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Power Grid
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Power Grid

English language edition of Funkenschlag

List Price: $44.95
Your Price: $35.99
(20% savings!)
(Worth 3,599 Funagain Points!)

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 120 minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Friedemann Friese

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, 2F Spiele

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Product Description

This is the new and improved (rules and graphics!) Funkenschlag from Friedemann Friese. Players compete to build the best network of power lines and stations, choosing which cities to supply and what sources of power to use.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Advanced Strategy Game Nominee, 2005
Spiel des Jahres
Recommended, 2005
International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2004

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Friedemann Friese

  • Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, 2F Spiele

  • Artist(s): Maura Kalusky

  • Year: 2004

  • Players: 2 - 6

  • Time: 120 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 1,305 grams

  • All-Time Sales Rank: #42

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.


  • 1 two-sided gameboard (Germany / USA)
  • 132 wooden houses
  • 84 wooden tokens
  • money
  • 5 summary cards
  • 43 power plant cards
Power Grid has the following expansions available:
Power Grid: the Stock Companies (Preorder)
(20% savings!)
Spielbox 2014 Issue #1
English language edition (Preorder)

Power Grid: Australia & Indian Subcontinent
(20% savings!)
Power Grid: Europe/United Kingdom & Ireland
(20% savings!)

Power Grid: Italy/France
(20% savings!)
Power Grid: The New Power Plant Cards
card expansion 1
(20% savings!)

Power Grid: Benelux/Central Europe
English language edition of Funkenschlag: Benelux/Zentraleuropa
(20% savings!)
Power Grid: China/Korea Expansion
English language edition of Funkenschlag: China/Korea
(20% savings!)

Power Grid: Brazil / Spain & Portugal
English language edition
(20% savings!)
Power Grid: The Robots
(20% savings!)

Power Grid: Québec / Baden-Württemberg
(20% savings!)
You might be interested in these related products as well:
Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
English version of Funkenschlag Deluxe
(20% savings!)

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.4 in 22 reviews

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I've Got the Power!
July 21, 2009

Power Grid makes the seemingly dull world of electricity and power feel energizing. There is a heavy reliance on math, and it may be good to have a calculator handy in case you can't do the sums in your head that fast, but there are many things to occupy your mind with this game. Deciding which plants to invest in, which to keep, how best to maximize your energy resources, and which cities you can power and win are key. It is all in the timing and the placement with this game and the more people you play with the more challenging it gets.

The game comes with a double-sided map (USA on one side and Germany on the other). With other power plant expansion decks and additional country maps available, you will never grow weary of this game. It has an extremely understated box design, with a truly scientific yet satisfied looking professional who is simply twisting a knob to power his plant. The inside of the box continues with this stark design, but don't let it fool you. There is a lot of strategy and ingenious game design packed inside this power-cell game.

The game play is addicting and the game itself is almost always at the top of all the gamer "best" lists. Don't judge this book by its cover, Power Grid packs a wallop.

by Teal R.
Great game
April 15, 2009

I love this game. I've been playing it almost non-stop.

Me and my friends play with one additional rule that isn't in the rule book though: We add an additional cost of 10 euros for the third city, 20 for the fourth, 30 for the fifth, ect. This stops people from rushing to the target number of cities as soon as they can power more then any other player that turn.

Absolutely wonderful
August 12, 2008

Without going into the rules, Power Grid is a great game that requires thought, planning, and no small amount of cunning.

I'm not sure about some of the comments here... there is no race to buy power plants because you are only allowed 3 max. You really need to plan ahead to be able to power as many cities as possible.

You constantly have to make difficult choices... if you buy a power plant and free up a space in the market, you give your opponents the opportunity to buy a BETTER plant. If someone raises the bid on a plant, do you raise? Will you have enough money to buy the fuel you will need? Should you over buy fuel to drive up the price for others, even though you may end up paying more the next time you buy?

There are so many tactics and strategies that the game never gets old.

