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funkdoc

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ranking the starting plants
« on: December 31, 2013, 07:44:02 pm »
+2

this is a topic that has been discussed on BGG before but not on this blog, so i figured we should get the ball rolling! as with my other posts i will focus on USA/Germany and other maps with a similar resource structure.

so for those who may not remember, the possible starting plants are 03/04/05/06/07 in 2-player. 08 is added in 3P, 09 in 4P, and 10 in 5P. 6P is a bit less simple - usually you'll see the 13 last, but the 11 or 12 can replace it if it gets drawn that early. here's my attempt to break down the options in each size of game on "standard" maps:

03: 2 Oil -> 1
04: 2 Coal -> 1
05: 2 Hybrid -> 1
06: 1 Garbage -> 1
07: 3 Oil  -> 2
08: 3 Coal  -> 2
09: 1 Oil  -> 1
10: 2 Coal  -> 2
11: 1 Nuke  -> 2
12: 2 Hybrid -> 2
13: nothing -> 1

2-player: real cut-and-dried, yet perhaps the toughest one to explain: bid the 04 (2C->1) up to $8-9, loser grabs the 03 (2O->1). 05 (2H->1) is likely a couple bucks cheaper to run than 03 for the first 2 turns, but building first is always worth more than a couple bucks. 06 (1G->1) is almost always the worst starting plant since trash is so expensive and turn order is mediocre. i have seen arguments for 07 (3O->2) over 03 but do not agree with them. 03 costs a total of $9 to make $22 on the first turn, and most likely $6 to make $22 on the second turn - total profit would be $29. 07 costs $16 to make $33 on the first turn, and almost certainly $10 to make $33 on turn 2 - that's a profit of $40, which sounds like a big advantage over the 03.

however, i think what you lose out on with the 07 is easily worth more than $11. you go second for first build and will be guaranteed the worse turn order for turn 2 since you must build 2 cities with this plant. unlike the 03, the 07 uses more oil than is restocked per turn on 2P. finally, the 07 has awful synergy with the available plants on turn 2; 03 and 06 are obviously horrible in this spot, but the big problem is that the 08 (3C->2) hurts you more than it helps. since you cannot build & power 4 cities this early with such inefficient plants, one of those plants would be completely wasted on this turn, allowing the opponent to take the 05 and make as much money as you while keeping their turn-order edge. the 07 forces you to take the 05 or pass on a plant altogether on turn 2, either of which gives the opponent their much-needed 08 at list price. 07 + 05 and 04 + 08 will both power 3 cities on turn 2, but the 04 + 08 player will have cheaper cities and cheaper resources. the 03's main advantage here is that it allows you to make full use of the 08, so you can get it yourself or drive up the price for your opponent.

in short: 03 guarantees the best real estate and gives you a full set of options both for the initial build (claim more territory or play for turn order) and for turn 2 (take the capacity lead or keep turn order). the 07 leaves you with no options and guarantees you will be in worse shape than your opponent for the near future - i'd say that's worse than losing out on $11...

whew! don't worry, the others won't be nearly as long!

3-player: 08 is clearly the strongest here since it's guaranteed to be sold at list price. build order is much less important than in 4P and larger games, so long-term moneymaking and options rule the day here; that said, 05's advantages over 03 are so marginal that 03 is still the best choice for the 2nd buyer. 08 > 04 > 03, plain and simple.

4-player: even though it now becomes more important to carve out prime real estate early, i think the 08 is still the best overall starter on the majority of map configs. you make more money on turn 1 than everyone else and can afford to pass on a plant for turn 2, giving yourself good turn order and a lot of money once the good plants start showing up. however, there are some map configs where being 4th to build is a major handicap; here i would pay more than $10 for the 04, more than $6 for the 03, and even a little above list price for the 05 if necessary. speaking of the 05, guaranteeing 3rd in turn order is what makes that the fourth starter worth buying along with 03/04/08. 07 may seem to have an argument somewhere here since coal's price is driven up more here than in smaller games...but it still loses value since using oil doesn't attack as many other players and the lower restock rate is a problem. the 09 also becomes available for the last player here, but with bad turn order and low capacity it represents the worst of both worlds.

the starting plants in 4P should always be 03/04/05/08, but their relative value can change quite a bit depending on map configuration. 08 should be bid up heavily on more "balanced" maps like Germany, and still deserves some competition on most other map configs. the value of the others depends on how many cheap regions are available in the given map.

