Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Posts Tagged ‘Power Grid’

Game Day — Sept. 11, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on September 12, 2011

Mike arrived around noon but, unfortunately, Dave was sick so it was just the three of us. That didn’t stop us from having a great day. Especially me since I won all of the non-cooperative games we played. Unbelievable. As penance, Mike said I didn’t get to choose any of the games we play next time. 😉

We started with Mike’s new game. Is that a surprise, that Mike has a new game? No, not even a little bit.

Gears of War is a cooperative game based on a video game on the Xbox. Not having a ‘box, I can’t comment on how well it integrates the video game into a board game but as a board game, we had a blast with it. We started with the first scenario, slowly breaking us in to the rules and game play, and we managed to beat it without too much trouble. Since it was fun and all set up, I suggested we try the next scenario which Mike said sounded tough. Know what? He was right. About half way through, the Berserker babe laid two of us down and her cohorts gathered around the final member of our party for the kill. One thing I especially liked about the game play is that taking a wound means you discard a card from you hand. This hand management aspect neatly represents a lack of choices and control. The more wounded you are, the less you’re able to do. I won’t run out to add this game to my collection, but I’d be happy to play again.

Gears of War

Gears of War towards the end of the first scenario.

Next was a serious change of pace from the co-ops and deck-building games we’ve been playing recently:  Formula D. Mike introduced us to Formula De years ago when we first started gaming together and I enjoyed the push-your-luck style of this racing game enough to buy my own copy when it was reprinted. I love the personal cards that keep track of a player’s Wear Points and the gear they’re in, but I really, really wish the cars were of better quality like the original.

Formula D1

Mike's lead after making it through the street of potholes.

I wanted to try the city side of the map which adds some new features to the original. There’s a stretch of street that is badly in need of repair, possibly causing damage to cars racing over the rough spots; there’s an area with grumpy citizens who may shoot at the loud cars racing through their neighborhood; and there’s a police station where the racer with the fastest time past it is rewarded with Wear Points. The final touch to the street racing is the personalization of your car and driver, each with a special ability that may help them through the race.

We ran a one-lap race, Mike taking the pole position and Richard at the back of the pack. Mike started off with a substantial lead which lasted until he blew through a corner half way through the race and spun out, causing him to restart in first gear. The crowd went wild… well, at least I did. I caught up to him and passed him in the final corner. It was only after the hand-shaking and award ceremony were over that Richard mentioned that Mike could have thrown his radio at me as I passed him. That was his character’s special ability. Depending on the roll, that might have done me enough damage to take me out of the race!

Formula D-2

And the little red car is across the finish line! Richard's blue car crashed in the foreground.

Power Grid has become one of our staple games so I didn’t think anyone would complain when I suggested it, this time with the central Europe map. As we become more comfortable with this game, we also become more aggressive. Well, maybe that’s just me.

Richard became cornered early in the game which slowed him down and made Mike my main competition. When a power plant came up that used 3 garbage to power 6 cities, that fit me perfectly because I was already using garbage. With my fistful of money I fought Mike for it until it was mine– for a measly $85 when it started at 30. Towards the end of the game with the possibility for anyone to win, one of the last power plants to come up was another one that powered 6 cities. If I won it, I would be able to power 18 cities and keep Mike from being able to power 17. If Mike won it, he’d be able to power 17 and so would I but he had more money to build to the requisite cities. I kept upping his bid until we were around 80 again, Richard also in the bidding because he needed another big plant as well. Mike pointed out that he had over $200 and I told he he better bring it. Ooooo, scary, huh? And tense. Mike finally dropped out after Richard bid $110. And evil person that I am, I let him have it and kept my money for building to cities. This cut Richard too short of money to buy enough materials, giving me the win. It was glorious!

Power Grid

Final positions: I'm blue, Richard is red and Mike is black.

After a break for supper, veggie chili and banana cake, I wanted to see how a trick-taking game I’ve had for ages plays and said it would only take 5 minutes. Bargain Hunter, like many trick-taking games these days, has a theme to try to explain the twists in traditional card games. In this game there are 6 colors in numbers 1-9, and you are collecting bargains (a particular number card) which everyone knows. After taking a trick, you set aside any bargain card you took onto your Bargain pile and the rest go into your Junk pile. The Junk pile is sorted through at the end of the hand (Spring Cleaning) to look for possible new bargains which will be your new target for the next hand. I had a hard time even explaining this game since it feels so weird to me to paste a theme onto a traditional card game but we finally made it through a couple of hands with only a couple clarifications. We played a whole game, 6 hands, which took us a little more than the five minutes I’d asked for. We each had a fair pile of Junk to cancel out our Bargains sure that not a one of us had a positive score so we were surprised when Mike had a point and I had two! It’s an interesting game but it needs more play time to become comfortable with it. Richard remarked that he’d like to play it again so I know he liked it even though he came in last with -1.

