Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 2/11/2012 – CO2
After last week’s fantastic run of Samurai Sword, Great Zimbabwe and Crude the Oil Game among others, we are back again this Friday to testdrive Vital Lacerda (of VINHOS fame) latest Essen release “CO2″. Read on to find out whether we rate this game.
Gamers: Ivan, Kai Ming, Wolfx, Wong LC, Sinbad, Laurence, Thomas, Boon Khim, Hiew, Kareem, Heng, Waiyan, CK Au and others.
Games: CO2, Briefcase, The Great Zimbabwe, Aliens (card), Gotta, Go, Mundus Novus, Agricola, In the Year of the Dragon, Dixit, Kuhhandel, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan.
Date/Time: 2 November 2012 (Fri) 8.30 PM – (Sat) 3:00 AM
ESSEN SPIEL 2012 PLAY TESTING CONTINUED INTO OUR 2ND WEEK
With a roaring success in our 1st week of Essen Play (last Friday 26/10) where we did Samurai Sword (sessrep), Villages, Seasons, Big Badaboom, The Great Zimbabwe (sessrep) and Crude the Oil Game (sessrep) ; we continued with our 2nd week of Essen Play today by introducing Vital Lacerda’s (designer of VINHOS) latest game that’s been getting some rave looks at Essen, named simply as “CO2“.
We’d a busy night and beside CO2, OTK also saw the following games in play – Briefcase (also an Essen release), The Great Zimbabwe (can’t not have this game on the table lately), Gotta Go, Aliens (card P&P) and some old favorites like Agricola, In the Year of the Dragon, Kuhhandel, Mundus Novus, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan. We’ll cover these games in our next sessrep after this.
CO2 – BEING GREEN
I first came across designer Vital Lacerda when Nicola brought a copy of his Italian version of Vinhos last year to one of the OTK meetups. Back then, we were still doing meetups at Old Town Kopitiam. I quite like VINHOS but felt it’s structure made it challenging to explain the game especially to those new to Euros.
Image © Boardgamegeek
VINHOS was highly rated and did get into the Finalists list for the 2011 International Gamers Awards. I still think it’s a good game but the lack of general availability (Zman only picked this up late this year) caused this game to be under-rated.
Vital’s back with his 2nd game (in 3 yrs) and from appearance, CO2 looks even better than Vinhos! This time, he has gotten Stronghold Games onboard quickly so look forward to a wider distribution & availability for his latest CO2.
When I approached Vital to sign my copy of CO2 at Essen, he asked if I’d had time to play a full game. I said “No, not yet” and he requested that I read the rules thoroughly before my first play as there’s one crucial rule that if misplayed would mean we’ll be playing a very different game.
With the above warning in mind, I started reading CO2′s rulebook while on the plane back from Dusseldorf; but I also asked two of our best rule-readers Hiew and Heng to get across the rulebook. I figured with so many heads on the rulebook, we can’t get it too far wrong?
In the 1970s, the governments of the world faced unprecedented demand for energy, and pollutive power plants were built everywhere in order to meet that demand. Year after year, the pollution they generate increases, and nobody has done anything to reduce it. Now, the impact of this pollution has become too great, and humanity is starting to realize that we must meet our energy demands through clean sources of energy. Companies with expertise in clean, sustainable energy are called in to propose projects that will provide the required energy without polluting the environment. Regional governments are eager to fund these projects, and to invest in their implementation.
CO2 is a game about producing green energy for a more sustainable future where eco-friendly power plants are able to meet the rising energy demands of the various continents without resorting to pollution-heavy fossil power plants.
There’s a semi cooperative element in the game; where players have to work together to ensure green power plants are built at the appropriate locations to match the rising energy demands (which differ from continents to continents) instead of at locations convenient or more profitable to them.
If players diverge from the global agenda, the pollution level may reach the zenith and the consequence is Game Over for all of us. Everyone loses.
Everyone’s scientists getting ready to rub shoulders and work together for
world peace green energy.
