Top positive review
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Fun and well balanced game that plays surprisingly well up to 6 players.
on 5 October 2016
Power Grid is a game about buying different power plants to power houses in a network of cities across a map. Put like that it sounds pretty dull but it really isn't, it features good elements of strategy and planning yet straddles the line well between more hardcore board gamers and casual players so almost anyone could probably enjoy it. The game plays 2-6 players which for this type of board game is actually pretty rare to hit numbers that high. It plays best with 4+ in my opinion yet despite that it doesn't take an age to play.
The object of the game is to be the person powering the most cities at the end of play. The game is played over three stages which break down to a number of rounds revolving around balancing finances and resources At the start of each round a number of power plant cards are put up for auction with each player getting the chance to bid on one in turn if they want it. Each power plant has three things worth noting. First, it has a number in the top left which is the minimum starting bid the player whose turn it is must auction at if they choose that plant to try and buy. Second is the type of fuel it uses such as coal, oil, rubbish, uranium or green energy. Lastly is the amount of houses that plant can power.
Fuel is really interesting in this game and scales based on how many players are playing, it's rather well balanced. At first coal is rather abundant but as the stages progess rubbish becomes more plentiful in line with time moving on which is interesting. It can all change though depending on how plentiful a fuel type is, each type has a tracker on the main game board showing how much of any type is available, the more of a type there is, the cheaper it is to buy, so you will be constantly competing with other players for resources depending on what plants you all have. The one exception is green energy which uses no resources but generally speaking doesn't power as many houses as the other plants can.
Each player can only hold a maximum of 3 power plants at any one time so if you buy a new one it must replace one of your current plants. They get more powerful or fuel efficient as time goes on so it is certainly worth it. If no one bids on a plant at all in a round the lowest value plant is removed from the auction and a new one moved in to keep the flow of the game going.
After buying power plants and fuel to power them you need to build houses. These are built across the main board map in cities. The houses start cheap, but you have to build in a network from your first house and the connections between cities have a cost that must be paid along with the house cost to build a new one. So for example if I build a house in Hamburg, and I want to connect to the city south of it Hannover, the connection cost is 17, the house is 10 so I need to pay 27. This makes placement of your starting houses very important. Each city has 3 zones to build houses but only one player can build a house in each city. zone 1 costs 10, zone 2 15 and zone 3 20. The additional areas open up as stages of the game unlock allowing people to expand their network through other players city networks, an important feature as you can get cut off or find other players connections cheaper despite the increased house build cost.
After buying houses and expending fuel from your power plants to power them each player gets income based on the number of houses they are powering from their plants (You can build more houses than you can power but they gain you nothing until you can power them except board advantage), new fuel is added to the tracker and the rounds start over.
The production values for Power Grid are nice. It comes in a fairly good sized sturdy box. The main game board is pretty big and thick, nice quality and perfectly flat. The game comes with paper money which seems to be pretty rare now days though it does the job fine. The power plant cards are simple to understand with good iconography, they are however odd sizes being square so if you're a gamer that likes to sleeve their cards finding sleeves that fit may be difficult.
In conclusion I like Power Grid quite a lot, it has a lot going for it for my gaming group being reasonably quick to play, deep enough to be interesting each time and playing a large amount of people. Though I have yet to try any of them it also features a huge amount of expansion sets with new boards for different countries as well as new powerplants specific to them and extra rules and they all look pretty cheap at around £14 each to really extend the play time of the game and give it more variety. I plan to pick up the Northern Europe and UK expansion fairly soon.
+ Decent strategy elements without alienating players.
+ Good production values with clear icons.
+ Scales well to higher player numbers.
+ Large amount of well priced expansions.