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Average Rating: 2.5 in 1 review
It seems like connection games are fewer and farther between these days, and very few do I find well done. High Voltage (Post Scriptum, 2006 - Gianfranco Sartoretti) sounded quite interesting, as it is a connection game in which players are attempting to connect different voltage lines. The theme is well implemented in the game, as players attach different electrical lines, using tiles in different formations.
But even though I find the game mildly entertaining, it simply isn't as good as one is first led to believe. Players keep their identity secret from the others, but it's really not much of a secret and almost detracts from the game. The game devolves into a brain burning game, and things aren't that obvious - especially to new players. I found it more of a mental challenge than a fun experience.
Players create a board by placing forty-eight voltage cards face down randomly in a 7 x 7 grid (with the middle square left open). These cards are surrounded by thirty-two cards that act as a scoring track and form the power stations in the four different colors (red, yellow, blue, and green). Four of the inner voltage cards are flipped over, and a scoring marker for each color is placed at the beginning of the scoring track. Each player receives five action tokens, one special action token, and a card that tells the player which of the four-colored power companies they control. One player is chosen to go first, and then play proceeds in a clockwise manner.
On a player's turn, they may complete one of these actions:
- Choose a face down tile and reveal it. The player may then place that in one of the two free spots on the board in any rotation they please.
- Rotate any face up card.
- Spend an action token to move a face-up card to a free spot OR swap two face-up cards.
When two power stations on two different sides are connected by at least four different tiles, the player may declare that the electric line is closed. An energy token is placed on each card with any pre-existing energy tokens flipped to their danger side. If one of these danger tokens or three energy tokens are on the line, it cannot be closed. The line then is then scored, giving one point for each segment (including the power stations) to the colors, which are moved on the lines. The player who closed the line takes one point tokens if the line is five or six cards long, two for a seven to eight card line, and three for using nine or more tiles.
Tiles with a danger token may not be moved or rotated, unless the player uses up their special action token. A player may also discard this token to take a double move. The game continues until either all the energy tokens have been placed, or all the face down cards flipped over, or no more lines can be completed. At this point, players reveal their colors and add their color score to any points they have completed. The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
- Components: Although the game is about power lines, they are a
bit abstract on the tiles, looking instead like bold lines stretched
across the board. The tiles themselves are thinner than I would like,
but they are functional and show a little city on them - although it's
a bit small and abstract. The tokens are little wooden people, and
the danger/point/energy tokens are small (almost too small) cardboard
tiles. Still, the only real gripe I have is the outer ring of tiles.
Why not just use a board or larger tiles to hold everything in place?
It's quite a pain to set everything up, and this seems to be a cost
that was cut at the expense of functionality. Everything easily
rattles around in a medium-sized box that has some nice artwork on it.
- Rules: The rulebook is eight pages with lots of full color
illustrations and some diagrams - although no examples. The rules are
a bit confusing to new players, not because they are difficult, but
rather somewhat contrary to normal game conventions. Teenagers and
younger were completely soured by the odd gaming experience, although
they did understand what they should do.
- Secrets: I really enjoy games in which players have a secret
agenda, as long as it is well implemented. High Voltage, however,
really doesn't do a good job of this. Players' colors are almost
immediately obvious in some games, while in others they are never
obvious; and no one ever cares. It's very difficult to sneakily
maneuver your color to good benefit, and I can't imagine why one would
want to keep it a secret anyway! The tiles are initially laid down in
a completely random manner, and this keeps things difficult when
attempting to formulate any real strategy. In a four player game, the
need for secrecy is completely unnecessary, as any move to help a
color not your own is helping one of the opponents; so again I repeat,
"What's the point?"
- Connections: I actually liked the mechanic in which players, once
they start pumping power through the lines, filled them with enough
energy to keep them from being used in too many other networks. This
is quite thematic and possibly the best part of the game. In fact,
since the colors often get about the same amount of points anyway, the
player who best maneuvers tiles into the positions they want will win
- Tactics and Luck: At first I couldn't imagine that the game
relied on anything but luck. Really, you have no idea what kind of
tiles you will find when you flip one over; and since you are limited
to two spots, which might be quite unfavorable to you, it didn't seem
like someone who drew poorly had a chance. But in repeated plays I
found that someone who connected solely for points was at a
disadvantage to someone who connected power lines for position.
Setting yourself up so that your color might get a few more points or
allowing yourself to score in the future is a key component to the
game. The problem that this brings out, however, is that this
requires a level of thought that really was too deep and intense for
the game to be much fun.
- Fun Factor: With less than clear goals in sight and a changing,
fluid board that offers little stability, I really didn't have fun in
any of the games I played. At first I thought the game was too random
and later I thought it too analytical; but no matter what, I never
really had fun. People could understand the concepts, and the theme
seemed to work; but in reality it was almost like work to play the
game - and at that point I don't find games entertaining any longer.
I think that there might be an audience for High Voltage, but I don't think that it's going to be a wide one. The game, despite the theme, has an abstract nature and isn't very intuitive to new players. The main draw of the game, the secret color, isn't really anything to be excited about; and the components are merely okay. Combining all that leaves us with a drab game and one that I think few people would want to purchase.
"Real men play board games"