The only downside is that the rules are badly written, making the game seem more complicated than it is. You can download a rules summary and player-aid at

You need this game.

Power Grid jumps to the top of the list...
September 08, 2006

Some games are just so well balanced, and the systems in play work in such harmony that you can tell the game will be in many "favorites" lists and in many game collections. Power Grid is one of those games. It should have won game of the year in my opinion.

Capacity: You have to buy/upgrade your power plants in order to increase your capacity. Victory is ultimately decided by the player who can power the largest grid of stations. However, higher capacity stations are expensive to buy and fuel. More efficient plants save you money on fuel but generally cost more to buy. Bidding skill and well timed upgrades are a must.

Expansion of the Grid: You have to build power stations to expand your grid. The topology of the board and the expansion of other players affects how much it costs (or even if it's possible at certain stages of the game) to expand. In order to maximize your resources, you have to place you stations wisely. You have to balance this expense against the need to increase capacity and to fuel your stations.

The resource market: Supply and demand determine the market price of fuel for the power plants. Therefore you want to chose plants that utilize a fuel that is not in high demand (from the other players). I found this mechanism in the game to be especially clever and interesting. You also have to consider how the availability of fuels varies between the different phases of the game. You must balance the cost of fuel against the cost of upgrading plants and building stations.

Trying to maximize these game systems at the same time makes for intense and difficult decision making. You must predict what the other players are likely to do and make sure that doesn't interfere with your plans. Also, being out in front in terms of power stations has disadvantages which means timing the end-game and managing turn order during critical parts of the game are also important.

This game has amazing depth, intense tactical play, is extremely well tuned with innovative game play systems. It goes right to the top of my list of favorites along with handful of other games: Acquire, Puerto Rico, Carcassonne, Medici, Tigris & Euphrates.

A game to rival Puerto Rico.
July 25, 2005
Awesome! A game to rival Puerto Rico. For the serious gamer who needs strategy as well as randomness.

A 2-sided board allows many hours of variety in one game. Nice quality pieces. A good bid system as well as a change up in turn order to allow the game to flow smoothly and everyone stays in a game till the end.

Build houses, buy factories to power them. It’s that simple, yet that strategic. Build your homes to block others, or expand out by yourself. The variations and possibilities are almost endless.

One of the best
July 09, 2005
I've only played this once so far, but it's already one of my favorites. I love the decisionmaking about how fast to upgrade, and the quest for ever more efficient production. Not as heavy as a thought it would be, which for me is a good thing. I don't even like the power plant theme that much, but I love this game in spite of that.
Worth the hype
March 14, 2005
I waited close to 6 months to buy this game because it was on backorder. There were other games I was interested in, but I waited anyway. Guess what, the wait was worth it. I think this game ranks up there with Puerto Rico. There is resource alocation, a nice balancing mechanism with turn order and purcahsing of energy and there is FUN in the game also! I've only played this once, but I will be playing this much more. If you have been waiting for a meaty game with lots of options and excellent balance, you don't have to wait anymore. GET THIS GAME NOW.
by A Gamer
Balanced, well-paced, many strategies
January 01, 2005

Power Grid is a solid strategy game with a comprehensive bidding component. Players have many choices throughout the game, each with advantages and disadvantages.

The game is such that having an upperhand in one area (having the most cities, for example) will set you back in another area (buying resources to power those cities). Players must be aware of these trade-offs in order to have a winning strategy.

There is little "down-time" in the game. Unless you have super-indecisive players, the auctioning and city placement goes quickly.

The game works best with more rather than fewer players, but 6 can get a little claustrophobic. 5 players is ideal.

Power Up, Gamers!
July 28, 2004

Every once in a while a game comes along that just seems to have a little bit and enough of everything. Power Grid is just such a game, and rapidly becoming one of my favorites.

The game components are first class, with colorful wooden tokens, paper currency ('elektros'), beautifully rendered 'power plant' cards, and two game maps --- US and Germany --- mounted on a reversible board.

This clever design challenges players on several levels simultaneously as they develop and execute a game plan to win auctions, manipulate fuel markets, supply power plants, and build their grids, while raising opponents' costs of doing business. This involves forcing the rise of fuel prices, bidding up auctions of power plants, or obstructing the development of opposing power grids --- all in varying degrees and combinations. Players must think at least two turns ahead in order to optimize their actions, and the game mechanics tend to keep the scores relatively close. Because turn order is dependent on the number of cities a player has 'houses' in, timing is of the utmost importance.

Power Grid is an outstanding strategy game --- a 'must-have' for serious gamers. Put it in your collection alongside games like Puerto Rico, Taj Mahal, and Age of Steam.

Most highly recommended.

Powerful Game
July 05, 2004

Power Grid is an excellent game, with many strategic options. The game resembles a train game, and also has similarities to Medieval Merchant, in that routes of varying costs connect cities. However, where Medieval Merchant has a number of counter-intuitive elements, Power Grid is logical and straightforward.

The basic elements of the game are as follows: Players auction power plants of varying capacities, and requiring various fuels. Then, fuel is purchased, with the price going up as more is purchased. Players then buy spaces on cities, paying for both the route and the city. Only a limited number of players may be present in a city; one, two or three, depending on the phase of the game. Players then power their cities, spending fuel and collecting money. Finally, a fixed amount of fuel is returned to the stock. The game ends when a player reaches a certain number of cities, and the player who can power the most cities at that time wins.

The game has a number of balancing elements in it, such as the player with the fewest cities buys fuel first, thus getting the lowest price, and also buys into cities first. Two maps, the US and Germany, add variation and replayability to the game. Highly recommended.

'That's the night that the lights went out in GA...'
June 29, 2004

Its all about the power baby!

By far the best Freidemann Friese game to date. Jay Tummelson and Rio Grande have done a fabulous job taking the updated version of Funkenshlag and creating pure energy.

This is a gamer's game that never lets up. Board Gamers of Reno recently held a PG tourney with qualifying rounds on the USA map, and six finalists competing on the German map. All the games were close with everyone sweating out what to buy, what resources would be available on their turn, build more cities, or collect $ for a big push later. ENRON executives would be proud of the cut throat, shut everyone else down attitude that prevailed while playing this game. Guests walking by and watching were fascinated listening to comments like,' man garbage is cheap,' ' I'll take two uranium rods,', 'I bid 45 for the wind unit', 'Why are you building in Seattle!?!' etc. Any business management class could benefit from playing this game as you must manage current resources, plan for future development, build in prime cities, and watch your finances.

The dual board, great illustrated cards, kibbles and bits, solid rules make this game 'electrifying'. Hold your own and don't be 'shocked' to find your friends looking to 'plug-in' on your action and put out in the 'dark'.

5 stars and a must buy!

by Ethan
Outpost on steroids
June 24, 2004

Those of you who remember Outpost will feel a sense of deja vu. An excellent combination of bidding and map-based strategy, with a good dose of planning required. Also it plays very well with three players.

I very much like how much good strategy on different levels can impact other players, as well as help yourself. If you make sure you go last, you can buy up critical resources and cripple other players, but only if you have the right power plants. And it's all useless if others have boxed you in on the map board. All stages -- buying a power plant of the right type at the right price at auction, buying limited resources, and getting the cities you need on the map -- merge together to create a sophisticated game.

by Andy
Lots of Electricty in Power Grid!
May 31, 2004

Rio Grande Games does it again. This game has well written rules that take you through the game play with just enough examples to get you off and running. The game seems well balanced for two to six players with adjustments in the size of the board and number of power plants available. The double sided map also gives you a choice of playing on a US map or German map. I'm looking forward to lots more play of Power Grid.

great depth, little luck, weak components
April 10, 2002

I have played 6 games so far, and this remains one of my favorite games. The components are really pretty poor (the map and score track are too large to fit in the box and get bent, and the yellow crayon can't be seen on the map), but I like it well enough I have redone my own boards that fit in the box. The only places luck enter into the game are the initial draw which only affects the initial power plant auction, and the order power plants appear -- the first doesn't really make an impact and the second provides enough variability that blindly sticking to a strategy will fail. The resource market works well, and being in the lead is punished enough by buying resources at higher rates (or potentially not being available) and building last that you have to decide at which point it is valuable to be in the lead (which typically means you are getting more income). Highly recommended.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
An excellent business game
February 19, 2002

This is an excellent, slightly meatier, economic game. Players are competing to build power lines to cities (sort of a la Eurorails), purchase power plants to generate the power, and buy resources on the open market to fuel the plants.

The supply side of the game is quite well-done. There are 4 different kinds of fuel (coal, oil, trash, and uranium) which are available for different prices and have different rates of supply (which change as the game goes on). Plants are then sold by action, with value of a plant being affected not only by whether or not its capacity matches your current needs, but also the state of the market for the requisite fuel (and some plants can run on either coal and/or oil, or do not require fuel). This is always the stuff of good auction games, when the commodities can have complex and very different values to different players based on their current and future situations.

A lot to like here, as the game has simple rules but is hard to master. The game is not a typical Euro as it presents tough choices and similarly tough penalties for getting them wrong. Still, the game is not too long (should be about 2-3 hours, although number of players and playing style can make a big difference - 4 players is probably ideal, as more seems to lengthen the game quite a bit). One of the best games from Essen '01, a very unique and interesting design and so far Herr Friese's best, in my opinion.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Very good game of electric power generation.
December 01, 2001

Funkenschlag is a resource management game of building power plants and transmission lines.

The game is played in several phases:

  • Auctioning off power plants: Each plant is represented on a card and has a minimum price (from $1 - $60), uses a particular type of fuel (coal, oil, garbage, nuclear) or no fuel (wind or fusion), and has varying efficiencies--how much fuel you need to power a certain number of cities. As the game continues, newer, more efficient plants will be cycled into the auction.
  • Building power lines: This phase is reminiscent of Mayfair series of games of drawing lines on the map with erasable crayons. The longer or more difficult the route, the more you pay. One difference is that a limited number of players can occupy a city at any time--making the competition for building lines fierce.
  • Buying fuel: Fuel is purchased from a market. If a lot of a type of fuel is bought or held, the price will go up.
  • Revenue: The players are paid according to how many cities they connect to and power plants they decide to run.

The goal is to have the most cities connected to and supplied with power.

What makes this game work is all of the decisions are finely balanced--you have to be careful on how to divide your limited cash resources. You need early revenue that a cheap power plant can provide, good lines built to nearby cities and still have enough to buy the fuel you need. Rarely can you get all three.

As the game progresses, you have to worry about upgrading plants and finishing lines to more distant cities and getting fuel supplies. Do you risk pouring money into an expensive new plant or getting the cheapest route to a different part of the map or buying up fuel while it is relatively cheap? You really can't sit on your laurels in this game.

The game is a bit on the long side (the 6 player game I played took about 3 hours--but I expect that to drop with fewer players and more experience), but the game was fun all of the way through.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Almost perfect
September 03, 2006

I am a big fan of market games. Dealing with supply and demand. Trying to grow your company while keeping everything else going. BUT I do not like to do Major Micro Management with a rule a hundred pages long. This game allows players to jump right in and get started which is great for me because I have a hard time getting friends interested in a new game. This one you are able to teach and play within a few minutes, and after one run through everybody gets the gist of the game. Every time you play you get more and more addicted. I love the game but the only gripe I have is that the instructions are foggy on a couple things and you really have to check the wording very carefully. The rulebook is the only thing keeping me from giving this game five stars.

Regardless this game is fantastic.

Great game
May 16, 2005
I like this version better than Funkenschlag because it is a quicker and yet it retains most of the depth. This version is also beautiful!! My only complaint with it as a strategy game is that the good players get penalized. I have never been too much of a fan of this mechanic as a balancing mechanism when it comes to strategy games (although I like it for family games). Even so, while the adaptaion of this device in Power Grid does make the final scores closer between experienced and non- experienced players, experienced players will win through their deeper understanding of the end game timing. All in all, this is an amazing game.
by Doug K
Great game, but beware the 'short' version windmills
January 21, 2002

We had a good time playing this game; so good we played it twice in one day. The mechanisms for supply and demand and the effect on prices is simple and clever, and the power plant/resource mechanism is pretty well balanced.

One caveat: the components are dreadful. You'll almost certainly want to make photocopies of the map to draw on rather than use the one provided and expect to be able to erase the crayons.

Another caveat: Both times we played the 'short' version which took only about an hour. Both times the player who acquired a large windmill (takes no resources) ran away with the game. There are a variety of reasons for this, but suffice it to say that the short game could be quite fun if you remove the windmills. Otherwise you'll just have to play the long game, which I imagine would be quite satisfying since the windmills don't supply enough power to connect a large grid.

A cautious recommendation for those who are not big business-game fans, but a hearty one for fans of 1830 and its ilk. We had fun!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Powergrid is one-dimensional
September 02, 2007

We purchased Powergrid based on the recommendation of a friend, but after playing a few times, we gave it away. After trying a number of strategies, we found that there was really only one strategy, which was to get as many power plants as early as possible. Because more power plants enable you to get more money, which enables you to get more (and better power plants), the game is simply a race to get power plants as quickly as possible. With games like Settlers, Puerto Rico, Wildlife, and Tigris and Euphrates out there, there's no need to spend time on this game.

Friese’s Fiddly Funkenschlag Flop
November 21, 2006

I generally agree with the masses, the BoardGameGeek masses that is. I heartily concur with the thousands of people who have voted Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, Caylus, Ra, and Age of Steam into the Top 10 on BGG. My tastes and those of BGG at large very rarely diverge, but Power Grid stands out as the most prominent instance of this rare occurrence. Let me start out by saying that I have a profound respect for the design of Power Grid. I think that Friedemann Friese did an outstanding job of interweaving various clever mechanics into a well-balanced game. The supply-and-demand market system for resources is particularly nicely done, and an admirable feat in game design. However, I analogize the respect I have for Friese’s design to the respect I have for classic games such as Chess and Go, or the respect I have for classical music such as Beethoven or Mozart. To be clear, I don’t think that Power Grid nearly rises to the level of any of those four masterpieces, but the similarity lies in the fact that while I respect and appreciate the design of each, I simply do not enjoy playing (or listening to) them whatsoever. I don’t intend to write many negative game reviews; not because I have something against them (they can actually be quite useful to people one a limited budget), but rather just because I rarely find a game I don’t like. In this case though, I think it may be worthwhile for me to explain the shortcomings, as I see them, of Power Grid.

First things first, what will you get in the box and what is it going to cost you? Power Grid comes with a double-sided game board, 132 wooden houses (22 in six different colors), 84 wooden resource tokens (representing coal, oil, garbage, and uranium), paper money, 5 rules summary cards, and 43 power plant cards. Power Grid retails for $44.95, and is published in the United States by Rio Grande Games. The components of Power Grid are generally very good. The double-sided game board is a nice touch, and certainly something that I’d like to see more games (e.g., Ticket to Ride) include to increase replayability. The board has Germany on one side and the United States on the other, which provides excellent variety that many eurogames with maps lack. The paper money leaves something to be desired, but could easily be replaced by poker chips. Finally, one minor complaint with the components is that the wooden resource tokens representing oil are completely round (as opposed to the garbage tokens which have flat edges), and consequently tend to roll off the table quite frequently. Nonetheless, the components are generally well done, especially the double-sided game board.

So what are you doing with all this coal and oil for 90 minutes? The goal of Power Grid is to be able to supply power to more cities than any of your opponents by the time the game ends. In order to supply power to cities you will need to do three things. First, you will need to buy power plants. Second, you will need to buy resources to run those plants. Third, you will need to claim cities on the map as the target for your power. My first complaint is with the instruction booklet for the game, which makes the game seem much more convoluted than it really is. The game simply comes down to building power plants, buying resources, and claiming cities, but the instructions are nearly impenetrable. This complaint is minor however, because most instructions for eurogames make the games seem far more complicated than they really are. Nonetheless, prospective Power Grid players should be forewarned that the instructions may take some time to digest.

The game is divided into 5 phases. First, determine player order (which will affect the order in which you build power plants, buy resources, and claim cities). This is done by putting players in order by the number of cities they have claimed (highest to lowest). This may sound like the player is already ahead because they have the most cities will have an advantage, but the reality is actually the reverse because many of the phases are conducted in reverse order. This is my second complaint with the game. The determination of player order is a huge “catch-up” mechanic to prevent a runaway leader and ensure that the results of every single game are extremely close. I don’t mind catch-up mechanics in general. I think the removal of rings in YINSH and income reduction in Age of Steam are both great examples of catch-up mechanics done right. However, in this case I think the catch-up mechanic is simply too extreme. It is so extreme in fact that players often strive to be in “last place” so that they can be last in player order. This detracts from the game-play significantly because instead of focusing on which power plants to build and which cities to claim, players end up focusing on how to manipulate the game to think they’re in last place, giving them that added boost from player order to claim first place at the very end. Players end up spending 90 minutes trying to be in “last place” to gain the advantage of this excessive catch-up mechanic.

The second phase involves buying power plants in auctions. This phase is actually quite clever because 8 power plants will be visible, but only 4 of them are available, with the other 4 making up the “future market” so players can see what will be available eventually. Each player has an opportunity to select a power plant, which then puts that plant up for auction for everyone to bid on. Players don’t always want to buy another power plant because each player can only have a maximum of three power plants, and if you buy a fourth plant then you must discard one of your previous plants. The third phase involves buying resources to run these plants. There are four different resources in the game (i.e., coal, oil, garbage, uranium), which correspond to the different types of power plants. As I mentioned previously, I think the system for buying resources is both the most clever part of the game’s design and simultaneously one of the biggest shortcomings of the game. The system for buying resources is extremely clever because it involves a supply-and-demand market where the price of resources in high demand will rise and the price of resources in low demand will fall. Only a limited number of each resource is made available each turn, and as less of each resource is available, the price of that resource rises accordingly. This is the first of two examples of the catch-up mechanic interfering drastically in the game. Players buy resources in reverse player order, so the player with the fewest cities buys resources first and the player with the most cities buys resources last. Resource prices rise during this phase so that the last player to buy resources ends up paying significantly more than the first person. Consequently, players strive to be last in player order so they can buy resources first, which is not only counterintuitive but also an instance of the catch-up mechanic dominating gameplay. While this system for buying resources is very clever, it is also one of the sources of my third complaint with Power Grid. The game is extremely “fiddly,” by which I mean that gameplay does not flow smoothly because players constantly have to refer to the chart in the rulebook for refilling the market. This bogs the game down, distracting significantly from the interesting part of choosing power plants and selecting cities with the menial task of managing the resource market. This problem of the game being too “fiddly” is also manifested in the “future market” for power plants mentioned earlier. The “future market” is another example of a clever design that ends up distracting too much from gameplay by requiring constant player management. This is because players have to constantly monitor to make sure the worst plant does not have a lower number than the lowest number of cities held by any player, or else that plant is removed. In addition, the best plant has to be placed on the bottom of the deck every turn. Moreover, if no plant is bought on a turn then the worst one is removed. Finally, the market has to be rearranged every time a new plant is drawn so that they are in order again. This is simply too much. Even after playing the game a few times, players still have to refer to the rules, and still often forget to do one or more of these crucial steps. In recognition of this problem, the instructions even highly “Important rules, often disregarded” on the back cover, which is convenient, but rather than solving the problem, simply demonstrates that there is a problem with players accidentally disregarding rules. Managing the resource market as well as the power plant market is just no fun, in addition to the fact that it is time consuming and is easy to screw up.

The fourth phase involves claiming cities on the map. This phase is the second example of the catch-up mechanic interfering with gameplay because this phase is also conducted in reverse player order. The player that is in “last place” has the opportunity to claim cities first, which is a significant advantage since only a limited number of players can claim each city, so some players are inevitably blocked out of cities they wanted to claim. As a result, players try to hold back from building too much at many points in the game so that they can be in “last place” and gain the advantage of this catch-up mechanic. This phase is not quite as “fiddly” as the management of the power plant and resource markets, but is still excessively confusing because not only is the game divided into these 5 phases that I am describing, but it is also divided into 3 “steps.” These “steps” are important to this phase because during the first step only one player can claim each city, during the second step two players can claim each city, and during the third step three players can claim each city. However, the demarcations separating these “steps” are very arbitrary and not well integrated into the rest of the gameplay. The game transitions from the first step to the second step once one player has claimed a total of seven or more cities. This arbitrarily affects gameplay because players try to manipulate the system to enter Step 2 when it is most favorable to them. Step 3 begins as soon as the “Step 3” card is drawn from the power plant deck, and then allows a third player to enter each city. I can see the advantage of having these distinct steps so that players must claim different cities in the first part of the game, but the way the steps are demarcated and implemented leaves much to be desired.

The fifth and final phase is called “Bureaucracy,” which I know inspires much excitement in all of you. This phase allows each player to earn money to buy power plants, resources, and claim cities in subsequent turns. This phase also requires the players to refill the resource market according to a chart in the rules that varies the number of resources added depending on the resource, the number of players, and the Step. It’s not a fun chart to read, but you better get used to it because you’ll be referring to it quite frequently during the “Bureaucracy” phase. Finally, this phase requires players to manipulate the power plant market by removing the best power plant and placing it under the deck so that the best plants come out during Step 3. Bureaucracy has never sounded so fun. Players repeat these five phases until one player has claimed a specified number of cities, which varies depending on the number of players, at which point the player who can supply power to the most cities is the winner. Then the players count leftover money to see who actually won because there is often a tie.

This gives rise to the fourth shortcoming of Power Grid, which is that the results of the game are generally too close. What? How can that be a shortcoming? I know, I also tend to like games that have close results so that everyone can feel like they have a chance until the very end. The problem with Power Grid is that the results are often so close that the game is a tie. This requires players to count who has the most money leftover as a tiebreaker. I find that games which rely on a tiebreaker to determine the winner are generally unsatisfying, especially when the tiebreaker is something like how much money is leftover. I know that this encourages players to carefully manage their money throughout the game when buying power plants, resources, and cities, but it leads to too much calculation during the game as players try to find the best deal, and results in the game bogging down as everyone does mental math. The problem with the results being too close is not one I have with other games, it’s actually unique to Power Grid, and perhaps it’s not something that other plays have a problem with, but it is an interesting example of how the catch-up mechanic dominates gameplay by keeping everyone in the running until the bitter end.

As I said at the beginning, I have significant respect for the intricate design of Power Grid. However, I have found that the game has a variety of shortcomings and is not any fun to play.

Do your math homework instead
January 18, 2006

I guess this is my chance to rant about how people are starting to forget to have fun while playing games. This game feels like homework, not fun.

To begin with, it is impossible to know what to bid on the factories without having played the game many times. So I just threw out some random numbers and always felt like I was making stupid decisions. I assumed I was making bad decisions because I was in last place for most of the game. Then, it turns out that the bonus you get for being in last place is pretty good, so I was able to catch up. Then, at the last minute, I jumped into second place. Weird.

The game is long and complicated. I don't understand why you should be encouraged to do poorly at the beginining of the game. There is a lot of adding and subtracting of large numbers which makes it seem like you're doing elementary math homework. I'm not really sure why the game is fun.

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