Wow, the game looks pretty!
Yup it sure does. My observation is that most of the new releases at Essen this year have very good artwork – see my comments on The Great Zimbabwe sessrep – and when Tzolkin arrives, you’ll be awed by that as well!
But does a pretty game make for a good gameplay? Let’s find out.
More fiddly than Power Grid?
It does appear so from a first read of the rulebook. Lots of moving parts, lots of little things to remember & do here & there… and the movement rules of the CEP (carbon emission permits) ie those purple discs is not at all straightforward.
However… when have fiddly rules deter OTK gamers?
The OTK gamers busy setting up the board for the first run of CO2
Initial setup took us a fair bit of time but I reckon that’s due to us punching out the game bits and laying these on to the table for the first time. As we get a few more plays, I’m sure we’ll be able to reduce the setup time.
Six Continents, Six Decades of Pollution
The game is about providing sustainable energy to six continents for up to six decades (in a 5-player game). Each player gets two turns per decade (the number of turns varies based on the number of players) therefore the first thing you should note is that every player only gets (max) 12 turns in this 5-player game.
The game may end sooner – if someone triggers Apocalypse (indicated by pollution index going above 500 ppm) or the players have successfully provide two continents with green power plants – therefore do not assume you’ll always have 12 turns.
The black token above tracks the Pollution Index… it now stands at 390 ppm. Just 110 short of the apocalyptic 500 ppm – or equivalent to 3-4 fossil power plants.
The game also ends prematurely if CO2 Pollution Index drops below 350 ppm, which is said to be the Safe Zone. But why end the game? Beats me….
Supply = Pollution
Each decade (aka round) starts with a Supply phase. This is where 1) the players get their income/VP revenue, 2) new fossil power plants built in each continent to meet rising energy demands, and 3) working together to resolve a “disaster” event if any.
Energy demand increases with the turning of each decade and if the players collectively have not built new green power plants to meet this rising demand, a new fossil power plant will be built. That’s all fine and good but the problem is that fossil power plants contribute significantly to the CO2 pollution.. and will push up the CO2 Pollution Index.
(Above) North America having two fossil power plants – the first two “dark” plants from the left – while Black has built a green power plant to meet the energy demand in the 3rd decade (preventing the increase of ppm)
If the index gets higher than 500 ppm, it’s Apocalypse and an early night for everyone. The damage to the Pollution Index caused by this fossil power plants range from a low 20 ppm (gas plants) to a high 40 ppm (coal plants). The pic above shows a 30 ppm oil plant and 20 ppm gas plant (2nd).
To prevent this from happening, the players simply construct new green power plants to anticipate the growing energy demands and stall the inevitable rise of the CO2 Pollution Index.
Orange building a recycling green power plant in Europe to provide it with sufficient energy in the 3rd decade
Two turns per decade?
Yeah, each player gets only two turns per decade so you’ll need to consider your options carefully and not waste any action. You only get to choose from 3 possible actions…
- propose a new power plant project in a region
- install a proposed project
- construct a new green power plant from a project (and in later decades, replace an old fossil power plant with a new green power plant)
You must take one of these actions, then again if you are only given a limited number of actions for the entire game, I’m not sure why there would be a situation where a player may choose not to take any action.
1. Propose a new sustainable power plant project
The construction of a sustainable energy source begins with the proposal of a project to study & research the building of green power plants using renewable resources that are aligned with the regional agenda of that continent.
For eg in the North America continent (above), the current regional agenda focuses on forestation, solar and biomas as the renewable resources. Green is proposing a biomass project.
Note: The other two renewable resources are cold fusion and recycling.
The player (proposing) will receive a grant (read: resource) from the region in exchange for your project proposal. It doesn’t matter if your proposed project comes to fruition, you’ll get the resources upfront when you propose.
This is where you can to receive 1) money, 2) tech cubes, or 3) scientists. Each of these resources has their own use in the game. For eg money and tech cubes are needed when you wish to build a green power plant. Scientists are required to help your company acquire the expertise required to build certain types of power plant.
