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Game Reports / why cultist shouldn't be top 3 in the $5 list
« on: July 08, 2017, 03:49:34 pm »
game #5005045

i get worst possible draws on 2nd shuffle (double silver -> no $5), while my opponent gets the best possible draws (opened silver/temple, trashed hovel & overgrown estate, bought cultist).  i lose the ruins split something like 8-2 or maybe even 9-1...then i decide to pivot to a hunting party stack with temples.  i kept necropolis around for this.

meanwhile, opponent sticks to the standard theory of cultist-BM, and that allows me to gradually climb back into the game and eventually steal it.  cultist-BM is just too slow against any deck that can draw a bunch of cards and clean itself up decently, even if there isn't a lot of payload to be had.

so i love the 2nd edition sets, the masquerade errata, and most of empires.  these recent changes have been wonderful for the game!  but there is one recent change i have come to despise...

possession has always been the least fun card in all of dominion when it's good (who *doesn't* love trashing their deck down to nothing and reaching a stalemate?), but now it's good way more often.  in fact, i would rank it only behind scrying pool among the potion cards now, and i'm not even sure about that.  remember when it always used to be below university & golem?

the main problem is that the recent errata have killed most of the viable counters to it.  now you only have a few strategies that hinge on specific cards, like beggar-gardens.  i get why they had to change the rules for debt, but changing VP tokens was a hugely unnecessary buff.  goons or bishop engines used to make possession skippable, but now they can work together to make games extra miserable!

with the general engine buffs in empires (hellooooooooo, city quarter!), possession was going to become stronger anyway.  the rule change combined with this has made it the only card i've seen level 60+ players want to ban in random matching.  i may follow suit soon!

donald, i've got mad love for ya, but i really am not understanding this right now.  it's the biggest damper on a game that otherwise keeps getting better and better.

lately i've been thinking about how widely accepted variance is in eurogames, even at the most competitive levels, compared to the utter hatred for any of it it in competitive video games.  i'm sure a number of you are familiar with smash bros. tournaments banning items since they're highly random, and top players in any game get highly frustrated if a 2-out-of-3 set doesn't determine the better player.

i wonder if a major reason for this difference is the fact that IIRC there's no big competitive eurogame with serious money on the line.  i doubt i need to tell you about the prize pools for MOBAs and the like, and that adds an extra "gut punch" angle to losses that are out of your control.

it seems like in this world, luck elements are the only way designers have managed to prevent games from getting old after extensive play.  i suspect the obvious swinginess would limit people's desire to put up money for tournaments or even a first-to-10 against one opponent (a common type of "exhibition" in fighting games).  as my entire reason for learning these games is competition, it makes me wonder just how far even a game as great as Dominion can go in that regard...

hello, kind of a long story here but i thought this was interesting and worth discussing...

so sometimes i can't find anybody within 1000 rating points of me, and i just set matchmaking to play anyone.  a lot of these people will gain you like 5 points if you win and cost you like 80 if you lose, and dominion is a swingy enough game that your MF rating will drop like a rock if you play enough of these folks.

however, even on my worst losing streaks to these players, my iso rating wouldn't drop much at all!  i'd always remain quite a bit higher than i was at my lowest points when i was just playing evenly-matched opponents.  i suspect this is because i was still winning a much higher % of games overall, and perhaps you could argue that's a better way of doing it.  it just doesn't feel right to me that if i cared about nothing but iso, i should dodge Titandrake and spend all night playing against WeedGoku69.  i'm curious if others have noticed this and if i'm alone in feeling this way...

hello everyone, i've been thinking about making comparison threads to help us better gauge the strength of different cards/strategies.  this one occurred to me after a recent game where i tried the latter and got destroyed by the former.  this was with one of the $5 Smithy variants, Journeyman or Catacombs i think.

basically, i've heard Wandering Winder (IIRC) argue that any decent terminal draw-BM strat should beat a Minion stack if there's no other support for the Minions.  "support" in this case means other virtual coin or any trashing.  the argument is that your deck will choke on green in a hurry and you won't be able to play enough of those Minions for money, but now i'm not so sure.

i think in the BM seat, you may have to green even earlier than normal so the Minion player won't have time to get all 10 of them.  in the game i mentioned, my opponent got all 10 and hardly had a problem reaching $8.  that still sounds so sketchy though, and it really makes me question that advice.

any thoughts?

