Power Grid

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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 availab…
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Dice Tower
Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Good quality thematic components.
  • Plenty of expansions - particularly Italy & Korea.
  • Extremely well-balanced economic engine.
  • Rewards careful planning & ability to react to changing events.
  • Replay-ability.

Might Not Like

  • Steep initial learning curve.
  • Not a two player game - not even with The Robots Expansion.
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Description

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.

  • Ages 12+
  • 2-6 players
  • 120 minutes playing time

In today's article I'll give you a brief guide to the various Power Grid Expansion boards, including what they add to a game of Power Grid and some other random thoughts I have about each one.

Each expansion comes as a reversible board with two maps and some minor rule changes from the base game. Do remember that you need a copy of Power Grid to use these boards. So, in date order of release with a few more comments afterwards.

France and Italy

France

This starts with more access to nuclear fuel, but the board and game is really all about Paris. Paris is a mega city with many possible cheap connections, but be careful, don’t get trapped in there.  Sometimes it is best to stay well clear of Paris and let your opponents fight over it.

Italy

Italy has a bit more waste but less coal and oil, and potentially some really expensive connections. Don’t worry about the connections, worry about the fuel. Oil and coal will be in very short supply, stockpiling can become very important, and beware the possibility of there being no fuel to purchase from supply.

Benelux and Central Europe

Benelux

More eco plants, less coal, more oil, and a faster turnover of stations results in a shorter game and step three arriving earlier. It is a very friendly board where pretty much the only serious competition is going to be the auction for those much wanted large power stations.

Central Europe

Lots of coal, some restrictions on nuclear, and a special rule around players with access to Wein being able to purchase garbage at a discount. Players are likely to fight over access to Vein for that important fuel discount, alternatively steer clear and invest in all that cheap coal.

China and Korea

China

China is a planned economy, therefore the first 30 power stations are in numerical order. This removes a random element, making the game far more about careful financial planning. It makes everything visible and known up until the closing stages.

Korea

This board has two separate fuel tracks. Players can only buy from one track on any one turn. This creates some very interesting dynamics in terms of manipulating fuel supply, especially because the North produces no uranium so any player who goes into nuclear power is going to be restricted in his access to the fuel supply.

Brazil and Spain & Portugal

Brazil

The power station deck is stacked with all the garbage stations (with garbage being called biogas). This creates a heavier emphasis on garbage, which coupled with resources being scarce makes this board all about managing those scare resources. Like Italy, stockpiling, although expensive, might be a good strategy.

Spain & Portugal

Whilst there is plenty of fuel around, what is available varies greatly between different phases. This makes eco plants very desirable in terms of energy supply stability. Players may need to be far more flexible with recycling power stations or stockpiling fuel, the right station at the right time can become incredibly valuable, but may have limited shelf life. This shifts the emphasis to managing the power station auction and bidding carefully.

Russia and Japan

Russia

Russia has some really expensive connections, but the real difference with this board is that there are less power stations available in the auction and a few other limitations around power stations. The effect of this is to make manipulating turn order to get access to bid for the right or most desirable power station something to give serious consideration to.

Japan

Players can start two separate networks, and there are some other rules around networks and staring positions. This change makes fighting for access to the most desirable cities something to give very careful consideration to. It makes the game more about building the network, especially since the fuel supply is reasonably generous.

Quebec and Baden-Wuerttemberg

Quebec

This expansion board as a greater emphasis on ecological power plants, but be careful, whilst these are attractive because there is no need to purchase fuel, these are generally not the plants needed later in the game.

Baden-Wuerttemberg

The phase order is changed so that calculating turn order happens after buying power stations and before buying fuel. It’s a small change but it makes a massive difference, considering just how attractive that big station is going to be and how much the fuel might cost.

Northern Europe and United Kingdom & Ireland

Northern Europe

The expansion board introduces some different power plants, some of which may be very desirable, so is likely to result in players getting involved in major bidding contests especially towards the end of the game.  Be careful though, money is needed for more things than the auction, so don’t get sucked too deeply into it.

United Kingdom & Ireland

With no connections between Ireland and Great Britain, players can start two separate networks after an initial hefty outlay in cash to start the second. Additionally there is a restriction on nuclear plants but a generous nuclear fuel track.