2. Installing a proposed power plant project (aka flipping a proposed project)
A project that has been proposed (above step) is considered to be “financed” by the region. These financed projects then wait for another player (or the same player) to install the energy network and necessary infrastructure that’s able to deliver the power generated by this new power plant before the power plant can be constructed (see next step).
Installing the infrastructure for a proposed power plant creates pollution, for which the installing player must acquire (and pay for) the necessary Carbon Emission Permit (CEP) – represented in this game as purple disc – whenever a new proposed project is installed.
As compensation, the installing player gets “paid” for his effort by receiving certain benefits as stated on the installed project tile (the flip side of it). This is another way you can gain much needed resources in this game.
(Above) Black decided to install the biomass project in N.America. He pays a CEP, flips the tile over and collects the “revenue” indicated on the tile ie $3, one tech cube and one CEP. The “revenue” differs for each power plant type. Eg installing a solar power plant gets you three tech cubes (but no money or CEP).
3. Building the installed power plant
The last step before realizing a new green power plant in a region is to take the “Construct” action which will change an “installed” project tile and convert into a “Built” power plant tile.
Building a new green power plant requires the active player to have 1) sufficient tech resources (white cubes) usually 1-4 cubes, and 2) the required amount of money which varies depending on the type of power plants (forestation plants being the most expensive and recycling plants the cheapest).
(Above) A biomass power plant (3rd from left) built by Black. The cost is one tech cube & $9 earning Black 6 VP. The cost of each power plant increases as more of that type is built.
Each new power plant built earns you 1) VP (again forestation plants earn the most VP and recycling plant the least), and 2) improve your expertise in that energy source (more of this Expertise tech-tree later).
(Above) The starting cost for each type of green power plants. This cost increases as more of that same type is built. Biomass (2nd from left) plant costs 2 tech cubes but can go up to 4 tech cubes late in the game.
Also if you are the first – or the dominant – power plant builder in that region, you earn the right to control that region and with that control, you gain access to the CEP (which is a key element to winning this game as the potential VPs coming from CEP at game-end provides a very large swing if you allow someone to have control over regions that are flushed with excess CEPs).
(Above) Three players – Blue, Black and Green – are vying for control of Asia, each having built one green power plant in Asia but it’s blue who gains the region control due to him building the type of power plant (forestation) that has the highest priority in that region’s agenda. If Blue retains control of Asia by game end, he could convert the 5 stacked CEP into VPs.
But more importantly, building new green power plants allows a region to meet the increasing energy demand without having to resort to meeting those needs with fossil power plants which only serves to increase the CO2 Pollution Index (moving us closer to the end of the world!)
1-2-3 Let’s work together!
It’s possible that Player 1 proposes a new project (and receive a nominal grant for it), Player 2 installs it (pays a CEP but receives a much substantial compensation) and Player 3 assuming he already has the “License to Build” tech level for this type of power plant constructs it (higher costs but earns VP and also possibly gain control of the region) – all in the same turn.
This is the cooperative element of the game; as well as the competitive part since there’ll be circumstances when you do not wish to provide the opportunity to another player to construct a certain type of power plant or to a certain region.
The body language of the above gamers are probably telling you they were not VERY cooperative. LOL
Thus turn order can become important in order for players to manipulate their positions to maximize on the propose-install-build sequence. The standard game rotates the Turn Order token at the start of each decade and you need to time it like Puerto Rico. Alternatively there’s a Pro variant where players bid for turn order at the beginning of a decade!
These are essentially “ability” cards that gives player bonus resources (money, expertise, tech resources, etc) if they perform the type of action as stated in the card. Adds to the variability in game play.
(Above) You start with 5 lobby cards and one company goal card (differentiated with a dark gray band). The Lobby cards are one-time use and you do not replenish; while the Company card is for end-game scoring.