Game Reports / "Gear BM beats lots of engines"
« on: June 16, 2016, 03:07:33 pm »
yeah, i'm feeling more and more like the forums overrated this one

maybe instead of council room i should've gotten more gears & stables?  feel like i needed some big draw with hamlet as the village tho

Dominion Videos and Streams / FrankerFaceZ & why yall gotta get on it
« on: June 07, 2016, 07:21:32 pm »
hi everyone, there's a browser extension for Twitch that's become increasingly popular as of late, and i think our scene could have some fun with it. that would be...


so the main thing this does is allow anyone to create & view custom emotes for specific channels, though they have to be approved by the people in charge of the extension (so as to prevent stuff that's too lewd etc.).  imagine being able to post a pic of Silver in Mic's chat...or in SCSN's chat : - )  or you could add the Tactician's facepalm - the possibilities are endless!

again, the emotes are tied to channels, so you'd have to submit the same thing twice if you wanted to use it in 2 different channels.  but yea that's the gist of it.

oh yeah, and you can use phrases as emotes but they'd probably have to be really short ones due to Twitch size limits.  like "Thinning is Whinning" is almost certainly too much.  you'd also have to put them in picture form somehow, obviously.

anyway, there you go & have fun~

hello, from time to time i'll see people show up halfway through a league match because it took that long to get twitch's notification e-mail.  the issue here is simple:

twitch's notification system sucks and has sucked for as long as i can remember

my personal solution to this is simple - bookmark the "Live Channels You Follow" page and check it whenever you're jonesin for some dopeminion or maro maker or YOLANDA

that's all, enjoy~

Introductions / so hey i never did this
« on: March 11, 2016, 09:50:29 am »
hello everybody!  i figured now that i'm a League moderator, i should finally give a proper introduction.

my name is Josh and i've bounced around all sorts of competitive gaming.  i'm most well-known as a video-game speedrunner (particularly classic Castlevania) and a fighting-game tournament player, and i've also put tons of time into Power Grid.  my pal Withhelde (not sure if she has an account here or not) got me into Dominion last summer, and it's become my new main game.

outside of Dominion i'm also a voracious reader, particularly on sociopolitical issues, and i started going to the gym every day recently.  i have a particular strange fascination with professional wrestling that goes back to my childhood...i discovered it at the tail end of the Hulkamania days, then got back into it when Stone Cold & The Rock (whom you may know as "that buff Samoan dude in all those Fast & The Furious movies") blew up.  i was the exact age of their target audience in both cases, so i guess it's not a huge surprise it would catch on with me.

i even made a thread in the General forum to share all kinds of wonderful rasslin' wackiness, so stop on by from time to time if you want a laugh or a unique story.  i just posted something involving a member of the prime minister's cabinet in Japan!

EDIT: oh yeah, and i would rather play a Cultist cage match for the League than do any forum games.  i tried forum Mafia once elsewhere.  never again...

General Discussion / pro wrestling is a goddamn credit to the human race
« on: February 15, 2016, 06:50:53 pm »
and i am not ashamed of this opinion in the slightest. to wit:

here we have a canadian wrestling promotion doing a friday the 13th ripoff during the height of that franchise's popularity, something that should be totally forgettable.  and yet jason's partner in crime, the zodiak, makes it something more by doing these batshit crazy green-screen interviews talking about throwing lady luck into a black hole and lord knows what else.  it's probably even better under the influence, but that ain't my jam and i still dig this.  this is the best example i can find atm

plenty more to come...oh yeah, this isn't even the tip of the tip of the iceberg~

Dominion General Discussion / dominion expansions vs. video-game updates
« on: February 14, 2016, 11:39:15 pm »
hello everyone, i just wrote a blog post targeted toward my friends & stream viewers explaining why my tastes have shifted over the years, and happened to think of something we could discuss here.

i'm not going to link the whole damn thing here, so i'll just paste the relevant part.

