Power Grid: The Card Game Review - Oh Yeah, I've Played It!

Uh oh! Yes, it's no secret that I hate Power Grid. One of my Top 10 Hated Games consistently. I'm in a minority, but others share the same opinion. I like the resource market, resource management is fun, but other than that I find it boring, tedious, overly long and themeless. So much boils down to the final turn and I find that map to be completely pointless within the game. All it does is complicates the maths to the point where analysis paralysis inflicts on several players during auctions, allows for players to be taken out of the game entirely by a simple blocking move and you don't even use all of the map in a single game! Why give me a colourful map which then has to have paper covering various regions on it so that players don't mistake where they can't place their Monopoly houses? And paper money?!!? PAPER MONEY?!?! ARRRRGGHHH!............

........I'm calm, I'm calm. So yeah, I don't like the original game so you can imagine that when I've been asked by many followers to give my opinion on the new card game version, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy at the prospect. But a few factors gave me some hope. Lately card game versions of popular games have been received quite well, with the new Castles of Burgundy card game getting a lot of praise. Also these attempt to shorten and streamline their heavier counterparts, another plus point. And when I did my research, I noticed instantly that the biggest contributor to my hatred of the original is completely removed from this version. Maybe there's some hope yet. Could this be the version of Power Grid that I need, yet didn't ask for?




Designer: Friedemann Friese
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Age: 12+
Players: 2-6
Time: 60-90 Minutes
RRP: £19.99



From Board Game Geek

In Power Grid: The Card Game, the players represent CEOs of mighty power companies producing electricity.
During the game, the players bid for power plants at auctions and supply them with resources. Their income depends on the amount of electricity produced in each round. At the end of the game, the player who produces the most electricity wins the game.
Power Grid: The Card Game offers all the tension and tactics well-known of its two big brothers — Power Grid and Power Grid deluxe — without using the different maps. You get the full Power Grid emotions in an intensive playing time of sixty minutes!
To give two players an exciting experience, they will play with the Trust acting as a third player. While challenging the opponent, they must incorporate the schemes of the competing Trust in their plans and use these schemes against their opponent.
This game includes a small variant for the Demolition Contractor. This variant is playable with Power Grid: The Card Game, and all maps of Power Grid deluxe and Power Grid!


ECO-FRIENDLY PRODUCTION


It is worth noting before I go off on a little rant that the RRP is only £19.99 and as such you can pick up a copy of Power Grid: The Card Game for around £16 online. That's pretty cheap. Unfortunately, you're getting at best what you paid for in the production. Firstly we've got paper money, which I have not even wanted to remove from it's bag and instead use Dice Tower money cards or metal coins always. It is 2017 now, I thought we were past paper money. I don't need to give you the list of why paper money is horrible. Also the cards themselves have very basic artwork and are very flimsy indeed. Some plant cards saw frayed edges and wear after literally only ONE play and it's not like we were eating them or anything.

But the worse offender is by far the rulebook. For what I expected to be a simpler game, the rulebook doesn't half make it a mission to learn it and if anyone dares ask you a rules question, good luck trying to find the exact spot for the answer. There's a ton of text in a small space that's quite small to the eye. The setup is very fiddly and yet the endgame depends heavily on you not making any rules mistakes, but you'll find these are going to be commonplace to begin with, which in turn stalls the game. And you don't get provided with a rules reference or player aid. For a game with lots of moving parts, that's not acceptable.


FULLY POWERED MECHANICS


Once you get past that initial speed bump, Power Grid: The Card Game starts to redeem itself. Fans of the original game will notice a lot of similarities with how turn order, auctions and the resource market are handled, but with some subtle tweaks here and there. But there's plenty to think about in terms of what you bid on, what resources you need and when you're going to act compared to other players and it's very engaging. And depending on what other players do can influence your intended plan for the turn, making this a little more tactical this time around. The only small quibble is that you don't feel like you're doing anything "impressive" as you progress. At no point do you go "yeah, there's my awesome plant" or get a sense of epic scale, but that's no change from before let's face it.

