In the fast-moving popularity contest which exists within this hobby, it doesn’t take many years for a game to have lasted to be called a classic. In the case of Power Grid, which just had its 10th anniversary, it is a status that is well-earned, whether or not you agree that ten years is enough time to make such a declaration. Because lets face it, the attention of a lot of gamers is fickle and fleeting in the “cult of the new” obsessed hobby. But a game like Power Grid has enough prestige and depth to endure. Lets find out why.
Power Grid is an economic game where the goal is to supply power to as many cities as possible. To do this you need a network reaching those cities, power plants to provide power to them, and fuel to run your power plants (either coal, oil, garbage, uranium, or wind).
These three aspects also dictate the three main areas of gameplay: an auction to buy bigger and better power plants, a supply and demand economic system to buy fuel, and a cost-calculating map phase where you are buying into different cities. These different phases all work together really well despite seeming like fragmented pieces, and all are important to your overall goal.
Power Grid has a reputation of being a number-crunching game, and I suppose that is true. When you are calculating your routes and how much fuel to buy, there is a low margin of error, but I think that is to the acclaim of the design. This is a eurogame after all, and decisions need to be tight. But I also don’t believe that it is completely automated either as market prices depend so much on what other players do as well.
Power Grid has a very interesting aspect to it which is the battle for turn order. More so than any other game I’ve played, turn order is very important in this game. Because so much depends on player decisions (networks, markets, power plant bidding), being able to go first is a great advantage. However, to do so you have to be behind in the number of cities you power, which means you are also behind financially as well. So that creates a very interesting balance struggle.
Power Grid is famous for having one of the most boring box covers ever. And I’m perfectly fine with it. Inside the box, we get a board with some unique aesthetics and a great layout, including the economic and turn tracks set up with ease. The power plant cards are awesome, and the wooden components for the power stations and resources are just as nice to have as wooden components always are.
The game comes with paper money. Good. Everyone complains so much about paper money, and I just dont know what the problem is. Is it more rebellion against monopoly? I’m not sure, but paper money is modern currency, and it makes sense with a modern market such as this one. So paper money: good stuff.
So lets face it, there’s nothing overly interesting about the power grid components. But I still like them. I like wooden components, even though we just have the same houses as Catan. I like the artwork as well, its different than you usually encounter. I also kind of like the bland box cover; it doesn’t try to dress up the rather bland theme. Power Grid doesn’t need to be fancy or flashy for anyone, and I respect that.
Power Grid seems like a dry game with a dry theme. Buts its far more dynamic than it looks, and is a really great economic game. It can be unforgiving, so be aware of that. If you lose your turn order spot at the wrong time, for example, you can really be cut out of the loop (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…). But this is a great economic game that can give a different experience than most other games being played today. So if you don’t mind mathy games and tough decisions, best to dim the lights on this one. If you like an interactive and dynamic challenge, then crank up the voltage on Power Grid.