I realized that despite being my favorite and top ranked game, I had not yet posted a review, so here we go. Power Grid is one of those rare gems that not only has an interesting set of mechanics, plays nearly equally well with any number of players (the game plays 2-6).
In a nutshell, players control a number of power plants, each of which in turn can power a number of cities. Each turn, players will have the chance to replace / upgrade their current power plants or add new ones, to buy rights to power city spaces on the board, then earn income for powering those cities. Sounds easy enough right?
Each turn, players have the chance to buy new power plants. Each plant burns a certain type of fuel to generate power – coal, oil, garbage or nuclear. There are also some plants that use wind “green” power sources and require no purchased fuels. Each plant also has a capacity or number of cities they can supply electricity to. Starting with the first player, a plant is picked and then auctioned. Players may bow out and wait till the next plant, but choosing to pass when it is there turn to select indicates that they will not buy a plant this turn. Players may only buy one plant a turn. Finally, each plant is numbered from 03 to 50 (more on this importance later).
After purchasing plants, then players purchase fuels. The fuel costs are on a rising price scale, and therefore the first person who gets to purchase their fuels will be able to save some much needed cash. For this action, the player in last place purchases first and the first place player goes last.
After fuels have been purchased, players buy the rights to supply electricity to cities. Each city costs 10 electros (the money of the game) to get into plus the connection costs (which vary) as listed on the map between the cities. If another player is in the way, the player must pay for multiple connections to “hop” over the other player’s city. After any player has a total of seven or more cities, players may start going into cities “owned” by other players, though the cost increase to 15 per city where another player is already present. Finally, at a later point in the game, a third player may enter the city for a cost of 20.
The last action of each turn is to power cities by firing your power plant. By burning your resources, you power cities. Each city you power gets you more money for the next turn.
The game ends after a set number of cities are “owned” by any one player. On that turn, the winner will end up being the player that POWERS the most cities. Ties are broken by cash.
All in all, the game is about managing your cash and position in the game. Fall behind building cities and you will be first at a lot of opportunities, but you can end up behind in cash and ability to catch up. Spend all you time out front, and the other players can force you into bad positions.
The game comes with a double-sided playing map – Germany and the United States. The artwork is great and easy to read. The player pieces are wooden shaped houses (standard fare in loads of Eurogames) as are the fuels. Nicely enough, the fuels are different shapes and colors to differentiate from the rest of the playing pieces. The power plants are on cardstock and are just the right shape and size with nice artwork showing the plants as the industrial behemoths they are.
This game is great with 3-6 players. Even two players is ok (though as with a lot of auction games – lacking with two players). The maps play well and there is an interesting mechanism that lets players choose the sections of the maps to play, allowing for some variation of the maps. There is an expansion out that adds two new maps for more challenges, and even a new free print-and-play expansion map kit with the same artwork.
Managing the available fuel and restocking it (they all come out at different rates depending on the number of players and type of fuel) and managing the power plants between turns can be a bit fiddly – once players are used to it, its not a big deal, but first time players could be confused. Speaking of confused – the English rules are a pit of confusion. They use the terms turn, phase, step repeatedly (and in some cases interchangeably) which can lead to a good amount of confusion. Really, the game isn’t as hard as the rules sound.
This is my only game I have rated as a 10. I will always play this and I almost always suggest it (unless we only have time for a filler). I love that I can get an good game experience regardless of the number of players available. It offers interesting strategic choices and rewards good management.
After re-reading this, I realized I gave an overview of the game, but not why I found it fun. So I thought about it a bit and here's what I decided. I like Power Grid, because its nearly a perfect information game. The only source of randomness is the next power plant to come out after a plant is purchased. This still gives players enough information that they can make sound strategic choices based on their position on the board, the plants they own, the plants the other players own, what I think the other players will do etc. Even with all this available, there are most often still choices - ie, its not just a math equation where there is really only one right choice. There also isn't one overall strategy that seems to be killer. I've seen guys stay at the back all game and race to the win on the last turn. I've seen plant fuel mixes win and plants of nearly the same type. I've seen guys go with the wind power plants and guys with coal win. I've seen people crowd other players win and players that stay away from the crowd win. In other words, I never have felt out of the game on the second or third turn, because you can't tell that early on who is going to win. Too much can change during the start of step two depending on positioning. Same thing with step three.
- Last edited Wed Mar 8, 2006 6:53 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:23 am
Nice explanation of why you enjoy the game in the follow-up. I've played a couple games with two and have struggled to enjoy so far - but I have renewed hope. I'll try it again soon.
My main gripe is having managing the resource tokens and having to move them around so much so specifically. I definitely understand why it is the way it is... but in a two player game you do it a lot and often... which is a bit tedious. Which I guess is my gripe with two player so far. There's alot of upkeep going on when you only have two people. It feels somewhat constant management makes it tough to focus on the game for me anyways - perhaps when I internalize the system a bit more it will be easier.
Anyways - I should save my ramblings for my own review. Thanks.