesome when the player skill differential is great.

Also, the players in seats 3 and 4 in a four player game start with corn plantations, while seats 1 and 2 start with indigo. Statistics from the WBC show that being in seat 3 or 4 is a significant advantage, and they implement a bidding system for these seats where you spend victory points for the seats. Groups of serious, competitive players should consider giving seats 1 and 2 two victory points each to start, if you are worried about this kind of game balance issue.

There is a sense among experienced players of a slight imbalance in the buildings you can create to help your economy. Small Market, Factor, and Harbor are considered strong for their price, while University and to a lesser degree Hospice see very little play. I know some players who use Hospice regularly with success, and I am working on figuring out how they accomplish it. I have never seen University built other than at the end of the game just for its inherent point value. Would it be worth it for the game to be revised to adjust some of these factors? Possibly, but at this point I don't see that happening.

While many serious gamers use games like Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride to introduce gamers to modern European games, I much prefer something like Puerto Rico or Dominion. After learning Carcassonne, new players often leave with the impression of "well that was cute, but I don't know that I really need to play it again." Puerto Rico is easy enough for an experienced player to teach, and I have found it very accessible even for novice gamers. It's one of the few games I rate a 10. This isn't because it's perfect, but it's that I would never say no to a game of Puerto Rico. Despite it's not insignificant flaws in play balance and the impact of where you are sitting relative to the other players, the game play is engaging, smooth, and just plain fun. Even though I've probably played it over 100 times, I'm nowhere close to burnt out on it, and still feel like there are things to figure out.


Sunday, April 10, 2011


This post is for those of you who have not yet attended the WBC - the World Boardgaming Championships. My wife and I have been to the WBC for the past five years, and it's pretty much a non-decision if we are going to go. As a high school teacher, I schedule my summer plans around it. The WBC is a week long boardgaming extravaganza that features both over 100 tournaments and a ton of open gaming, as well as a nice vendor room open on the weekend and a game auction. It takes place in Lancaster, PA during the first week in August, and if you like boardgames at all, you need to go at least once.

The toughest decision I face at the WBC is whether to focus on eurogames or wargames. My first year at the WBC, I had no idea about wargames, but I checked out the wargame room and I was hooked. After two years of really focusing on wargames at the WBC, I went back to more euros last year. I had a tough choice last year - to play my favorite game, Twilight Struggle, or to play in the semifinals of Power Grid. I decided to play Power Grid because a good chance at a trophy seemed worth it to me, and I am not a huge fan of the single elimination format that has been used for Twilight Struggle.

The best part of the WBC, in my opinion, is the good-natured but serious sense of competition. I've very rarely run into someone I didn't enjoy playing with, especially in wargames where it is especially important since the games are longer and they are two-player. Other highlights include midday trips to Sonic and late night trips to Waffle House, and the hilarious night tournaments. The WBC runs some fun, goofy tournaments at night during: Can't Stop, Liar's Dice and Slapshot. These are experiences - even if you are not participating, it's worth seeing them in action at least once in your life!

To give you a sense of the WBC, here are official WBC tournaments I have competed in over the years:
     American Revolution Series
     Combat Commander
     El Grande
     Euphrat & Tigris
     Hammer of the Scots
     Paths of Glory
     Power Grid
     Princes of Florence (my best game, I got 2nd once!)
     Puerto Rico
     Race for the Galaxy
     Twilight Struggle
     Washington's War/We the People
     Wilderness War

Other tournaments they have that I haven't played in but like and would consider playing in:
     Age of Steam
     Bitter Woods
     Empire Builder
     Empire of the Sun
     For the People
     Stone Age
     Thurn & Taxis

I am also really excited about the tournaments for Brass and Automobile in the WBC 2011!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Age of Industry Thoughts

Last night we went over to Andy's for some eurogaming - he and Tom continued with their monster ASL Stalingrad, which looks pretty crazy. I ended up playing Age of Industry with my wife, Rob, Chris, and Jim. Rob and Chris had played before, but since the rest of us hadn't we went through the rules carefully to make sure everyone was comfortable with the game. I'd be waiting to try this for a while since the billing was "a streamlined Brass", but I was worried learning two similar games would interfere with my ability to remember or understand either. Luckily, I don't think that's going to end up being the case. We played the New England map, which was supposedly a little more difficult. (The other side is Germany.)