The resource market is still my favourite aspect though just like before. It works just like it did originally, with several price brackets on offer and resources being available on a first come, first served basis, making reverse turn order an important consideration for whether you think you can power your plants that round. As each round passes, different resource types will become cheaper than others which is probably the only lick of decent theme Power Grid offers, but I welcome it gladly.

"Now hold up here Luke, isn't this what you also get in the original game" I hear you say, but here's some important differences between Power Grid and the card game which make a big impact on gameplay and thus mean that I enjoy this version more.


WHY I LIKE THIS BETTER


Firstly you don't get the map any more. There's no route connecting or the like this time. This does two things to improve matters. You no longer have to constantly be calculating how much money you need to build several tracks every turn in conjunction with all the bidding and resource management, which speeds the game up. Also you don't have that highly irritating issue of getting effectively knocked out of the game because someone blocked you outside of your control. And as a bonus, you don't need to have A4 paper covering your colorful board to avoid the issue of players not noticing the easily missed boundaries. I know many Power Grid fans love the map aspect, but I just found it completely pointless and more like a clunky "side note" to what I considered to be the important aspects of the game - the economic management of your plants and resources.

Secondly the monetary values of plants and resources are lowered overall when compared to Power Grid. The highest plant I believe only costs 20 Elektro and resource cards are a max of 4 Elektro each. Even by the endgame, you're only generating around 18-25 Elektro in income. As a result, Power Grid: The Card Game is smoother with regards to the maths involved.

In the original game, you are sat there waiting for players to finish an auction that started at 10, is now in the 70's and all while each player is paralysed on the spot while they calculate the total value of potential route connections on that map combined with the 100+ income they may or may not gain that round. It's incredibly mathy and thus it slows down players consistently. Now though, the maths is much easier for everyone to work out on the fly. Profit margins are smaller, income is lower and it's less time-consuming to balance your books for the next round allowing you to focus more on planning your next plant purchase and resource gathering. I can't say enough how much this improves the game and speeds it up.

Although "speed" is heavily dependant on player count and your ability to interpret that rulebook. A 5-6 player game is easily going to take you 90 minutes, probably longer if you've new. And because the rulebook is so bad, a lot of time is wasted on queries and book-keeping. But with experience and a decent rules reference/player aid from online sources, you can wrap a game up in 60-90 minutes with 3-6 players. Certainly more preferable to the 120-180 minutes I've had to suffer with before.


VERDICT ON POWER GRID: THE CARD GAME


I never thought I'd say this, but I actually had good times with this game. It's taken out the biggest problem I have with Power Grid, which was the map and now without that complicating everything, suddenly the economic gameplay is smoother. The maths is simplified also, thus toning down the analysis paralysis. But you still have important decisions to make regularly and Power Grid's one sweet spot I have, the resource market, is still present and works very well. It's like Power Grid went on a much needed diet and lost the un-necessary fat.

That being said, there are still a few issues. It's still bone dry and themeless overall and you never get a sense of doing anything "impressive" or "epic" as you progress. But the worse offender is the production quality which is just poor. The cards will see wear and tear from barely a couple of plays without sleeves, there is no excuse for using paper money in 2016 and the rulebook is beyond atrocious and could use a re-write, being the source of frequent stalls and mid-game errors.

Overall surprisingly I still enjoy this game though and I think if you found the original to be too long and un-necessarily complicated, this might be a better option if you can get past the production issues and find a rules reference online. It is however, unlikely to convert any Power Grid fans who think the loss of a map is sacrilege. If you want me to play Power Grid, it's got to be this version.
   


BROKEN RATING - 6 Eco-Friendly Windmills




YOU WILL LIKE POWER GRID: THE CARD GAME IF:

You enjoyed the original game, but want a more portable option.


You like economic games, but don't want it to be super-mathy and complex.


You like close, tight scores.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE POWER GRID: THE CARD GAME IF:


You love the map from the original game as you're going to miss it here.


Dry, economic games aren't your cup of tea.


You believe the poor production quality and rules issues are too frustrating.

0 comments: