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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- Spain and Portugal
But it really is a matter of personal taste.