Friday, July 8, 2016

The Boardgame Power Grid

Last Friday I had played the board game Power Grid for the first time. It was also the first time I even heard of it. I quickly took a liking to it for two different reasons. Now I just need to find a way to fit it and its many expansion into my budget.

Power Grid is a family resource management game. The end goal is to power the most cities by the time the game is over. You generate power by buying power plants which are sold in an auction. Every power plant is different and as the game goes on more efficient and powerful plants become available to purchase. The trick is to know when to spend money on upgrading your power plant while making sure you keep enough cash to buy "houses" and fuel for those power plants. "Houses" represent what cities you are supplying power to and they are a big drain on your funds late game. For my first game I had little idea what was going on for the first third of the game before things "click" for me. From that point on I truly enjoyed playing even though I had to play catch up. I ended the game in 4th place out of 6 players. Not bad for my first try considering 2nd, 3rd and 4th place were really close to each other. In fact if the order the players for the last turn was different, I could easily had been in 3rd or even 2nd.

I'm not sure what is in the default game box. The owner of the game I played with had every expansion. I believe the default has 2 maps in it with many many more available in the expansions. I was told each map greatly changes the gameplay of the game. That along with one randomly chosen section of a map is not used makes the replay value limitless. I've only played it once but I have an overwhelming desire to play many more times. I've had this feeling on very few board games I've just played. And while this strong desire mostly comes from the fact that I think Power Grid is an well design enjoyable resource game, there is another reason it appeals to me.

For a while now I have been wanting to put together a "Frankensteinish" grand campaign out of using 3 to 5 board/war games. Games that on their own have nothing to do with each other normally but with some home brew adjustments now have some connection. A rough example with only 2 games would be like playing the RISK board game and replace its combat resolve system with playing a battle of Warhammer Fantasy. Now I really don't like RISK or at least default RISK but the example is in theory what I would love to play with 4 or 5 games. I got the idea for this from my experience playing classic Star Craft and wanting to port some elements of real-time strategy to tabletop war games. To my knowledge a game like this doesn't exist which means I need to cobble together a system from other great games. Power Grid is the first game I found that would work perfectly in this vain, assuming the war game is either Team Yankee or possible Battletech. A Star Craft on the tabletop game to me would be a war game with elements of resource gathering/energy generation, researching tech trees and building construction. I've played in a few campaigns that tried to add some of these elements to the war game but the results were mediocre at best (to be fair these design concepts are not easy to fit into a war game). Power Grid is perfect to handle the resource gathering/energy generation aspect for a modern/sci-fi game. Of course I'm still short one or two board games to make it work but I'm happy to know I have a firm base with Team Yankee and Power Grid.

Rio Grande Games is the maker of Power Grid.

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