In Power Grid players represent power companies competing to establish dominance in the market. The board shows a map of Germany one one side (the country of the games’ origin) and the USA on the other. Players can choose which map to play with, and their ultimate aim is to build a certain amount of cities in order to win the game.
Power for your cities comes from four potential sources: uranium, waste, oil and coal. These are represented by wooden pieces, and are used in the power stations you use to power your cities. Having built cities on the board, your responsibilty is now to provide electricity for them, and working out the best option here is the nub of the game: once you’ve bought a power plant, there is no un-buying of it, and you must provide that plant with the resource it needs (with the exception of green energy, which need no resources at all but are most expensive to establish). The amount of cities you power generates your money, but obviously as the amount of cities you own increases, so does the cost of powering them!
Each round of the game consists of phases: establishing player order (very important in Power Grid), auctioning of power plants, purchasing resources to power the plants (which will get more expensive as the game progresses!), building cities, and finally powering them. This final phase – how many cities you successfully supply power to – determines your income, which will dictate what you can afford come the next auction.
The game is a race – when any player has built their network onto 17 (or more) cities at the end of a round, the endgame is triggered. The player with the biggest power network at the end of the round wins the game.
This is one of the few games beloved by regular gamers that neither Joe nor I particularly warm to. It is cleverly designed and feels thematically sound, but in my experience the game felt long enough to outstay its welcome – there’s a good deal of repetition that can slow down almost exponentially as players try and compute their ideal move – and I’m not crazy about that board at all. But as I said, many people rate it highly.
There may not be any lasers or cutlasses in Power Grid, but players are trying to outbid each other and force up prices for opponents.
There is a fair amount of thinking to be done, which means you may have time to twiddle the odd finger. It's a game for those who like a real challenge in terms of strategy and suits older children and adults.
There's not a huge amount of rules to take on, but calculating your (apparent) best move can make Power Grid a game with pauses for thought.
The order of the power plants for auction is random, and these will inform players' approach to the game. Lots of variation available!