Lowell Kempf(Gnomekin)United States
Over the years, I have played a lot of different games. Some games have lingered and other games have been forgotten quickly. Still other games spend some quality time in the lime light, only to fade away.
Honestly, there’s only so many games that stand the test of time, particularly if you like to try out a lot of games. I’m hoping to still be playing Ingenious and Puerto Rico when I eventually get hustled off to the retirement home (Heck, I’m hoping I get to play them more!) but some games just don’t keep their sparkle, even if they deserve to.
One game that I find myself mulling over that is an example of that is Power Grid. When I first started gaming, it was a game that I probably played at least once a month. There was even a point where it came out every single weekly gaming session. However, there reached a point where I was completely burnt out on Power Grid and it has been years since I’ve had any urge to play it.
Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad game. I would say that Power Grid is an excellent game and has earned it’s fine reputation. Power Grid uses auctions, infrastructure development and resource management in a way that makes them all work together. More than that, it’s worst to first mechanic when it comes to resources and building creates a devilish metagame.
When I first was introduced to Power Grid as a younger gamer than I am now, I had thought that it really resembled a train game. Now that I’ve actually played games like Steam and Empire Builder and the like, I’m even more convinced that that’s what it really is
What makes Power Grid shine but what I also know makes some of my friends actively avoid Power Grid is the metagame. The worst to first mechanism adds a definite layer of planning and interaction to the game. Simply put, you cannot ignore anything that the other players are doing. Power Grid might not have you performing corporate takeovers or sending bombing flights over the other players’ power plants but the active undercutting of other players is nothing less than vicious.
A common practice when I used to play regularly was for someone to try and stick to the ‘worst’ end of the initiative track and pile up money and fuel in order to be able to burst ahead and win by a massive build-out in what would then be the last turn. Mind you, that didn’t reliably work since they had to have a steady income throughout the game while clinging to worst, not to mention be able to power all those cities. (Conditional victory points are cool)
In most of the train games I’ve played, the most important part of your infrastructure is your network on the board. In the case of Power Grid, your power plants, your fuel reserve, and your place in initiative are just as important. Perhaps that’s why some of my friends don’t like Power Grid. So much of your position can’t be figured out from looking at the board. There is a non-intuitive element to the metagame that works counter to the way some folks think.
Sadly, while reminiscing about Power Grid had reminded me why it truly is a great game, I still don’t feel the urge to play it again. That doesn’t make it a bad game. Just not one I feel like playing.