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Subject: We're gonna turn on the power rss

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Greg Berry
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Power: :Grid

Introduction:

What to say about Power Grid ... The PG Game ... The big gridder ... Pmeister General ... Ole PG-Fun ... PG-Diddy?

Hmmm, well first I'll cover the basics about the game and then let you in on my experiences with, and thoughts on, this BGG highly rated game.

Power Grid is a two to six player game that takes 90 minutes and up to complete.

Designer and Publisher Information:

Power Grid was designed by Friedemann Friese the designer of such other games as Fearsome Floors, Felix: The Cat in the Sack and 26 other games.

Power Grid is a later revision of Mr. Friese's game Funkenshlag which was a game that had many of the mechanics of Power Grid plus some aspects of crayon rail type games.

Power Grid was published in the US by Rio Grande Games and you can get a copy for about $29 US. The price seems quite fair to me.

Components:

The components are all of good quality, reasonably attractive looking and can hold up to significant game play.

Main Game Board - The main game board has two playable sides. On one side is a map of Germany and on the other is a map of the USA.


Main Game Board (courtesy Ted Alspach)

Power Plant Cards - A deck of square cards with each card displaying the following: a number (representing the minimum purchase price for the plant), a picture of that power plant, A list of the number and type(s) of fuel that can power the power plant and a house icon with a number in it that shows how the maximum number of cities the power plant can power if it is provided with the requisite fuel.


Power Plant Cards (courtesy Geni Palladin)

Fuel Tokens - Wooden shapes representing various fuel types. The possible fuels include: nuclear (thin red cylinders), garbage (yellow octagonal barrels), oil (squat black barrels) and coal (brown cubes).


Fuel Tokens(Nick Pitman)

Player City Markers - Each player is given a set of wooden markers (in the shape of houses) in their color. Available colors are: purple, yellow, blue, wood, green, red.


Player City Markers (courtesy Patrick Kessler)

Paper Money - Paper money is provided in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 50 electros (the currency of the game world).


Paper Money and red player houses (courtesy Nicolas Acosta)


Game Setup:

1. Each player takes the set of houses for their color and places one house on the turn order track and one on the city count track.
2. Each player takes 50 Electros (cash) from the bank.
3. Place the units of fuel on the fuel track appropriate to the rules for the map played.
4. Determine the regions of the map to be used (one per player up to a maximum of five regions)
5. Set up the power plants in the starting configuration (the eight lowest value are displayed face up, the thirteen plant is on top, the phase three marker is on the bottom and the rest (minus a variable number of plants depending on the number of players) are shuffled for randomness.)
6. Determine player turn order at random


At Start Setup of a game of Power Grid (courtesy of )


Game Play Summary:

Power Grid is played in turns consisting of four player phases followed by a bureaucracy phase. Each player gets a chance to act in each of the player phases.

Phases are as follows:

1. Auction Power Plants- Starting with the player who is in first place, players pick one of the available power plants to auction.
2. Buy Fuel - Starting with the player who is in last place, players buy fuel from the available stock
3. Buy Cities - Starting with the player who is in last place players purchase cities at a total cost equal to the base build costs plus connection costs.
4. Power Plants - Starting with the player who is in first place players turn in Fuel for their powered plants and collect money
5. Bureaucracy - Set Player Turn Order, Re-Stock Fuel, Replace Power Plant

Auction Power Plant Phase:

1. The player with the lowest turn order who hasn't already purchased a plant in the current auction phase may put up any one of the cheapest four power plants currently available for auction.
2. The auction continues for each plant until all but one player have passed. Players who have previously purchased a power plant in the current phase may not bid on a second plant.
3. The player winning the auction pays for the plant. No player may have more than three plants and upon acquiring a fourth plant one of the prior three power plants must be discarded.
4. After each power plant is auctioned off a new plant from the top of the deck of power plants is revealed and the lowest four value power plants are again made available for auction.

Buy Fuel Phase:

1. The player with the highest turn order (i.e. the player who has the fewest cities/lowest high plant number) may buy fuel first with the buying continuing in high to low player turn order.
2. Players may buy fuel for any/all of the power plants they own up to double the amount of fuel that each plant requires to operate for one turn.
3. Fuel prices rise for fuel with every three units purchased for coal, oil, and garbage and for every one unit of uranium.

