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Subject: Power Grid - Bid, Buy, Build!! rss

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Dede Kurnia Kardiman
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In this game by Friedemann Friese, you take a role as a boss of an electricity company. You need to bid for power plants, buy fuels, and expand your electricity networks, supplying electricity to a growing number of cities. Sound easy right? Well, not really ...

I will not go into details of the rule as it can be downloaded from this link: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=6055 ... I will only summarize how the game played, and focus more on what I think about the parts and the game play.

The Game Box
Coming in old-fashioned ‘greeny’ color, the box looks old. The artwork shows an old-fashioned image of an Engineer working in a power plant facility, facing a panel with old model of switches and meters. To be honest, I like it!... Some people might say the image looks old, but for me it’s classic, and classic never dies!

The Components
The rulebook is only black and white printed, not like in other games published by Rio Grande. Not sure why it’s printed that way, but might be to save printing cost so that we can buy the game at cheaper price. If this is the reason, then I have nothing to complain (^_^)

Buy 1 get 2! That’s it... You buy 1 game board, you get 2 maps... You can also feel the classic touch in the map’s artworks, matches with the box cover’s artwork. Both maps are great.

I love wooden pieces, and you get more than 200 pieces of high quality wooden pieces, consist of 132 wooden houses in 6 colors and 84 wooden fuel tokens in different shapes and colors... The colors are nice, easy to differentiate.

The artwork of the 43 power plant cards matches with the map and box cover. The cards are only printed in medium quality thick paper, but still more than acceptable for me, especially after inserted into a plastic sleeve for better protection. In addition, you got 5 summary cards which summarize the turn order and the cash you’ll receive by supplying electricity. First I thought my copy missing 1 summary card as this game is for up to 6 players. But after checking on the rulebook, it’s correct that the game only come with 5 summary cards.

The downside might be the money paper as it’s only one-sided printed on thin paper. I’m just afraid that after 30-40 times playing, they will wear out. Anyway, this shouldn’t be a show stopper as we can print the money ourselves, or we can use chips from other games. Almost forgot, the currency used is Electro... really match with the theme (^_^)

The Setup
The map is divided into 6 regions, and each region has 7 cities. The number of regions comes into play is determined by the number of players. With this setting, regardless of the number of players, you’ll still feel the competitiveness during the game as all players are trying to expand their networks inside the limited regions.

The fuels are then placed on the fuel market following the fuel setup condition stated in the rulebook. Later in its Italy/France expansion, the fuels setup are different on each map, which brings new feeling to the game, and requires new strategy to win the game.

Then the initial 8 power plant cards are placed face up on the table. Only the 4 smallest plants are available in the current market and can be bought (thru auction) by players. The other 4 highest plants are in ‘future market’. With this ‘future market’, a player can predict what plant that might be available at the next round, and plan their moves accordingly. The market

Each player then receives 50 Electro as his initial cash, and the game starts.

The Game Play
A game is played in several rounds. Based on my experiences, it’s about 9 to 11 rounds for 3-6 players game, and up to 15 to 17 rounds for 2 players game. The normal playing time is about 90-120 minutes.

In each round, there are 5 phases. In each phase, the players take actions based on the player orders:

Phase 1> Determine Player Order
The player order is determined by the number of cities that has been connected to a player’s network. The player with the most cities becomes the leading player and so on. This player order is quite crucial as it affects the later phases. I really like how this is done.

Phase 2> Bidding Power Plants
Starting with the first player, each player bids on power plants that available on the current market. When a plant bought, a new plant card is opened from the deck and the plants on the market are re-arranged: the smallest 4 on the top (current market), and the 4 highest on the ‘future market’. A bit luck comes in play during this auction as players don’t know what will be the next plant card opened. However, the luck factor is quite minimum, as based on the opened cards on the ‘future market’, players can predict the maximum plant card that will be available next on the current market. A player can only buy maximum 1 plant each round, and at any time can only have maximum 3 plants on his table.

Phase 3> Buying Resources/Fuels
The fuel market is divided into spaces, numbered from 1 to 8, then 10, 12, 14, and 16. These numbers define the cost for each fuel inside the spaces (e.g. all fuels in the space #2 cost 2 Electro each). As a player buys fuels that is required by his power plants, the cost for that type of fuel may get higher for the next player. This is a clever way to simulate the demand-cost law in economics. As the demands get higher, the cost will go up. In this phase, the player order is reversed: the last player starts buying fuels first. Another great method to make the game more balance. The last player can do ‘evil’ thing by making the other players (especially the first players) spend more cash on fuels.

Phase 4> Building/Expanding Networks
Starting from the last player, each player put houses on cities to mark that the city has been connected to his power network. To expand your network to another city, besides paying for the electricity house in the new city, a player also needs to pay the connection cost as printed on the map. And to make sure that all cities will get the electricity, the game is divided into 3 Steps. Step 1 starts at the beginning of the game. During Step 1, there can only be 1 house in each city, and the cost for each house is 10 Electro. The Step 2 starts after a player has expanded his network to 7 cities or more. During this Step 2, a player can put a 2nd house on each city (not on a city already under his network) for the cost of 15 Electro. The Step 3 starts when the Step 3 Card has been opened from the power plant draw deck. At Step 3, the 3rd house can be built for 20 Electro.

As the building phase starts from the last player, he can build first on cities with cheaper connection cost. The leading player will need to pay more for the connection cost, especially if the surrounding cities have been taken out. Yet, another great method to balance the game between the leading and the last players.