Representing broader objectives as set by the UN for each region/continent, these cards denote the goals shaped by UN (presumably in the various Green Energy summits they held annually). A player building green power plants that meet any of the UN Goals can claim them – on first-come-first-served basis – and earn bonus VPs.
(Above) Ten UN Goal cards with full disclosure for all players. Do not ignore this as the points gained from this can be useful for a win. (Need to get a better picture of the UN Goal cards)
There are also two additional game-end bonuses that are derived from these cards; the first is 3 extra VP to the player having scored the most UN Goals and the second is a possible Company Card (see next section) that earns you additional VP per UN Goal you claim.
Given this context, I would say playing with the objective of meeting the UN Goals is something you need to have considered from the beginning.
Company Goal (game end)
While UN Goals give bonus VPs for achieving them, they are open for all to claim. Company Goal on the other hand is specific to a player only and works like a hidden mission card for one to achieve. Even if you can’t achieve them, you can always trade them for $8 either to use them to tap on an opportunity or to convert into 4 VPs at end of game (as every $2 is worth one VP).
You cannot control what you do not understand
The renewable energy industry is one where investment in knowledge is a core part of the business. There are a few ways in which you can acquire knowledge/expertise for a given energy type.
Hands-on learning from a project.The fastest way for your scientists to acquire knowledge & experience is to send them to work on the proposed / installed energy projects. This is simply achieved by placing one of your available scientists onto any proposed or installed projects that has no scientist on it.
Orange scientist is learning while working on an installed project in Europe. At the same time, Orange and Blue both have a scientist in various world summits. (Blue was in the Stockholm summit).
Speaking at World Summits.You’ll also want to have some of your scientists speak at the various international summits on the research & development of sustainable energy. All of these activities earn your company the necessary expertise to specialize in any of the renewable energy sources (which is managed via the various tech tracks at the bottom of the board).
The expertise track for the various energy types are shown at the top section of the picture above
At the minimal, if you wish to be able to construct a green energy power plant of that type (say biomass), you’ll need to invest sufficiently in your scientist to ensure you’ve reached the “license to build” step of the biomass expertise track.
A secondary benefit of the expertise track is that they provide you with money or VP during the Supply Phase of the game. There are only a few sources of money and the expertise track is one source where you get recurring returns (obviously if you are able to set up a better income source, tapping the expertise track for VPs would get you a better return since $2 only equates 1 VP at game end).
Carbon Emission Permits (CEP)
To be allowed to install a proposed green project, the process creates pollution and therefore your company needs to pay CEP as part of the obligations agreed in the Kyoto Protocol. The CEPs can come from your company’s existing permits or you can buy from the CEP market (at the current permit price which can fluctuate on a simple supply/demand basis).
There’s a CEP Market which allows players to buy/sell their CEP using a simple pricing mechanic, where a “sell” will lower the price by a single point, and whenever the CEP market needs to be refilled with additional permits after a purchase, the price is increased by a single point.
The CEP Market with the current market price set as $3
All permits given to players either as grants for new proposed project or as compensation for installing projects have to be taken from the CEP market, helping to create an upward movement on the permit cost in line with the increase in activities that leave an eco footprint.
We did not get this rule right – instead we took the permit payment from the bank (instead of the market) – and as such did not get to see much price movement of the CEP market. As a consequence we did not use the CEP market as a source of money (which I suspect will impact the early dynamics of the game) by selling to it.
Let us now dive into our first play and see how we rate the game?
Thoughts after our First Play – Hiew, Heng, Sinbad, Thomas and CK
After the setup, Hiew took us thru the rules. He has also done a very good concise reference sheet for this game which I felt helped a lot in making sure we remember all the “small” details while playing the game. You can download the concise reference sheet here.
Hiew (left) going thru the rules with Thomas, Heng and Sinbad
This being everyone’s first session of CO2, we spent the first decade learning the ropes of the various actions & consequences. The pollution index started at around 160 ppm but we learnt quickly how the index can go north very fast if we do not work together to build enough green plants to meet the increasing energy demands.
