Sunday, March 18, 2007

Swedishly Betrayed (Power Grid, Downfall of Pompei x2)

Reiner clearly had no clue when he put together Beowulf that the term "Swedish Betrayal" was going to become the king of inside jokes over in our little corner of Canada.

This week we played Power Grid and The Downfall of Pompei (twice).

Power Grid

This turned out to be a rather straightforward session of PG on the USA map. It was Tili vs Ouch vs Bharmer vs Shemp vs me.
I chose to start slightly to the west, while everyone else went east. As it happens, the advantage I might have garnered by being all alone in a very large region pretty much went to waste as the connections there are so pricey I found myself heading east! There weren't too many notable devious moves on anyone's part... mostly straight expansion with only a few surprise grabs. I managed a narrow win over Bharmer, who was also able to power 15 cities at the end (I think the difference was 7 elektros).

I once again purchased the 29 plant, and I'm thinking that it's a particularly powerful one. I haven't checked BGG to see if the relative merits of each plant has already been analysed, but being able to power 4 cities with 1 oil or coal gives a lot of flexibility at a crucial point in the game. When playing with fewer players, it's tricky because it's hard to get to your goal with a 4 city plant, but with 5 or 6 it doesn't even have that dissadvantage!

Downfall of Pompei

It' s been a while since we've played this one. Shemp played for the first time, which is good because for whatever reason I thought he'd enjoy it.

Predictably, unaware citizens moved to Pompei, invited their relatives and then ran in terror as Vesuvius sprayed lava. Although we played with 5, it's clear why the box says 2-4... with 5 there is very little control over what is happening (not that it's really a problem). Taken for what it is, I enjoy it.

Ouch (the gamer formerly know as Luch, ?????? and hapi) stood out in both games. He won the first by breaking the tie-breaker against Shemp. In the second, he lost to Shemp but he managed to get 100% of his meeples out! It's a shame he only had three (not sure how that came to be... omens?).


  1. Didn't play Power Grid so I can't really comment on it, but Tili (who played in my stead) commented that it seemed like a tight game and she thought she had been winning for most of it, until Bharmer and Easy surged ahead with a bunch of elektros they had been saving up to purchase plants and cities for the win.

    I've noticed that this is a common trend in our games - one person who is in the lead is overtaken by one or two others who have been saving elektros and suddenly purchase a bunch of things in the last two turns. Personally, I can't figure out how they do that, since I always feel like I'm short on cash. I'm usually leading or close to leading in the last two-three turns, but then Shemp or Easy vaults over for me for the win. Obviously there's a deeper component of Power Grid strategy that neither Tili or I "get" at the moment. The simple answer seems to be that the first place player won't get the best plant deals and has to pay more for resources, but still...

    As for Pompeii, I think the chaos and difficulty in control in a five player game is due to the fact that you get four lava tiles placed on the board before it comes around to you again. This can have a dramatic effect on the chances of survival.

    The designer designed the game for 2-4 and pushing the envelope to 5, though workable, certainly makes it more difficult for everyone.

    This is another game where your seating in relation to the first player becomes very important. Especially with three and five player games. I think that Pompeii is probably suited only for four players exactly.

    Still fun, but not a super successful game, in my opinion. Fortunately, you can play in 30-40 minutes, so it doesn't get onerous.

  2. I actually play PowerGrid with the exact same strategy every game:

    1) Buy exactly 4 power plants. Make sure that the final three plants you purchase equal or exceed the final winning requirements.

    2) Expand quickly into the places you need "beachheads" later on. You need to know pretty much where your first 7 cities are going from the start. Obviously, it's better if you have +/- 10 spots those cities can go to.

    3) Once you hit step 2, lay back. There is typically very little financial incentive to build anything... make sure you are last, or close to last, because the benefit of adding a city to your grid will NOT outweigh the cost in additional resource prices if you are first (a new city will bring in +/- 6 elektros, and purchasing goods last will easily force you to pay more than that).

    4) Normally, by the time you buy your last power plant, you are within 2 rounds of finishing (including the current round). Buy enough resources to power the next two turns and start planning to build the necessary cities to end the game. Due to the mid-game "stall" which seems to always happen, and the fact that you've laid back and economized on cheap resources for a few rounds, you probably have enough cash in hand to finish building over those two turns. Oddly, in the last few games, the "Step 3" card came out on the last round.

    5) If, along the way, you can block an opponent at no cost to you, do it. This means aggressively building in choke points near other player's areas and purchasing fuel to capacity everytime it's cheap. The combination of going last, buying excess cheap fuel and forcing players to build in less desireable areas will definitely give you a cash advantage as the game progresses.

    6) If at all possible, avoid garbage. I almost always focus on coal, since it's always abundant and cheap if you can manage to stay close to last.

    Well, now you have it. Not that it's particularly clever or anything, but it's what I do. I've played this way every game and I've won more than my fair share of PG. It will be interesting to see if I can pull off another win now that everyone knows my plan! (unless it's always been obvious, and no one cared).

    I'd be curious to see if other strategies would work: purchasing mid level powerplants, focusing on garbage/ nuclear, building more aggressively throughout the game, etc. Unfortunately, I think the only way they could work is if everyone else is following the strategy I described above (in which case doing anything different would likely win)

    Anyway, until next time!

  3. Easy's point 1) is something that I'd arrived at myself, as well. Power plants are the best way to waste money, and other than the first one, should never power less than 4 cities. If you can hold out and only buy even higher rated plants, you're golden. An additional consideration is that our winning scores have been higher than the endgame threshold lately, meaning that you may need to hold out for even higher producing plants.

    Of course, not everyone can do this. Now that the strategy has been made explicit, I expect the next game will bog down, as everyone except Ouch will be unwilling to buy smaller plants.

  4. Additionally, I think Easy will continue to usually win at Power Grid, mainly because I suspect that he counts better than the rest of us do.

    In addition to that, Pompeii was a fun little game. Especially throwing cubes into the volcano.

    It would be even better if we threw meeples into the volcano.

    Or if we played with cheese cubes, and instead of a volcano used a fondue pot.


    uh, sorry. got carried away there.

    Fun little game, anyhow.