"Another question that I sometimes get is “why Dominion and not fighting games?”  Part of it is that traveling to tournaments is far less convenient now that I have a full-time job, and I haven’t gotten a console since my 360 died.  But the real reason, again, is that I just have way more passion for the former now.  Fighting games are meant to be disposable, and even the ones that last a while have major updates coming out every year or two.  These updates obsolete a lot of knowledge from the previous version, so I regard them as being somewhat like new games.  Since it takes years to master any competitive game worth its salt, these update schedules ultimately limit the potential of the game.

With a tabletop game like Dominion, on the other hand, expansions simply add to the experience instead of taking things away.  When Dark Ages comes out, the following year’s expansion doesn’t go back and nerf stuff from it (and trust me, Dark Ages has a few cards that could reeeeaaaaalllllly stand some nerfing); the Dark Ages cards are left as-is, and their presence is factored into the balancing of future cards.  Thus, each Dominion expansion gets time to breathe, as the strategy with its cards can evolve even while new cards keep coming out.  Dark Ages came out in mid-2012, and it wasn’t until late 2014-2015(?) that people began realizing Urchin was a legitimate god-tier card rather than “very good”.  If Dominion were a fighting game, the other Dark Ages cards that people hated from the beginning (e.g. Cultist & Rebuild) would’ve been neutered a year later, while Urchin would’ve slipped under the radar until the developers had moved on to Dominion 2 and it was too late to fix things.  Oh yeah, and Saboteur (a rather bad card, for those who don’t know) would’ve been nerfed at some point because “it makes the game unfun when it’s good”.

Dominion’s approach means you have a few broken cards that make the game less fun & interesting with their presence, but I’ll gladly take that when it allows the game to develop like competitive games should.  It even came out in the same year as Street Fighter IV and has another expansion due later this year, so I think it’s safe to say it will outlive the 800-pound gorilla of the fighting-game scene.  Since I’ve gotten pretty jaded toward compressed life cycles with age, this has a lot of appeal to me!

It doesn’t hurt that Dominion’s top players are the most welcoming and helpful you’ll ever find.  Players ranked top 5 in the world will watch any random scrub’s stream (*raises hand*) and drop all kinds of wisdom as long as you aren’t a dick.  It’s a refreshing change of pace, coming from a scene that prided itself on not helping others even before esports got involved.  These kinds of games also breed much more analytical top players, which is something I in particular need to break plateaus.  Picture a top 20 consisting entirely of Viscants, and you’ll get the idea."

i don't expect anyone here to know who viscant is, but i think you understand what i'm getting at there.  so i'd be interested to hear how you feel about this topic, how accurate you think i'm being with this, etc.  hopefully i didn't screw up the urchin point too badly!

Dominion General Discussion / what makes a good non-engine game?
« on: December 12, 2015, 03:38:11 pm »
hello everyone, today's league championship match has sparked a fascinating discussion and i'd like to bring it here!

so every single board submitted for the championship was centered around some sort of engine, and some folks like mic & WW were disappointed in that.  i think what it shows is that this community has been strongly conditioned to think of engine games as the true form of dominion, and that there's not a lot of depth to our exploration of other styles nowadays.

speaking for myself, i don't have much of a clue as to what makes a slog or money board stand out enough to be championship-worthy, and i suspect the same is true for the vast majority of post-iso players.  it seems like the veterans have a better grasp there since those styles were thought to be stronger a few years ago and thus were discussed a lot more, though this is just an educated guess on my part.

so, i invite those who know their stuff to answer the question in the thread title!  we could also benefit from a debunking of the "non-engine games don't have interesting decisions" narrative, since that's widely accepted to at least some degree.  i think opening this up would not only make for cooler championship matches, it would help us newer players in general. =)