The rules were pretty clear, with a few major differences from Brass, for those of you who know Brass:

- no canal phase
- you get points for your tiles even if they aren't flipped
- some of the actions don't require discarding a card, and one of the actions is to draw two cards

I agreed with Andy's earlier assessment that the scoring system and the mechanics lead to a tighter, more forgiving game. I think I prefer the depth and brutal nature of Brass.

Also, I felt like I had more options in Brass because of the 8 card hand you have every turn, as opposed to Age of Industry's 6 cards to start, but then use an action to draw two cards.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caylus Session

I played an interesting game of Caylus online last night, with three players. One of the players built a lot of wood production buildings super fast, while I tried my most common approach - get an early cloth and use the joust field to advance up the building track. I am often able to get two of the three stone production buildings out, one via the joust field later and one via the reward for building in the castle.

On one of the early turns, the third player moved the provost back with the action, then paid three more coins to move it back even further. I never feel like this kind of move is worth it, but it definitely slowed the game down, and before I knew it the first phase was over and I hadn't even built any castle. I guess it worked out fine, because you can't go below zero points!

The guy with the wood buildings was up 15-20 points early on, and he made a very interesting play I had never seen before. The provost and bailiff were five spots away from the gold mine, and he grabbed the provost moving action, moved it three spots, and was the last to pass. Since we were short on money, neither me nor the other player could pay the 2 to keep him from paying 2 to get a gold. I'm not sure if it was worth it for him, but it was unique.

The third player managed to build one of the stone production buildings, but the leader got the Church out. I picked first turn order at good spots, and managed to get more cubes overall. This let me start getting some more favors by building in the castle a few times, and I got one of the stone production buildings out.

The best part of the game was that in the last turn, I had built up so many cubes that I built seven batches! I've never even come close to building that many at one time, before! I was so proud that I took a picture, which I will add to this post later on, since it's on my other computer. Between the 21 points, I got from that, and the 25 from building the cathedral, the final score was close.... I came in second by a score of 99-96.

I'm the blue player in the picture. Apparently I didn't mean church earlier, I meant the blue building that gives two favors.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

GBG Report

The GBG is the Greater Boston Grogs, my monthly wargaming group. We sometimes end up playing a Eurogame or two after the wargames are over. My friend Andy hosts in his awesome basement in Wellesley, and I've been going for 4 years now and it's always great. We had 7 people for this meeting - three played Titan (not my favorite but my buddy Marc loves it) while Andy and Tom continued their ASL campaign game, a Stalingrad scenario called The First Bid. They are on turn 6 out of 19, and have played for multiple sessions already... impressive.

I played my favorite game of all time with Asher, Twilight Struggle.

If you haven't played this yet, go get it, play it at least five times, then get back to me. It's tense, it's deep, and it's elegant. This was my 96th recorded game since I started counting once I felt I knew the rules well enough, and I still keep coming back for more.

I was the United States for this game. This game went back and forth, but never got out of control. Asher's initial coup in Iran left Iran empty, and he didn't go in, and he won the Arab Israeli war, giving me no real opportunity to get back into the Middle East. Once I got rid of De Gaulle, I took France and got domination of Europe by taking Greece, Turkey, and Spain. The dice were not Asher's friends this game, and he bombed a number of coups and the Korean War. Eventually I was able to find my way back into the Middle East, by used Puppet Governments to put influence in Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Asher had a hard time getting over to the Western Hemisphere, since I used UN Intervention on Allende to keep him out of Chile, and I used Fidel on the space race. Eventually he was able to coup Venezuela, but around turn 9 I used realignments to remove his influence there. I got a big scoring out of Central America (8 points) to keep the game in control, while the rest of the world was basically a push. When the Pope showed up in Poland, I was able to grab it.

Finally on turn 9, I drew Cherobyl, which is always an exciting and difficult choice. My hand was mostly two Op cards, but since the only battleground he controlled was East Germany, I decided to go for it. Amazingly, he had the Iranian Hostage Crisis, then Terrorism - forcing me to discard two cards, which would lose me a card play and 2 Ops. I started putting influence into East Germany slowly but surely. He followed this up with Persing II Deployed, which removed 3 of my influence in Europe!

On turn 10, I drew a strong hand with three 4 Op cards and Europe Scoring. It takes me a few turns to finally get control of all of the battlegrounds and I win by scoring Europe. Asher is at 9 VPs and shows me that he had Wargames in hand, and just needed two more actions to get DEFCON down to 2 and he would have won. Wow.

