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POWER GRID: THE FIRST SPARKS 
 
 
is Friedemann Friese’s board game of the prehistoric days where knowledge was power and food was all powerful. The players are Tribe leaders attempting to ensure their Tribe survives by being the largest Tribe.
 
Each turn the players send their tribe hunting and gathering food and then feed their hunters, spend food on new tools and/or new knowledge, before losing some of their left over food to rotting. It’s a balancing game.
The game has some unusual mechanics which make it frustrating as well as interesting and intriguing. Each round the players have an auction for cards, either Knowledge or Tools. There are  always 4 cards of the 8 on view that can be put up for sale. The first player (on the turn track) selects a card and offers it in turn to the other players. The player lowest down the turn track that says they would like the card buys it (using food) and then drops out of the round, they cannot get another card this turn.
 
If none of the other players wants the offered card then the player offering it has to buy it. If one of the others does buy the card then the First player puts up another card for sale. This makes for some thoughtful calculations as the card you offer has to be one that you wouldn’t mind having yourself, yet if you offer the best card it is almost certainly going to be picked up by an opponent.
 
 
The Knowledge cards have ongoing effects while the Tools are used for gathering food or hunting. Each tool card allows for different types of food to be gathered: Baskets for Berries, Spears for Mammoths, Bows for Bears, Fishing Rod for (go on guess?) etc. Each of these also generally has a small scale showing whether 1 or more creatures are gathered depending on availability. The best 2 Knowledge cards are PLOW and TRANSPORT SLED with both being pivotal for the better tactics. In fact the Transport Shed will almost certainly win the game if you know what you are doing and your opponents haven’t read about how to play - there are online FAQs and articles.
 
Once you know which cards work best together you either try to collect the sets or prevent others from doing so. This puts a new dimension on play but detracts from general endgame tactics. Amongst regular players there is a tendency to play for Turn position as this is crucial, especially to be in a good position on the board and going last on the last turn. It is possible to end up with a King Maker situation on the last round.
 
 
Clever, thought invoking, and definitely one to get out from the back of the cupboard and dust off.
© Chris Baylis 2011-2021