Dominion Videos and Streams / potential ways of signal-boosting streams?
« on: November 13, 2015, 09:27:29 pm »
hi everyone, this is an area i've been thinking about for a bit and i've come up with something.

so a neat thing you can do on twitch is hosting.  this is most effective if you've just finished streaming and another one is live or just about to start, and i think i've seen some players do that before.

i'm trying something a bit different, though: hosting a stream on mine and just inviting people to chat in there.  the idea is that i can break down the absolute basic stuff to go along with the stream's more advanced commentary, which i think would be more engaging to new viewers than just going into the actual stream where the chat is all experts & memelords.  the actual stream still gets credit for the viewers through hosting, and it gives you a button to follow them, so it wouldn't cannibalize the way a restream would.  i brought this up on twitter and am going to try it with the titandrake-pubby match and future A/B matches in the league.

anyone with a pre-existing audience from elsewhere could do this, i think.  any other suggestions?

Help! / funkdoc's journey to 5k (& beyond)
« on: July 02, 2015, 07:31:43 pm »
hi all, figured this would be a good move since i signed up for the dominion league!

so i've been playing online for a bit under a month and am hanging around 4600-4700 and iso level 23-24 atm.  seems like a good start but i'm still missing a lot of general concepts...


Dominion League S09 vs. gkrieg (video)

i can't always grab logs when i post questions, and this is such a case.  i remember the important stuff on the board though, so here's the deal with a game from this morning:

so the relevant cards on this board (province/estates game) were plaza, tournament, young witch (w/ cellar as the bane), governor, and king's court.  my thought process here was as follows -


- without much early draw (figure you'd want to do other things with governor) and only governor for trashing, i figured cellar would be important even if it weren't the bane.  with that, i didn't think young witch would be worth it since it seemed like you'd have a deck loaded with cantrips to get drawn dead.

- i didn't want any silver or gold at all.  this seemed like a game where you wanted to sift through your coppers to trigger the big stuff.  the opponent's governors would probably give me some silver anyway.

- tournament is its usual self, since you want cantrips & virtual money anyway.  princess is the only +buy and trusty steed/followers are the only handsize increasers without king's court, soooooooo

- plazas should still be good even without early terminals since you can stockpile tokens for king's courts etc., and governor + king's court = mmmmmmmm. governor can also turn estates into engine pieces, which i figure is more important than gaining gold early.

- peddler is also on the board, but with no +buy besides

so, long story short, i make a huge mistake opening plaza (forgot tournament was on the board for a second).  cellar is my other opening buy (opponent bought young witch on turn 1).  i stick to the basic idea outlined above, getting a governor at $5 and the first king's court via tokens.  however, my opponent gets a bunch of silver and gold and grabs 2 provinces pretty quickly.  my economy & cycling suffer greatly from getting my tournaments blocked, i have a few curses in my deck from young witch & followers, and they get all of the good prizes before i'm anywhere near a province.  i ended up resigning for like the 2nd time ever (still feels weird to me coming from games where quitting early is a huge no-no).

i'm guessing i had to get young witch even with the bane being a valuable card...the draw would've helped more than it hurt, it seems.  and i guess tournament meant i had to get early gold?  feels wrong to me in the long run but i guess racing for the prizes is more important than smoothing things out for your king's court turns...

thank in advance for any suggestions! =)

hi all,

so i've been playing the heck out of power grid on BSW for well over a year now, and am considering picking up another game.  dominion appears to be the likely answer, but i see a conundrum here...

i have no intention of getting the physical game (for the foreseeable future anyway).  this would be strictly online grinding.  problems there are:

- apparently nobody knows when the new expansion will be added to the online version

- there's that mysterious steam version that's supposedly coming out not TOO far from now?

basically i'm not sure if it's worth shelling out any money on goko, or if i should just wait for the steam release.  i'm kinda blindly assuming the steam one would have all the expansions considering how long this game's been around, so please let me know if there's something i'm missing here!

i guess i could just play the AI on goko with the base deck for now to figure out the fundamentals...but then what?  i would greatly appreciate any advice here.  i'm more than willing to pay to play online - i just don't want to end up doing it twice!