Australia and Indian Subcontinent

Australia

Players can build anywhere with no requirement to make a network, simply pay a big cost to enter a new region. This, coupled with a complete change in how uranium is used, makes for a very different game. Nuclear power stations are now mines, and uranium can be sold to raise income. This income might be really useful when resources become more expensive.

Indian Subcontinent

By limiting access to the resource market, access to fuel is heavily restricted in both step one and two.  A further complicating factor is that if players build too fast the power system can fail, leading to massively reduced profits for everyone. The effect of this may leave players later in the order to build with a very tough decision, hence turn order becomes even more important.

Final Thoughts on the Power Grid Expansion Boards

Power Grid is generally fairly generous with the fuel supply, fuel can get expensive but rarely runs out. Those Power Grid Expansion boards which restrict fuel supply, Italy, Brazil, India and Korea, make the game more of a challenge and increases competition for those resources.

If you like bidding games then Northern Europe and Spain & Portugal may be you choice or consider Baden-Wuerttemberg, where player order is determined after the auction or Russia with the tighter and smaller auction, or Quebec and those eco plants.

If you want a game where building a network is really challenging or expensive you need to consider Russia, Japan and Italy, though this said each board has different challenges when constructing a network, from the attractiveness of Paris and Wien, to not getting boxed in, especially on a board like India where money to expand might be tight.

It you want a fairly relaxed game with less competition between players then consider Central Europe and Benelux. And if you want something completely different there is always Australia.  Lastly (for now) on Power Grid, don’t worry about the math, I never do, Power Grid is all about manipulating turn order, obtaining the right power stations and having the fuel to power them, get these right and everything else should fall into place.

If I had to pick five Power Grid Expansion boards, what would they be?

  1. Italy
  2. France
  3. Korea
  4. Spain and Portugal
  5. India

But it really is a matter of personal taste.

Power Grid Our 'How to Play' series teaches you how to play some of the very best board games available on the Zatu store. We also share some sneaky hints and tips on how to get the better of your rivals. This week we take a look at Power Grid.

Initial Set-Up

In Power Grid, pretty much all boards set-up in a very similar fashion. Fill the fuel to the defined amount, give each player 50 Electros, set-up the initial market of power stations with the deck of power station cards dependent on the number of players. With almost all boards there will be a current market of power stations – those which can immediately be bought, and a futures market – those that will likely become available. In the initial set-up the power station's futures market are guaranteed to become available, later in the game it can be more random. Then, once all is set-up, you randomly determine player order – this is the only time player order will be random.

Power Grid - Turn One

In player order auction power plants. Player one enters the auction first and each player must buy one, and only one, power plant. This means that player one must make an initial bid. Once a power plant has been bought the lowest number station in the futures market becomes available to purchase and a new power station is added to the futures market. This continues until all players have bought a power station. After every player has a power station, turn order is re-determined in order of who has the highest number power station. In all future turns, turn order is determined at the start of the turn. The player with the most cities is first in player order, with power station numbers in order of highest rank acting as a tie breaker. In turn one there are a few things to consider: Power Stations At the start of Power Grid, the power stations available are not very desirable to anyone, these are going to be in order of 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, and 10, with only the 03, 04, 05, and 06 initially available for purchase and the others in the futures market. Personally, I never bother with the 07 or the 08 unless I am forced into it, and I’m highly unlikely to bid more than one above the face value on anything. These power stations are going to become obsolete pretty soon and there really is no reason to spend more than is absolutely necessary. Future Turn Order Remember if you build connections to two or more cities in turn one and have the highest ranking power station, in all probability you will be going first next turn. This means you will likely get stuck with the a poorer selection of power plants in turn two, and because you buy fuel in reverse order those below you in turn order will snaffle up the cheapest fuel. Initial Placement of Connected Cities Be careful here, if you are building to connect two cites keep those connections cheap – the cheaper the better. Even more important is to avoid placing somewhere where you might be blocked in. This is the one benefit of being higher up in the turn order – it is easier to avoid being blocked into a corner, and easier to block or make expansion difficult for an opponent. This said, getting into a closely contested turf war is never good and is best avoided because it rapidly becomes expensive for all parties. Ultimately, in turn one, all I'm ever bothered about is not being blocked in and spending the minimum of Electros on power station and fuel, and sometimes as a second objective not ending up first in player order. Power Grid Game Board - How to Play

