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Author Topic: 5P game: removing plant 17?  (Read 2365 times)

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AdamH

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5P game: removing plant 17?
« on: October 10, 2013, 11:42:40 am »
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So I've been chewing on this idea for a while, I tried it out for the first time this week and it went well enough that I thought I'd post it here...

My gaming group plays Power grid a LOT. I'd say almost all of us (with the exception of some newer people who are still learning the details of the game) are very high-level players. I'd also say that Nick is starting to pull away from the group and win consistently, and I'm just going to assume that it's because I posted all of my secrets on a public blog and he read them and got better :P

A lot of us have come to realize that there are many plants that are almost never worth buying after turn 2 of the game: I'm looking at the following plants:

Any of the starting plants that happen to be left over
11 (1 Nuke -> 2 Cities)
12 (2 Hybrid -> 2 Cities)
14 (2 Garbage -> 2 Cities)
15 (2 Coal -> 3 Cities)
16 (2 Oil -> 3 Cities)
17 (1 Nuke -> 2 Cities -- same as Plant 11)
19 (2 Garbage -> 3 Cities)
23 (1 Nuke -> 3 Cities)

...and in some other cases, the 18 and 22 (nothing -> 2 Cities) and even the 27 (nothing -> 3 Cities) or even the 21, 24, 28, and 29 which power 4 cities!

Granted, some of these plants don't always fit, and some of them are quite strong if gotten early enough, but after turn 4, it's pretty clear that in almost every circumstance, buying one of these plants would be a mistake for that person, and even a form of kingmaking if you're allowing a better plant to drop and you're in the middle of the turn order!

What results is a "stalemate," or at least close to it, where the bottom four plants are unbuyable and nobody can increase the number of cities they can power for several turns in a row as one by one, turn by turn, a single plant is removed from the game and you may see one or two good plants show up before the market locks up again. Everybody is accumulating a giant stack of cash, and if people are still running early-game plants for a profit of a couple of dollars, the resource market can start to dry up too. Sooner or later, maybe one person accumulates enough money to buy like 6 cities and wins the game powering 9 or 10 cities. Maybe the other players can see this coming and are forced to collude to stop them by buying all the cities or resources (to their own detriment) and maybe lots of weird decisions take place.

This situation is interesting, for sure, and maybe with a REALLY bad draw for the plant deck this could happen in an extreme case. Sure. but I found this happening in almost every 5P game we played for weeks in a row. This doesn't feel like Power Grid, and it doesn't strike me as the way the game was meant to be played. Why is this happening? I had a couple of possibilities in mind:

1. Suboptimal play: sometimes a step two stall can take place, but if it lasts a while, at least one person has screwed up. Maybe there's something that we're doing wrong that results in this. This is certainly a possibility: maybe we're collectively undervaluing these plants that we all think are bad and we're passing up opportunities to break the cycle to our own advantage?

Well I'd really like this to be the answer, and maybe I need to do some more experimenting, but what I'm seeing is that if you know this is coming (meaning that it's a 5P game) then you spend what you need to on those high-capacity plants early, sacrificing everything else on the assumption that you'll get an unnecessary amount of turns to recover your cash reserves and at the end you'll be that guy who can power 12 cities and win. This seems to exacerbate the situation because now there's even less incentive to buy the "bad" plants.

I'd really like to find a flaw in this logic but I haven't found it yet.

2. For a 5P game you play with the full plant deck, same as a 6P game. Maybe there are just too many plants in there? My theory is that 5P games will be better if you remove plant 17 from the deck before the game starts. I'm hoping to give this a couple more plays and see what happens.
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Jerk of All trades

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2013, 03:18:17 pm »
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This has always been my biggest complaint with Power Grid. So many of the early game plants are so terrible they need to be immediately replaced a turn or 2 after buying them.  And if you buy one of them and a lucky spike causes one of the low value 4s or 5s to pop up you give another player a huge advantage.