Power Grid General Discussion / Individual Power Plant Articles
« on: September 02, 2014, 12:21:11 pm »
hi again yall

i took a break from this game for a while, but i've started playing some again and began writing a bunch more. i thought it would be neat if this game had something like the twilight strategy site, which has an article for each card in that game. thus i began doing comprehensive articles for each plant in power grid!

i tend to cover a lot of different values, resource management, opening builds with starting plants, longer-term strategies for endgame plants, you name it! each article has separate sections for 2-player and multiplayer games, although i also break down the differences between 3-6 players in the multiplayer section. i really try to show situational uses for much-maligned plants such as the 11, 07, and even 06 (yes, it's not worthless!). even i can't put lipstick on the 14, though!

i am doing these in numerical order and am currently up to the infamous 20. currently these are hosted on my personal blog that i wasn't using before, at . if adam is interested in posting these on his site, i would be more than down once i finish all of them! hoping to accomplish that by the end of this week, and don't want it to take much longer than that at worst.

feel free to dicuss here, and hope you enjoy =)

EDIT: just made a huge update to the plant 18 article, with a lot more info on plants that work well with the mid-tier greens!

hello everyone! after grinding more BSW and figuring out some ideas i have not seen posted anywhere online, i figured i would try to explain them myself! adam has expressed interest in articles from others to post on the blog, and this is my response. =)

i have attached this as a word document. do note that it's kind of a doozy - over 5000 words! this may be better to split into a 2-parter, perhaps, in which case i would have to edit a tad bit.

among the topics highlighted: which plants make the most money, which of those plants make the best combinations for a money-focused strategy, why you don't need to worry about your capacity deficit, whether to overbuild before step 3 with this strategy, why money beats early capacity in high-level 3-4 player games but *not* average ones, and potential counter-strategies for this.

i would definitely appreciate any feedback. hope you enjoy! =)

Power Grid General Discussion / starting builds: the fundamentals
« on: January 23, 2014, 05:45:22 pm »
choosing where to place your initial city (or, more often, cities) is one of the most important decisions in this game, yet there doesn't seem to be a lot of in-depth posting about this online. i still make my fair share of mistakes here but have improved greatly from even a month ago, so i can give you what i have learned thus far!

first off, there's the matter of whether to build 1 or 2 cities with a 1-capacity starting plant. i've seen people on BGG go "you can't power a second city and you're giving up the turn-order advantage from your lower-numbered plant, so why do it?"  yet if you watch good online players, you'll quickly notice that single builds are the exception and not the rule, regardless of starting plant. why?

the key is carving out enough of a cheap area that nobody else can possibly reach 5 cities if they start there!  a great example is the dirt-cheap red region in Germany, with the green & blue regions removed.  the standard build with the 03 plant here is Kassel + Dortmund, as you cross the expensive bridge to all the cheap stuff and get great expansion possibilities for Step 2 thanks to Kassel's multiple connections to yellow. if you merely single build in Kassel, someone else can do an opening triple build and steal most of your cheap red cities, forcing you into an expensive jump somewhere or other; taking Dortmund leaves less open territory and makes future jumps in red very cheap for you, killing the incentive for good opponents to do this. single building in Dortmund is not nearly as bad, but someone else will surely take Kassel and make it harder for you to expand out of red - this also means you'll get 6 cities instead of 7 during Step 1, potentially leaving you at the mercy of a stall.  the advantages of taking those two cities at once easily outweigh the worse turn order on the second turn, especially since Germany has no safe single builds at all unless you're late in the opening build order (in which case it's worthwhile with the 09 or 13).

