A strategy game with surges of energy.
Power Grid is a strategic, European style board game where you develop and manage a power grid in Germany or the United States. The first time I played Power Grid I knew it would become a favorite.
It is an energetic (ha!) game for groups of two to six players who are eager to engage in a few hours of cutthroat competition over scare resources. Wine, cheese, and bottled tea help lighten the mood.
Here are the top three reasons I love playing Power Grid:
1. Cohesive Theme
I’m a sucker for themes. Themed dinners, themed parties, themed dinner parties, and themed board games.
A solid theme transports you into a different world–at the races betting on camels or planning the perfect city or vying to inherit a coveted fortune.
In Power Grid, the theme is building a power grid, which is compelling and educational.
For instance, players learn the basics about tradeoffs between resources. Renewables may be in high demand and offer easy wins, but they may not be as effective as traditional sources like coal. Nuclear may be extremely effective, but the technology to build up plants and fuel them is more difficult and costly to acquire.
Also, over time as players build up their business their buying power increases, which offers up more purchasing options to grow even more. The pace keeps ramping up, and often game play is head to head.
With two sides of the board, the game can either be played in Germany or the U.S., adding more variety to future rounds of play. We played Germany this time.
2. Auctioning Mechanic
Power Grid has an auctioning mechanic that makes the game interactive. You not only need to craft your own strategy, but you also need to think about your opponents’ strategies as well. During the auctioning phase, players’ strategies come to light, so it often is the most exciting part of the game.
Power plants are laid out in ascending order and new plants are rotated in as plants are purchased. There is a bit of chance as to which plants appear on the market, but, mostly, players are left to read each other. Are competitors banking on renewables or biofuel? Should you focus on uranium since competitors have invested heavily in coal? How much are they willing to spend to build up the means to expand their grid? How badly do you really want to diversify resources?
To top it all off, keen players can also take advantage of an unstable futures market along with the current market, as future plants are also visible as teasers on the board.
3. Balanced Gameplay
Hours of being pummeled by another player are not my ideal way to spend a gaming evening. So, when a large time investment is required of a game, I value when the game feels balanced and fair. Power Grid is just that type of well-designed game that maintains balance after hours of play.
Every round offers advantages for leading players and trailing players alike. Phases such as the building phase are played in reverse player order, creating an incentive to sometimes trail behind on purpose. Player order offers a misleading account of who may win the game, which leads to mystery and excitement throughout.
After three hours of intensely developing our power grids, scores tend to be pretty close. Counting up scores is hard because there’s so much nail-biting, which is gross but appropriate at the end of a game of Power Grid.
Power Grid is one of my favorite board games. I hope you get a chance to try it and let me know what you think.