Power Grid is a money management game. The winner is the player that can power the most cities after a player builds a certain number of city connections. In order to win you'll need to make wise power plant purchases which are auctioned, get a good return of investment on the resource market and finally, buy the right city connections on the map at the right time.
In fact, managing these 3 aspects of the game (Plants, Resources, Map) is a lot of fun! Mostly because you'll find it difficult to get your head around all the strategies and how the game changes at different times.
The board flips over and has 2 maps, USA and Germany. And you'll only play on a collection of color zones on either map. So every game, you'll probably have a slightly different terrain than you can remember playing, (if people want that, you could always play the same zones I suppose.) There are 50 power plants and you'll only ever have 3 (or 4 in 2 player) at one time.
The resources are laid out on the board in a resource market that follows very simple supply/demand rules. The more of that type bought, the more expensive it gets. Do you stockpile extra oil to drive up the price on your neighbor? Do you hold off on powering your recycling plant until the price of trash drops next turn? I love this market.
The Power Plants
The Power Plants form another market next to the board. 4 plants are up for auction in the Actual market and a forecast of what may come is displayed with another 4 plants in the future market. The rest in a deck . The start of the game uses the same power plants so you'll start with the cheapest plants. The starting plants use lots of resources to power very few cities. As the game progresses more and more powerful plants will become available requiring players to upgrade. There is also a game mechanic that will cycle the largest power plants away for the end-game.
There is a turn-order game mechanic that you may read some negative reviews about. In Power Grid the player in last place, meaning the player with the fewest cities connected and/or the least powerful plants, will have a big advantage in the upcoming round over the player in first place. This is because the losing player gets to buy power plants last, which is a nice advantage. In last place, you also get to buy resources first at the best prices, and buy city connections first giviing you the best selection. You'll find a lot of strategies in Power Grid revolve around not expanding too much faster than the other players or intentionally stalling to take last place for the next round. You should note that this is expected and factored into the game time of about 2 hours. (the first couple games will lean to 3 hrs.) Some will be frustrated that the game isn't a direct race to the finish. But I enjoyed this very much. I liked that the turn order balanced the game requiring players to work the game in such a way as to jump ahead at the end rather than lead from the start.
You'll notice that with power plant bidding, resource buying, city buying and money collecting for selling your power, this is a heavy banker game. The games will also be close making each transaction important. Make sure everyone watches the money! A simple math mistake is devastating. It is simple math thoguh... don't worry about having a few beers and being unable to play. But it is also a lot of math. And the success of your strategies will depend on your natural business senses.
I give Power Grid 4 out of 5 stars. Its a good mid-length game for players looking to have a bit more long-term strategy than Puerto Rico but still not enough time to give a long strat board game like Risk 2210.