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Subject: FMW Reviews #15: Power Grid rss

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When I first started playing board games with Ticket to Ride, I didn't know that years later, I would be playing different kinds of games. From Trains to Eldritch Horror and Tokaido, many of these games have shaped my life to get different games! Last year, I was blessed to have a Secret Santa send me Power Grid, one of the many classic games that helped shape board games to what it is today. Hailed by many as a classic, Power Grid is one game that I never knew I would like.

In order to power the many cities in the game, you must first have the power plants and resources to power them up. However, Power Grid runs much deeper then just buying. Being the last player in turn order is often times the benefit of this game and future games take this to heart. Power Grid is hailed as a classic but does my gaming group enjoy the very game that help shape board games to what it is today?

Someone should tell that scientist that we ran out of batteries.



Power Grid
Released: 2004
Rio Grande Games
Auction Bidding/Route Building
2-6 Players
~2 Hours


Components

Even after so many years, Power Grid holds up today with its components and now that we have a deluxe version of Power Grid out, often times people will compare this to the original. In my opinion, here's what makes the original shine when it comes to components:

1 Doubled Sided Game Board - Featuring U.S.A. on one side and Germany on the other, you have a choice between which map you want to use to play the game. Everything looks nice and sharp and very easy to read.
132 Wooden Houses in 6 Colors - 22 per player, these are used to keep track of turn order and placing them on the map.
84 Wooden Resource Tokens - These are the resources that you will gather throughout the game. You have Coal (brown), Oil (black), Garbage (yellow) and Uranium (red). Each of these are in different sizes and gives them a unique look.
Paper Money - The bane to almost every gamer, these come in different denominations and are called Elektro in this game.
6 Summary Cards - These summary cards are very helpful because they have the play order on one side and how much money you can make when you power up houses on the other. Very nice to not look at the rules every so often.
43 Power Plants - These are the power plants that you will be able to bid on and have a chance to own. They range from 3-40, 42,44,46 and 50.
1 "Step 3" Card - This is placed within the power plant deck to determine when the game changes to step 3 of the game.

The artwork on the cards are as classic as it gets and everything about the power plant cards are easy to read with all the symbols on them. With that in mind, the components of the game are top notch for something that was released over ten years ago. You can start with either the classic game or the deluxe version of the game, all you gotta know is that Power Grid holds up so well. And with that, let's see how the game works!

Gameplay

Power Grid takes place over 5 different phases of the game and this could be where the game shines for many people. Each phase is different and allows players to gain power plants to getting resources. I will explain what each phase is for, plus what the different steps are during the game.

Phase One: Determine Player Order

In this phase, player order will be determined. Here, whoever has the most cities in their network. At the very beginning of the game, players will draw lots to determine turn order but after that, your network is whoever has the most cities.

Phase Two: Auction Power Plants

The bulk of the game is determined here with the auctioning of the power plants. 8 power plants will be placed face up next to the board and they are ranged from the lowest number on the top left hand corner of the power plant card. The first four are available on the market to bid on while the next four cards are what the future market will hold for power plant cards. Starting with the first player, they may bid on one of the first four power plant cards with the minimum amount to bid on. Then, every player has a chance to either bid higher or pass. Once all but one has passed, they pay that much Elektro for the power plant and place it in front of them. Then the market changes by turning over one power plant card and changing the market.

The player who bid and won the bid for a power plant may not bid again since they already got a power plant card. This is important because if the player who started the bid didn't get the power plant, they begin again. This means that they could get a power plant they want in the future so it could be a a helpful tip to do so. In the first turn, everyone must buy a power plant. After that, a player may pass completely and be out of the bidding for that round.

Since player order at the beginning of the game is determined, the player who has the highest power plant cost they own goes first but only in the first time around playing the game.

Power Plant Cards

Before we continue, the power plant cards are simple enough to read and understand. On the top left hand corner, you have the number of the power plant (and that also determines the minimum bid you can place on that card in Phase 2). Often times, you have symbols on the bottom of the card to determine what resources are needed to power up the plant and how many houses the plant can power once you used the resources on the card. Depending on how many symbols are shown on the card itself, that also determines how many resources can be placed on the card. For example, if a power plant shows two garbage trash cans, then you can have a maximum of four garbage cans on that card to power the plant. Hybrid Power Plants uses any combination for two resources and you can mix them to use the cheaper of the resources. And finally, you have ecological power plants, where it doesn't take any resources, making them extremely powerful to have.

Phase Three: Buying Resources

In this phase, players can buy resources from the resource track. The last player on the turn order track gets first dibs on buying resources. With that in mind, you can only buy resources that you have a power plant for. So you can't buy a garbage resources if you only own a coal power plant. As mentioned before, a power plant can store twice as many resources on the card shown. The market for resources changes when players buy them. When you start buying, the cheapest coal resource cost 1 Elektro, but as players buy them, they cost more and more to get them so being last player is a good chance to get the cheapest resource while the other players get the more expensive resources.

