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Author Topic: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)  (Read 6919 times)

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AdamH

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"Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« on: April 02, 2013, 02:51:33 pm »
+2

This is the second draft of the article. Things I plan to remove are blocked out with spoiler tags and additions/changes are in red.

I'm considering changing the title as well. My intended audience is people like
this but I'm unsure of the best way to grab these people in by the title.

This will not be the first article on the blog, it just doesn't fit that role. I don't even know if it's something people here are interested in, so feedback is most definitely appreciated.

...When writing this article, I envisioned contributing to this community, not necessarily running it, so yeah, this article was written with more of that in mind. I'm not trying to pee all over pg.bgs (that's a joke, read the article ;))

------------------------------

Do not adjust your screen. I read online just about everywhere that Power Grid is a 2+ hour game to play IRL, and if I had read that before playing the game the first time, I wouldn't have tried it. Power Grid is a wonderful game, and it's even more so when you can fast-forward through the mechanical parts and get to the interesting decisions more quickly.

At my gaming group, we play Power Grid at least once a night, sometimes twice. A 4-player game takes about 45 minutes to play; 5-player is done in about an hour. Any other number of players and we play something else. A new player will add 15 to 20 minutes to the game, including the time it takes to explain the game (since that's mostly done whilst playing, but that's another article). Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you thought Power Grid was a long boring math test, it doesn't have to be.

HARDWARE

It helps. Having the right stuff in the right place that's easy to get to will greatly reduce setup/clean-up time, so I'm going to write about it.

Poker Chips: If you're serious enough about board games to enjoy Power Grid, please, just go to Wal-Mart™ and invest $20 in a set of poker chips. Make the commitment to never use paper money again. Not only is it a more pleasant experience but it really speeds everything up. You can use one color of chips to block off regions and connections that aren't used, and I even use my poker chip case to store all of the components of Power Grid (except for the boards, which take up the entire box on their own). You know, you can use poker chips for money in other games too  ;)

Boards/Cheat Sheets: I own the first 12 boards, and if you're going to get more than 20 plays out of Power Grid, you'll want to move past USA/Germany. Each board has different resource refresh rates, different rules for the power plant deck, etc. For this reason I keep a set of sheets I found on BGG (like this, but the one I actually use is slightly different) upon which I've written where all the rules differ from normal. Once we've rolled the D12 to decide which board we're playing, we only have to take out the board and the sheet we're using and we're good to go. Why do I bother telling you all of this? Because it saves us at least ten minutes in setting the game up because we don't have to read through the entire rulebook for every map we play with to make sure we caught all the changes -- it's all right there.

PEEING

This is the single mechanic that has saved us the most time in Power Grid. Yeah, I'm serious. No, put your pants back on, not literally peeing on the board. That's nasty. OK I guess I should explain this terminology. So one time I was HWinning (that means I was in last place. Am I gonna need a glossary here?) and after I bought my power plant for the round, I realized that I had my turn all planned out in advance and I didn't really care if anyone else knew what I was going to do; I thought it was pretty obvious what I was doing anyways; so I took the money for my resources and stuck the resources I was going to buy on top of it (still in the resource market), then I did the same thing for the city I was planning to buy and just stuck my house and money on top of where I planned to build. Someone asked me what I was doing and I said "I'm peeing in a circle around my spot!" and it stuck.

Once the HWinning player has done this, though, the next-to-HWinning player may also do this and so on. True, it can give up a slight advantage to those who are "Winning" because they can plan better, but if the HWinning player(s)' moves are obvious anyways, the Winning players were trying to do this in their head and taking forever to get to the same spot. If someone feels something is on the line, they just don't pee that turn, NBD. This works particularly well on the first turn when the resources you buy are mostly scripted anyways. Sometimes buying resources and cities takes only the amount of time for each player to "relieve themselves" (that means put their money in the bank and put their bits where they need to go), which cuts a good 5 minutes off the game every turn.

In general, we use cities placed on their side to denote cities which haven't been paid for yet.