Buy Cities Phase:

1. The player with the highest turn order (i.e. the player who has the fewest cities/lowest high plant number) may buy cities first with the buying continuing in high to low player turn order.
2. The cost of buying into a city is equal to the cost of the connection routes to that city from one of the cities previously occupied by that player plus ten electros if they are the first player in the city, plus fifteen electros if they are the second player in the city and plus twenty electros if they are the third player in the city.
3. Only one player is allowed to build in a city during Game Phase One (There are three game phases as detailed below.)
3. Phase one goes from the start of the game until the end of the turn after any player has purchased a certain number of cities (e.g. 7 cities in a four player game) at which point the game enters phase two. In game phase two there can be two players in each city.
4. Phase three begins the turn when the "Phase 3" power plant card is revealed. In game phase three there can be three players in each city.

Power Plants Phase:

1. Each player, starting with the player with the lowest turn order position, may power as many cities as they want limited to the cities they own and the capacity of the power plants they have with the appropriate fuel. E.G. A player who owns two cities and has a coal plant that can power two cities can elect to power those two cities.
2. Players powering cities must turn in the fuel used to run the plants back to the common supply (but not the fuel track).
3. Players powering cities then receive a number of electros from the bank based on the total number of cities they powered (e.g. 22 for powering one city.) The incremental gain for powering cities decreases as the number of cities powered increases.

Bureaucracy Phase:

1. Player turn order is set in order of the number of cities each player owns with the highest number having the lowest turn order. Ties are broken by the player owning the higher value power plant having a lower turn order then the other player. (E.G. in a three player game if player A has 2 cities, Player B has 3 cities with the #10 power plant, and Player C also has 3 cities with the #3 and #7 power plants then the turn order is 1st Player 'B', 2nd Player C and third Player A.
2. Fuel is added to the fuel track according to the re-supply chart corresponding to the map/number of players/game phase.
3. In game phases one and two the highest numbered power plant is placed on the bottom of the draw deck and replaced with a new power plant drawn from the top of the deck. In game phase three the lowest numbered power plant is discarded from the game. In game phase three there will be up to six plants for auction instead of the four that are available in game phases one and two.

End of Game:

Power Grid ends at the end of the complete turn when at least one player has a number of cities equal to or greater than the number of cities specified by the number of players playing the games (e.g. 17 cities.) The player who can power, and it is very important to note POWER (as opposed to simply owning) the most cities wins. In the case of a tie then the player with the most money wins.


My Rating and Thoughts:

I rate Power Grid

Power Grid is a modern classic that always seems to attract new players and holds the interest of veteran players. Of the 30+ people I have seen introduced to Power Grid I haven't found one who absolutely hates the game and the vast majority of players seem to really like it. I personally am almost always up for a game of Power Grid if there isn't some hot new game that has caught my attention available.

The number of decisions to be made during each turn of the game seems just right. Players decide on which (if any) power plant to buy, whether to buy enough fuel to power their plants for just this turn or to buy more than they need to provide them with fuel at a guaranteed price for the next turn (as well as screw with the price for players later in the buying order), and how many and which cities to build into. These decisions are complex enough to allow plenty of room to make meaningful choices that affect that player and others while not so complex as to make the game intimidating or slow moving.

Power Grid keeps tension high and the game close by punishing the leaders by forcing them to have to make their decisions and purchases at the least desirable point of each phase. This limit the leader mechanism is not so constraining though that you can't occasionally have a wire to wire winner.

The one thing that has lowered my appreciation of the game over time is the realization that the randomness of the appearance of the various power plants (after the initial nine) makes the game quite a bit luckier than it first appears. During the auction phase of the game you are almost never sure what a given power plant is worth because you can't know what plants are coming up after it. Now I know that some of you say that is what keeps the game fresh and to a large degree it is but this randomness alone can often determine who wins a game among a group of players with similar skill levels in the game, sometimes even giving a game to a player with a significantly lower skill level. I cite in defense of this statement the case of my Tuesday night gaming group. Our group consists of quite a few people that are very good at Power grid (We have the 2007 WBC champ Patrick Shea, and several of the other final table members in my group). During many post game discussions we are forced to conclude that the winner of a given game was determined simply by the timely appearance or lack of appearance of the more efficient power plants.

Despite my previous issue I wouldn't get rid of my copy of the game for almost any other game out there. Power Grid is simply too much fun and seems to appeal to almost all Eurogamers. It is competitive without being overly confrontative. It has tension and many games are not decided until the very last turn.