Twilight Struggle took us exactly two hours - once both players know the game decently well, it's rarely longer than 2.5 hours. After Asher left, Eric and I played a quick game of one of the old Napoleon at War SPI quad folder games. It was a pretty light move and shoot, hex and counter game, with the main distinction being that every adjacent enemy HAD to be attacked, which led to some interesting situations in how to move your forces in. We just played the shortest scenario which was five turns, and neither of us was able to cause auto-victory by killing forces, so the French (me) lose if they have not reestablished their line of communication with the western map edge.

Overall, another fun day gaming with friends. I'm looking forward to roping someone into playing Fighting Formations with me next month, since it didn't arrive in time for this meeting.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Brass Review

Brass is a moderately heavy economic/development game for 2-4 players. It is currently ranked 9th on BoardGameGeek, which is really 8th since there are two versions of Dominion above it. The basic idea is that you have five kinds of tiles that you can place on the board through card plays that represent the locations on the map or the kind of tile. When you place a tile, there are mechanisms that cause them to flip over, and when they do, you increase your income level and gain some victory points.You can also use card plays to take loans, build links between locations on the map, remove tiles from your stacks, and sell cotton, which is mechanism for flipping the Cotton Mill and Port tiles in matched pairs. The Coal Mine and Iron Works tiles provide materials that are used to build more advanced tiles, and flip when their materials are used up, and the Shipyard tiles are just expensive to build and flip immediately. There is a halfway point in the game at which point you earn some points and the weakest tiles and the links between locations are removed. Points are also scored for links based on how many flipped tiles are on either end of that connection. I'm leaving out a lot of small details, but this gets to the general idea of the game.

The Good
I really like the turn order mechanism in the game. Each turn the player who spent the most goes last, while the player who spent the least goes first. This is a nice mechanic because I'm not a huge fan of mechanics where the players somehow control who goes first - that doesn't feel like an interesting part of the game. Agricola and Caylus have that kind of thing and that bothers me. In other games like Puerto Rico, behind behind or in front of a certain player for the whole game can really help or hinder you in an unfair way. Power Grid also has variable turn order, which is good there as well. Someone did data analysis on the games played on the online implementation and it showed there was no advantage for any place in the turn order in the first turn. I like that.

In Brass, you have an 8 card hand and get to use two of them each turn except for the first turn during which you play just one. Since the cards correspond to various locations on the map, of which there are 18, you have a fair number of options but not every option every turn. Each location only has certain industries on them, so the cards you get force you to determine what you want to focus on. I like this because it means you can't just become really good at one strategy and be done with learning about the game. It adds a lot of depth and replayability without needing something like the cards in Agricola.

The Bad
The bad in Brass really isn't all that bad, but these are aspects that might bother other people more and strike me as a bit inelegent or frustrating.

The loan system in the game is both interesting but counterintuitive. It doesn't bother me a great deal, but it's strange that you can actually profit from a loan. The general idea is that a loan gives you $30, but you reduce the income you receive each turn by 3. This means that if you do with with less than 10 turns left in the game, you are actually making money. The subtle aspect here that makes it interesting is that it takes an action to get a loan, so you are using up some of that limited resource to get your loan.

Once in a while the cards bite you. You start with a hand that looks to be strong for putting down a bunch of ports, but then draw no more port location cards, for example. This can be a little frustrating but actually doesn't happen as often as one might think. 

Overall I rate Brass a 9, which means I wouldn't necessarily play it any time, but I would play it almost always if someone suggests it. I've been playing it a lot on Brass Online, which is an amazing interface for turn-based play. I generally play in 3-4 games at a time, joining a new one when the last one is at turn 5 out of 18. I highly recommend it if you find you like the game, and it helps iron out for you the small niggling rules you might find hard to learn otherwise. I have completed 12 games on that site as of this review, and have probably played 5-6 times in person. Brass is one of those games where you have a lot of meaningful decisions, and it seems to be fairly skill-based. It's definitely one of those games you should play three or four times before making up your mind about it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Power Grid Session

5 player - Germany

Turn 1: Bought 10 plant last, trying something new. Last to build houses, so I went in the double area Leipzig and Halle.

Turn 2: Put 13 plant up, hoping someone would outbid but I end up with it. The player in last with the 3 plant got to buy the 26 oil plant. I expand to Erfurt.

Turn 3: First player passes on bid, I bid on the 15 and get it unopposed. Luckily the 20 doesn't get onto the market yet. I add Magdeburg.

Turn 4: In second again for the auction. After the first gets the 19 unopposed, I bid on the 20 and get it? I have 9 capacity already. I really didn't want the plant necessarily. I decide to destroy the 10 instead of the 13, because I don't want to pay a lot for coal. Good choice since people stock up on the coal and it's up to the 6 box in price. With 24 electro, I can only expand to Berlin, which means the 13 is wasted this turn.