in order for a single build to be "safe", it should lie in a central city that connects to two separate small clusters of cities in that region, and those clusters shouldn't offer enough territory themselves to be worth starting in.  the classic example on the USA map is Chicago, with Minneapolis/Duluth/Fargo behind it and St.Louis/Cincinnati/Knoxville in front of it. if the Northwest is not in play, all of these cities should be safely yours except for St. Louis if the Mid-South region is in play.  if the Northwest is in play, on the other hand, building in Chicago alone is no longer safe since another player can take Minneapolis + Omaha - in this case, the optimal Midwest build becomes Chicago + Minneapolis.  Washington, DC is also a strong single build on USA - at worst it's like the Dortmund single build except with much better expansion options, and it becomes even better when the Southeast is in play.  heck, even a single build in Savannah or Jacksonville can be good when the Northeast isn't in play since those are central cities as well.

you absolutely do NOT want to single build in an extremely cheap region which is also connected to other extremely cheap regions.  it's just too easy for multiple opponents to surround you and force you into jumps, which means you won't be able to keep up with them in money or territory.  think of the northern half of Italy, or Benelux in general!

so as mentioned before, the majority of good starting builds are double builds.  the most important aspect of a good double build, as suggested by the Germany example, is locking up a region or a multi-region cluster of 6-7 cities to yourself.  for a great example of the latter, we'll go back to Germany with Hamburg + Schwerin. when green & brown are in play, this build guarantees you the cheapest cities outside of the red/blue cluster; those cities are just disconnected enough from each other that nobody else should build there, but your two starting cities will give you the direct route to all of them.  another time where it's good to start in 2 different regions is when you're taking the only connection to one of those regions and it's expensive for anyone else to jump past you into that region.  Germany (yes, AGAIN, i know!) has a powerful one when blue & purple are in play but yellow is not, as you can take Stuttgart + the blue city just north of it (forget the name, sorry!).  nobody else will have a direct route into purple, and the blue city also has enough decently-priced connections in blue that players shouldn't build near you there either!  though this may seem unattractive since purple is easily the most expensive region in Germany, having that many cities to yourself means you'll never have to worry about getting blocked until Step 3.

these trans-regional builds are also the exception, however.  most good starting double builds will simply aim to claim a single region for yourself - when in doubt, go for the build that best "divides" the cities around you and makes it the most expensive for others to jump into your area.

finally for now, i would like to touch on the rare triple build!  i've never seen this discussed on BGG or this blog, but good online players will start with 3 cities in certain situations.  this is almost always done with the 03 plant since these builds are made in the cheapest areas, so money will be a challenge for the next few turns...but it can be very strong if you manage that well.

first, i should mention the best situations to do this.  the most popular triple build online is also the most obvious one: all 3 "cities" in Paris!  i am only a fan of this move if purple & brown are both open, though i have seen some players use it even if one of those regions is gone.  it also happens a lot in Germany when red & blue are open, as someone can take 3 cities somewhere in that whole cheap cluster.  the last one i have seen is the most interesting one to me and a move i never would have considered before playing online: Savannah + Atlanta + Birmingham when the Northeast is not open. you can only afford this build if you pay $3 or $4 for the 03, but it gives you a uniquely powerful map position compared to the other builds mentioned.

as mentioned before, the main challenge with this type of move is building up your money and plants over the next few turns.  in maps besides France this is easier since the 13 plant is the ideal fit for you on turn 2; you can start with 2 spots in Paris + another city in France, but the big jump in cost just cripples your plant buys too much to be worth it.  if you make this build in a 4-player non-France game, the 13 will not be available when you go up to bid on turn 2, so just put the 10 up for auction and pass if someone else wants it (or happily take it at cost if nobody else wants it).  if you're in a 3-player game and cannot even bid for the 10 on turn 2, i would not make this build to begin with since you will be forced to either pass or take an awful plant then.  in a 6-player game where the 13 will be taken as a starting plant, i still like this build since map position becomes even more important and you should have something decent on the market for turn 2.

anyway, once you get your 13 or 10, hang back until another decent plant shows up. i would go for something like the 16 or another green plant if you can try it - otherwise, just have patience until you build up some money and start to drop in the turn order.  an exceptionally dry early market will likely keep you from winning, so be sure to pay attention to the plants in the futures market before deciding on your build!

that's about it for now...i'd like to put together a list of optimal starting builds for various maps and map configs, but that would take a lot longer than this!