SPECIALIZATION

The secret to our success is that each of us has a job that we do very well. There are almost always three people who are in every game we play and we have become very good at taking care of the game mechanics quickly. It certainly helps to have the same person do the same job, but dividing the roles this way will still make the game flow very smoothly even with people who aren't amazing at it like we are. There are three core roles and a fourth that can be given to a trusted individual or taken on in addition to one of the other three. The three core roles are Banker, Resources, and Power Plants; the additional role is Turn Order/Expediter.

Banker: This is my role, so there will be more detail about this one. The banker is responsible for making sure all of the money gets where it needs to go: making change, paying people, starting money, etc. Sometimes Resource Boy helps with passing money down the table or something. The big function of the banker is for bureaucracy phase, though. As each person builds their cities, I look at how many cities they have and what they can power and put the money they get aside in a "staging area." If they don't want to run one of their plants it's usually obvious if I have to ask them what they're powering this turn. Sometimes you can even set aside money to pay them before they build cities. When they buy their cities, any change they get for that just goes in their pile. During bureaucracy phase, all I do is hand each person their stack of money, it takes about 5 seconds.

I should add that people tell me I'm amazing at this and when they play without me (which is rare but it does happen) the games take much longer. Man, sometimes I'm so awesome it causes me physical pain. My point is, though, that experience here has a significant effect on the length of the game.

Resources: Responsible for refreshing resources and making sure all resources are burned that need to be. He sets up the resources at the start of the game, and usually has a pile of resources ready to be put out for bureaucracy phase. It takes a little bit of finesse to know how much of each resource needs to be burned for you to fully refresh that turn, or to be on top of when refresh rates change because of Step 2/Step 3, but that's what resource boy does. This doesn't require much effort except for during bureaucracy phase, so he can usually assist with other stuff like passing money around, and with the piles, refreshing resources can be done very quickly (it can even be done while cities are being built) so bureaucracy phase takes no time at all.

Power Plants: Responsible for ensuring the power plant deck and market are where they need to be. Before the game he puts together the plant deck, and refreshes/adjusts the plant market when necessary. During the bureaucracy phase, when bottom-decking the "best" available plant, it really helps if he announces the plant that's happening to: "3 Garbage for 7 Cities is getting buried this round." Since so many events in the game trigger changes to the power plant deck/market, it's a good idea to have this be an experienced person so nothing is missed/forgotten. Bureaucracy phase takes only the time he needs to announce what is getting buried, so 5 seconds.

Turn Order/Expediter: The other three positions are all filled by a specific person almost all of the time. This one doesn't benefit as much from experience, and so it floats around as the group we play with changes each game. It can also be filled by one of the core 3 people: Resource Boy would be the best fit except the resources are on the opposite end of the board as the turn order spaces. Sad face. So it's usually Power Plant Boy or Banker Boy that does it if we don't have a specific person.

In City Building/Bureaucracy, their responsibilities are to ensure that turn order is correct and changes when it needs to. This can be done during the city building phase by creative placement of the houses on the track so that the work during bureaucracy phase takes about 5 seconds (just moving the houses on the turn order track). As Expediter, this person usually bothers people who don't know it's their turn, and it's easy to keep track of that by flagging out the houses when people complete their turn (that's why these are done by the same person).


I mentioned the length of the bureaucracy phase for each of these roles because it's 5 seconds or less for all of them. This means bureaucracy phase takes less than 5 seconds, and it should be as short as possible! No interesting decisions happen there, so of course we should hit the fast forward button on it. This can be accomplished by doing most of the work while other people are making decisions.

CLOSING

Well I hope you found something you can do that makes your games go faster. I like it when games are quicker so yeah.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 08:38:39 am by AdamH »
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theory

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2013, 02:55:55 pm »
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Oh man, one of the things I hated about PG was its downtime.  This is glorious!
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Kirian

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2013, 03:26:42 pm »
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Oh man, one of the things I hated about PG was its downtime.  This is glorious!

I do think AdamH is severely underestimating the effect of AP.  Though this technically doesn't change downtime, it certainly lengthens the game.

