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Game Review: Power Grid

Review of: Power Grid

Reviewed by:
On November 29, 2014
Last modified:December 14, 2014


As game players are apt to say, the "bits" were of nice quality and I thought the dual-sided board (US/Germany) was a nice touch.

The game is fun to play and feels very well balanced.

I don’t play board games nearly often enough.  This is a past-time that is becoming a lost art.  In effort to help reverse that trend we cracked open a new (to me) game we got some time ago. First we had to wade through the instructions.  (Kudos here to anyone who has to write instructions for a game.)

Power GridPower Grid is a German game, but the instructions were fairly well translated.  (The game is rated for ages 12 and up.)

Tipif you embark on such an effort, switch off on reading the instructions aloud, then discuss and ask questions as you go.  It turned out to be a fairly efficient way to get the kids enfranchised in the process.

Anyway, it took about an hour for us to make it through the instructions.  Of course, when we got down to playing, we had to refer back to them frequently at first.  However, once the game is underway, a lot things make sense, that can seem foggy in a quick read.

It’s a good idea to take the advice given in the instructions – which state that if there are first time players, it is recommended that you play an abbreviated version composed of only ONE step.   In the course of this maiden voyage, you get to see how the mechanics of the game function and how it plays.

There is quite a bit of strategy involved in this game and many tactical decisions to be made in the course of playing.  It’s not horrendously complex, but there is more to it than meets the eye.  Mechanically, the game combines bidding, resource management, and route optimization.  Turn order is determined based on the status of each player with respect to board position (how many cities) and/or the value of the power plants they possess.  There are advantages to being in the “best” (as worded in the instructions) or primary position, but perhaps greater advantages to being in the “worst” (end) position.  Based on this best/worst designation, the order switches depending on the phase of the turn.   For example, the player in the “worst” postion, gets to buy fuel first.

I’m not going to rewrite all of the instructions here, but it’s a neat combination of mechanisms that form the game, with almost no luck involved.  Basically, each player has to bid on power plants, purchase raw materials (fuel, garbage, coal, oil, or uranium) to run these plants, and create routes to cities that will be supplied with this power.   At the final phase (of 5) in each turn, the players get money based on how many cities they have powered.  The first player to power 17 cities wins.  The subtleties of power plant auctions (whether to be first to bid or last) and fuel purchasing (being first to purchase is a definite help for haivng access to cheaper fuel), and when you can build city routes, all make the game interesting.

Having lots of money is not the object, but rather balancing resources to purchase routes, upgrade power plants, and buy fuel at the best prices.  There is a variable market for fuel with limits on what is available and at what cost.  It is possible to engage in limited stockpiling and consequently drive up the price in successive turns.  It is also possible to block or delay access to cities, driving up route costs.

As game players are apt to say, the “bits” were of nice quality and I thought the dual-sided board (US/Germany) was a nice touch.

The game is fun to play and feels very well balanced.  Although I didn’t win either game, I never felt so far out of the running that it wasn’t fun.



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