Phase Four: Building

The real start of the game, once you have a power plant and your resources, this is where you start building houses. Players at the beginning of the game will choose an area they want to expand on. This is once again in reverse order so the last player starts off the building steps. You place a house in a city within the area you choose and pay the city cost, which is 10 Elektro. After that, every city you build must be connected to the first city of your network. Here's where things get expensive. Say you have a city in Essen and you want to expand towards Dortmund. You have to pay the city cost and the connecting cost to that city. So you have to pay 10 for the city and 4 for the connection cost, so 14 Elektro. Depending on what step of the game we're in, the cost could go up depending on the city.

Phase Five: Bureaucracy

In the final phase, this is where you power up your plants and get paid depending on how many houses you can power up. A player chooses how many cities they wish to power up and if they're able to power up with their power plants. Then, they discard the resources needed to power up a certain amount of cities and that determines how much money you get. Once everyone has a chance to power up and get paid, then the resources are restocked into the market (this is determined by the number of players and what step the game is currently in). Finally, take the highest power plant card from the future market and place it on the bottom of the deck and draw a new power plant card and adjust the market accordingly.

Steps

Over the course of the game, steps are what phase of the game overall is in. This can change the gameplay slightly and can give more resources during phase five of the game.

Step 1: At the start of the game, step 1 is in place. Every city can only have one house so you have to pay 10 Elektro. The resources are supplied on the back of the rulebook.

Step 2: When a player has built their 7th city on the board, step 2 begins just before phase 5 of the game. To start the second step, remove the lowest costing power plant from the market and then draw a new power plant card and adjust the market. From now on, players can now build in two cities now. This will now cost 15 Elektro to build in a city where another player is in. With that, resources are now restocked in the second step table.

Step 3: When the "Step 3" card is pulled from the power plant deck, this could change on what the game is currently in.

1. If the card is drawn during Phase 2 of the game, place it as the highest power plant of the market and shuffle up the power plant cards. Just refill as possible when players are buying the cards but after everyone has bought one, don't replace the cards! Step 3 will begin on Phase 3.
2. If the card is drawn during phase 4, then replace the smallest power plant cost. Step 3 will begin in Phase 5.
3. If the card is drawn during Phase 5, remove the lowest power plant and shuffle the power plant deck. Use the resource table for step 2 and step 3 will begin in Phase 1.

During the 3rd step, players can now stock resources from the step 3 table and can build three cities, costing 20 Elektro to build on them. Now when Phase 5 happens, the lowest power plant card is removed from the game so it is possible that the power plant deck can run out.

With all that in mind, the game ends when a player builds their 17th city and the player who can power the most cities wins the game. In an event of a tie, whoever has the most Elektro wins the game! In an event of another tie, whoever has the most cities in their network wins!!!

The Electric Company

The game itself is probably one of the better economy games out there because of the changing of the resources market. The supply and demand for a certain resource changes every time someone buys something. The key factor in this game is that getting resources and building starts with the last player and not the first player. This can really change the gameplay because now players will actually force themselves to try to be last for the game because you could get the best stuff first and not pay so much for resources. But do you want to do that or try to stay in the middle and still trying to get the best resources. The game does change depending on what you can do on your turn and it's best to see if you can try to get the resources for cheap. While coal can start with 1 Elektro, it can then cost 4 Elektro each while oil can cost 2 Elektro. The market can change and this is what makes the game so much fun.

Power Grid is often the game to play because the turn order is important here but sometimes this can be something that most people might avoid. The game itself can be a bit mathy, in which you have to add a lot of numbers together to see how much you have to pay and such so this could turn players away if they see people taking their time adding numbers together. So really, the game can be a task to play with those who don't like to add so many numbers. However, the game is such fun because of the mechanics in them. The bidding here is great and on spot here.

Final Verdict

Power Grid is currently number 11 in all of BGG and it's not a surprise. The game holds up today as it did when it first appeared in 2004. With so many maps to expand upon, the game can really change on the map. The game continues to be great and even with the deluxe version out, the classic remains the same!

Now, one thing I will point out is that some players may not like the game for its length and for using some math. The game can run longer then 2 hours depending on how many players are playing and how fast everything goes. Many players may not like Power Grid because of that but my group really likes the game. I like the game enough so that I recently bought Factory Manager and First Sparks because I heard that it changes the gameplay as different games, even if the series itself is within Power Grid. But, this is the review of the classic and here I am saying that the game is great.

Overall, I give Power Grid a solid nine out of ten, showing that the game is a timeless classic and that over time, it will continue to be such a fun game for many (well, many if they don't mind a lot of math).

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