Game Night

This is my second playing of Power Grid with 6 players, and my opinion of the 6-player version of the game took a bit of a hit. There are two factors: first off, the playing time is definitely increased with 6, to about 2.5 hours. The first time I played with 6, when Power Grid was new, 2.5 hours was not that big a deal – but now, having played a number of times, it seemed to drag a bit. The 1:50 that the 4-player game seems to come in at is much more reasonable.

However, this is not the critical problem. The problem seems to be that with the lower victory conditions for connected cities, there is really only one viable strategy – buy one of the 2-valued plant out of the gate, make sure your second plant can power 4 cities (preferably, snag the first such plant that becomes available, even if you don’t need it and could be building useful connections instead), and buy a total of only 4 plants. It seems that the middle-game, the process of cycling through the mid-valued plants, has simply been eliminated and the game lost a lot of depth. Additionally, it seemed like the board (we were using the US board) was far too tight for 6 players – the cities would be completely filled up pretty quickly after the phase changes, and later players would have literally no build options, not even very expensive ones.

I don’t know if the original Funkenschlag had these problems, because I would never play the original with 6 players (far too long). I think, though, that I may have to strike Power Grid from the list of good 6-player games after all, although I’ll still be quite happy to play it with 4 or 5.

Ticket to Ride is a game I’ve enjoyed, but felt it had a minor balance issue – specifically, that playing all the tiny routes down the middle was a loser, just because they are so inefficient – they take the same time (one of your turns) to get down as a 6-length connection, but get you many fewer points. This had been backed up by the fact that every game I’d played had been won by completing big transcontinental routes using the large connections in the far north or south. However, at KublaCon I saw a player win decisively by developing the middle and completing lots of tickets.

So I tried this strategy myself this game. On the one hand, I didn’t win (I was in a somewhat distant second). On the other hand, I drew 6 tickets late in the game, and if I had drawn even a single one that I had any chance at all of completing, I could have won – as it turned out, I just had to keep the ones that lost me the fewest points. Bad luck, not even a single plausible connection.

Bottom line, Ticket to Ride is, I think, better-balanced than I initially gave it credit for. There is still a lot of luck in the ticket draws (especially your initial hand), and the lack of any easily identifiable “fun factor” keeps me from rating it in the top tier, but it’s definitely a good, solid game, which I now have on order.

While I was playing Ticket to Ride, Kim was trying out Dos Rios. No detailed report yet, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was a solid, interesting and quite different game, but had a bit of the Tikal Syndrome, i.e., somewhat calculational turns and not much you can do while waiting to go next. I look forward to giving it a shot myself.

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