When discussing what games we should showcase in the I, Geek Plays Games section of our site, Power Grid was near the top of the list and I instantly insisted on being the one to outline our most recent play. Rest assured, this will not be the only time we write about this game. We play it a lot and will continue to play it indefinitely.
The last time we played Power Grid was the exact same day we started our podcast. The Bearded met up, set up our new recording gear, recorded the Origins and Villainous Vikings episode, then pulled out the Deluxe Edition of Power Grid and had a wonderful time.
I own an original and abundantly available Rio Grande copy of Power Grid with many of the maps. Recently though I grabbed a copy of the Deluxe Edition because not only is it fairly priced, but the artwork is fun and I love supporting Friedemann Friese and his company 2F-Spiele.
Power Grid deluxe: Europe/North America is fun and has some interesting upgrades to it. First there’s a new resource to use. In this version of the game you have the old faithfuls of Coal, Oil, Uranium and Renewable. The deluxe version takes Garbage out of the equation and instead puts Natural Gas in its place. I can only assume this is due to the growing use of Natural Gas in our modern day society. Another big change and one that seemed a little divisive is the use of plastic tokens as money instead of the original paper money. I’m cool with both, though I will say the use of different shades of green for all the coins made it a little confusing for us. That may be because we’re idiots.
The final thing I want to cover is the art and the board. There is now a dedicated space on the board for the powerplants. This isn’t necessary but it’s nice as it takes up less table space. Another aesthetic decision was the way the towns are drawn. Instead of the circular layout, the towns are now more linear allowing for an easier to read board when it starts to get filled up with houses. The artwork is a lot more cartoonish in the deluxe edition but that’s not a bad thing. I personally prefer the original artwork but the deluxe edition is fun and fresh.
Enough about the newer edition. Onto the gameplay!
We have one singular house rule when we play Power Grid. We hide EVERYTHING. We hide money, resources, and power plants. We use small partitions to keep all of this secret (Keyflower partitions work well). The only thing we don’t hide is the number on the power plant since that has to be a known factor due to determining player order. If you’ve listened to our podcast then this shouldn’t be news. We’ve mentioned this style of play a handful of times and will one day discuss completely why we do this. Suffice to say, we love this style of Power Grid. We’ve played the game every which way, but found this one to be the most pure as it keeps the end of the game from being a king maker play by everyone currently not in the lead.
The game started as any other. Mike and I generally jump out to a sizable lead putting us at a disadvantage later when we’re going last on virtually everything. Lee and Sten play it slow and steady. The major difference is Lee will make one massive move and Sten tends to do moves in chunks. Either way it always plays out pretty evenly. Most of our games come down to control of the power plants. I love to jump on the renewable plants as they save me money in the long run. Mike and Lee like to grab Uranium, though generally speaking once one of them has laid claim to a nuclear plant the other tends to avoid it to keep from creating friction. Sten jumps on whatever has the cheapest resources at the time. After a dozen plays in the last couple of years its funny to see how things have played out. While there are some exceptions to these descriptions, more often than not this is how the game is played in our small group of four.
This game was no different. Within the first four rounds I had managed to get my hands on two pretty nice renewable plants. Mike had Uranium and Lee and Sten were splitting time with oil and natural gas. We were playing the North America side of the board and basically took the Midwest, the West Coast, and the Northwestern portion of the map out of play. We were basically playing the Eastern Seaboard, the southern colonies and the deep south causing a strange backward L-Shape on the map. We all took our corners instead of butting up against each other and set to dropping houses where we could.
Then things got weird.
The power plants sucked. None of us were willing to spend any money on the crap that was being pulled and we all quite literally skipped two rounds of the auction phase. We kept getting our money and dropping more houses, but again none of us were able to power much due to the strangeness of the power plant deck. To be clear, we weren’t doing anything wrong. It was just an odd set of circumstances where we each had plants we were comfortable with and weren’t willing to spend massive amounts of Elektro for a plant that only fired off one more house.
Sten was soundly in control of the Northeast all the way over to the Chicago area and, for the most part, the rest of us were south of the Mason-Dixon line duking it out for location and space. At one point I think I held over 400 Elektro in my hand. I could essentially go where I wanted and purchase any power plant, had one been pulled that I cared about. It also became clear nearing the end of the game that it was going to come down between Mike and me. The last round of the power plant auction came. I decided to pass on a plant that, hindsight being what it is, would have secured me a victory in the hope that another better plant for drop. It didn’t. I think it went for nearly 200 Elektro to Mike. I decided to pull the trigger and end the game with a final push up into the Northeast that cost me around 250 Elektro. Then we had the big reveal. I had more houses on the board, but Mike was able to fire 17 houses compared to my 16. It was a close race for sure and an all around strange game. Where Mike and I were racing to the finish with fists full of Elektro, Lee and Sten were struggling to survive.
Ultimately it was one of the more bizarro games of Power Grid I’ve ever played. Furthermore, it has me wanting to play it again as soon as possible. What a wonderful game!
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