Power Grid General Discussion / why 21 is the most underrated plant
« on: January 05, 2014, 01:42:03 am »
so in one of my previous posts i had mentioned that i would make an entire thread devoted to plant 21 (2 coal/oil -> 4 cities) and why my friend & i rank it in the top 10 overall on USA/Germany style maps (i.e. a "normal" resource structure with no extra gimmicks that would affect things). it's not just us, either; the best online players will pay around $40 for this plant (and the also-controversial 20 plant, as well) a decent amount of the time! this tends to be the most contested of all of our rankings, as people often say "it's not an endgame plant outside of 5-6 player and there are more efficient 4-caps, so why bother?"

the answer can't easily be summed up in a single sentence. the 21's strengths are the most multifaceted of any plant - i like to call it the swiss army knife of power grid plants! so let's break this down in detail...

the first key factor here is that the 21 is the lowest-numbered 4-cap plant and also has a lower number than all but one 5-cap plant. when you compare this to the other 4-caps that look better on paper (28 & 29) it's a wide gap with some very important plants in between. having turn-order advantage over the 25 & 26 (the absolute 2 best plants in the game imo, as discussed before) is a huge deal, and there's also the 24 (good in 5-6 player) and even the 27 somewhat (decent in 6-player or if it comes onto the market very early).

probably more important than turn order, however, is how much earlier the 21 becomes available on average than the other 4-caps of interest or the vast majority of "endgame" plants. you can often get this plant during step 1, and i think that more than makes up for having to replace it at the end. obviously, the earlier you get the plant the more money you'll make from it...but there's also the fact that you are preparing yourself well for the midgame plant market stall by grabbing the 21 early on. this is one area where the "capacity is king" mentality promoted by many players on BGG and this blog can end up biting you in the ass - if you go in hard for the 25 or 26 and miss out on it, then ignore this plant, you could very well end up stuck with nothing while staring at a row of plants in the teens for the next 3 turns! or alternately, you could hugely overpay for one of those 5-caps because OMG I GOTTA GET AN ENDGAME PLANT NOW, when you would've been better off stopping and just taking the 21 for much less (speaking from plenty of experience on this one!). in these types of scenarios, the extra money you gain from the 21 will definitely make it worth having to buy another plant at the end.

the other factor that makes the 21 so strong is its combination of being a hybrid plant and using 2 resources instead of 1 or 3. this is where the "swiss army knife" element comes in - you can "play defense" by buying the cheaper resource if there's a big gap between coal & oil prices, or use its storage capacity to buy a bunch of the scarcer resource if this will attack a threatening player. though the 29 looks more appealing than the 21 with its efficiency, it really isn't much cheaper to run if you go the defensive route, and it's much weaker for offense since you can only store 2 pieces on it instead of 4. given that it's better to buy the more expensive resource for your hybrid the majority of the time, i give the edge to the 21 here as well. these properties also make it a useful storage plant for the last turn, and having extra resources for the end gives you a lot of extra flexibility in choosing your final plant!

so to try and condense all of this into a single paragraph: the 21 has excellent turn priority given its capacity, and it tends to show up early enough that it will more than pay for your last plant while putting you in a very good to great position when the plant market stalls in the midgame. the latter part also applies to the 28 & 29 when those become available that early in the game, but that happens significantly less often due to their much higher numbers. the 21's medium efficiency and hybrid status allow you to run it at least fairly cheaply or strongly attack a scarce resource as needed, as well as stockpile resources for the last turn, and that level of versatility is unparalleled in this game. put it all together and you have a plant which can be worth double its starting price even in in 3-4 player games, if it's early enough and you know the market is going dry.

Power Grid General Discussion / ranking the starting plants
« on: December 31, 2013, 07:44:02 pm »
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.

