My quick reviews are aimed at people who are new to BGG, and who "just a couple weeks ago didn't know so many games existed!". I write these reviews to help them from drowning in the sea of games and reviews, so If you are a newcomer, read on.
My reviews are thus short, and attempt to provide the newcomer with the most helpful information in the shortest reading time, so that he/she can check more game reviews or perhaps get enough sleep after reading so many, instead of providing game details to the veteran geek.
What you'd get if you purchased Power Grid:
(Image by Blake Phillips)
As a newcomer to the hobby, this is why Power Grid is relevant for you:
You are probably surfing the net to find out which game(s) to purchase to start your new hobby. Most likely you've been advised to get one of those "gateway games" that are more accessible and suited for newcomers.
You may also have been warned that those heavier, meatier, juicy games everybody talks about, although are more fun, are not a good place to start the hobby because they are more complex, fiddly and overall difficult to grasp, specially when you don't have an existing gaming group with a mentor that can explain rules and keep that very first play on track.
Power Grid is, one of those heavier, meatier and more complex games that are truly delightful to play, ranked #3 here at BGG and the favourite game of thousands. Power Grid is however more suitable for newcomers to eurogames than most people think, I believe it is the more accessible of all the "big stars" at the top 10, and amongst the ones with wider appeal.
So, if you are about to make your first game purchase, and you are tempted to include not just that gateway game to get started but also a deeper game to follow up, Power Grid might be a good candidate for that, and the following should help you decide:
Power Grid is:
A game for 2 to 6 players, that plays best with 4 and 5 but still very good with 3 and 6. If you only intend to play with your spouse on "1 vs 1", Power Grid might not be the "heavier" game for you. Perhaps you should check Tigris & Euphrates.
A game about building an electric power empire, where you purchase power plants at acutions, purchase carbon/oil/garbage/uranium (to fuel your power plants) at "market prices", and extend an electric network across the country (Germany or the US). The bigger your network and your power plants, the more money you can make by supplying electricity to cities (as long as you can purchase the fuel to turn on those plants!). Over time, bigger, better and more efficient power plants show up, some of the fuels become expensive due to market supply/demand, and electric connection costs rocket high as the board gets crowded. In the end of the game, the player who can supply the most cities with electricity wins.
This is what the game looks like during play:
Power Grid is an economic game, that features an auction mechanic where you need to spend money (purchasing power plants) to enhance your economic engine, and also a resource management mechanic where you need to use the money you've left to turn on that engine (purchase fuel for your plant, like coal/oil/etc) and expand across the board (extend your power distribution network). The more cities you can supply with electricity, the more money you get for the next round.
What follows from the above, is that Power Grid is a game where you need to perform calculations on the best way to spend your money, or on "¿how high can I go in this auction while still leaving enough money for the rest of the round?". This means lots of adding and substracting. If you or your gaming partners loathe math, there is a chance you may not feel comfortable with Power Grid. When I play with my group, most of us at one point or another of the game pick up our cell phones' calculator functions to aid us into devising our strategies.
While being intense in adding/substracting is what puts "Power Grid" along the heavier games, this is actually simpler to overcome (you get used to it and/or you use a calculator) than what makes other games heavy. With Puerto Rico you need to learn the behavior of a lot of "buildings" over the course of a few games. The same goes for Agricola, Caylus, El Grande (the cards), Race for the Galaxy and most "top 10 games". All in all, Power Grid is likely your safest shot at the big games.
In Power Grid the turn order of each phase is arranged to help the trailing players catch up with the leader. Trailing players get to purchase fuel first (driving fuel prices up for the leading players), get to expand their network first (avoiding being blocked by leading players) and go last at the power plant auction (meaning they get to auction for the best power plants, and possibly with less competition). This can help the game be more friendly to the newcomer. Overall, Power Grid's designers were very, very careful about balance.
Power Grid is a little fiddly in that the setup changes according to the number of players, turn order changes to favour trailing players, and certain special things happen when going from one of the 3 phases to the next. You are likely to miss a couple rules at your first couple games (I did, and I've more complex games), but even then those first games will be quite fun
The game is tense. The auctions for power plants are tense. Purchasing fuels (carbon, oil, garbage, uranium) is also tense (because you don't want to be left out with the higher prices) and so is expanding your network (you don't want to be blocked from the cities you need)
If you fall in love with power grid, its very unlikely you'll ever get tired of it. The fact that the map is two sided (Germany on one side, US on the other) helps to that. I've grown tired of Puerto Rico (the former #1 game), but I don't envision getting bored of Power Grid any time soon. In the long run, you may want some of the many available expansions, which cost from $10 to $14 and offer lots of new maps (France and Italy, China and Korea, Central Europe) and a different deck of Power Plants.
