Power to the grid!

[Also posted at the Raanana Boardgames Group site.]
Power Grid

Laurie, Ofer and I played a game of Power Grid, currently Laurie’s favorite game, and one I am quite keen on too.

The theme of the game is developing a network of cities that you can power up with your assembled collection of power plants and resource materials (coal, oil, garbage, and uranium). You get the power plants by bidding for them – an aspect of the game Laurie does not like – and build the cities on the map by paying for them. However, everything is dependent on having resources available, and the game has a clever market mechanism which mimics the law of supply and demand. For example, if there’s a lot of demand for coal, it is expensive to buy. Combine this mechanism with the fact that player order (which is crucial) is set according to certain criteria, and you have games within games. For example, sometimes you want to be first to buy resources because there is competition for your much needed coal (or whatever). But to go first means not expanding your city network as much as you would like. And the fewer cities you power up, the less money you receive. It’s tricky and fun.

Nuclear disaster - only two uranium available!

The first phase of the game went slowly as Ofer and I, in particular, held back from building cities for a couple of turns while we tried to amass the right mix of power plants. Laurie played it straight. Ofer got a good combination, but I focused on recyclable energy (garbage resources) which was a mistake. the resources were too expensive and not enough were available. By the time I got out of garbage and switched to uranium, I was behind. Not by much, though.

Burn that coal

The second and third phases of the game went more quickly. Laurie and Ofer competed for the best plants, and slowly built up their city networks. In what proved to be the penultimate turn, I think Laurie had a chance to win the game, but she did not spot it. By building the required number of cities, she could have triggered the game end and – at that time – was able to power more than Ofer or me. The next turn, however, both Ofer and I picked up good power plants. That allowed Ofer to finish the game and claim the win as Laurie could not power as many cities. I had the biggest power plant combination, but my earlier failings meant I was too short of cash to build the cities I need. So, a fine win for Ofer, just ahead of Laurie. I was in last place only two behind the winner…