Recommended age: 12+
Set-up time: ~10 min
Power Grid is a fascinating amalgam of gaming mechanics. It has elements of a territory control game, along with auctions and a stock-market mechanic. These combine to make a very engaging game with some fairly deep strategy. Easy to teach in general, but I hesitate calling this a “gateway game”; stick to Ticket To Ride or Carcasonne if you are trying to introduce a new gamer to the hobby.
The premise of Power Grid is that you are a power company tasked with supplying electricity to the greatest number of cities in a given region (the base game comes with a Germany and USA map to choose from – there are multiple expansions with other countries/regions). As a player you decide how many cities to put power plants in (for a fee) and via an auction, which types of plants to buy (for example, coal burning, oil burning, nuclear power, etc.).
During each turn you then have to purchase resources to supply energy to those power plants which you own – if you cannot “feed” your plants, some of your cities will go without power that round.
Finally at the end of the turn, you are paid a commission based on the number of cities which you supplied power to that round.
The game ends when a certain number of cities contain power plants – the winner being the player who can supply power to the most cities at that time.
I really enjoy playing Power Grid. At first look it may appear a bit daunting, but the simple mechanics and well defined phases of each turn make the game easy to teach. The pace of the game moves quick enough to keep everyone engaged – and the potential for “Analysis Paralysis” is low. Add in a variety of expansion boards which really can change the game quite substantially (for example, the Korean board has two different markets) and you get a game with large replay potential.
My only real gripe? Paper money. I’m not a fan of paper money in general, and the type supplied with Power Grid is the typical small bills which we’ve (unfortunately) all seen before. When our group gets together to play, we substitute the paper money with nice poker chips which are much easier to handle.