The final game of the day was Eurorails, one of the crayon rail games. Richard and I have played our 3 versions more than any other game I own but we’ve never been able to play it with more than 2 people so this was a little different for us. And great fun. There’s just something about the planning and logistics of these games that touches some part of your brain that no other game can touch. Our game lasted about 2 hours which is pretty good for 3 players but we helped Mike find cities and goods on the map, and when visiting a city to pick up goods, you just say, “pick up such-and-such” and another player got the chip for you while you keep on counting your movement.  At a point when my train was next to Mike’s, Richard told Mike to throw his radio at me! I can see that this is going to be a running joke around here, throwing your radio to slow down your competition. I like it. 😉

It was a very good day of very good games. I’m only sad that Dave couldn’t join us.


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Game Day: Aug. 14th, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on August 15, 2011

Mike and Dave showed up about 11:00, Mike with an armload of games and Dave with his left hand bandaged up and two fingers splinted. Seems he had a little disagreement with a power tool at work and just barely won.

Being one of the Sundays that Richard has off work, he joined us for a day full of games starting with Ra. We’ve been using Ra: The Dice Game as a closing game since it’s so quick and fun; we all really like it but I figured it was time to teach Dave how to play the father game. It wasn’t too hard to teach with the dice game as a reference and Dave did very well, coming in second to Richard.

Half way through the game Richard had to take a break for a trip into town to feed our daughter’s cat while she’s on vacation. During this forced intermission, I taught Dave and Mike Can’t Stop, a quick push-your-luck dice game that we’ve had since the kids were little–twenty years? I am the poster-child for push-your-luck, in this game particularly. I rarely get a marker on the board the first round and this time was no different. Dave stuck to the most popular numbers he could and conquered the first column (8). Mike was half way up several of the middle columns and I wasn’t too far behind when I decided to take 12 as one of my numbers, then stop. On Mike’s next turn, he also took a 12, followed immediately with rolling four 6s! There went my 12 column. A couple of turns later, with Dave within reach of winning, Mike had to make a serious push to steal a column from him. He rolled 7s until he took the column but he also managed to shove his way into my 2 column and take that as well! Fantastic win for Mike, impressed looks all around.

Can't Stop

This is the version of Can't Stop that I have. Image by BGG Admin

Richard still wasn’t back so Mike showed us the game he got for his kids: Carcassonne Kids. It’s a neat little game to get kids playing with you and teach them the basics of good sportsmanship, and it has wonderful artwork. It took us about 5 minutes to play by which time Richard had returned.

After Ra, I brought out an oldie but goodie: Carolus Magnus. This is an excellent game for two or three but I’ve never had the chance to play it with four in partnership. I partnered with Dave across from me, the only novice in the game, and we got our clocks cleaned quite nicely in almost no time at all. We decided to blame the dice rolls!   We talked our worthy opponents into a second game since the first one was over almost before it had begun. The second one lasted a little longer, was a bit more of a competition and we won, so it was a lot better the second time. *wink*

Carolus Magnus

Carolus Magnus in play. Image by Scott Alden

We next turned to a new game of Mike’s, Puzzle Strike. This is a deck-building game using poker-style chips instead of cards. I admit that I have trouble totally grasping these types of games on the first play mainly due to learning iconography and all the various powers available; it is a lot to internalize immediately, at least for me. And the whole “crash”ing and “trash”ing thing didn’t click for me right away so I struggled with what to do and which way to jump. I glanced at Richard and he probably had the same glazed look that I was wearing. Dave had played before with Mike so he was comfortable with it. In the end, I managed to win seemingly by default. I attacked Richard, the only choice of attack is to your left, who died and sent his extra pieces towards Dave who also died, sending his left over pieces to Mike to also died. I win as the “last man standing”. But somehow it didn’t feel very well earned.

Puzzle Strike

Image of Puzzle Strike from Sirlin Games website.

Looking at the pile of games that Mike had brought, Space Alert, Battlestar Galactica, Wealth of Nations and Stronghold, Dave spoke up with a request for Power Grid. I would never say no to Power Grid! I may say, “Mary, what the hell were you thinking starting right next to Mike to block him off?” but I would never say “no”.

See, here’s the thing: Mike is ‘the one’ in the group. You know, the one who always gets it faster, understands it better, thinks it through quicker, and conceives plans more easily. Thus, he gets picked on…a lot. THAT was the plan. Make life difficult for Mike. Unfortunately, it backfired when Dave proceeded to cut my avenues of escape down to one and it became too expensive to expand. I struggled through the whole game at the back of the pack but was finally gaining ground by the end of the game. I learned a lesson and still had a good time. In fact, my little bit of insanity was the cause of much laughter and hilarity so a good time was had by all. Richard and Dave tied for most cities powered but Dave took the trophy by having more money left.

