A to Z Gaming: Power Grid: The Card Game

We provided electricity to our networks using bigger and better power generators in Power Grid: The Card Game, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Power Grid: The Card Game
Players: 2-6
Time: 45-60 Minutes
Designers: Friedemann Friese
Artists: Harald Lieske
Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Power Grid: The Card Game is a boiled-down version of Power Grid, where players auction off power plants and vie for the limited resources to run them. Whoever can run spin up the most lucrative plants will win the game.

The game is set up by setting up the power plant market and deck according to the rules (for example, there are some starter ones that go on top of the deck and a “one more round” card placed at the bottom). Then set up the resource market and deck, setting aside the resources that get shuffled in later. Each player choose a color and takes the corresponding CEO card and 12 Elektro (money). Choose a starting player, place out the CEO cards in order, and then the game can begin.

The game is played in rounds with each round having three phases. In the first phase, players auction off power plants. This is done in turn order, with the active player choosing one of the four power plants in the top row of the market. The plants each show a minimum bid, and players go around the table bidding or passing until someone wins. If the winner wasn’t the active player, they choose again. In a given round, players can only purchase up to one plant (after the first round, they aren’t required to buy a plant).

The next phase is buying resources, which is done in reverse turn order. Players can purchase cards from the market showing the different resources — coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium. Each successive column costs more. When purchasing resources, a player can only have up to two times what they need of each resource to run their plants.

Finally, players do bureaucracy, where they power whichever plants they are able to, spending resources and collecting money as appropriate. The player order then changes based on whoever took in the most income (not whoever has the most money). The resource market is restocked, and the power plant market is also updated by placing the highest-priced plant at the bottom of the plant deck.

The game continues until the “one more round” card comes up when refilling the power plant market. At that point … there’s one more round, with a few tweaks to each phase. For example, Instead of earning income for the plants they power that round, players get points equal to the amount of income they would have made. In addition players trade in their cash for points at a rate of 10 Elektro per point. And the player with the most points wins.

I picked this up on a whim when I was visiting a local game store on a trip. We’ve enjoyed Power Grid with our play group, and I’ve wondered how the card game version compared.

The card game does evoke the feeling of the original game, but with a lot less math. However, for us, it also just doesn’t quite feel like enough. It might be a good way to introduce someone to the ideas behind Power Grid, but without the big map that adds a lot of complication and analysis paralysis. I found myself missing the map and all the complications it introduces.

How is it as a 2-player game? Power Grid: The Card Game is okay as a 2-player game. Not great, not bad. The 2-player version adds in a dummy player that simply takes power plants and resources off the board. I can see that you need this mechanism to move the markets along and create more tension, but it’s kind of meh.

How about the art and component quality? The cards and art are fine. The iconography is clear, and the color of the various power plants matches the colors of the resources that power them, which makes it easy to see what you need to pick up each round.

Will this stay in my collection? No. It’s a fine game, but we just haven’t gotten it to the table much. And since most of our plays are at the 2-player count, this isn’t going to be played very much.

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