Board game review: Power Grid

by . Originally posted

Tonight I had the chance to play a new game I knew nothing about; Power Grid, a 2-6 player board game published by Rio Grande Games.

The aim of the game is to out bid your opponents on new power stations, as well as shipments of resources, so that you can expand your cities across the face of Germany, bringing in further finances. The game ends when the first player builds their 17th city.

There are several aspects to each round, with the direction of play changing at various points. These aspects include putting new power plants up for auction, closing down old power plants and making way for new ones, purchasing fuel (such as coal, oil, uranium or garbage), building new cities and generating electricity which in turn relates to money.

As the game continues, new power plants become available that use less fuel and produce more output, allowing for more cities to be lit at night. Based on the limited resources that your opponents are also bidding for, do you go for the sturdy coal option, the smelly low-competition garbage incineration path, the lower power but ‘fuel free’ wind turbines or perhaps the futuristic uranium route that starts off horrendously expensive?

I found myself desperately crunching numbers in my head, wondering to buy resources now or wait for the market to recover and fuel to become cheaper, however doing so would reduce my current income as cities go un-powered. Could I afford it? Would my opponents take the resources this turn, leaving me in a worse position next turn and leaving me out of pocket? How about diverting funds to buy cheaper fuel at the expense of being about to produce new cities? Lots of options and decisions to make in a reasonably ‘educated’ manner.

Its a very strategic game, balancing your wealth between developing your power capacity while also expanding your cities. The rules are a bit heavy to begin with, with various routine board game rules such as “direction of play” changing after each round, but sticking with it and playing out a few rounds quickly drills them home. They’re not hard, just a bit of attention is needed 🙂

Most definitely a game to replay a good few times before a hardened strategy can be established. We probably ended up playing our 4 player game for about 2hrs… although I must admit once the rules had been covered the game played very quickly.

Power Grid is a great game if you like resource management or strategic games; similar ones would have to be Puerto Rico and Settlers of Catan, its great fun and particularly tense as you see the fuel market change, dashing your plans for establishing your nationwide power empire.

Will be replaying this one again soon I hope.

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