Why Australia is the Best Power Grid Map

Okay, I really like board games that 1) have a lot of expansions and 2) have solid play testing. Power Grid is such a game. It is a classic (is is fair to call a game from the early 2000s a classic?) game that holds up well to this day. It also has multiple expansion boards that represent different parts of the globe. Expansion board rules seem well play tested for clarity, balance, and excitement.

I own all of the expansion maps, and today I am going to tell you why the Australia map is my favorite…and why it should be yours too.

— the Australia Power Grid board. In this particular game of 4 players, we omitted the yellow, central region.

The Ability to Place a House Anywhere

In classic Power Grid, to expand your network you have to place new houses close to your already placed houses due to the connect costs. Because there is no single, connected network of cities on the Australia map, you can put a house anywhere by paying a 20-Point connection cost. This mechanism allows players to strategically jump across the board on Step 2, Step 3, or any other time in order to cut off opponent networks.

The Uranium Mines

In Australia there are no nuclear power plants. Those plants are instead uranium mines. Players don’t buy resources for the mines and the mines do not power cities.

— those are not nuclear power plants, they are uranium mines!

Instead, during the bureaucracy phase the mines make money by selling on the international uranium market. The mines do not count toward a player’s power plant limit, and a player can possess any number of mines. This is a great addition to the game as it allows for a separate way to generate money (Elektros).

— the international uranium market. Players receive Elektros equal to the first uncovered space multiplied by the production of their uranium mines. In the last two photos, this player would get 20 Elektros (market price of 4 times the 5 production of the two mines).

The Carbon Tax

When Step 3 begins, Australia imposes a Carbon Tax. All prices in the energy market go up by 2 Elektros. This makes energy costs quite expensive!

— the 9 and 10 cost spaces for when the Carbon Tax goes into effect.

The Carbon Tax slows down the final progression to the game end. By making energy costs higher, it makes it more expensive to operate non-ecological power plants. It also makes those uranium mines more valuable, as they are a cheap renewable source of Elektros if a player can’t add new cities on a given turn.

The Auctions are Different

With the uranium mines being very good to get early, and the Carbon Tax looming at Step 3, bidding for ecological power plants and mines is intense! At the same time, a shrewd player can grab an efficient coal, oil, or garbage plant if other players have run out of Elektros bidding on the mines and wind turbines.

The Overall Game Play

The overall impact of the rules is to create a truly new Power Grid experience. While the victory conditions remain the same (ie power the most cities) the route to winning seems to have multiple paths. Players can opt for a traditional coal/oil/garbage efficiency route, but they better be ready for that rough Carbon Tax. Players can also try to monopolize the uranium mines. This slows down placing houses because buying a mine means that you didn’t buy a power plant with that money, but it leads to plenty of cheap Elektros that can later in the game be plowed back into power plants. Also, with the game going longer for a few turns (mainly because of the Carbon Tax), those ecological plants pay off more than in a regular game of Power Grid. In our last game by the end, two players had almost 100% resource-free power production. When do you see that in a game of Power Grid?

–Games on the Australian map can be surprisingly close. Here is the end of our recent game. My brother and I both finished with 17 cities powered. But I had only 1 Elektro in my possession and he had 6. He won, I lost. It could hardly have been any closer. Note: I was black and he was red. Can you see how he jumped from Western Australia over to the east coast? Also note the high price for resources because of the Carbon Tax. Gotta love the Australian rules!

If you have played Power Grid, or even if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of The Australian map (the Indian sub-continent) is on the back. Trust me, you will be glad that you did.

Advertisements

In Case You Missed It: The Star on the Shore for Call of Cthulhu


In Case You Missed It: A New Continuing Series Highlighting Game Products that May Have Sailed Under your Radar


Do you like going insane in the membrane? Do you like reading dark tomes of Forbidden knowledge only to lose your mind from the evil secrets held within? Is your idea of a good time looking down the slimy tentacles of some two-story tall unspeakable horror while you are armed only with a pocketknife and a lantern?

