Cauta ceva!

joi, 1 august 2013

Power Grid BoardGame - Romania Map Extension (custom)

   I am sure that you like boardgames (if not, then you haven’t yet played one). You must have heard about “Power Grid” – one of the most appreciated boardgames in the world (number 7 in the Board Games Rank on! This game, since its launch in 2004, captivated players all over the world, by introducing them to a great gameplay that offers a lot of strategy, situation turns and no luck dependent mechanics.
   I played the original game quite a lot with my friends – on the Germany and USA Map. Around 2009, Ideal Board Games introduced the game also at large commercial scale in my country (Romania), and many people discovered the game. Unfortunately, all the seller did was to translate the rules, and not to add a national specific to the board. There are official maps for other countries – but none includes Romania. Therefore, I decided to use my knowledge (GIS and digital graphics) in making a custom map. But, based on my game experience, I decided also to bring more...
   I’ve done some research – I was glad to find that there are also a lot of passionate people designing custom maps for their countries or regions. Some introduced new interesting rules, but still I haven’t found most of them of much fun. So I came up with this:


   You can download the map, together with the special rules of the extension, in various formats, from HERE (it is necessary to have a 4shared account – which is free; I prefer this site because it allows to update each file, the hosting is unlimited period and it has a nice interface – no intention of advert). The files to be found are:
  • The entire map, in .PNG format, 9354px on 6614px, for print on A1 paper size (a smaller size for the entire map makes it hard to place the houses in cities): DOWNLOAD
  • The map in .PDF format, split in 4 joining slices to be printed on A3 paper size: DOWNLOAD
  • The map in .PDF format, split in 8 joining slices to be printed on A4 paper size: DOWNLOAD
  • The rules of the extension, providing 2 ways to play the game, and practical examples! You have to try the Romanian Version, of course. DOWNLOAD

   One compiled file can be found on, HERE.

   And now, the story behind designing the map! I don’t like to copy a concept which I don’t totally agree. That is why I considered dropping some of the aspects of the original game. I kept the scoring track indicator, the players order and resource market, and I’ve added a new indicator: Powered Cities Indicator (with red and green numbers), that tracks when players power all their cities or not, offering rewards or penalties. I did not like the connections between cities – pipes are for sure not the case in Romania. Other custom maps converted these connections to simple lines, but hey – most countries use electricity poles. Therefore, I created a 3D model of a cute electricity pole, and I’ve rotated it in Photoshop according to the necessary direction between cities. You can download this model HERE.
   The entire topographic base map is created automatically, in ArcGIS, and it’s based on a SRTM digital elevation model. I wanted to accentuate even more the relief – since also the connection costs are dependent on this aspect. More precisely, as I wanted to generate costs on a geographic base (and not on my imagination), I used the GIS spatial analyst tools that offered me the possibility to classify the connections according to terrain properties: height, slope angle and land use (from SRTM and CORINE spatial data). To be more precise, I used the following reclassification scheme:
  • 'recls_corine_landcover' 50% 'VALUE' (for classes from 1 to 7); 
  • 'recls_elevation' 15% 'VALUE' (for classes from 1 to 9, depending on height); 
  • 'Recls_slope' 35% 'VALUE' (for classes from 1 to 7, according to slope angle);

   Later on I obtained through weight overlay a final raster that I converted into a polygon. I drew the most advantageous lines between the cities (initially I tried automatically with the CostDistance tool, but it is more tricky to use for a vast number of connections). I used the Identify function to extract values for each line segment from the polygon. I calculated the length of each segment, and then I multiplied it with the values from the classification raster. At the end, using Dissolve, I’ve put back together the connection lines, finding a formula to transcribe the final values obtained into values between the proposed thresholds taken from the original game:  the minimum was set at 3, and the maximum at 28.
   The cities were easy to chose: in Romania there are 41 cities that are county residences + the capital city Bucharest (Bucuresti in Romanian). The original game demanded 42 cities, split into 6 regions. The sole modification was the removing of the smallest county city (Buftea – in the metropolitan area of Bucharest), and giving the capital city double value.
   One other aspect that you spot from the beginning is the 6 power plants on the map. When I designed the new rules, I thought of a way to introduce the specific characteristics of the energy system in Romania. This relies on very important power plants, especially in the southern Romania, that use different resources: coal (in the area Motru-Rovinari, Jiului Valley, Bucharest with its termocentrals), oil (Ploiesti Area), atomic fuel (Cernavoda – near Constanta) and water (hydrocentrals Iron Gates 1 and 2 on the Danube River). Therefore, I matched power plant cards with these important areas. Unfortunately, for the hydrocentrals there wasn’t a symbol (in the original game set), so I used the 13 Wind Power Plant. I linked the privatizable power plants to a specific city because of the region they are in, and also because of the dependency of that city (the industry sector, the jobs) - to have a running power plant. This dependency is reflected in the rules – players must begin their development in those cities.
   I have to mention that this extension was previously tested and appreciated, because the new rules are not difficult to understand, but they bring plenty new strategic options to the game. The use of privatizable power plants that have to be upgraded (in order to win) employs new auction strategies; the rule that offer a bonus “city in your city” can lead to blocking the opponents in their development. Also, the city distribution is interesting – players will start in the south, but the challenge will be on expanding to the north.

   At the end, I would like to remind you what is wrote at the end of the Romanian Rules: The copyright of the “Power Grid” game is held by 2F-Spiele, Friedemann Friese. The “Power Grid – Romanian Map Extension” cannot be played without the original content and rules of the Power Grid game. This extension is NOT for sale! Please, give this extension a try, and come back with a feedback. I hope that this version will not remain undiscovered by boardgame players.