Monday, May 24, 2004

Review: Power Grid

Rio Grande Games' latest release is Power Grid.

Technically speaking, this is actually a re-release. The original game, Funkenschlag, was released a few years back in a slightly different form-factor. The rules have changed only slightly from the original version but the biggest change is the map. The original map was a small affair that players colored on with crayons (yes that's right) to indicate where their power grid connected. The new map is a gorgeous two-sided affair (Germany on one side, USA on the other) and players put markers on it to indicate which cities are connected to their grid. It's a much nicer system that streamlines the process quite a bit.

The object of the game is to be the player who builds a power grid that provides power to the most cities. At the end of the game, a player's score is determined by how many cities he is actually supplying power to. Just because a city is connected to your power grid, doesn't necessarily mean that you are actively supplying power to it.

Each round, players bid on power plants. At the beginning of the game, these power plants are inefficient and only able to supply power to one or two cities. By the end of the game, the available plants are very efficient and able to supply power to perhaps six or seven cities each.

After players purchase power plants, they must purchase raw materials to power their plants. The price of resources (Coal, Oil, Garbage and Uranium) varies throughout the game as resources become more scarce or more plentiful. A big part of the game is figuring out which resources to buy and when to buy them. Buy a lot now and the price will rise. Buy too little and the price remains low for your competitors and you risk not being able to power as many cities.

Next, players pay to connect cities to their power grid. Larger grids cost more money but also have the potential to generate more revenue.

Finally, players decide how many cities they are going to supply with power in this round. The more cities you supply with power, the more you get paid. But on the other hand, that also uses resources which you could have saved for a later turn.

Then the process starts all over again with players bidding on power plants. This process continues until one player has created a power grid of a predetermined size.

At every step of the way there are complex economical choices that must be made. In fact, playing Power Grid is a lot like constantly creating a cost benefit analysis. If that sounds dry, well it isn't. It's challenging, yet very rewarding and extremely fun.

My 12 year old son begged me to play this game with him. Repeatedly. It's definitely a hit in our family.

One final point: This game would be a fine educational tool for teaching math and basic economic principals as well as simple USA and German geography.