Power Grid: An extremely well balanced strategy game

Null_Entry’s husband and business partner Peppers here again. Null has a very busy schedule this week and has asked me, her gamer man, to help out and write a contribution.

Last time I wrote an article here, I talked about one of my favorite titles: Agricola. This time it was pointed out to me that we have yet to mention the other title I’m always trying to get people to play with me: Power Grid. Null_Entry knows me well, for I feel this must be corrected post-haste.

This title was one that we found at our local game store before creating the Game Paradise ludothek (board game library for those of you who don’t know any German). It was a lucky find that we still enjoy several years later.

I have a hard time getting through rule books, finding it easier to learn by doing or by being shown. Power Grid is a complex game, and its rule book is seven pages long. If you do okay with rule books it is a well written one, but if you’re like me, you might want to find somebody to teach you instead.

These are a few of the power plants that players can buy. The big number in the top left hand corner is the starting bid that players can buy the plant for. The bottom of the card shows what kind of resources are needed to power this plant, and how many cities it can power.

Once the rules are understood it isn’t really all that hard to play. It keeps my ADD rattled mind constantly occupied, and when I first played it I wanted to play it again. And again. I sometimes have gotten burnt out on games by playing them too much, but this is one I don’t really ever find myself getting tired of.

I won’t explain all the rules here, as attempting to adequately summarize them and not bore the reader has taken me quite awhile and more than a few drafts.

This is the map that originally comes with the American release of Power Grid.

The game is played on a big board that represents a power grid. Turns happen in phases, of which there are five. The player who’s doing the best is given a disadvantage by having to go first or last during each phase, which keeps them from getting too far ahead or anybody from getting so far behind they lose interest. Players have to balance how much they want to pay for power plants, resources to run them, how they wish to link their power grids, and how much money they have. The game changes slightly as things progress with different steps that alter how things replenish and where links can be built.

The step 3 card, which has the potential to show up late in the game.

The end game starts when any player reaches a certain number of linked cities, how many depends on the number of people playing. The player who can supply power to the most cities wins. If you don’t have good enough power plants, or enough resources to run them, or enough links, it is quite possible to be the one who ended the game and still lose.

I won’t lie, there’s a lot of counting involved in this game, AKA math, but nothing beyond adding, subtracting, and sometimes a little multiplying. It is not a game that I would recommend to the casual gamer. It is however one of the most balanced games I’ve ever played. I have played it many more times then I’ve kept track, and the ending is always close. The strategy is satisfying, and whether or not I’ve won, I almost never walk away feeling jipped.

This is one of many power grid expansions on the market. This little box contains a new set of power plant cards that can be used instead (or in addition to) the original set.

I often take it as a good sign when a game has an expansion. It says to me that the game was good enough that somebody felt elaborating on it was worth doing. This title has five alternative game boards, a second alternative deck of power plant cards, and even a few hard to find promotional power plant cards. I’ve even seen one enthusiast make a custom giant board that lights up.

If complex resource management type games appeal to you, I strongly recommend this game. Even if it isn’t your style, this is still a very good game… once you know how to play.

Power Grid is published by Rio Grande Games, and is by the designer Friedemann Friese.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 5:07 pm and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Resource Management Games . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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