While Richard went to feed the cat his supper, Mike, Dave and I had some excellent sausage-sweet potato stew from the crock pot and discussed life (you live, you die, and in between you try to find something you love), the universe (42, of course) and everything (we all agreed we hate Elise on Hell’s Kitchen).

By the time Richard came back, Dave’s hand was starting to hurt so we decided on just one more quick game, one that Dave was curious about, Ticket to Ride. I haven’t played  TtR much but when I do, I usually get stomped. I’m not sure why, maybe I try too hard not to fail a ticket, maybe I’m not brave enough to take more tickets, maybe it’s timing. Still, I’ve liked it well enough to get the 1910 expansion so we shuffled them all up and set out the two Bonus cards for longest track and most tickets completed. All three of my opponents started out on the east coast and left the west all to me; how nice! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the blue cards I needed so kinda wandered around but did manage to finish the two tickets I had in the area plus one more I picked up and a couple of 6-track connections. Dave finished up in the east and joined me out west while Richard and Mike each took 3 more tickets and continued expanding their rails. In the end, those extra tickets were their downfall, both taking substantial penalties. Richard got the most tickets completed bonus, Dave connected his east and west routes to win the longest track, but I managed the win by 2 points with my 3 medium length routes and several longer sections. That’s my problem, I’ve never played in the west before! Those longer connections are a pain to get the cards for, but the points really add up.

What a great game day, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I could have done without the hail in the afternoon, but luckily it was just small stuff and the garden didn’t suffer.

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Game Days: June 19 and July 3, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on July 5, 2011

Although I haven’t posted anything for a while, I am still playing and occasionally buying board games. The latest news is that we have another member in our small group: Dave. He’s a local guy that Mike has known for a while and his only day off is Sunday so our game day has moved from Friday to Sunday.

We have been playing a mixed bag of Mike’s games, which generally lean more towards the Ameri-trash end of the spectrum, and mine, which are typically more Eurogame. Our first day together, a couple of weeks ago, we played Survive: Escape From Atlantis, Power Grid, Twilight Emperium and Ra: The Dice Game. We all had a great time and Dave fit into our group very well. He’d never played any of these games but he’s a quick study and, most importantly, he knows that it’s not the winning, it’s the fun that counts.

I had never played Survive before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s an interesting game, very cutthroat but that doesn’t bother me.  I enjoyed it even though I didn’t do very well. Twilight Emperium was also new to me and I could feel my eyes begin to glaze over as the rules explanation began. Dave and I both agreed: just get it going and we’ll see what’s what once we get there. That worked better than an in-depth explanation. It wasn’t necessarily a hit with me although I enjoyed the beginning as you’re growing your civilization.

Next came Power Grid. This has very quickly become a favorite of ours and I was happy to hear that Dave was totally under its spell as well. He did poorly but it was only his first time while Richard, Mike and I all had previous experience with it.  The popularity of Power Grid is well-deserved and actually scared me off of it for… well, until Mike bought it and introduced us to it. I kept thinking it would be a very complicated game if all those geeks made such a fuss over it. I was wrong; the rules and game play are very simple and straight-forward, it’s what you do with them that make this an extraordinary game.

We ended our first game session with a quick game of Ra: The Dice Game. I absolutely love this little filler and could play it over and over again back to back. It’s the perfect way to end a game day.


This Sunday we started with a new acquisition of mine from a trade: Samarkand: Routes to Riches. This is a tricky stock market game dressed up as a friendly camel game. I have to admit that just reading the rules did not lead me to understand the game totally. The rules are simple, really, and took me only 5 minutes to explain the 2 choices you have during your turn, and their implications. This lead to 10 minutes of questions and clarifications from all four of us! Even as we started to play and see for ourselves how this fits together, we were still having little lightbulb moments. By the end of the game we were all quite impressed with how simple but tough this little game is. I would have turned right around and played it again but we must move on…

Samarkand: Routes to Riches

Samarkand, near the end of the game.

Mike had brought 7 Wonders once before when it was only he and I playing and I was not overwhelmed with love for this oh-so-popular game. But I was willing to give it another shot now that we had four players. And I’m very glad I did! I can finally see why people are so enthusiastic about it and I’d join their ranks as owners of the game if it only played as well with 2 as it did with 4. I didn’t win; far from it. But I had a great time and can’t wait to give it another go.

Next up, something familiar and new at the same time: Power Grid but with the map of France. Dave did much better this time and kept right up with everyone else. In the end, though, it was between Mike and myself who would be able to acquire and power the most cities; who could buy the biggest power plant while also being able to afford the materiels to run all their power plants, and still be able to expand their city grid in this last turn. ME!  Yes, I had 19 cities and could power them all.  Happy dance around the table because it’s rare to beat Mike at a tough game.

