It was an interesting, but complex game. This review will be based on my own experiences with one single game and may not be representative of other games.
The game is limited to 5 rounds - this seemed to be a good length. It took us about 3 hours, with lots of flipping to the rule book. We could probably reduce the playing time by 30-45 minutes in future.
The playing turn order is completely different than the normal power grid rules. There is a player order (starting player, then clockwise) only for the "Share Round", which is brief. The bulk of the game is in the "Business Round", and playing order is based on share prices. The game mechanics skew benefit to the company with the highest share price (bids on plants last, buys resources first, expands city network first).
I'm not going to review exactly how everything played, but it was interesting and we would play it again.
* The player with most diverse share holdings won the game. Scoring was approximately between $500,000 and $750,000, and the winner was less than 10% ahead of the second place player.
* Company with highest starting share price was able to grow in small increments and continue to attract investors right up until the end of the game. Attracting investors meant that new capital was being added to the company all the time.
* One of the companies with the lowest starting share price was quickly part of a power struggle to gain control. This meant that the company had issued all shares by the end of the second round didn't have any influx of capital in the final three rounds. The only way to get money to invest in expansion was to withhold income distribution, which prevented share price growth.
* One company found itself in dire straights early in the game as its shares were only lightly subscribed (small capital in company) and its neighbour was highly subscribed (lots of capital) -- the company with more money secured the vast majority of city expansions in the region.
* The only company whose shares were completely sold was also the victim of market manipulation. A minority shareholder with three shares sold the shares to the bank one at a time, which didn't generate the maximum sales revenue for the player, but did succeed in dropping the share price 3x (dropping from $50 to $20/share) in a single share round, creating a capital loss of $150,000 for the majority shareholder. Other players could then buy the shares at the lower prices, but the majority shareholder cannot buy any because that player already held the maximum 5 shares.
* game play was sometimes mean (dominating a regions cities, crashing share prices), but always within the rules and still fun for our group of players.
What strategies would I try next time:
* dispense more company income, even at the cost of stifling company growth
* diversify investment in multiple companies
* if possible, control companies with higher stock prices as they get better resource and network expansion opportunities (turn order based on share prices, not size of network).
Would I play it again? Yes.
Would I prefer to play Power Grid: The Stock Companies instead of regular Power Grid? I like them both. I'd play Power Grid with new players. If the Stock Companies required the same winning strategies as power grid, I might not want the additional complexity of the expansion. However, as the game mechanics and strategies are so different, it is like a fun new game to play with experienced players.
Thanks for posting this!
I haven't played my copy yet but the experience you describe sounds like my groups cup of tea!