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Power Grid Deluxe

Back when I was still in Bangkok, Power Grid (including the expansion maps) was easily the game that I (and my group) played most often. So when I wanted to start my collection here in Tilburg last year, Power Grid was one of the must-haves for me.

However, for some practical reasons at the time, instead of picking up a box of Power Grid, I got a Power Grid Deluxe (or more precisely, the Dutch version, Hoogspanning Deluxe). Deluxe is the tenth-anniversary version of Power Grid, with new board, new plants, new components, and some changes in the rules. For a good write-up on the changes in Deluxe, check out this BoardGameGeek thread.

One of the first things you would notice about Deluxe is the new bright, cartoonish style of artwork. This is mostly a matter of taste, but I still prefer the old industrial feel of the old Power Grid. Maybe it’s just some resistance to change, but I feel the original design also provides better colour contrast, making it slightly easier for the eyes.

The element of design change that I really like is the bigger board that now has slots for the power plant market. The board in play looks really organised now. Some have voiced their problem that the board is too big for their tables, but apart from that, I find the new board pretty neat. Gone are the days of trying to squeeze the power plant market on some unplayed regions or the side of the board. Similarly, there are on-board space for resource replenishment card, spaces to slide the pieces to show who’s bought/built stuff, and specific pieces to mark the Step 2 and end game points. Overall, it’s a good board design that takes into account some “hacks” that people had to do on the original board.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the new plastic coins that replace the paper money. The problem with paper money is that it’s not durable, but it’s much easier to handle. The new coins won’t stack nicely, because of the raised numbers on the surface. I’m in the hidden money camp, but now I sometimes won’t bother since it’s a mess to have it on you at all times.

Deluxe introduces a few thematic changes. The garbage is replaced by natural gas, and the hybrid plants are now consuming oil and gas instead of coal and oil. (I’m not the only one on my table who sometimes confuse the natural gas shape with hydro power.) The maps are scaled back, giving us Europe on one side and North America on the other, compared to the national or regional scale in the original game and expansions (Germany, United States, Nordic countries, Benelux, etc.). It doesn’t really matter game-wise, but I quite like the more detailed regional maps more than the broad continental maps.

There are a few small rule changes. The starting plants are now also random, giving more variety in repeated plays. Instead of starting with plants 3 to 10, you randomly start the game with drawing some cards from 3 to 15. These cards are distinguished by the darker backside. The rest of the low-numbered plants (subject to some random removal) are also mixed into the pile, giving hints of the plant size with their backsides. The game also provides the official variation for a two-player game called The Trust, which is quite good.

When I bought the game, the seller claimed that Deluxe would be compatible with original map expansions if you had some extra oil and garbage tokens, which they provided. I still haven’t tried, but I highly doubt that Deluxe is designed to be compatible with the existing maps, if you have the balancing in mind. The main concern is the balance of the new plant deck against the resource market of the old boards. A viable solution is probably to The New Power Plant Cards, which is a replacement deck for the original game, which pretty much turns it into the old (alternative-plant) game with new pieces.

Good

  • Large board with spaces for (almost) everything
  • Varied starting plants
  • Rule variation for two players
  • Still the same cool Power Grid game

Meh

  • (Depending on your preference) Artwork
  • The plastic coins
  • Not directly compatible with existing expansions

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