Power Grid General Discussion / ranking the best plants in power grid
« on: December 29, 2013, 04:32:03 am »
so i've played a ton of power grid with a friend who kicks my ass at least 90% of the time and has a rather unique mind for this game, and we've had many long discussions about elements of strategy which i rarely if ever see discussed on forums.  with that in mind, i figured i'd start with what i think is one of the more cut-and-dried ones: determining the best overall plant in the game!

what do i mean by "best"?  well, obviously there are many plants that can be the best available for a specific situation, but i am referring to the plant that is the most useful in the largest number of different situations.  this includes several components besides the obvious capacity & efficiency:

- turn order advantage/disadvantage compared to other "top plants" people are likely to have when a given plant generally becomes available.

- length of time the plant can be useful.  obviously part of this is being a legit endgame plant, but there are other factors which tend to be remembered less; consider how early the plant can make money, as well as how early the plant comes onto the market on average.  this is why i don't like to rank plants in the top 10 if they're almost never available outside of step 3, for example.

- safety of the plant's resource, particularly in the endgame.

- a bit of a flipside to the above...ability of a plant to "play offense" by driving up prices for others as it runs.  hybrid plants are the strongest in this regard, as they often allow you to switch between "offense" or "defense" (buying the cheaper resource) as needed.

- how strong a position the plant gives you on turn 1.  this applies to a small subset of plants and i would never consider a starting plant to be the overall best on any map, but the start is so key that i would rank the 04 and the 08 in the overall top 10 plants for USA/Germany.  probably even the 03 for USA...

with all of this in mind, i think i have a good answer to this question for USA/Germany and other maps with a similar resource structure.  on these, i would say that the best overall plant is the 26, and it's not even particularly close.

this may seem odd to some since the 26 has low-end endgame capacity and medium efficiency, but let's look at those additional factors we just talked about:

- turn order is a major strength.  it only "loses" here to two 5-capacity plants and two 4-caps.

- you can buy this plant on turn 2 and make money right away, and it should last you the entire game...can't get much better than that!  it's also available earlier on average than the vast majority of endgame plants.

- i think out of all the resources, oil provides the best balance of safety and attacking other players.  it definitely hurts others to drive up the price, but it's significantly less likely than coal to be completely run out.  there are just very few early oil plants worth buying, and in my experience the 32 is the only other endgame oil plant with a decent chance of coming out before step 3.

as a point of comparison, i think the 25 is the second best plant under the same conditions.  it has most of the same advantages as the 26 and an additional turn-order advantage, but it forces you to deal with the scariness of the endgame coal market. its efficiency and lower number often make this manageable enough not to drop this plant further, though.

i used to think the 30 was in a class by itself as the #1 plant: extremely safe (and often cheap by the end!) resource, great capacity, one of the only 6-caps you can realistically get before step 3, and incredible turn order for how powerful it is.  then i played a (smaller) game where i was able to buy it on the 3rd turn...and that one move cost me the game.  it just sat there collecting dust too long, as it took me a couple more turns to even reach 6 cities and trash had a worse ROI than coal & oil at that point (not to mention the much lower step 1 restock rate).  if that had been the 25 or 26 in that position, i could very well have won instead of finishing last!  however, i would still say the 30 is the third best plant thanks to everything else mentioned.

so to conclude all of this, in no particular order after the top 3 our top-ranked plants on maps with "normal" resources would be something like this:

20 (by far the hardest plant to play properly, but big rewards when you do)
21 (hands down most underrated plant imo, will make an entire thread about this one in the future)
38 (yea it's basically step 3 only, but a 7-cap with such a safe resource belongs here)

#10 spot is where it starts to get murky for me but i lean toward 03 for most games on maps that aren't "balanced" a la Germany.  don't like 31/36 since they generally don't come out until the point when coal starts to suck, and 46 has some of the same problems though the hybrid element helps quite a bit.  i feel like 39 & 50 (and usually 40 as well) just blend together and you don't lose much if you miss out on one of them and "settle" for another.  29 could be argued for 5- & 6-player games but i just don't think it's all that special when the 28 and even the 24 are there - really don't like the turn order for a 4-cap, but maybe that's not as big a deal as i think...

would be very curious to hear thoughts on this, and rankings for maps with different resource structures!

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