Power Grid

End game. That's my blue house, on 19! Then Mike, Dave and Richard.

It was almost time for Dave to leave so we played a quick game of Ra dice again. Maybe next time we’ll get out its big brother and show Dave how much fun an auction game can be!

After Dave left, Mike wanted us to try out a new game he got in trade, Gunslinger. This is an old game published in 1982 by Avalon Hill. This is a game where each player pre-programs their moves using their own deck of cards. You can draw and cock your gun, aim, shoot, throw various punches, duck down or get up, etc. and each of these actions take a certain amount of time. When the counter that’s keeping track of time gets to that action, it occurs. In our simple scenario, we were three bad guys who had just robbed a bank and each decided that splitting 3 ways wasn’t as much fun as not splitting it at all!  After the gun smoke had cleared, the plain outside of town was the site of three dead bodies and a pile of money. But my dead body was lying on the pile of money, dadgumit!  This is a fun little game with a lot of thematic flavor and a good story to be told from it. I could see how the more envolved scenarios would be a real good time for everyone.

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Game Day – Feb. 10, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on February 11, 2011

It’s been a long time since I wrote about a game day, mainly because there have been so few of them in the last year or so. Mike’s schedule, holidays, sickness, etc. have interrupted our every-other week plan and reduced it to more like every-other month. Those few game days have been fairly ordinary with a few old favorites combined with a few new ones, mostly Mike’s, such as Small World (which I liked enough to buy my own copy), Innovation (which I totally did not like), and 7 Wonders (which left me with a “meh” impression). But yesterday Mike showed up with 2 new games that both impressed me: Forbidden Island and Power Grid.

I had ignored Forbidden Island with it’s description of being a lighter Pandemic. “Who needs Pandemic to be lighter”, I thought. Well, I was wrong *gulp*. It is not just lighter, it is less fiddly since there aren’t all those cubes to stack and keep track of, you don’t have to spend time to prepare the deck during set-up, and your choices during your turn are more obvious. Well, that last item is also a negative. It makes the game play faster but it can also make your turn feel like you have nothing important to do. There were several times when I didn’t even take all of my actions because it just didn’t matter where I went. But the game still gives you the feeling of being pushed for time, racing the island (rather than the disease) to see who can get to their goal faster. I enjoyed it very much for its simplicity, and beautiful art and components but if I had the time, I’d rather play Pandemic.

Next Mike and I played Attika, one of my favorite games to play with 2 players. I blocked Mike from connecting temples then got caught up in planning how to build my city the cheapest way so overlooked the fact that he could again connect the temples. Duh! Still a great game with lots of things to manage and pay attention to!

Then Richard came home so we set up Mike’s newest acquisition, the number 5 game on the Geek, a game no gamer worth his salt should say he hasn’t played, a modern classic: Power Grid!! Neither of us had ever played it before. Yep, that’s right, I’ve been a BoardGameGeek for over 7 years and haven’t played Power Grid. Well, it’s an auction game with a stock market element–why the heck would that interest ME? I suck at auction games and hate the math-y feel of a stock market game. I wasn’t even enthused about giving it a try but my husband knew Mike wanted to play so he said, “set it up.”

Again, I was *cough* wrong.

I thought this would be a hard game to understand but it is really very simple and elegant, the turns broken down into 4 easy to grasp phases. The auction part is not horrible since even a beginner can figure out how important something is to themselves and how much they can afford to pay. Luckily, it is not a once-around auction. That part is math-y but not terrible once you know how all the elements of the game fit together. The stock market part is not complicated, a simple supply and demand scale as goods are added or bought. Simple, but important to pay attention to. The map building element reminded me of the crayon rail games that Richard and I have been playing constantly for the last 2 months. The payout is dependent on how many cities you have the energy to power with your various power plants.

After the first couple of turns, I had a fair grasp of how it all fit together and since we were all new to the game, we were all in the same boat as far as figuring out what we wanted to do. Mike started in the Southwest, I started in the Midwest, and Richard started in Chicago. Since building toward Mike’s side of the board was too expensive, I started building to the south and east, eventually butting up against Richard’s  cities as he headed south. I had no problem building to cities, but had a hard time getting power stations that would power enough cities, while Richard managed to get plenty of power while keeping up his city building, and Mike had lots of money but was still a couple of cities behind for most of the game due to buying materials for his power plants.

In the end, I built to the 17th city, ending the game. Richard and Mike were at 15 cities. Since we were all able to power 15 cities, the tie breaker was needed and I had the most money! I couldn’t believe it. My win was mostly due to Richard and Mike having a pissing contest for one of the last power plants bought, but also I think I made some good choices along the way. We all had fun and enjoyed the game very much. We told Mike to bring it again next time. I may have to add a copy to my collection even if the two-player game isn’t recommended at the Geek.

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