Last week we played Power Grid on the new Australia board, which was interesting as it demonstrates probably more difference to the original game than expansions in the past have. This week we tried the other side, which is the Indian subcontinent, this also showing marked differences to the "normal" game. Like Australia I see three main differences. Note that there is also a difference in that the garbage peices are considered to be Manure and I'll use that word from now on.
The first difference has to do with the resource market. It can be seen, just by looking at the track that the layout is a bit different, there are 4 spaces for coal at the 1 & 2 price range, which is balanced by there being only 2 spaces at the higher end 7 & 8 ranges, there are 4 spaces for manure at each price up to 6 and none of this will ever cost more than 6 as a result, finally the price of uranium only goes up to 8 with 1 space at each space, this meaning that there will only be a maximum of 8 uranium in the game, rather than the normal 12. Beyond that the more significant detail is that the whole of the market is not available until Step 3, in step 1 only resources costing up to 3 are available, this expanding to 5 at the start of step 2. This means that in step 1, there is a maximum of 11 coal, 9 oil, 12 manure and 3 uranium available and it should be noted that the start price of uranium is 6, so that there will be none of that at all for the first few turns until the price comes down to 3 due to refill in the bureaucracy phase.
Another difference is in relation to the manure plants, which use 1 extra unit to run (they are less efficient than the garbage plants on other boards), so for example plant 24 (2 powers 4 cities) requires 3 manure units to power cities, however the plants can still only store a maximum of twice the printed number of untits, so 24 can still only store 4 units.
Moving on to building cities, a number of players in the group tend to place their houses on their side initially so that they can see which are the new ones and can easily withdraw them if they should change their mind (I don't tend to do this myself). In this version of the game the rules require that you do this leaving the houses on side until the end of the phase. This is so that the total number of houses built by all players can be counted and if that number exceeds twice the number of players then a power outage is triggered, taking effect in the bureacracy phase. If this happens then each player has their payout reduced by 3 times the total number of cities they have on the board.
A final change is that you are required to power as many cities as you can so you can't choose not to run a plant and save its fuel if you have cities in your network that are unpowered.
Our game was, I thought, one of the most interesting that I have played for some time, we eliminated the area to the north-west including Delhi. After the initial power plant buy, I was last to buy resources/cities having bought plant 10, James started off in the North East area, with Scott taking one of the Bangalore spots in the South and Mark taking up position in the North, Dave placed his first city in Pune, which left an area in the middle of the board, but I rejected that, fearing that I could be closed in from all sides and instead took the 2 Mumbai cities immediately west of Dave.
The effect of the limited market at the start of the game was immediately apparent as resources disappeared and people were at risk of being unable to power their cities. Mark bought plant 26 and could not get the Oil to power it, I picked up plant 30 and ran it once before it became apparent that I could not run it again before step 2, plants 24 and 6 also being in the game. I was able to live with this when I got plant 34 (although I had to pay 70 for it) before step 2. At this stage the board had filled up Dave and I were well boxed in, I having 6 cities and was able to power 5 of them with 34 for about 2 per turn, Dave only had 3 cities, but was able to power all with plant 27 for nothing. Mark and Scott has easy cities available to start step 2, but would not have been able to cheaply get beyond 7, eventually James started the new step by building to 10 as he had cities behind him.
As step 2 began, we saw a couple of power outages as people expanded quite rapidly into the newly available cities, this is actually the part of the game that as the reduction in income slows the game but there did not really seem to be an incentive to attempt to prevent an outage as it affects everyone regardless and the net gain from building to the new cities would always outweigh the cost of the outage.
Moving into the final stage of the game (step 3 following a turn or so after step 2) I was in a good position having acquired a capacity of 16 with a couple of rounds to go (with the addition of the 25 coal plant) while others were still building capacity. In addition the 30 plant which had been a problem before was now the ideal plant as manure was refreshing by 7 per turn and no one else was using it so the price fell to 1 and I could power it for 4 a turn, uranium was also cheap so it was just a matter of being careful with the coal supply and that had a reasonable refresh rate of 6. So it was just a case of building out to end the game, which probably took a turn longer than it would have done due to the outages. Dave came through to take second place having been able to expand at the start of step 2, James ended up fourth behind Scott, suffering as a high resource cost and the cost of increasing capacity prevented him from buying enough cities. Mark ended up with the highest capacity (17) but had not enough money to compete on the board.
All in all, on the basis of 1 play I think that this is probably the most interesting board I've played yet, although it does play longer than other boards.
Also in play this evening was Pillars of the Earth, which is OK for a worker placement game, but the shine has gone off it for me, particularly with the appearance of World Without End, I would say I think the expansion is a must for this game, even with 4 players.
The other major game was 20th Century which I noticed Mike getting out on the table while everyone else was still talking at the start of the evening. I do not like this game, it has what I would consider a good interesting theme, which is ruined by what I consider totally inappropriate mechanics.
So that is the end of January, 29 games played. In the past I have posted geeklists at the end of the year summarising the games played and this month I have produced this one for the month as we seem now to have enough play to justify it, which I didn't really think was the case until recently, we'll see how things proceed as to whether I continue this.
All games played as follows
|Power Grid - 160 Mins.|
|Pillars of the Earth, The - 150 Mins.|
|20th Century - 150 Mins.|
|Animal Olympics - 10 Mins.|
|Animal Olympics - 10 Mins.|
Full details for January 2014