If so, Call of Cthulhu RPG is for you! But, I am sure you already have heard of the excellent RPG by Chaosium. And unless you live under a rock, you are aware that enough paper and pdf supplements are published to support Call of Cthulhu every year to sink the island nation of Iceland. And a good deal of these adventures are quite good…as are a lot of the old adventures from decades past, but how do you discover a gem in all this rough?

The Star on the Shore: Struggles Against Evil in 1920s New England

Well, one adventure published in 2017 stands out from the rest. Author Ben Burns created The Star on the Shore for Dark Cult Games (the publisher is now New Comet Games). The 95-page adventure stands out for the following reasons:

1-Massive Sandbox Setting

The adventure details the events in Rockport, Massachusetts and its surrounding environs. There are 39 separate locations (all stocked with NPCs) in Rockport plus dozens of other locations scattered around (and maybe I shouldn’t give it away, but also under Rockport) for the players to explore. This adventure is big with a capital B-I-G.

2-Detailed Plot Line with Reference Material for the Gamekeeper

The book includes a large reference section detailing the plot events, all the inclinations of the NPCs, The spells, locations of key NPCs, and possible final scenarios. There are the usual stat blocks for NPCs, monsters, etc as well. In short, Star on the Shore doesn’t just tell a story, it provides the numbers, names, information, and material that the gamekeeper will need to run a smooth adventure. And I am barely scratching the surface of how much stuff is in this book.

3-Gorgeous Maps and Handouts

Call of Cthulhu is always best when the players can visualize the setting. Well, set your peepers on this gorgeous map! Did I say it is a two-page tear out too! I didn’t? Well, I just did! Oh, and the gamekeeper has a labeled version of this map (albeit a smaller map).

–now that is a cool map!

And how about these handouts?

–photocopy, cut out, and terrorize the players with the knowledge of the horrors that lurk around them!

4-The Adventure is Top-Notch

Now this is going to be difficult to explain, so I will do my best. The sandbox feel of Rockport allows the players to roam around where they want and set the pace as they please. However…in the background Ben Burns has given the gamekeeper a timeline of events. And these events move day by day! As the players waste time smoking and joking with the locals, the evil plot (of the locals maybe?!?) keeps moving! Thus, the gamekeeper knows what is going on and can use this knowledge to build the tension.

5-Color Coded NPCs

Okay, I can’t take a photo of this because it might ruin the adventure for those who haven’t experienced it yet, but I am going to make this simple: each block of NPC stats has a background of either green, orange, or red. I think we all can figure out what those colors mean…but only the gamekeeper gets to see them, mwah ha ha!

6-This Adventure Takes Time to Complete

It took my group 4 game sessions of about 2 1/2 hours each to finish The Star on the Shore. And everybody loved it! If you like long-ish Call of Cthulhu adventures, this adventure is for you. Did I also say there is a side-adventure included too? Well, there is!


–does this artwork on the back cover give you a clue about the unspeakable events happening in Rockport? Does this scene actually happen in the adventure? You will have to buy it to find out!So, run don’t walk, to your local game store or the internet, and buy yourself a copy of The Star on the Shore. You might lose your sanity and your limbs, but you won’t be disappointed.

Have fun and good luck on those sanity rolls…you are going to need it.

Why Visiting Your Local Game Store is Good — Dice Throne and King of New York/King of Tokyo: King Kong

I am a big fan of buying games from internet sites. I can buy directly from the publisher, I can get a good price from an online retailer like Amazon, I can window shop multiple sites, etc. However, the biggest disadvantage of online shopping is that it is surprisingly easy to miss things. Amazon doesn’t have everything and search results can be more limited than it might appear.

That’s why I love going to my local game store every week to just see what might be there. For those with more inquiring minds, the closet local store to me is The Toledo Game Room. Those of you who go to GenCon might recognize the owner of the Game Room, Daryl, as “The Bits Guy” who sells all the Warhammer bits. Another good store in town is Checkmate Games. If you are in Fresno, Ca, I recommend Crazy Squirrel Game Store.

Anyway, going to the local game store turned up two games/game expansions this week.

First, I found a game that I knew nothing about: Dice Throne

I have only started reading the rules, but Dice Throne looks like a fun game where you can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or free-for-all. I can’t wait to try it out with my usual suspects.

