Power Grid: The Card Game is a new adaptation of the award-winning power plant game by Friedemann Friese. Its streamlined design gives the feel of Power Grid gameplay, but without the game board and in about a third of the time.
The primary difference between Power Grid and Power Grid: The Card Game is the absence of a game board. The rest of the game elements feel very familiar, including bidding for power plants, taking turns seizing the best deals on fuel, and then powering the plants to generate electricity and collect income.
An initial deal of eight power plant cards comes from only the less expensive (lighter-backed) cards, which are then organized by the numbers in their corners (indicating minimum auction price and power plant strength) from lowest to highest. The four lower-valued cards form a row of available power plants, and the other four form a row of potential future power plants.
Each round, players will engage in auctions on the available power plants, with a player starting a bid on a card of that player’s choice, with the minimum bid being the card’s printed number. Once a player has won a bid and purchased a power plant, that player is ineligible to purchase another that round. In the first round, each player must purchase a power plant, but in later rounds, players may skip buying one.
After the auction, players take turns buying fuel cards. These cards depict coal, gas, oil, and uranium in values from 1 to 3. These cards are sorted according to number and type of fuel and then distributed between three price columns: column 2, column 3, and column 4, with each column’s number indicating the price in the game’s currency a fuel card in that column can be bought for. Column 1 is reserved for surplus fuel cards, worth 1 fuel each, that can be added when players exceed their power plants’ fuel capacity.
The number of fuel cards drawn, and thus the number of cards per price column, is dependent on the number of players. For example, in a four-player game, columns 2, 3, and 4 will contain five fuel cards each, for a total of fifteen fuel cards drawn.
When it’s a player’s turn to buy fuel cards, that player may buy any number of them. However, players are constrained by how many they can afford and buy what their power plants can store. A power plant may only store fuel cards that match the power plant’s own fuel type and can only store twice as much as is required to fuel a plant. For example, a power plant that uses 3 gas can hold up to 6 gas. A fuel card can’t be bought if power plants of matching types are at their capacity already, but if a player buys a fuel card that would cause a power plant to exceed its capacity, the fuel card is reduced to the maximum the power plant can store, and excess fuel is sent to column 1 of the resource market in the form of surplus fuel cards.
Fuel cards can be reduced by rotating them. The top edge indicates the starting value of a fuel card, but rotating a card will show a decremented value. (For example, spending 1 oil from a 3-oil card will cause it to be rotated once, and it will now show 2 oil.) When a card rotates to its 0-fuel edge, it’s discarded.
After buying fuel, players power their power plants to the best of their abilities and receive payment according to each powered power plant. Players discard all fuel used to power a power plant. In the final round—after the one-more-round card has been drawn—players receive victory points rather than money for their powered power plants. In addition, players score 1 victory point for every 10 remaining currency. The player with the most points wins!