Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Power Grid Board Game Review - Electrical Eng. Game!

One of the most iconic games of the last ten years. It had a stint as the number one game on Board Game Geek. It has close to a dozen awards, nominations, and recommendations. It has had seven expansions and two spinoff games. The green box is a staple in most hobby game stores. It is Power Grid, or Funkenschlag as it is known in Germany.

Designed by Friedemann Friese in 2004, Power Grid is one of the most recognized games in the industry.Power Grid is a 2-6 player game that takes about 2 hours to play. Expect a game to last a little longer if you are playing with new players and if you are playing with five or six players. Each player takes the role of a powerplant company. The goal is to power the most cities with power on the last round of the game. The game takes place in rounds that have five phases each.

These include determining turn order, auctioning power plants, purchasing resources, building cities, and bureaucracy (this includes powering your plant to get money, replacing the lowest or highest power plant in the market [depending on the Step the game is on], and replenishing the resource market). Play continues in this fashion until a player reaches the required number of cities to trigger the end game (this differs based on the number of people that are playing).The first phase is simply determining the turn order for the round.

Unlike most games that have a set clockwise turn order, Power Grid determines who is winning and losing the game based on how many cities each player has. If there is a tie, the player who has the higher-numbered power plant is considered to be in the lead. Turn order is an important part of the game. The player in first place has a disadvantage as he is the last person that is able to buy resources and build cities, but he is the first person to go during the auction phase. This mechanism keeps the game balanced and helps prevent a runaway leader. Not everyone likes the mechanic, but most people do.


In the second phase of the game, there is an auction for available power plants. Each player takes a turn bidding on Power Plants. There is a power plant market that has eight plants. The four lowest numbered plants are in the current market and can be bid upon. The highest four plants are in the future market. Each power plant has a starting bid number, which also helps determine it's worth. Each plant uses one of four resources to power it's cities. Each plant also has a maximum number of cities it can power. This number ranges from 1-7 cities with the

standard game. Players take turns bidding until only one player is left. Each player will have an opportunity to start the bidding on the power plants, unless they have already purchased a plant during another player's round to start the bidding. This continues until everyone has a chance to purchase a plant. You can have up to three power plants in your possession. If you purchase a fourth plant, you must discard one of your current plants.

The third phase is simply buying resources to fuel your power plants. This happens in reverse turn order. Meaning, the player in last player goes first, and the player in first place goes last. You can buy one of four resources (coal, oil, garbage, and uranium). You can buy up to twice as many resources as your power plant can use. As more resources are purchased, they become more expensive to buy. The market can even run out of resources, in which case players would not be able to power their plants.

Phase four is building cities. Each city you build costs 10 dollars to build and then if you want to build anadditional city you have to pay 10 dollars and the connecting cost. During the First Step of the game, only one person can build in each city. During the Second Step you can build in cities that other players have built at a cost of 15 dollars per city. During Step Three, you can build in cities that have two players in them at a cost of 20 dollars per city. Players continue to build their networks and try to power the most cities.

Finally, there is phase 5. During this phase, players burn the resources they need to power their plants and thus their cities. You get money for each city that you power. After everyone powers their city, you reset the power plant market by removing the highest numbered power plant in Steps 1 and 2, and removing the lowest power plant during Step 3. The highest numbers are placed on the bottom of the power plant card stack and will be used during

Step 3 of the game. After phase 5, you lather rinse and repeat. And that is the basic game play for Power Grid. There are some other small things that happen during the game, but this will give you a basic idea of how the game is played.

Power Grid has gotten a lot of praise and won some awards, but what do I think? Well, as always, let's start with the components. These are solid. The board is double-sided. One side is a map of the United States and the reverse is of Germany/Deutschland. This is a great feature and allows for some more playability. The resources are each a different color and shape, and are made of wood. The resource cards are great. The artwork is simple, but I like it.

The cards help you embrace the power plant theme, while being informative. The game pieces are also language independent, which is a great feature. The price is also right for this game. The MSRP is around $45 which is a steal. This game could easily be put in the $60-70 price range and be worth it's price.

There are a lot of expansions for Power Grid. These can keep the game fresh. There is a set of additional power plant cards that can be mixed and matched with the original deck. There are several promotional cards that add some new flavor to the game. Finally, there are map expansions. Currently, there are ten additional maps that come in two-map packs. There is also another pack that is supposed to come out this year. These map packs are great for

those who plays lots of Power Grid. I love a game that keeps it's audience coming back with fresh variants of the game while keeping the game the same.The game play of Power Grid is flat out amazing. The theme may sound boring to most, but this is probably one of the best economic games ever made. It's mechanics are innovative and the game play is very deep. Power Grid makes you think, but it does it in a way that is engaging. You are still interacting with the other players and enjoying yourself even though their is a lot to consider on each turn. We have found that everyone ends up enjoying this one. It is a little heavier than most of the games we play and it takes a little longer. Because of these two things, it

does not see the table often enough. I love how much fun this game is. The planning that has to be done and how those plans can be changed and swayed by the plans of your opponents. Thus, making it a wondrous strategy game and even more fun.As for the final question, is this a good two player game? And the answer is a resounding no. The game is best with four, five, or six players. With only two or three the game loses its charm. The auction mechanic and the management of the resources drives Power Grid. However, with only two or three players these two mechanisms just feel flat. An auction with only two just loses it's enjoyment. It becomes dull and unexciting, and with only two, resources are not fought over. You just buy power plants that the other player doesn't have. Although the game is does not play

well with fewer players, Friedemann has tried to fix this flaw by creating the Robots Expansion. This expansion allows for A.I. players that are supposed to help make 2 and 3 player games more fun. I haven't yet tried the Robots Expansion, but I just picked it up at my Friendly Local Game Store and hope to give it a go soon. That being said, I can't recommend this game enough and I hope that I will soon be able to recommend the Robots Expansion and thus endorse this as a great two player game as well.

Adapted: gameswithtwo.com

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