Future Turns

  1. Determine player order – The player with the most connected cities, highest number power station being the tie breaker, then the second ranked player and so on.
  2. Auction power plants – In turn order, players may only buy one power station per turn and may elect to buy none. Remember if the player whose turn it is to make the initial bid declines to do so, he is out of the entire auction phase for this turn. As each station is bought potentially better ones become available from the futures market and draw deck – This might be a very good reason for not being high up in the turn order.
  3. Buying fuel – In reverse turn order.
  4. Building – Building and expanding the network of cities in reverse turn order. Remember that in step one only the 10 Electro section of a city can be used, so players can only connect to empty cities, though they can connect through cities occupied by another player, by paying all the cumulative connection costs. This is why avoiding being blocked in, especially in early stages, is really important.
  5. Bureaucracy – Using fuel and taking income from the number of cities supplied. Resupply the fuel market. Remove the highest number power station and place it on the bottom of the draw pile. Add a new station from the top of the draw pile and rearrange the power station market in numeric order

Some Things to Consider

Fuel Stockpiling Power stations can be used to stockpile fuel for the future, each station can hold twice the amount of fuel it can use, and can only hold fuel it can use - you cannot for example store coal on an oil powered station.  Stockpiling can be really useful in that it drives up the cost of fuel for opponents; this is a good reason to consider having early access to buying fuel and not being too far up in the turn order. It is also worth bearing in mind that fuel can be moved from one station to another if necessary. Bidding Wars It is very rarely, if ever, a good idea to get into a bidding war on any power station. There are possible exceptions, the Eco plants for example. To be honest, if a power station cannot power five or six cities I’m generally not going to waste much cash on a bidding war, on these big stations I might, these are the ones needed to win the game. Math Don’t worry about the math. I cannot stress this enough. I never worry about the math. If you don’t get into a bidding war and keep expanding in pace with everyone else you’ll almost certainly have enough cash for what you need to do. Step Two This occurs when someone builds seven cities. On the next turn, the 15 space on each city can be used. Players cannot place a second token of the same colour on the same city, so cities get opened up to other players. It can be a very good idea to be lower in turn order to take advantage of the potential for rapid expansion. Power Grid - Money and Resources Obsolescence Power stations can be discarded in various ways:
  1. Players may only have three power stations, when they buy a fourth they must discard one. Fuel can be moved to another power station of the correct type if it has capacity to stockpile.
  2. If at any time there is a power station in the market with a number equal or lower than the number of cities any player has, it is immediately removed from play and a new station added from the draw deck.
  3. If all players pass in the auction, the lowest number power station is removed from play and a new station added from the draw deck.
Step Three In step three there is no longer a futures market, instead there are six power stations available for auction. When one is bought, add another  power station to the market from the draw deck.

Game End and Win Conditions

The game ends at the end of phase four of a turn where any player builds to a specific number of cities. In a three or four-player game this is 17 cities, and it is less in a five or six-player game. The winner is the player who can power the most cities on that turn. Electros are a tie breaker.

Final Hints on Strategy

  • Being in the lead is not always bad and obviously at some point if you're going to win you do need to be in the lead. Being high up in the turn order limits your options, if you're in a position where the limits are not a problem then it is where you should be.
  • If you build the number of cities to end the game and you can only power 14 of them you will win if your opponent's can only power 13. For this reason it might be really important to keep an eye on fuel availability. There is little worse that having that oil station which powers six cities and insufficient oil to fire it up.
  • In reality, you need to collect the right power stations, these are almost invariably those which can power five or six cities and this is why I never get into bidding wars on lesser stations.
  • I cannot stress this enough, don't worry about the math.
  • Instead, worry about manipulating turn order to get access to the right power stations and the necessary fuel, and maybe at time the right opportunities to build your network of cities.
Buy Power Grid Board Game

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Good quality thematic components.
  • Plenty of expansions - particularly Italy & Korea.
  • Extremely well-balanced economic engine.
  • Rewards careful planning & ability to react to changing events.
  • Replay-ability.

Might not like

  • Steep initial learning curve.
  • Not a two player game - not even with The Robots Expansion.