Power Grid Review

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power (grid).”

Description from the Manufacturer

Power Grid is the updated release of the Friedemann Friese crayon game Funkenschlag. The latest cooperative publishing effort from Friedemann Friese and Rio Grande Games, removes the crayon aspect from network building in the original edition while retaining the fluctuating commodities market like McMulti and an auction round intensity reminiscent of The Princes of Florence.

The object of Power Grid is to supply the most cities with power when someone’s network gains a predetermined size. In this new edition, players mark pre-existing routes between cities for connection, and then vie against other players to purchase the powerplants that you use to supply the power. However, as plants are purchased, newer more efficient plants become available so you’re potentially allowing others to access to superior equipment merely by purchasing at all. Additionally, players must acquire the raw materials, like coal, oil, garbage, or uranium, to power said plants(except for the highly valuable ’renewable energy’ wind/solar plants),making it a constant struggle to upgrade your plants for maximum efficiency while still retaining enough wealth to quickly expand your network to get the cheapest routes.

Playing Time

120 Minutes

Number of Players

2-6

Best With

4 or 5 Players

Complexity Rating

3.29 out of 5

Power Grid is a classic game, one that rightfully deserves a place in any serious gamer’s collection.  Something funny about board games, sometimes a really well realized theme can save a particularly clunky game.  Other games have such fun mechanics and game play, that it really doesn’t matter if the theme is as dry and dull as can be (we’re looking at you Patchwork).  Power Grid is just such a game.  As a kid, did you dream of building and running an public utility BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE?  Funny… me either.

And yet Power Grid is consistently finds itself on the lists of “greatest board games of all time“.  And with good reason, this is an incredibly fun game, despite the thematic dullness.  It plays so incredibly well.  There is a lot of player interaction, without direct conflict, as players bid against one another, driving prices higher and higher as better and more powerful power plants as the game progresses.

I know it might sound strange, but this really is one of the best games that has ever been designed.  I’m pretty sure you can’t even properly call yourself a board game enthusiast if you haven’t played this game at least once.  And one play will definitely not be enough.

Things I Loved About Power Grid

Because each game, one area of the map is blocked off, the game can be played over and over again, with enough variety to keep you coming back for more.

When a player jumps out into an early lead, instead of having a built in mechanic to penalize the leading player, the game cleverly has a “benefit the loser” mechanic that feels much more fair and fun.  There’s nothing worse than feeling penalized for being good at a game, and Power Grid addresses power imbalance in a particularly great way.

The bidding process really makes the game come to life.  It’s a whole lot of fun, and makes the game feel incredibly fast paced, with very little downtime.

The game scales incredibly well.  If you have 3 or more players, you’re going to enjoy this game (although in my humble opinion, the more the merrier).

The supply and demand market system is incredibly well developed, and actually simulates a real market remarkably well.

The game is really intuitive, and easy to learn.  That’s not to say it’s easy to master, but the basics of the game can be picked up quickly.

Things I Hated About Power Grid

The game requires a lot of math brain style thinking.  Maybe you love those types of games, but it can be a bit exhausting by the end of the game, and often times a game is won or lost by a few dollars, and those dollars tend to go to those with the best math skills.

New players will often feel unable to compete with more experienced players.  It requires practice and experience to understand how much to bid and when.

While I’m a fan of longer games, this one can feel a bit overlong, in particular because the theme is so dry.  If you feel like you are doing really poorly, and your heart isn’t in it, the game can feel interminable.

While an incredibly clever mechanic, the “help the loser” system can encourage some players to play intentionally poorly.  Which can be kind of lame.

Final Thoughts

There’s a reason Power Grid is considered a must-have in the board gaming world.  It is a great economic and auction game, has a great, deep sense of strategy, and is a whole lot of fun, shouting and bidding against your friends in an attempt to out do one another.  And the more you play the game, the more you learn the intricacies and bidding strategies, the more fun you have.

Just make sure you go into this game understanding that it takes some time to master, and it can be frustrating to play against more experienced players, who mop the floor with your inexperience.  But with a few plays, and some sage advice from other players, you’ll be winning bids and creating the best electrical grid in now time.  And that, my fine friends, is the dream!

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