And yes, the 17 is beyond terrible. There's almost no way it can end up paying for itself.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 03:19:33 pm by Jerk of All trades »
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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2013, 04:58:40 pm »
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I'm curious about the 15, 16 and 19 being on that list. They're low numbered plants which can power 3 - the kind of level which, if you can get for relatively cheap, will probably stay in your lineup and be usable until late in the game, especially if you didn't buy a plant on turn 2. Even if you did get a plant on turn 2, getting one of those level of plants is a small economic investment now which quickly starts paying itself off, being relatively efficient to power 3 cities, which is probably about what you'll want on turn 3, and perhaps combined with another plant will power everything for turn 4. Depending on how resources are going would determine which, if any, are actually useful - and if you manage to grab a big plant earlier, I wouldn't bother - but I think they'd be very acceptable options for a turn 3 plant if you didn't get anything turn 2.
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AdamH

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 05:42:43 pm »
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I'm curious about the 15, 16 and 19 being on that list. They're low numbered plants which can power 3 - the kind of level which, if you can get for relatively cheap, will probably stay in your lineup and be usable until late in the game, especially if you didn't buy a plant on turn 2. Even if you did get a plant on turn 2, getting one of those level of plants is a small economic investment now which quickly starts paying itself off, being relatively efficient to power 3 cities, which is probably about what you'll want on turn 3, and perhaps combined with another plant will power everything for turn 4. Depending on how resources are going would determine which, if any, are actually useful - and if you manage to grab a big plant earlier, I wouldn't bother - but I think they'd be very acceptable options for a turn 3 plant if you didn't get anything turn 2.

Yeah I think I agree with everything you said here, but that's not the reason they're on the list. They're on the list because they can fit into the buying-this-is-definitely-a-mistake-for-the-rest-of-the-game category, particularly if they drop after turn 4.
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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2013, 02:19:20 am »
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Hm, well, your original post said almost always, not can. I think there's a decent number of plants that can be mistakes after a certain amount of time.

As for your initial suggestion, since I didn't address it, I think I like it, at least on the base game maps. That 17 plant can only really become economical to run from about turn 4, at which point you really don't want to be buying a 17 cost plant to power 2 cities. Even when it is economical, it's still way worse than the 18 and 22, except for the small difference in number.

I've only played a non-base game map I think once and it was my first game, so I can't really say how it'd work on those other than, nukes sometimes cost less.
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...spin-offs are still better for all of the previously cited reasons.
But not strictly better, because the spinoff can have a different cost than the expansion.
I hereby declare myself the best dominion player in the world. Obviously.

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2013, 01:40:52 pm »
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pretty strongly opposed to this whole idea

i thought similarly when i started playing, but over time i've come to realize that almost no plant is completely useless. highly situational, sure, but enough that i would not consider removing any particular plant.

most people think those early trash & nuclear plants are worthless, but i've seen games where coal & oil get completely run out during step 1 and those plants become a must-have for the players behind in turn order. sure, you could argue that's not optimal play, but it's something that can happen and i think it's good to have options against that strategy should it arise.

there are also really interesting edge cases where it can be worth buying a lower-numbered plant during the early-mid or midgame even if it doesn't improve your capacity, simply because of a vast difference in the cost of resources that makes those plants profitable anyway. my friend actually did this TWICE in the origins tournament finals this year, and beat a player with years more experience than her by $2 or $3 in the tiebreaker!

AdamH

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2013, 01:47:03 pm »
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pretty strongly opposed to this whole idea

i thought similarly when i started playing, but over time i've come to realize that almost no plant is completely useless. highly situational, sure, but enough that i would not consider removing any particular plant.

most people think those early trash & nuclear plants are worthless, but i've seen games where coal & oil get completely run out during step 1 and those plants become a must-have for the players behind in turn order. sure, you could argue that's not optimal play, but it's something that can happen and i think it's good to have options against that strategy should it arise.

there are also really interesting edge cases where it can be worth buying a lower-numbered plant during the early-mid or midgame even if it doesn't improve your capacity, simply because of a vast difference in the cost of resources that makes those plants profitable anyway. my friend actually did this TWICE in the origins tournament finals this year, and beat a player with years more experience than her by $2 or $3 in the tiebreaker!

Understood, and thanks for your feedback.

