Power Grid just came out last week, and the fact that the new games have been at best a trickle showed through in that this was apparently “all Power Grid, all the time” night with no less than 3 games going by 7:15. We played on the US map after I had a few mild concerns about the Germany map last time I played. We played with 4, so we eliminated the western-most areas which left mostly cheaper connections, and lead to a shorter game (under two hours, actually) and a slightly easier game for the new players. This map seemed to play a little more cleanly with 4 players than the German map with the “continental divide” down the middle. The under-two-hours playing time was also a huge relief after the 4-hour marathon my first game was; two hours or so is where this wants to be, I think. All in all, I remain impressed by Power Grid and feel it’s an improvement over the original. There is still can be a touch of arbitrary hoseage – one of our players got hammered when the remaining decent plants refused to come out in late phase 2 – but not enough to derail the game for me, especially now with the shorter playing time.
Traders of Genoa is one of the absolute great negotiation games in my opinion, and after playing again after a bit of a hiatus I may have to go over to BoardGameGeek and up my rating to a 10. If there is a German-style game that is a more intense, constantly engaging way to spend 90-120 minutes, I don’t know what it is. This is a game that forces you to keep thinking and adjusting literally constantly. It’s a wonderful economic/risk management game, and I actually think it manages to capture the spirit of its theme remarkably well, the many unknowns of the renaissance trading market. That said, this playing frustrated me a little bit. Early on, competition for Goods was intense, with actions at those buildings being bid up to 20 Florins and over – so I got out and went after the privileges. This started out well – but after I had quickly wrapped up all but 4, I was still left with 4 disjoint groups and a rather weak position. At this point, the rest of the table started over-valuing the privileges and not being willing to work any sort of deal with me for the remaining privileges. This was frustrating because I knew at that point I was sitting on a last-place position, but it was one that appeared stronger than it should have (the odds of having a killer group of privileges when there are still 4-5 out there is still pretty small). One thing I definitely neglected, if you’re going to go the privilege route, you need to accelerate the game by using the “any start space” tile to start in the center as often as possible. They just peak too early compared to the large contracts. Also, I just became too focussed on acquiring those last couple privileges – once it was clear nobody was selling at any price, I should have been diversifying much more aggressively than I was. This is a game that, while a definite strategic focus is required to win, brutally punishes tunnel vision. A great game.