Second, sometimes I find something new for a game that I like. This time it was King Kong for King of Tokyo/King of New York.

I loved the Cthulhu expansion and I am super-pumped to bust out King Kong in my next King of New York game.

The moral of the story

So run, don’t walk, to your local game store to find unexpected gems. And do it like voting in Chicago–early and often!

Excelsior!

Hello Dolly! The Smash Up Sheep are Here!

I took a break from the soccer match I was watching and went to go get my daily mail. What did I find? Was it a horse’s head? A bunch of junk mail from political candidates? Utility bills?

No — it was the free Sheep deck from AEG for Smash Up!

The deck has plenty of minions: Flock, Ram, Little Bo Peep….and some nice action cards, including the sure-to-be infamous Wood for Sheep!

Aren’t ewe jealous that you didn’t get one too? I just couldn’t resist the shear hilarity of that last pun! Look, I made another! Hahaha!

Roll 4 Initiative: Dice I Can Read!

Okay, today I am going to talk about a pet peeve of mine…dice that are hard to read!  At some point everyone has bought some fancy dice from the local game store or at a big convention like Origins and Gen Con.  You know the dice that I am talking about, the ones with strange glyphs instead of numbers, funky two-tone paint jobs, outrageous symbols for pips, etc.  They looked really cool and you just had to buy them.

But then the horror, the horror!  In the middle of a hot game of 4th Ed. D&D or maybe old school World of Darkness Vampire you chucked those dice onto the table and, wait on it, wait on it, you couldn’t read the result!  Okay, maybe you teenagers out there with perfect eyesight can read anything from a parsec away, but us old Grognards need some dice that we can read without having to pick them up and hold them two inches from our slowly deteriorating eyeballs!

Well, I found a solution and its called…

Roll 4 Initiative

Roll4Init02

Roll 4 Initiative: Label from the Set of 15 Dice

 

 

Roll4Init01

The Bag of 15 Dice

They are a dice/accessory company out of Southwest Michigan.  And as it says on their label, “Bigger Dice for Bigger Rolls!”  Well, you won’t roll any higher numbers (I have a special set of dice for that, but maybe I should leave that discussion for a different post) but the dice are indeed bigger.

Bigger is Better: R4I Dice are Bigger than Normal

Here is visual proof:

Roll4Init05

The Eyes Have it!  The R4I d20 on the left, a normal d20 on the right.  Visual proof that the Roll 4 Initiative die is bigger!

While it doesn’t look like very much, it is clear that the R4I d20 is just over 2mm while the regular d20 is probably slightly under 2mm.  The base of the triangle on any of the 20 sides is 1.2mm for the R4I d20 and 1.1mm for the regular d20.

The Numbers are Bigger too!

And yes, I guess you do get bigger rolls with the R4I dice because the numbers are slightly bigger/wider.  Wow, bigger in two different ways (I guess I better just leave it there before the jokes begin).

But Wait…There’s More!

Not only are the dice and numbers bigger, the dice are made plain on purpose.  Why?  So that they are even more easy to read from a distance!  You can chuck out a few dice and easily read all of them at a glance.  Here are 4 dice of different sizes:

Roll4Init03

Easy to read isn’t it?

Okay, I know what you are saying, without some other die to compare, how do I know that R4I dice are easier to read?

Well check out this comparison!  I won’t mention from which other dice company I bought the die on the right.

Roll4Init04

Which “16” would you rather read at a distance in a dim, smoke-filled room? You don’t play games in a dim, smoke-filled room…what’s wrong with you, you should!

The Best Part…wait there’s still more?!?

At Gen Con I was able to get a pack of 15 dice for only $6.  Whaaaaattttt?!?  Yep, that pack of dice in the second photo was only $6.  Think about how much you have paid for a standard pack of 7 dice in the cheap see-through plastic container with the cheap black plastic lid that cut your fingers when you tried to open it!  C’mon who hasn’t been sliced by those containers.  I hate them!

Anyway, I have no idea if they offer deals like the one I got at Gen Con from their online store (you can check here  R4I).  All I know is that I am very glad that I found Roll 4 Initiative at Gen Con 2016.

Now I need to get started on that darn D&D adventure so that I can roll some dice!