Review – Power Grid Deluxe
An Auction and Route Building board game.
Title: Power Grid
Year Published: 2014
Designer: Friedemann Friese
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Game Time: ~120 mins
Set-up Time: ~5 mins
Theme: American/European Power Networks
Mechanic: Auction, Route Building
How to win: Power the most cities in the final round of the game.
The objective 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 bid against each other to purchase the power plants that they use to power their cities.
However, as plants are purchased, newer, more efficient plants become available, so by merely purchasing, you’re potentially allowing others access to superior equipment.
Additionally, players must acquire the raw materials (coal, oil, garbage, and uranium) needed to power said plants (except for the ‘renewable’ windfarm/ solar plants, which require no fuel), 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.
The board is doubled sided, America on one side, Europe on the other… There are slight differences in game play between them and I’ll just cover America here… Also, this is a look at the Deluxe edition but the basic edition is almost the same, just a little less pretty 🙂
America is divided up into 6 regions and you use 1 adjacent region per player so use the spare pieces to seal off this part of the board.
Each player gets 50 money (Electrons) a Summary card and the Generators of that players colour. One of each players Generator are put on the turn order track to randomise turn order for the first round.
Based on the player count, put a number of resources on the resource track.
There is a summary card to remind you how to refill the resources each round and the card itself has a space on the board so put it there…
Put a Step 2 and Game End marker on the player order track to mark when these phases activate.
Shuffle the dark back Power Plants and fill up the spaces in ascending order, also, put one aside face down.
Shuffle the light back Power Plants and remove a number based on player count. Then shuffle the dark and light Power Plant decks together. Put the Step 3 card on the bottom of the deck and Dark Power Plant set aside earlier on top.
The game is played over 5 Phases, each with 3 Steps until the game end is triggered.
Now, a little complicated if you don’t know the game but it’s worth mentioning now… If the Step 3 card was revealed in the last round Step 3 starts now. If it started before Step 2 was activated, resolve Step 2 actions first… (It’ll all make sense later) Lots of ifs, buts and maybes in this game!
But anyway, here are the 5 phases.
Phase 1 – Determine Player Order – This is skipped on turn one as it was done randomly… But from the second round on wards this is sorted in order of players who have built the most generators. To break ties, the player with the highest value Power Plant goes ahead.
Phase 2 – Auction Power Plants – You MUST buy a Power Plant on turn one but in future turns it’s optional.
Add the discount to the lowest Power Plant, the minimum bid for this particular Power Plant is 1. In turn order, you put the auction hammer on any Power Plant on the top row of the current market to mark that one as ‘Up for Auction’.
That player makes a bid of at least the minimum value (the number on the Power Plant) In clockwise order, players can increase the bid or pass to drop out the bidding. The winner pays the cost and moves their Generator on the order track to the other column to show they have purchased this round. (You can only buy one per round)
The draw a new Power Plant to fill the gap but when adding Power Plants to the market, move them so they stay in ascending order. Anytime a Power Plant with a value lower than the number of Generators built by the player with the fewest, the Power Plant is scrapped. (get that? :))
Also, if a Power Plant with a lower value that the Plant with the discount token on is drawn, add it to the row but discard the discount token.
If the player that started the auction did not win, they start the next auction or pass.
You can only have 3 Power Plants maximum, if you gain a 4th you must scrap an EXISTING one (not the new one). You can move resources around before scrapping, if they cannot store them they go back to the supply. (More on resources in a bit)
Move Generators back to the left of the track.
If nobody bought the discounted Power Plant, Scrap it at the end of this phase.
If the Step 3 card is drawn, keep it as the highest value Power Plant and shuffle the Power Plant deck. At the end of this phase remove the Step 3 card and the Lowest value Power Plant, do not replace them. Step 3 starts in Phase 3 (Straight forward huh?) where there will only be 6 Power Plants and you can bid on any of the 6.
Now, in the first turn of the game only, Rearrange turn order based on Power Plant value.
Phase 3 – Buy Resources – In Reverse turn order, players buy resources from those available. You pay the cost for the resource one at a time, so if the price goes up as you are buying resources, you pay more. Of course whoever goes last has to pay more, but it also means they’re in the lead in the game so it’s OK 🙂
You can only buy resources that you are able to store and a Power Plant can store double its requirement each.
Hybrid Plants can use/store any combination, Ecological Plants can’t store resources but don’t require them.
You can freely rearrange resources tokens across your Power Plants at any time.
Phase 4 – Build Generators
In reverse turn order, players build Generators on the board. Each city can only hold 1 Generator per current Step of the game in a city and all subsequent Generators must be played adjacent to an existing one in you network. You can pay to skip a city but this won’t count as connected to be part of your route. You pay the cost for the city AND the connecting cost and can build as many Generators as you have the money for.
Move your marker to show how many connected cities you have.
On turn one to get you going you can build in ANY unoccupied city.
If the Step 3 card is drawn, keep it as the highest value Power Plant and shuffle the Power Plant deck etc Same as in Phase 2.
Phase 5 – Bureaucracy
Check if Step 2 is active, if not move to the ‘Earning Cash’ phase. But if Step 2 is active you can now build generators in the second spot in the city. Also, you remove the lowest value Power Plant and replace it.
Earning Cash – In turn order, remove resources to the supply and gain money for supplying cities.
Resupply Resource Market – Refill the market based on the player count and Step of the game.
Update the Power Plant Market – Step 1 & 2, put the Highest value Power Plant on the bottom of the deck. In Step 3, remove the Smallest from the game.
If the Step 3 card is drawn yadda yadda same as before
When a player passes the required number of connected cities, the game ends in Phase 4 of that round.
Each player powers as many connected cities as they can. The player that fuels the most cities wins.
The tiebreaker is the player with the most remaining money.
What a game! When there is a poll on a Board Game forum for popularity, Power Grid is always near the top which attracted me to try this game. I wasn’t disappointed.
OK, so round to round it’s pretty easy to handle. When things change to Step 2 and Step 3 it gets a little fiddly, but I have a cheat sheet printed out to handle that so it’s all good.
It is worth mentioning that the USA and UK Board differ slightly in the rules too…
Every round you have to use your cash to buy a Plant, Buy Resources and Build Generators so you have to work it with what your income will be. To do this you need to pay attention to turn order to work out how much those resources might cost you. Also, if players are around you on the board the cost of building might be more than you hoped, or those spaces might be taken.
It all builds up to that final turn where you hopefully worked out what you need to Power all of your Generators and you powered enough to win the game.
Such a fun, smooth(ish) game…
I give it 8/10