That said, experience speeds up every game, but unless you're playing PG every week (as he is), there's not much time to develop said experience.
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Tables

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2013, 04:14:59 pm »
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I feel like 80% of this article could be summarised as: Organise bureaucracy before bureaucracy actually happens. I don't think Bureaucracy adds that much playtime, though - I think we normally get through it in 30-45 seconds, and Power Grid normally takes... somewhere around 10 turns I think? So that's about 5-8 minutes per game in Bureaucracy... yeah, that's not cutting 2 hours down to 1.

Unfortunately, I think therefore I'm going to disagree with this article. I think the game is very player count dependent (and 4-5 is generally what I see being most highly recommended), as well as player experience and AP.
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theory

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2013, 04:16:56 pm »
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I don't know -- I feel like AP is a big portion of PG, for sure, but the bureaucracy is a lot more than for most comparable games.  Looking up setup, for example, takes quite a while whenever we play.
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AdamH

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2013, 10:18:30 pm »
0

I feel like 80% of this article could be summarised as: Organise bureaucracy before bureaucracy actually happens. I don't think Bureaucracy adds that much playtime, though - I think we normally get through it in 30-45 seconds, and Power Grid normally takes... somewhere around 10 turns I think? So that's about 5-8 minutes per game in Bureaucracy... yeah, that's not cutting 2 hours down to 1.

Unfortunately, I think therefore I'm going to disagree with this article. I think the game is very player count dependent (and 4-5 is generally what I see being most highly recommended), as well as player experience and AP.

Point taken. I should be a little more brief on a lot of things related to each person's role, etc. I'll take a look at it shortly and probably cut a bunch of stuff out.

Also I should try not to overstate the effect of this stuff and mention that not all groups will achieve the same results we do.

This article is too long for what it really is.
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timchen

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2013, 02:35:41 am »
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And to speak the truth, while I like the game, reading this article will actually scare me away if I were a new player. (What? This game needs such bookkeeping to be kept under 45 minutes?)
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AdamH

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (draft)
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2013, 07:23:11 am »
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And to speak the truth, while I like the game, reading this article will actually scare me away if I were a new player. (What? This game needs such bookkeeping to be kept under 45 minutes?)

Are you suggesting that I shouldn't write this article at all, or do you think there is some tone I can take that would make this better?
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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2013, 09:06:59 am »
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I think this is a strange choice of article for a first one, personally. I'd try and get some interesting strategy stuff down, then perhaps write this.
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DStu

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2013, 09:08:17 am »
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I think this is a strange choice of article for a first one, personally. I'd try and get some interesting strategy stuff down, then perhaps write this.

Maybe that is why the first sentence says: "This will not be the first article on the blog, it just doesn't fit that role"
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timchen

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2013, 09:33:20 am »
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Are you suggesting that I shouldn't write this article at all, or do you think there is some tone I can take that would make this better?

I am not sure. It certainly is something worth hearing about, for people who play the game IRL on a regular basis. I am just saying for a newbie I would imagine reading this is more likely to scare him away.
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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2013, 09:48:09 am »
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I think this is a strange choice of article for a first one, personally. I'd try and get some interesting strategy stuff down, then perhaps write this.

Maybe that is why the first sentence says: "This will not be the first article on the blog, it just doesn't fit that role"

Oh, I... uhh... must have stopped reading before that point ::)?
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theory

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2013, 09:48:47 am »
+1

Are you suggesting that I shouldn't write this article at all, or do you think there is some tone I can take that would make this better?

I am not sure. It certainly is something worth hearing about, for people who play the game IRL on a regular basis. I am just saying for a newbie I would imagine reading this is more likely to scare him away.

I mean, if you are scared away by the thought of a board game taking over 45 minutes, Power Grid is really not the game for you ...
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AdamH

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2013, 10:22:36 am »
0

Are you suggesting that I shouldn't write this article at all, or do you think there is some tone I can take that would make this better?

I am not sure. It certainly is something worth hearing about, for people who play the game IRL on a regular basis. I am just saying for a newbie I would imagine reading this is more likely to scare him away.

Well if you can put your finger on anything about the article that embodies this, I'll be happy to adjust it. I'm having trouble coming up with anything that could fix this without it being about the game itself :-\
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Shiroiken

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2013, 04:25:45 pm »
+1

The first time you play this game, it will be long and confusing. However, the game is VERY generous to early mistakes, and after playing once or twice, you'll know what you need to be doing.

