Power Grid is a game my Dad picked up on a whim at a game store we were hanging out at. A few weeks later we busted it out and played a game, and I’ve played a second game since. It’s a card-based game that comes in a little 8 x 8 box. Looked to me like it should be a fairly simple quick kind of game.
Spoiler alert: not really!
I opened the rulebook and quickly flipped through the pages and I knew it was going to be much more involved than I thought. As it turns out the game isn’t that complicated, but the directions are written in the wordiest most overly detailed way possible. It makes figuring out that first playthrough pretty daunting, but there is a pretty fun game buried underneath all the layers of rules. I think.
The goal of Power Grid is to acquire power plants. You can only own 3 though, so after you’ve bought your initial three any new ones will have to replace an old one. Different plants are powered by different resources: coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, and there is a hybrid plant. There are also green plants that don’t require any resources to use.
Each turn is divided into three phases: buying power plants, buying resources, and what they call “bureaucracy” but I like to call cleanup since that’s a more common gaming term. Plants are bought via auction; the first player picks a plant and bids on it and everyone else can bid as well; highest bid wins. Once everyone has bid (or opted out of buying) then everyone can buy resources. An interesting twist is that the turn order is reversed for this phase: whoever got to buy a power plant first is last to buy resources. That little detail can definitely affect what plants you buy, since resources are limited each round. Then in the cleanup phase players can use resources to power up their plants and generate money, which determines the turn order for the following round.
Sounds pretty simple, eh? Ah but the devil is in the details as they say. Setting up for the first game takes a while because of how the instruction manual is laid out; once you know what you’re doing you can set up the game quickly. But there are so many weird little rules you have to follow; there is a little “1” that goes on the lowest power plant so that anyone can bid 1 dollar on that plant, but it gets removed once it’s bought, and if no one buys it then that plant gets scrapped. At the beginning of the game you put the highest numbered power plant on the bottom of the deck, etc, etc. It ends up being more than a little Cones of Dunshire-ish:
It ends up being a lot to keep track of, with all the little details (don’t get me started on the 2 player version where you have to use a third “dummy” player). I’m fine with it though; my fiancé says I’m much more willing to put up with hassle and details in games than most people. Including her 😉 I think there is a pretty fun and fairly strategic game buried underneath all the other stuff you have to keep track of. I’m curious to play it a few more times and see how it plays out; I haven’t even had a chance to figure out much of the strategy yet because I’ve been too busy managing each playthrough.
Setting up the resources for sale is the most complicated part, and I’m still not 100% sure I’m doing it right.
Overall I find it intriguing but it’s probably going to be hard to find a group willing to play it more than once or twice. Thanks for reading and I would love to hear about complicated games you’ve played!