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Subject: [Review] A Dilution Too Far rss

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Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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OVERVIEW
Power Grid: The Card Game (henceforth PG:CG) is a streamlined version of the power plant auctioning and resource buying from the Power Grid boardgame. Players purchase plants and buy resources to power them in an attempt to generate the greatest income by the end of the game.

COMPONENTS IN BRIEF
118 standard cardstock resource/powerplant/indicator cards, paper money, 1 wooden discount token. Functional but nothing fancy.



GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
Each player is given 12 dollars to start. Two rows of 4 powerplants are arranged by number, with only the top row being purchaseable. And three columns of resources are laid out. The game is then played in three phases:

A) Buy Plants - Works almost exactly like Power Grid, with the bonus that the cheapest plant on the board each round gets a special token and always has a minimum bid of $1. First player may open bidding on a toprow plant, or decline and drop out for rest of phase. If plant is nominated, players bid until all have passed, high bid wins, pays, and drops out for rest of phase. Plant is replaced from deck, reordering so value continues ascending. First remaining player may open bidding on a plant, as above. Phase continues until all players have dropped from phase.

B) Buy Resources
- Last player may purchase resources from market, up to double the combined capacity of their plants. As these are distributed randomly each round, no resource is guaranteed in any quantity. Purchasing continues in reverse turn order until all players have purchased resources.

C) Bureaucracy
- Players spend resources to power plants and collect income. Turn order is recalculated with highest income first, resource market is refilled with unbought resources moving towards the $2 column, and new resources filling in the more expensive columns. The best plant is replaced with a new plant, and the next round begins.

When the Timer Card appears as a plant, it counts as the best plant. At the end of the round, the timer and worst plant are discarded and one more round is played with all 6 plants available for purchase. At the end of this final round, the highest INCOME wins, with every $10 held dollars able to purchase 1 additional income.




GOOD POINTS

*Maintains much of the Power Grid feel.
Anyone who has played Power Grid will have almost no difficulty in leaping right into the game. The auction and resource purchase rounds work much the same as they do in the boardgame, and not much in the way of new wrinkles is added. This game mostly removed things, rather than adding them.

*Plays at a good clip
Even with 4 players, once players have mastered the rules, things move along fairly swiftly. Part of this is surely due to the reduced numbers as compared to the boardgame, where minimum bids cap out at 20 instead of 50, and income is more likely to be in the 20s than the 80s. There's not much downtime except when people begin agonizing over whether to buy those over-capacity resources for the following turn.

*The $1 Token is a good addition
Often times in the Power Grid boardgame, an auction round will stagnate because the incremental improvement in plant capacity/efficiency isn't enough to justify spending out on a new plant. The presence of the $1 token in the card game here offers a nice incentive for a player who is behind on plant quality (or, in the early stages, quantity) to grab a cheap power plant at minimal cost and advance their board -- as well as opening up a better plant for the rest of the table to bid on. This little rule is a simple yet effective mechanic to nudge the game towards progress, and I may even house-rule my Power Grid boardgame to try something similar.

BAD POINTS

*Emphasizes the lucky flip.
Admittedly, PG:BG can certainly end with someone getting a lucky flip to increase their capacity. But there at least there is a requirement to have built out on the map. Because PG:CG consists only of buying the plants, and final turn income matters the most, the ability for a player to randomly snag a high-income plant on the final turn can feel like a sudden yet anticlimactic end to the game.

*Where's the Beef?
My biggest complaint with this game is that it feels thin, and I've been trying to figure out why. Unlike Power Grid: Factory Manager (which also removed the map, but did something different with the rest of the game also), PG:Card Game is very much Power Grid: boardgame with the city-building removed and the resource market streamlined. Perhaps the two elements of bid on plants and buy resources aren't enough meat for a game, or perhaps it's a perfectly fine game but the inevitable comparisons to the PG:BG leave PG:CG seeming insubstantial in contrast.




CONCLUSION
Power Grid: the Card Game was a game I wanted to like. I love Power Grid, and contrary to many Power Grid fans, I also loved Power Grid: Factory Manager (as you can see in my review). But while I've seen mostly praise for this game, over 3 plays at differing player counts, I didn't manage to find the fun. It lacks the meat to be more than a light game for me, but between the table footprint and the mildly fiddly resource market, it doesn't work as a light game for me either. There are some interesting elements here, but for me this game ends up being less than the sum of its parts.

IS IT FOR YOU?
If you've always liked the idea of Power Grid, but couldn't be bothered with the maps, math, or excessive game length, this streamlined version may be just what the doctor ordered.

If you've always liked playing Power Grid because you enjoy the arc of the game, you won't find it here.
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Tim
United States
Frederick
Maryland
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Nice review and I pretty much feel the same way. I will continue to play it though since not always practical to get the full game on the table with the time in hand. I also didn't think it was too bad as a solitaire game.

By the way, Power Grid Deluxe implements the $1 token, which does work very nicely.
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MURRUMBEENA
Victoria
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance... (Iain Banks)
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Osirus wrote:
...lots of good stufff...
IS IT FOR YOU?
If you've always liked the idea of Power Grid, but couldn't be bothered with the maps, math, or excessive game length, this streamlined version may be just what the doctor ordered.

If you've always liked playing Power Grid because you enjoy the arc of the game, you won't find it here.

I got the feeling that it's Power Grid for Backpackers: all the theme at 1:20th the size. I was tantalised the whole time we played, and found myself desperately keen to play the real thing. So I did.
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Patrick Riley
United States
San Jose
California
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Undoubtedly some will miss the route building, blocking, timing of building houses, etc. The Card Game is PG:Lite or PG:For those who want to focus on the auctions. This is not a bad thing.

I didn't find the "lucky flip" aspect any worse than standard Power Grid (discounting the China map, of course). The resource market has randomness not found in the original, which some players will like because you don't find yourself looking at what the replenish rate of oil versus coal will be two turns from now.
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