Power Grid mods

After a grueling 4-hour Power Grid last night in which (a) the power plant market stagnated and (b) the order in which power plant cards came out had a considerable effect on the end game, I’m thinking of instituting a few house rules.

Now I know house rules are anathema to some people, but I’m a designer, and that’s what I do.  I tweak, I play, I play with, I tweak, I play some more.

In the interest of full disclosure, so you know better where I’m coming from:  we were playing with 5 on the France board, and we had the cards from the BGG promo deck in there, too.  We were using the original power plant deck, not the modified one.  And, as far as we know, we were playing correctly.  :-)

At first I wanted to keep it minimal, and I wanted to use a three-pronged approach:

  1. Take out a few of the power plants.  Either that or slip the Step 3 card into the deck 2 or 3 cards from the bottom.  This would help prevent stagnation.
  2. Tier the power plant deck, breaking it down 1-20, 21-35, and 36-50.  Shuffle each tier independently, then stack them.  This would help prevent small and useless power plants from turning up late in the game when nobody wants them.
  3. If all players pass on a power plant that turn, it’s the smallest power plant and not the largest that’s removed.  Again, this would help prevent stagnation.

So a lot of stuff to keep power plants moving through, but not a lot to counteract the “luck-of-the-draw” issue at the end of the game.

Some, of course, would argue that the luck-of-the-draw is not so much an issue, but a feature.  I’m of two minds about it, honestly.  In many ways I enjoy the luck-of-the-draw aspect to the endgame, as it keeps the game tense and exciting, but it can also be somewhat frustrating at the end of a four-hour marathon.  It makes the game a bit more family-friendly, but it also seems a little out of place.

So I decided to get a bit more ambitious, a bit more radical.  What if, instead of building up the power plant deck for Step 3 out of the largest power plants throughout the game, the Step 3 card was simply inserted between the cards for tier 2 and the cards for tier 3?

What I was thinking went something like this:

  1. Tier the power plant deck by breaking it down 1-20, 21-35, and 36-50. Shuffle each tier independently, then stack them. Put the Step 3 card between the second and third tier.
  2. Each time someone buys a power plant, the new plant is introduced in the 8th slot of the power plant market.  All others shift down, ignoring the numbers on the cards.  Like in the original game, only slots 1-4 are available at any given time.  So the new plant comes in at number 8, what was number 5 becomes number 4, and the cards in the top row are shifted down until the hole is filled.
  3. Don’t clear out the highest power plant at the end of the turn, obviously, as that would break the new system.
  4. If all players pass, take out the lowest 1 or 2 power plants and put them in the box.  All four could be taken out, but that might move the game along too quickly.
  5. When Step 3 comes, continue doing the power plant market in exactly the same way.  Don’t switch to a 6-card market.  Implement the other changes for Step 3 (new resource refresh rate, 3 players per city, &c.), but leave the power plant process unchanged.

I can see advantages and disadvantages to the new way of doing it.

Pros:

  • People can see what power plants are coming, so they know better what power plants to bid on.
  • Players can plan more.
  • The game is a bit more orderly, a bit more predictable.
  • The game is a little less fussy, involving a slightly fewer number of rules.
  • The luck-of-the-draw in the endgame would be reduced if not eliminated.
  • The power plant market would not stagnate.

Cons:

  • People can see what power plants are coming, so they know better what power plants to bid on.
  • Players can plan more.
  • The game is a bit more orderly, a bit more predictable.
  • The luck-of-the-draw in the endgame would be reduced if not eliminated.
  • The game would be heavier and less family-friendly.
  • Because it would be possible to look further ahead, the game might take longer.

So it would change the game, but it might not improve it.  I do think, though, that I want to try something along these lines the next time we play.  If I can get my gaming group to go along with it, that is.  :-)

More full disclosure:  some of these changes may have already been made in the expansions.  I wouldn’t know, as I’ve only played France and Korea.  I’ve played with the BGG promo deck, but not with the new power plant cards.  My experience with the Power Grid universe is fairly limited.

Also, just so folks know, though the order in which the cards came out did have an impact on the end of the game, my relatively poor showing had more to do with poor play in the beginning.  That, and the fact that C and I were in direct competition for both cities and resources throughout most of the game.    

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