While I don't disagree with what you're saying, I feel like the problem solved by removing the 17 plant is much worse than the problem created... Do you disagree with my theory that the 5P game has too many power plants in it?
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funkdoc

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2013, 03:00:22 am »
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thanks for replying! =)

i do disagree with your suggestion overall, for another reason i didn't mention in my last post: unless i'm misunderstanding what you're doing here, removing plants also messes with the odds of plant drops. i think the game "as is" has a good balance in that regard - you generally don't want to take a decent-to-good plant if there's a real chance of giving your opponent(s) a great plant, but in the early game there are times where the odds will favor this play due to the large amount of mediocre-to-bad plants still in the deck. gambling on a bad drop for your opponent(s) is also a viable last resort if you are significantly behind late in the game. removing weaker plants makes the generic "safe" strategy the optimal one in more cases, which i think makes for a less interesting game.

besides, if i had to remove one plant from this game it wouldn't be the 17 anyway! though it's certainly up (down?) there, i think the 14 stands out as the single worst plant on the whole. still, this has been an interesting discussion and i thank you again for everything here!
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 03:08:49 am by funkdoc »
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AdamH

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2013, 08:11:09 am »
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So this weekend my IRL group played a 5P game on the Japan map where we removed the 17 plant. The deck was set up so that all of the terrible plants were at the bottom, and after 3 turns it was very clear this was going to be one of those games where this theory was going to be put to the test.

Removing one single power plant did not fix the issue.

We ran into the same situation, though were were a little bit fortunate that two people could power 12 cities and nobody was in a position to end the game, but the person in last position was guaranteed a win when the Step 3 card dropped which is what happened.

I started talking about what was happening here and other house rules that might help to prevent this situation and the rest of my IRL group said that in effect I'm making every map like China. And I see their point.

If this kind of situation is really part of the game, then maybe it is, but I certainly don't feel qualified to write an article about it because I think that the things you do to prepare for this are completely different than the things you do to actually try to win the game based on the way I think it's "intended" to be played (though I think I'm the only one who feels that way). Maybe Power Grid is getting knocked down a few pegs in my book if this is the case :(
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AdamH

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2013, 01:48:45 pm »
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So yeah.

The day after that IRL game of Power Grid, I read this thread and have a moment of clarity: that's exactly what I'm trying to do to Power Grid. Yeah there are things you can do to prepare for when the deck does something like this, but if you house-rule the game to deal with it, you're not playing Power Grid anymore.

So I guess this means I don't like Power Grid anymore? This is terrible. After two years of wanting to play this game multiple times a night every game night, I just don't feel like playing it that much anymore. I mean maybe I'll play China or something? Maybe the new plant deck helps out by adding more efficient plants? Man, I would just rather play Shadows over Camelot.  :'(

I mean, it's probably possible to write articles about this and how to prepare. I'm certainly not qualified to do it.
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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2013, 04:01:32 pm »
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Yep, I realized this long ago but continue to love the game anyway. I think it comes down to whether you want a faster paced mid game or less clear-cut decisions in the plant auctions, and I like the latter. Maybe I should write some more of my and my friend's thoughts on the game on this forum - maybe that could rekindle some interest in here! =)

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Re: 5P game: removing plant 17?
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2014, 10:35:14 pm »
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most people think those early trash & nuclear plants are worthless, but i've seen games where coal & oil get completely run out during step 1 and those plants become a must-have for the players behind in turn order. sure, you could argue that's not optimal play, but it's something that can happen and i think it's good to have options against that strategy should it arise.

there are also really interesting edge cases where it can be worth buying a lower-numbered plant during the early-mid or midgame even if it doesn't improve your capacity, simply because of a vast difference in the cost of resources that makes those plants profitable anyway. my friend actually did this TWICE in the origins tournament finals this year, and beat a player with years more experience than her by $2 or $3 in the tiebreaker!
Two things:

Trash and Nukes are good in the early game if 5P (or if alternate board with higher trash/nuke). However, the 17 is pretty damn awful. We've played removing it (I'm in Adam's group), and it helps, but it's not really solving Adam's problem. I agree with leaving everything in, however, as the value of each plant is based on the situation. That leads us the next point.

Timing is everything in PG. Buying a plant that doesn't increase your production is very questionable, as while it may save you money per turn, you are spending quite a bit of money up front. If you don't keep that plant for enough turns, then you've lost money overall. Spending $18 to save $4 per turn, means you have to use that plant for 5 turns to be efficient. Considering that most games I've seen flow near step 2, then stall for maybe a round or 2, then blitz to the end, I've seldom seen a time that you would actually make your money back. Perhaps in competition it's different (I've never been), but that's been my experience with a couple of groups.
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