Power Grid is a game with lots of interaction, more than most other "big games" such as Puerto Rico, Agricola, Cuba. The game plays loudly and with lots of laughter, which is not that common in other heavy "strategic" games.
Power Grid is a game with little luck, a true euro. There are no dice, and while there is drawing of cards (Power Plants cards), the cards are auctioned rather than assigned, so you never really are "forced" into taking up something you don't want. What makes it hard to foresee the future in Power Grid does not come from luck but from the actions of other players
When you begin to play Power Grid, at the end of the game, win or lose you want to play again. You get this feeling that "I can do better next time". "I want to try this or that strategy". When your group has acquired some experience, the game will become very competitive. With experienced players, it gets very unforgiving, so you can't afford to make mistakes: It becomes very hard to keep the lead, and very easy to to become a "fadeaway loser". This is a heavy euro, and it shines at it.
Where to go now?
For more details about the game and its rules, check out these reviews:
Positive review: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/289782
Negative review: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/314635
There's a list I've made, specially intended for newcomers, which might help you find your way amongst the myriads of available games: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/38736
If you get the game:
Of utmost importance in your first few plays is that you get the game setup correctly. Don't try to setup the game "in a hurry" after all the players have arrived. Until you know the game by hearth, calmly prepare the board and the resources following the manual. Pay special attention to:
Make sure that you take out cards from the power plant deck according to the number of players. This is very important, because if you forget the game will be too long and not fun.
Make sure that some of the areas of the map are blocked, according to the number of players. If you play a 3 player game using the whole map, it will be broken.
During your first plays keep the manual at hand, and print the reference sheets found here on the geek to aid you at applying all the adjustments that the manual mandates to be done throughout gameplay.
Do not despair if you get confused, nor if you can't find strategies, nor if you find one and believe it's "the one" thus making the game solved; for example: many falsely believe that the auctions dominate the game, because they haven't played enough to behold what market dominance can do. Power Grid is a deep game, and it will take many many plays for it to completely unfold before your eyes. Keep playing despite any initial problems that you get, and you'll see
I hope this was of some help for you, have fun gaming!
- Last edited Sat Aug 1, 2009 5:26 pm (Total Number of Edits: 6)
- Posted Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:52 pm
Overall, Power Grid's designers were very, very careful about balance.
I agree wholeheartedly with this. it's amazing, though, how many people claim it is unbalanced - I think that's because they haven't really thought about the game.
Great review. I find you do an excellent job hitting key points for new gamers in your reviews. You might also recommend that new players start with areas of lower connections cost. As newcomers they definitely want to play the east coast of America as opposed to the west coast when not playing the full map or it will be a long uphill battle to make money and could ruin the game for them. Benelux is also an excellent choice to play with new people if they get the expansion due to it's cheap costs and quick play. It is one of my favorites to teach people on.
Interestingly enough, I also find that this game works very well as a gateway game possibly due to a slight resemblance to Monopoly (paper money, little houses, buying property). I have a friend who strongly dislikes most of my games including my gateway games, but he really likes Power Grid because he says it is like Monopoly but much better and he actually gets really excited about playing it.
I have a friend who strongly dislikes most of my games including my gateway games, but he really likes Power Grid because he says it is like Monopoly but much better and he actually gets really excited about playing it.
Power Grid: Like Monopoly, only better!
I like it!!!
Do not despair if you get confused, nor if you can't find strategies, nor if you find one and believe it's "the one" thus making the game solved; for example: many falsely believe that the auctions dominate the game, because they haven't played enough to behold what market dominance can do. Power Grid is a deep game, and it will take many many plays for it to completely unfold before your eyes.
IMHO, most of the game is in getting the right plant at the right price, at the right time. Taking into account the state of the market, and which player is eager to buy goods in the few next turns, is an important issue. I think that this quote is to remind that board placement is not the central part of the game: avoid to get stuck in early game, have some towns near the centre of the board at the beginning of phase 2, and you are done. There are some tricks in trying to take advantage of the turn order, however, that may be very important in the last 2 turns.
- Last edited Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:00 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:52 am
Rodrigo M. Corrêa
WOW, what a perfect review! I am kind of one of those new to heavy games, although i have played Caylus already...
Thx a lot for that review! I clarifys all my doubts about getting this game.
Wow, I've been obsessed with finding info on Power Grid, my game-to-be, but this is the best review yet by a longshot. It targets the perfect audience.