Ever been frustrated that the power is out and thought, “Hey, I bet I could plan better than those idiots at the power company”? Probably not (unless you were in Texas last year) but if you’re looking for a strategy game that lets you try your hand at running an energy company, Power Grid, designed by Friedemann Friese, is the game for you.
Why I love it
Power Grid is a great game for anyone who loves to think strategically; it provides the feeling of building an empire through decision-making and bargaining rather than combat
Very little is left to chance in Power Grid, and there’s almost nothing about the game that “feels bad” for the player. Due to the structure of the game, falling behind is not necessarily a bad thing due to the comeback mechanics built into the game’s turn order
The game is generally pretty easy to learn, and after a ten-minute instructional video (linked here), you’ll be ready to play. Even though the strategy may take some time, I’ve seen new players beat experienced players in their first game.
If, during an interview, you’re ever asked about that “board gaming” interest at the bottom of your resume, Power Grid is one of my favorites to describe because it usually sounds interesting to people while potentially sparking some real-world discussions
Power Grid was the first really strategic game that I ever played, and it will always have a soft spot in my heart for that reason; on that note, I think it’s a great game to launch budding gamers past the likes of Catan and Ticket to Ride (which in my view is similar, but not as fair and interesting)
Who would love it
Gamers or Non-Gamers: Gamers. Power Grid is an economic strategy game, and I think that any gamer would really enjoy it! It might be a bit intimidating to a non-gamer or someone who is only looking for a quick, lighter game.
People who don’t gag at the word math
People with a power fantasy
Who might not love it
People using their phone calculator to figure out what 3*2 equals
I would not recommend the game for families who are looking for a game to play with children under 12 unless they already have experience with complex games and enjoy them
What it is (briefly)
Power Grid is an economic strategy game for 2-6 players where players attempt to power more cities than their opponents. Throughout the game, players will expand across the game’s chosen country (your choice of US or Germany in the standard edition), seeking to power as many cities as possible to win the game. Each turn consists of five parts. First, there is the auction phase, where players can bid for power plants to power their cities. Then comes the resource buying phase, where players pay to purchase resources to power their power plants. This is followed by the building phase, where players spend the game’s currency, Electro, to expand to more cities to power. The final phase is the bureaucracy phase, where players earn money based on how many cities they power.
Early on, players will have weaker, less efficient power plants, and it feels great to upgrade your plants throughout the game, but be careful, or you may end up spending too much on your plants and resources without having nearly enough cities to make those costs worth it.
When to play it
A power outage
The game is playable with 2-6 players, but I personally think that the game is a bit richer with 4-6 players, as the map is more open, and the auctioning can get more interactive. With 2-3 players, I’ve found that it almost always ends up as each player choosing the plant they like best, whereas with 4-6 players, the competition grows and the resources seem to come back to the market a bit more quickly.
As mentioned above, I think it’s a great bridge game for people who are interested in strategic board games and want to try something a bit more challenging but might not be ready to spend an hour setting up for a game and learning a complicated ruleset
You might like it if you also like...
Ticket to Ride
Before buying a Power Plant, consider the resource market and replenish rates. Create a plan for the turn near the beginning, and do not overpay for a plant if you will not be able to use it to generate more money than it costs (including its resources)
Just because you can buy something does not mean you should. Holding off on building new cities can keep you further down the turn order, which can be a huge advantage through the early and mid-game.
Though going later can be an advantage, do not sabotage your growth because you want the right to go later; this can stifle your future growth and make it more costly to do so down the line.
In the midgame, try to prioritize bidding on plants that can power 5 or more cities rather than smaller ones that may seem more efficient when possible. These can usually immediately keep you from needing to use all of your plants to power your cities, and they also have the potential to stick in your endgame setup when you push for a win, which is usually around 14 to 17 cities. Since you are limited to three power plants in games with 3+ players, it is essential to have plants with an average near or higher than 5 to win the game.
Turn order only resets mid-turn on the first turn. In the first auction phase, buying a lower number power plant and only starting with one city can provide an advantage on the next turn, so these can actually be worth more than the higher plants that power more cities at a higher cost.
Plan ahead and be efficient. Before bidding most of your money on a plant, be sure that it will actually help you win the game. On late turns, it can be tempting to throw a ton of money on the most expensive plant in the game. Though the plant provides a lot of value, it is often so costly that it negates its value and limits your growth in the near term
Power Grid is a cool game with a unique and interesting theme, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to add an economic strategy game. Power Grid has a more traditional board feel that always scratches the board game itch I so often feel, and I enjoy considering what may have gone right and wrong each game.
For more about the game, click the link to see the game’s profile on BoardGameGeek.com.