Turn 5: First in turn order, time to pass for plants. Everyone passes and the 6 trash is destroyed. Luckily, the guy in 2nd position doesn't buy up extra coal just to screw me. I build in Torgelow, in the northeast corner. So the wind plant was used for 3 out of 4 turns so far. Nuclear power is cheap since no one has bought any yet - down to the 3 box.

Turn 6: Ack, I'm in risk of not being able to buy coal, so I have to put the 24 trash plant up (2->4). I bid it up to 26 and destroy the wind plant. I have rarely been in a situation like that where a market is emptied this early. Ordinarily I never want to be buying this many different power plants. There are 2 trash in the 3 cost box at this point, but the 19 is also in the game, so trash will go up slowly. I have 12 capacity and everyone else is still at 6. The 19 double buys to jack the price up for me. I start step 2, building to Frankfurt. I really need someone to ditch a coal plant, although now 7 will come out each turn.

Turn 7:
I pass to start the auctions. I am able to get 3 coal to power my 20 plant, so I can build to 9 cities and use that and the 24 trash plant. One player (grey) finally gets into nuclear. I build Fulda and Kassel, heading west/southwest to overlap with yellow.

Turn 8: I bid on 25, don't get it, then bid 34 on the 31 and get it, committing myself to coal. This coal situation is not good, there's one coal on the board after buying resources. I extend to Frankfurt (southwest).

Turn 9: The market is full of bad plants: 11, 14, 16, 17. That means yellow and I are still stuck using 8 coal a turn while it refreshes 7, so he can kill me at any time, by buying extra coal. It seems like grey should be making a ton of money from his two nuclear plants. Oil is also gone. I guess I stay at 10 cities since that's all I can power. I realized right after I clicked that I could have won by building out to 15 and powering 10. Sigh. There goes the game.

Turn 10: I am short 1 coal from powering the 20 and the 31. Step 3 happens in the auction phase. The super trash guy (purple) builds to 12, but the super nuke guy wins with more money and also 12 cities.

Interesting strategy note:
Sometimes you care who wins the auction - the 25 was up in turn 8, and I bid on it to try to corner the coal market because the demand was so high for coal. As soon as the only other bidder was the other guy who would destroy a coal plant, I let him have it - because him getting it wouldn't alter the coal demand, but if someone else got it, it could really hurt my access to coal.

Other lesson remembered:
Don't forget to check if you can win every turn! I should have won on turn 9. I'm usually better about doing this, but it's always worth thinking about this concept actively.

I'm not a huge fan of the aspect of Power Grid that came out this game - the idea that you can be shut out of a resource bothers me. Luckily, it doesn't happen all that frequently, and when it does it's usually not to me. I got stuck trying to play runaway leader in this game, and technically it worked, since I should have won.


Welcome to the BBG Blog...

This blog is going to be dedicated to one of my top interests, boardgames. My interest covers all kinds of  gaming, including but not limited to strategy games, war games, and card games. The blog will include  reviews, session reports, and strategy musings.

I figured to kick it off, I would start with a list of some of my top favorite games in the European strategy game genre, with some rationale. If you haven't  played these, I highly recommend them!

Strategy Games

Puerto Rico - has a lot of depth for a short play time, Puerto Rico's role choosing mechanism means that you have very little downtime and a lot of meaningful decisions. The chaos created by the other players' decisions makes the game replayable.

Power Grid - my favorite game with an auction component, Power Grid's mix of auction, market forces and interacting with a network on a map makes it extremely compelling with pretty simple rules. In addition, the expansion maps have done a nice job of altering the rules to give the game more variation. Definitely best with 5 players.

Agricola - placing workers and resource management, with replayability added by cards. I do extremely differently each game. Sometimes I have way more points than I expected, and other times I crash and burn. I really need more experience with this game.

Brass - I'm hooked on this game again after discovering the online implementation. It's an interactive puzzle where you can react to what other players aren't doing - the implicit collaboration while also trying to compete makes this game fascinating.

Caylus - The classic worker placement game, it's probably my favorite game to be played with 3 players. There are a lot of ways the game can play out based on what buildings the players choose to create. The only flaw is that the bonus rewards tracks seem a little out of balance. (The cube one seems way less useful while the building track seems too good.)

I'll probably be talking about my experiences with playing Brass online in my next post.