One of the strengths of games as a resource is their ability to blend curricular areas together in a meaningful way. Power Grid is a wonderful example of this, pulling together geography, economics and environmental issues together in a play experience that has students striving to run the most successful power company by the end of the game. While the base game comes with two maps: the United States and Germany, there are also a number of expansion maps that let students test their business skills in a variety of other geographical regions.
Power Grid has four steps each round. First a series of power plants are auctioned off for students to purchase. Each plant consumes resources, converting them into energy which power cities on the board. Then based on the plants they own, student can then purchase resources from a limited supply found in the open market. As the different resources are bought, their prices increase meaning that as more students rely on the same resource, the scarcer and more expensive they become.
After all the players have acquired plants and resources for the round, they can then expand their network of cities they supply power for, paying the costs to build into the new cities as well as any connection costs it took to bring power there as well. Finally, students power their cities by consuming the resources they own and generate income based on the number of cities they were able to power for the round. Players roll their income and cash on hand into the next round to invest in more efficient plants and additional resources while continuing to expand their network of cities in an effort to increase their income and the area covered.
There is a lot going on in this game with some nuances that may seem a little complicated at first glance. But once the students play through a round, things easily fall into place because the steps thematically make sense and are repeated each round. Additionally, this is a longer game and will definitely need to be played over several days. The first day should be reserved to introducing the game and getting through a single round. The rest of the game will be able to be finished in two or three more days. If there isn't space to store the game board, students can preserve the game state between classes by putting their personal plants, resources and cash in a bag while taking a picture of the board.
All that being said, Power Grid is very much worth the price of admission. It is a great example of a game that asks a lot but gives even more in return. Not only do students get to interact with and feel the effects of how supply and demand affects open market economics, they also begin to see how it also can influence the energy choices made by countries. Additionally, the game blends these concepts with the geography and global economics of the regions in which the students are playing. Some good examples include: the Korean board which has two markets to purchase resources from instead of one, with no nuclear energy available in the North Korean market or the United States board, which features expensive connection costs across the mountainous and desert regions of the county. All of these elements come together in a strong, thematic way that makes Power Grid an excellent choice for classes covering environmental science or economics.