Adam is right that there are ways to speed up the game, and the fourth role is, IMO, the most important. The expediter needs to let people know they are active, and that's true for many games that may have long gaps between player decisions. The other rolls help speed things up (especially an experienced Power Plant Boy like myself  8) ), but they really only reduce the Bureaucracy phase.

AP is the bane of this game, as it is many games. The key to AP for new players is to just do whatever, with an experienced player only advising against horrible decisions. Since the game rewards you for being behind, it's not too hard to make up for an early bad decision. The real AP occurs to players that have played a few times, and are trying to figure out strategy. There's nothing that can be done for it, other than having an experienced player point out several good options.

Of course, there are players who suffer from chronic AP. For them, I have two pieces of advice: avoid PG, and definitely avoid playing with Adam  :P
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AdamH

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2013, 04:46:25 pm »
0








The first time you play this game, it will be long and confusing. However, the game is VERY generous to early mistakes, and after playing once or twice, you'll know what you need to be doing.

Adam is right that there are ways to speed up the game, and the fourth role is, IMO, the most important. The expediter needs to let people know they are active, and that's true for many games that may have long gaps between player decisions. The other rolls help speed things up (especially an experienced Power Plant Boy like myself  8) ), but they really only reduce the Bureaucracy phase.

AP is the bane of this game, as it is many games. The key to AP for new players is to just do whatever, with an experienced player only advising against horrible decisions. Since the game rewards you for being behind, it's not too hard to make up for an early bad decision. The real AP occurs to players that have played a few times, and are trying to figure out strategy. There's nothing that can be done for it, other than having an experienced player point out several good options.

I could place more of an emphasis on reducing AP, since for other groups that may be more of a factor in terms of game length than Bureaucracy. Sounds like a majority of this work can be done while teaching the game (since new players will naturally suffer from AP more), so I might be able to couple some of these concepts with the tutorial video.

And TBH, I'm just as guilty as the next guy for taking two minutes to think about buying my resources, but maybe there's a balance here -- taking time to think about difficult decisions that could affect the rest of my game is where I have a lot of fun playing games (how much am I willing to pay for that 26 Plant? :P )

Of course, there are players who suffer from chronic AP. For them, I have two pieces of advice: avoid PG, and definitely avoid playing with Adam  :P

Well said, though most of the people in our group that suffer from Chronic AP already hate me :P
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philosophyguy

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2013, 09:54:46 am »
0

I just played my first game of Power Grid last night—after about 2 and a half hours we were at 10-12 cities each. It was a five player game and we had four new players, although all of them are experienced gamers, and we also had an experienced person cracking the whip.

After reading through this article again, I don't see how our game could have sped up enough to get it to an hour. We were pretty fast at going through the bureaucracy phase, with money (mostly) precounted and one person refreshing resources ASAP. We had someone managing the plants and another person handling the bank.

Things we didn't do from the article: using poker chips, and peeing. Several of us ended up preplanning our turn in a slightly different way—dividing our money into piles for what we were going to do that turn.

I wish I could explain better where the time went so you could improve your article. But, even though our session was going to be long because of the number of new players, I don't think I expected it to be that much longer, and I'm really struggling with imagining how this game can be played so quickly.
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Shiroiken

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Re: "Power Grid takes less than an hour to play" (second draft)
« Reply #17 on: June 01, 2013, 10:42:53 am »
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Part of it is the new player aspect. Your first game is going to be longer because even though Power Grid is very forgiving to early mistakes, you still don't know exactly what you're doing. I would say each new player will add about 15 minutes to your group's average time, not counting rules explanation. As you play more games, you will speed up quickly, as you will figure out what your best play is at any given time.

The 45 Minute mark is for a group of 4 that have played hundreds of games, and I would consider that the goal to achieve, not the standard to base yourself on. I would simply try to keep everyone on track and play more frequently. Your time will drop fairly quickly, and I would say the average group of experienced players using Adam's proscribed methods should take about 60 Minutes (75 Minutes for 5 Player, 90 Minutes for 6 Player). Using this standard, your game should have taken more than 2 hours, but less than 3. Again, AP players will slow this down even further.
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