Friedemann Friese: 2F Games
POWER GRID DELUXE – Europe & North America - 2-6 players aged 13+
Please Note: some of the illustrations shown are for the maps of Expansions which we at Games Gazette Online hope to be able to play with at some time in the near future using the Power Grid Deluxe components.
This is not the original Power Grid game, well not exactly. If you have Power Grid or have played Power Grid then you will have a good working knowledge of the game mechanics. If, like me, you haven’t got Power Grid or played Power Grid, then you are in for a good gaming experience. But be prepared for a 5 or 6 player game to go beyond the two-hour approximate game time, it takes a good 30 minutes per player, at least until you are 100% au fait with every possibility.
POWER GRID DELUXE can be used for the Power Grid Expansions but not simply by opening the new map and getting to it; there are a few radical changes that you will need to address first. As I say, I do not have Power Grid, the original, but I do have a few of the expansions and of course I have the internet to help me. The maps for the Deluxe version are a double-sided affair, larger than the regular game maps and including all of the USA on one side and all of Europe on the other. Also Natural Gas has taken the place of Garbage, though to be honest all that means is you have to remember G A R B A G E spells G A S when it comes to resources.
I have to say that I haven’t as yet played the Deluxe edition using any of the Expansions, mainly because every time we get ready to play Power Grid our time frame is limited and no-one wants to take the extra time required as they want to get straight into the game.
Both sides of the map have seven regions, each colour coded and bordered for ease of play. Within each region there are seven cities connected by communication routes, each of which has a travel cost clearly printed about halfway along each. Looking first at the USA side I was surprised to see that the green region in the top right of the board is basically Canada, though it has New York, Boston and Philadelphia included whilst Toronto is in an all-American region. Canada continues on the far left, yellow region, which includes Minneapolis and Seattle. None of this has anything to do with how the game is played, it’s just a little disconcerting to see the countries mixed together; as an Englishman it would be like seeing Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow as parts of England. Anyway, that’s just aesthetic and, as I say has no bearing on the gameplay at all.
At the start of the game the players have to decide which 5 of the 7 Regions they will be using in the game. We honestly think that with 5 and 6 players ALL Regions should be used but that is obviously not the designers thinking and we accept that. We also think it would have been really good, especially as this is a Deluxe version, to have included in the game card cut-out shapes to cover the unused Regions.
POWER GRID DELUXE relies on each player’s bravery and caution and skill and intellect during the auction action. You can easily overspend and leave yourself without enough cash for the rest of the round, but it is also easy to allow your opponent(s) to get the edge by not spending enough and allowing them to buy the better Power Plant cards. There can also be a tendency to go heavy on the no-resource required wind generators ahead of all others which saves you cash during the resource purchase phase but may bring you in less cash in the long run. Getting a balance of various generators isn’t easy but it is possibly the best overall long-term strategy.
POWER GRID DELUXE is played in phases, the first being deciding on the Player Order. The player who has connected the most cities takes first place and then the order continues by using the same determination. The player markers are positioned on the Turn Order track, moved across from Box A to Box B (representable naming, not actually marked as such on the board) and repositioned as necessary each turn.
Going first has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the first player, whose marker is at the top of the order box, gets to decide which Power Plant is first put up for auction, choosing from those on the top row of the display and making a bid (passing is not allowed for the player who chooses the sale) at least equal to the value of the Power Plant (there is a possible price exception for the Power Plant with the lowest value). A round and round auction is held until one player purchases the Power Plant, then the Power Plant is removed and given to the winner, a new Power Plant is drawn and if necessary the display is shifted around so that the low to high order of value remains in the display. Then the another Power Plant is selected for auction – only when the auctioning player buys the Power Plant does another player get to control the auction. Once a player has purchased a Power Plant they are no longer allowed to bid for or choose a Power Plant in this turn.
The next phase is played in reverse order, thus the player whose marker is in last position is the first to buy resources. As resources are limited and that they rise in price as they are sold – there is a Resource management track which shows the availability and prices – this player has the opportunity to gain enough power to build generators in the next phase, thus the game isn’t a run-a-way for the player with the most money or imbalanced towards the first player.
It is absolutely necessary that you read and understand the rules fully FOR BOTH MAPS as there are a few considerable differences in the way the game is played when using Europe as opposed to using the USA map.
I think the above is enough to give you an idea of what the game is about without me continuing to paraphrase the rules. You are building a network of generators across the map with each linked to at least one of the others in the chain. The cost for linking generators to cities is the same for each city, 10 for the first link, 15 for the second and 20 for the third. However there are rules that apply to city linking that have to be followed and which cause players to think carefully about their spending and building. For instance, the second and third costs (15 and 20) do not come into play until certain criteria are reached and then players are not allowed to enter a city more than once, though they can build out of it by paying the linking fee and the entry cost (at the same time) to join with the next city in line. It is very easy to find yourself boxed in and unable to link to any more cities until the entry-criteria is reached, especially in 5 and 6 player games where other players may control their spending and building specifically to prevent the criteria being reached until they are ready.
The game ends at a point determined by a chart which is governed depending on the number players.
POWER GRID DELUXE is a true gamer’s game which will test your strength and reserve and your frustration and skill levels throughout its 2 hours plus cycle. There is a 2-player variant called “Against the Trust” which pits two players against each other and also against a powerful “Trust” organisation that is unforgiving and often has the tendency and ability to block and frustrate even the best laid plans.