What's good about this game's design?:

1 Theme - I suppose the theme of running a power company might be a turn off to some but for most gamers the idea of building a network, much like building a civ, aspect of the game is appealing. Something about the game art and the fun fuel supply markers is enticing and brings you into the game's world.
2 Low down time - Most of the time players can make solid moves without too much AP. Occasionally on the last turn of the game gets bogged down as people try to strive to maximize their chance of winning but on most turns it isn't an issue. our group usually lends a hand to the current player in finding the cheapest network connections so as to speed up overall game play.
3 Accessible to wide range of players - I have played Power Grid with a wide range of gamers (male/female, young/old, wargamers/ATers/Eurogamers, very skilled/unskilled at games) and found that you most people like the game quite a lot and you can have a fun game with all types of people.
4 Expansions - There are plenty of maps available to buy (or PnP) to keep the game fresh. Available expansions include: Benelux/Central Europe, Italy/France and my favorite Atolla Modulis.

What's wrong with this game's design?:

1 Randomness - As mentioned in my comments above I find the randomness in determining the available power plants can significantly reduce the skill level in the game.
2 Fiddliness - It seems like someone is always having to either manipulate the available power plants, take-in/pass out money, hand out fuel, re-supply fuel or adjust the turn order/city count markers. Any one of these things by themselves is not bad but trying to concentrate on the game's play while having to be the banker, etc. can be very distracting/annoying.
3 King Making - There are times during the game where players of good faith can be put in a position of having to harm one player's game position over another with little certainty of what is the best/most fair thing to do. This bit of king making rarely decides a game all by itself but can tip the scales to one player or another in a tight game.

Miscellaneous Strategy Tips:

Proper strategy for Power Grid varies greatly depending on the number of players and map used. Listed below are some general strategy thoughts.

d10-1 Because you can never be sure when the next "good" (i.e. highly efficient) power plant is going to come up it is generally better to be safe and bid high to acquire it than trust to chance that the next one up will be good.
d10-2 Generally don't buy more cities than you can/want to power. Number of cities determines who is considered to be "winning" and you don't want the penalties associated with being considered "winning." You may have to buy more cities than you want to ensure access to those cities on later turns but think carefully before doing this.
d10-3 Usually it is not in your best interest to buy more fuel for your plants than you need (exception being the player owning the 4-coal plant on the first turn) as doing so both limits your opportunities to buy cities later in the turn and not only drives up the price of fuel for others but you also. Late in the game you may often buy more fuel than you need simply because you won't get it cheaper later and you want to ensure you have the fuel you need to run your plants, fuel can run out.
d10-4 Before buying cities always be aware of about how many turns it will be until the next game phase (i.e. phase 2 or phase 3) opens up more potential cities for you to build in. It is almost always great strategy to have plenty of cash and a late turn order (meaning you will buy cities first) on the turn that a new game phase begins.



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Steven Mayer
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Appreciate the review. My friends and I are just starting to get into the board gaming world and we are looking forward to getting into this one.
 
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Greg Berry
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beloved_34 wrote:
Appreciate the review. My friends and I are just starting to get into the board gaming world and we are looking forward to getting into this one.


Thanks for the kind words. I think if you buy this one you'll be quite happy.
 
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I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
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Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
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One of my favorites when I'm in the mood for something complex. Great game and always plays out slightly different.
 
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Randall Bart
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Good review, and I agree with you that the fiddliness and kingmaking detract from an otherwise fine game. However, I disagree about the randomness. A player with a sizable lead should play it safe, while a player at a disadvantage needs to gamble a little. The rules punish the leader, but the randomness can cause this to backfire. If you always knew what plant was coming up next, you would always know which plant is your best bet in each auction. The first player woudl always be stuck with the bad plant if players knew a better plant was coming, but sometimes a low plant comes up, and the great plant hanging in the five spot continues to hang. Players must assess the odds, and decide whether to play safe or wait for the turn of the card.

It's not as though the game is often decided by the randomness. The best player is still most likely to win.
 
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David Edwards Jr
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In order to reduce some of the "housekeeping" of this game, our group assigns different functions to different players. One is the banker, another is the power plant auctioneer, and someone else keeps track of turn order. Now having said all that everybody watches everybody else perform thier duties, and provides "corrections" when in the course of the game a player becomes distracted. This keeps the interaction up as well as keeping everyone involved.

To reduce the fussiness of handling the money we use poker chips. They are much easier to handle and have a much higher durablity.

I like the game. Each senario is somewhat different giving life to replays.
 
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