Pollution Index going past the 350 mark by the 3rd decade
For some reasons, we ignored South America and it’s three fossil plants were contributing 80 ppm and it still required one more plant in the 4th decade. We did have a fright in the 4th decade as the Pollution Index was then getting quite close to the 500 ppm but a concerted effort by us to build 2 new plants slowed down the pollution level.
On the other hand, our game actually ended with the index dropping below 350 ppm in the 5th decade as players were replacing the older fossil plants earnestly. This is only our first game, so we can’t tell whether this “early end” syndrome is an issue.
An overview of the gameboard (below) past the 4th decade. Some players were already jockeying for control of regions though I think not everyone understood the relative value of the CEP that would come from the controller region(s) at game end that’ll contribute to a huge swing of VP.
Orange (Sinbad) was one of the players who acted first to lock down a region. With three power plants built in Europe (below), it’s unlikely that he’ll lose control of this region – and the huge stash of CEP – to any other player.
We also learnt that sending our scientists to the World Summit acquires expertise for us faster than leaving them on projects. This requires some you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours cooperation with other players. But having scientists on at least one project by the end of your turn is equally important as otherwise you lose the “expertise acquisition” action available at the end of your turn.
Yellow & Black scientists completing their World Summit in Essen and will be gaining two expertise points for their companies.
We found out about our misplayed CEP rule late in the game, and when we corrected that, the CEP market price went up quickly (to $6 in the pic below)! I suspect this misplayed rule changed our game slightly since we were largely depending on the Expertise Track to draw $$ from (instead of VP) but if we’d a more active CEP market, we could sell CEP to raise money instead of dipping into the Expertise Track.
Obviously not having gone thru our game end scoring, we did not know – at this point in time – how the high CEP market price would swing a big advantage to those who were controlling regions rich with CEPs.
Another rule we did not enforce properly in the early stages of the game was ensuring only the right type of power plants can be proposed in each region (matching it’s region agenda card). You can see a biomass power plant built into Asia above where it’s regional agenda has no room for biomass technology.
Final game score: Orange won by a fair margin, with a huge swing from the CEP VP (he controlled only one region but has a good number of CEP in his own stock). Blue suffered the most as he’s the only player without any region under his control at game end thus losing out on the CEP VPs.
The reason the CEP VP was a significant factor was it’s market price trading at its highest $8 – so that’s 4 VP per CEP disc. This does make the CEP market manipulation a much more important aspect of the game as you wouldn’t want the CEP market to be on the high unless you have the majority of the CEP discs.
Given we did not play this session “flawlessly” from the rules perspective, we are certain to bring it again to the table next Friday. Will post another update on our next sessrep.
At the start of the game, you know you need various resources to support your desired actions (be it installing or constructing projects) to gain VP but you were never quite sure where the resources can come from.
Once you got around to knowing how to build up your resources, you’ll need to understand quickly how the Propose-Install-Construct flow impacts your decision on each turn. Do you install a project only to let the next player build it?
If everyone just kept “proposing” projects without taking them thru to being build, the pollution index will shoot up so fast, the game will be over prematurely. All needs to keep an eye on the pollution index and be aware of how many fossil plants would be comig up in the next decade to make sure the pollution level is kept below the 500 ppm trigger-point at all times.
Some of us felt constructing a project has the biggest ROI on VPs but I think it’s not that straightforward and given we’ve basically three main actions – Propose, Install and Construct – I believe each has it’s own merits and purpose/timing when to be played.
We all enjoyed this session – even though it was our first and came with a few misplayed rules – and even as we look forward to more sessions soon, I’ll be wanting to check out Vinhos as well.
The rest of the Essen Play sessrep for this Friday coming up in the next report.
CO2 will be available from our webstore as soon as we can confirm it’s availability with the publisher! For those who wished to pre-order with us, quote “ESSENWK2″ and you’ll be entitled to a discount on your pre-order.
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