Some people complaint as it requires some math to calculate the cost for the build, especially when a player connects 3-4 cities in one turn. But for our group, we don’t see this as an issue as it’s still 2-digits calculation. We believe most people can do that with eyes closed. For us, it’s a small math game by itself... Who can calculate the fastest?

Phase 5> Bureaucracy
In this last phase, each player determines how many cities he would like to supply with electricity, pay the fuels, and get cash (Electro) in return. After that, the fuel market is re-supplied with new fuels. Number of new fuels available in the market depends on the number of players and in which Step the game is (Step 1, 2 or 3). The ‘Fuel Re-supplied Matrix’ can be found at the last page of the rulebook. Finally, if it’s still Step 1 or 2, the highest power plant card is removed from the ‘future market’ and placed at the bottom of the draw deck. As the Step 3 card is initially place at the very bottom of the draw deck, this method will make sure that during Step 3 only the highest power plants will be available on the market.

The Winner
With 3-4 players, the game ends when there’s a player who has connected 17 cities into his network. This ending condition is slightly different for other number of players as stated in the rulebook. When this is happened, the game continues till phase 5, and the player who can supply the most cities is the winner. Money (Electro) is the tie breaker.

Well, how to say it... YET, another great method to determine the winner. A player should not only focusing on expanding his power network, but also need to make sure he can supply them with electricity, which means enough power plant output and enough fuels!

Conclusion
Power Grid is a double solid game! I can’t find anything wrong with the rule or the game play... The theme and all the actions are realistic like in the real world. It’s like you’re really the boss of an electricity company.

During each auction power plant phase, you will always ask yourself, which of the power plant type that I must use. Is it coal? Or nuclear? Coal is cheap now, but other players also use coal, so it’s going to be expensive at later rounds. Nuclear is expensive now, but no other player use it, so it’s getting cheaper and all nuclear plants only use 1 fuel. Or maybe I should use the hybrid plant? Well... finally you must decide... Any type of plant could bring you to victory, depends on your strategy and the current game situation. We experience a game that the winner only used the nuclear and ecological plants. And another game where the winner only use coal and hybrid plants. And another game where the winner only use ecological and trash plants... really environmental friendly, right?

Buying fuels could also become a critical factor in this game. Should I buy only enough fuels for this round, or I need to stockpile some fuels as they’re quite cheap now? But if I stockpile some fuels, I might a bit short on cash during the building phase. A player needs to think carefully. We experience a game where at the last round, a player with 15 cities network could only supply 7 cities as the fuel market were run out of coal during the last round.

Does the player who build network in the cheap connection cost area guaranteed to be the winner? No... it’s not guaranteed! The player who use the cheap connection during Step 1, will suffer during Step 2 or Step 3 as he needs to pay much more for the high connection cost area and the 2nd/3rd house. On the contrary, the player who use the high connections during Step 1, later on can use the cheap connections during Step 2 and 3.

In this game you can’t tell who will be the winner till the last round (or at least 1 round before). We experience a game that a player who was at the 4th place at Step 2 (5 players game), became the winner as he made victorious moves at the last 2 rounds.

All in all, Power Grid is about balancing the three main factors in the game: number of cities in your network, total power plant output, and the power plant fuels. The player who can fully managed these three factors till end of the game will be the leading player.

For me this is truly an excellent game, very worthy of the Rupiah (it's Indonesian currency) that I spent to buy this game, and I really recommend this game to be on your collection. Four thumbs up!! From me b(^_^)d ... and my wife b(^_^)d ...

Game Characteristic: (out of 10)
- Complexity: 7 (requires medium works of your grey little cells)
- Interaction: 8 (quite a lot of bidding, discussion, and suggestion)
- Luck factor: 3 (very minimum)

Game Quality: (out of 10)
- Components: 9 (great quality)
- Graphics: 9 (great artwork)
- Game Play: 10 (always want to play with any number of players)
 
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Carl Johan Ragnarsson
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Quote:
Does the player who build network in the cheap connection cost area guaranteed to be the winner? No... it’s not guaranteed! The player who use the cheap connection during Step 1, will suffer during Step 2 or Step 3 as he needs to pay much more for the high connection cost area and the 2nd/3rd house. On the contrary, the player who use the high connections during Step 1, later on can use the cheap connections during Step 2 and 3.


Nice review. I have not actually played the game but looked at the rules and a few games on BSW. But is this really true? Money tends to be more scarce toward the beginning of the game, and further income depends on the number of cities you power, so it seems quite crucial to save money on connections in the first round.
 
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Carl Bussema
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The player who buys cheap connections in Step 1 will do fine and probably better than the player who buys expensive connections. minismurf has it right that money is tighter at the beginning. Being able to get to 3 cities this turn instead of 2 can be important.

Ideally, everyone would pay approximately the same amount for connections over the course of the game, which means you can't buy all your cities in expensive areas, and due to competition, you shouldn't be able to (but go for it if you can!) buy all your cities in cheap areas.

You can even risk placing in a cheap area that might get you surrounded on turn 1 or turn 2, simply because "leapfrogging" or "skipping over" a few cities in a cheap region is going to cost you about as much or even less than a single adjacent connection in an expensive region. And that's what a lot of new players miss. They're afraid to play aggressively for a cheap area, and then the guy who has free reign of the area pays $20-30 less in step 1 alone by the time he's to 6 cities. That's hard to makeup later.
 
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