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March 23, 2015 / Jett

Power Grid Deluxe Review

Shortly after playing Power Grid for the first time, I discovered that Rio Grande Games had just put out a deluxe edition to celebrate the game’s 10th anniversary. Like the Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition, this one features nicer components, all new art and a larger board. It also comes at a premium price that’s about double the cost of the original. Unlike Ticket to Ride, Power Grid Deluxe goes a step further by including two new maps that sort of make this a different game. Whether you’re new to the series or own the original, is this deluxe edition worth its premium price?

As with standard Power Grid, 2-6 players run their own power companies. Over the course of the game, they’re competing against each other to power the most cities. This is done by buying power plants, buying fuel for said power plants, paying to house those power plants in different cities and supplying them with energy in exchange for money. All of this is driven by maps that feature different cities and connection costs, as well as marketplaces for power plants and resources.

The economic underpinnings of Power Grid are what make the game so spectacular. Every component matters and it’s quite the mental exercise to grow your empire while adjusting for the all of the ways in which your opponents will manipulate the market with their decisions. Everything I loved about the original Power Grid holds true here, so check out my review of that game if you’re looking for a more detailed account of why it’s awesome.

Power Grid DeluxeWith the core gameplay engine intact, it’s all of the elements surrounding that engine that make Power Grid Deluxe its own beast. For one, the board is much larger and features two new maps: North America and Europe. Yes, the original game had USA and Germany, which are very similar, but there are enough differences between the two boards so that they don’t cannibalize each other. Both maps have seven regions versus six, opening the door for more variability. The North American side features a new discount mechanic where the leftmost power plant after the first turn gets a discounted starting bid of $1, regardless of how much its face value is. Europe, on the other hand, has nine power plants available in the auction versus eight. Both maps also have their own unique starting values and refresh rates. They might be based on very similar geography, but both maps ultimately play differently from their predecessors while being great on their own.

All of the art in the deluxe version has been redone with a more cartoony look. From the box, to the map, to the cards, this more distinctive appearance gives the game some sorely-needed personality. In particular, I think the box art will go a long way towards attracting new players, as I actively avoided the game before due to that dull box cover. The actual gameplay is still as serious as ever, but the cute look of the game should make the game a bit more accessible to those who would turn up their noses at the sight of the old game.

Power Grid DeluxeOther components have also seen some noticeable changes. All of the resources cubes have been replaced with wooden bits that look like their actual icons. A simple change, but a very welcome one. Two new wooden bits are now included in the box to act as reminders on the score track for when to trigger phase 2 and when to end the game. To keep up with the times, garbage as a resource has been replaced with natural gas. Houses have been replaced with power plants, which makes a lot more sense from a story perspective. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why houses were ever used to represent power plants.

Money has gone though the most dramatic overhaul, as the paper bills have been replaced with plastic coins. These aren’t necessarily the fanciest of plastic coins, but they do the job and will last longer than the paper bills. None of these components have been upgraded to the same level as the custom trains in Ticket to Ride, though the upgraded components here are a welcome improvement.

Power Grid DeluxeOne nice touch that I wasn’t expecting to appear in this package was a revised rule set for two players. In the old game, the whole aspect of blocking cities didn’t exist, as the player count was too low to support it. The deluxe edition of the game includes new rules for a third dummy player known as the Trust. I generally hate dummy players in board games, but the implementation here is excellent. Having the Trust in the game makes it so that both players can still get a complete Power Grid experience without having the dummy impact the game in ways that don’t fit the spirit of the experience.

In terms of delivering a quality board gaming experience, Power Grid Deluxe reaches the lofty heights of the original. But does it make classic Power Grid obsolete? That’s a much tougher question to answer. At double the price for a very-similar-but-not-quite-exactly-the-same experience that has better components but not to the level of similar deluxe editions for different games on the market, the best choice for your is going to depend on what you’re after. In any case, should you splurge on this package, you’re going to get a phenomenal game at a nice trim level.

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