5-player: usually, you really do not want to be the last player without a plant in 5P. sure, you'll get that sexy-looking plant 10 (2C->2), but building 5th will almost always be much worse than even 4th since having 5 regions tends to bring more expensive ones into play and 5 players makes things more congested. the 10 will also have its cost driven way up by all the other worthwhile coal plants in play. thus, you will need to fight harder for the 4 plants mentioned in the previous section. i could actually see an argument for taking the 07 over the 10 last, but i don't have a ton of 5-6P experience and need to do some more work on this...

6-player: pretty similar to the above. get one of the big 4 plants unless it will ruin your building. If the 5th buyer takes the 07 then the 10 becomes the clear winner for the 6th player. if the 10 is gone then the last buyer faces an interesting decision between the 07 and the 13 (_->1); i favor the 13 since you can just build 1 city and carve out good turn order for the near future (remember that building 2 cities at the start is usually best). if the 13 gets bumped off the market by the 11 (1N->2) or 12 (2H->2) the 07 becomes a no-brainer.

i have also heard an interesting idea of buying the 06 then not building on turn 1, but i wouldn't recommend it unless you just want to be wacky for a game!

that about concludes this mutha! hope y'all appreciate this - let's see some discussion!

EDIT: adding in descriptions of each plant.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 01:25:54 pm by AdamH »
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funkdoc

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2014, 11:05:21 pm »
0

one of the main things i have learned from playing online is that i was so, SO wrong about the 08

there are fewer good map configs for it than i had thought. in particular, its effectiveness in germany is the opposite of what i'd suspected - maps with really expensive connections are the worst for the 08, as you'll likely be limited to one or two spots where you can even afford 2 cities!

i've even seen the occasional 4P game where someone bought the 09 over the 08! though usually not the better option, there are map configs where this can be a good play, as 09 allows you to single-build in front of another player and keep turn priority over them for the 2nd build. i learned this the hard way when i got the 04, built in denver + billings, and watched the 09 player take boise right in front of me (then seattle on the next turn)...

i also now understand why the 07 is one of the worst starting plants. the problem, more than anything, is that you just won't make enough money to get a strong plant and build on turn 3 (which is generally when you need to do all this if you start with a 2-cap). the restock rate on oil is a killer when compared to the 08! however, the 07 actually becomes a decent buy on turn 2 since you'll have 3 extra oil on the market that way. honestly, i now think the only time the 07 is a decent starter on "normal" maps is when nobody buys the 03 for some reason.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2014, 11:12:53 pm by funkdoc »
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eliegel34

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2014, 10:56:50 am »
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one of the main things i have learned from playing online is that i was so, SO wrong about the 08


Where can you play power grid online?
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AdamH

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2014, 11:01:23 am »
0

http://www.brettspielwelt.de/Spiele/Funkenschlag/?nation=en

By the way, I do appreciate the effort you're putting into this, funkdoc. I'm sort of on vacation from Power Grid, I'm trying to decide if I actually like the game after all of this, which is really weird. It's really interesting to hear a different perspective, especially about the 03 plant. Our group unanimously hates that plant and would correct a new player if they tried to buy it unless we were playing Russia or something.
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eliegel34

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2014, 12:30:44 pm »
0

http://www.brettspielwelt.de/Spiele/Funkenschlag/?nation=en

By the way, I do appreciate the effort you're putting into this, funkdoc. I'm sort of on vacation from Power Grid, I'm trying to decide if I actually like the game after all of this, which is really weird. It's really interesting to hear a different perspective, especially about the 03 plant. Our group unanimously hates that plant and would correct a new player if they tried to buy it unless we were playing Russia or something.

Thanks.  I've always saved that sort of hate for the 06 plant.
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Jorbles

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2014, 01:04:19 pm »
+1

Could you edit in the details on each of the plants on the OP? I own the game, but can't remember what all the different plants are by number.
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AdamH

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2014, 01:21:39 pm »
+1

Let's see if I can do this from memory:

03: 2 Oil     -> 1
04: 2 Coal    -> 1
05: 2 Hybrid  -> 1
06: 1 Garbage -> 1
07: 3 Oil     -> 2
08: 3 Coal    -> 2
09: 1 Oil     -> 1
10: 2 Coal    -> 2
11: 1 Nuke    -> 2
12: 2 Hybrid  -> 2
13: nothing   -> 1
14: 2 Garbage -> 2
15: 2 Coal    -> 3
16: 2 Oil     -> 3
17: 1 Nuke    -> 2
18: nothing   -> 2
19: 2 Garbage -> 3
20: 3 Coal    -> 5
21: 2 Hybrid  -> 4
22: nothing   -> 2
23: 1 Nuke    -> 3
24: 2 Garbage -> 4
25: 2 Coal    -> 5
26: 2 Oil     -> 5
27: nothing   -> 3
28: 1 Nuke    -> 4
29: 1 Hybrid  -> 4
30: 3 Garbage -> 6
31: 3 Coal    -> 6
32: 3 Oil     -> 6
33: nothing   -> 4
34: 1 Nuke    -> 5
35: 1 Oil     -> 5
36: 3 Coal    -> 7
37: nothing   -> 4
38: 3 Garbage -> 7
39: 1 Nuke    -> 6
40: 2 Oil     -> 6
42: 2 Coal    -> 6
44: nothing   -> 5
46: 3 Hybrid  -> 7
50: nothing   -> 6

(dangit, switched the 40 and the 42 on my first go-around)

Now I'll edit them into the post.
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Jorbles

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2014, 01:44:26 pm »
+1

Wow you guys have played a lot more power grid than me. I feel like my opinions on the starting plants is really coloured by my play group who have a sort of groupthink about the game. I always like the versatility of the 05 plant, and probably pay a bit too much for it, but I find that whether Oil or Coal is going to be the cheap commodity fluctuates a lot. The people I play with always overvalue the 06 and the 13. I think the 06 is Garbage (see what I did there), but someone always wants to be the only person in the Garbage market. The 13 is okay and you'll probably use it for quite awhile, but it's just so much more money than the cheaper plants, I'm not really sure why I don't like it, but it never seems to do that well the person who ends up with it usually ends up holding onto it way too long valuing the lack of need to buy resources over powering more cities and being able to attack other players by buying the resource they want to before them. So I have a hard time saying why I dislike it as my opinion is coloured by others misplay.

In fact, I find that usually at least one of the 03 and 04 goes unbought when I play, sometimes both, though I don't think they're bad they're always undervalued by people I play with. The value of them is that they give you advantageous play order correct?
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 01:45:28 pm by Jorbles »
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AdamH

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2014, 02:03:47 pm »
0

In my group, there's a tendency for the first person to place on the board to be surrounded by two or three other people at the end of the turn, so people really like to take the higher numbered plants on the first turn.

Also, I think in 5 or 6 player games, the 06 plant gets much stronger, particularly on boards where garbage starts a little cheaper, I wouldn't stop a new player from bidding on that plant in a 5P game.

If I ever decide to come back from my vacation on this game, I might try just getting some of the different plants and see what happens. It might prove very interesting and add a new element to the game.
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Shiroiken

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2014, 10:46:57 pm »
+1

Still not buying it on the 03 plant. Even if board position matters a lot, the difference in the board position and the setback of the 03 plant isn't usually great enough (maybe 2P or 3P, but I only play 4-6 because I find 3P to be unfun).

The 04 plant (in the base game) allows you to buy 2 turns of resources for $5 and will give you very early placement. Coal replenishes the highest, so it's still fairly cheap to run into the mid-game when you replace it. Average cost per turn should be about $5, producing about $9, for a profit of about $4 per turn. Not bad for a starting plant.

The 03 plant (in the base game) gives you the first placement... for quite a cost. Your first turn's resources are going to be $6 to make $11, for a profit of $5. It only gets worse, as oil doesn't replenish as quick as coal, so you're still probably paying about $7 per turn to produce $9, for a profit of $2 per turn. You can't run this plant for more than 1-2 turns and still be profitable. Even the 06 plant in a 4P game is better, and that's still pretty bad. Far better to take the 05 plant, lose turn position to the 04 plant, and take the second best spot.
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funkdoc

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2014, 10:22:12 am »
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you make a point that does indeed sound good on paper, but there are problems with this in real game situations.

there is a major drawback to the 04 that people often forget: coal gets devoured early on, so it becomes near-useless after the initial $5 worth of coal. think about how many coal plants people almost always buy in the first 2 turns: 04, 05, 08, and 10. that's a ton right there, to say nothing of other plants that will be bought if they show up on turn 2 (15, 20, on rare occasion 25)! there is far, far less oil likely to be in this game at this point: 03 for sure, 05 may run oil for a turn or two, occasionally 09 as a starting plant or a backup plan on turn 2-3. nobody good will take 07 as a starting plant or buy it period unless oil becomes insanely cheap by turn 3-4. from the randomly drawn plants likely to show up on turn 2, only 12/16/21 are oil-burners, and unlike the aforementioned coal plants 12 will only be bought if it appears in the first 2-3 turns. additionally, good players will be more likely to run coal on the hybrids if multiple opponents are heavily reliant on the likes of 08 & 10, and wait a bit to switch to oil.

add it all up, and the majority of the time oil should be cheaper than coal after the first turn or two. while you will often get a plant that obsoletes your starter, there are times when you miss out and are forced to run something like starting plant + 13. 03 is far, far better than 04 in situations like this.

there is also the fact that on certain map configs, there is a safe single build available for the first player (think Washington, DC). this means that 03 will guarantee you the "bottom" spot in the turn order, which is hugely important in 4+ player if you don't see any of the truly awful plants blocking the market yet (think 14/17/19/23). if a player with 04 can buy 15 but give you 21 at list price in the process, they will likely do it anyway rather than remain stuck with a horribly inefficient 1-cap. in general, adjusting your play to the plants visible on the market is an important advanced skill, and this is one of the key examples of that!

and even without considering any of the above, there are map configs where the amount of money you gain in building from 03 more than makes up for its higher early fuel prices. i'll put it to you this way: BSW has far stronger players than i have seen in any live game, and on there the only starting plants that consistently go for higher than list price are 04, 10 (only in 6-player, of course)...and the humble 03. the going rate for 03 is $4, and it can be worth up to $6 on some of the really unbalanced map configs in germany.

Shiroiken

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2014, 04:42:34 pm »
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See, this is where the metagame becomes involved. I do not play with top tier players (by any definition), and so the 7 plant is bought almost every single game. If I were to adjust myself to buy the 3 plant, I would certainly suffer because of it. Thus, the 3 plant is pretty terrible for when I play. You are correct about viewing the Future Market (you should always be keeping track of what's there, and what numbers could come up under them).

In any case, I think that optimally, you shouldn't be powering either the 3 plant or 4 plant more than twice if you want to win anyway.
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AdamH

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2014, 04:56:59 pm »
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See, this is where the metagame becomes involved. I do not play with top tier players (by any definition), and so the 7 plant is bought almost every single game. If I were to adjust myself to buy the 3 plant, I would certainly suffer because of it. Thus, the 3 plant is pretty terrible for when I play. You are correct about viewing the Future Market (you should always be keeping track of what's there, and what numbers could come up under them).

In any case, I think that optimally, you shouldn't be powering either the 3 plant or 4 plant more than twice if you want to win anyway.

Well, sir, I disagree with that statement :P

But seriously, I think our group consists of top-tier players, and I'm being completely serious. I even think you qualify as one.

And in the 2/3P game I wouldn't be surprised at all if initial board placement was that important. I mean, in those games I really can't see you running those plants longer than a couple of turns and you don't lost that much money on the resources, right?

This is most of the reason I've been wanting to try and play some 3P games in our group, but as you can see it's not the most popular thing ever...
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funkdoc

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Re: ranking the starting plants
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2014, 05:34:07 pm »
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though it's a situation you would rather avoid, you can win if you have to run 03 or 04 for more than 2 turns. pairing them with 13 is the best solution for this, as you want to keep turn order and play the market as hard as you can.

you'll be in rough shape if you have to do this after multiple good 4 & 5-cap plants have already been bought, of course. but if the market's been really slow in the early going, you'll have a solid chance as long as you stay patient and improve your position slowly while remaining in the "bottom" spot. a very slow early market often means things will go crazy once it finally opens up, so you can potentially get two monsters in two turns if you get a lucky drop somewhere.

also: you guys really should get on BSW sometime, it's a real nice & friendly bunch there for the most part! i have a twitch stream and will start broadcasting my games soon, so we would love to have you on. =) i think generally european primetime-night hours are best since that's also when the americans will be around. it's made this game 100x more interesting and fun for me, and hopefully it can give you all some fresh perspectives as well.
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