|Image by Henning|
There's no doubt that Power Grid has been a success for Rio Grande, so it isn't too surprising that they've tried to capitalize on the success of its name. Power Grid: Factory Manager held no interest for me; the name alone seems to imply they managed to find an even less interesting theme to put on a Power Grid game!
Then along comes Power Grid: The First Sparks. At its core it is very much Power Grid with a stone age theme. Instead of building out your power grid you are growing your clan and hunting for food. I really felt it was going to be yet another attempt to cash in on the Power Grid name. A friend of mine picked it up at Essen, though, and I've been able to play a couple of times:
|Image by maeddes|
~ In theory the game should play faster than Power Grid. Friedemann essentially cut out the middle stage of Power Grid which somewhat messes with the pacing of the game. It's like the middle growth stage of Power Grid is gone and you go from the early stages of establishing your territory straight to the end game build-outs. With experience I think it will result in a faster game, but it also changes the overall pacing. I'm not sure it is quite as satisfying as the end game will really sneak up on you. This could be a side effect of my prior experience with Power Grid or groupthink at the table, but I feel like the game's escalation is a bit off.
I'm not convinced that The First Sparks will hold up as well as Power Grid in the long run; it certainly doesn't have that "classic" feel about it. I do think that the theme will go a long ways for those that found Power Grid unappealing, but don't be fooled by the cute exterior - there is still plenty of crunchy math inside.
Do both Power Grid and The First Sparks deserve a spot on your gaming shelf? Mechanically they differ enough but I think the overall experience feels very similar. At the end of the day there's no doubt that Power Grid is the better game, but I think the theme and shorter playtime will certainly appeal to some.
Don't forget about the contest! I'm giving away two Kickerstarter copies of Eminent Domain! All you have to do to enter the contest is send an email to contest *AT* dreadedgazebo *DOT* com with the subject "1000th play".
ENTRIES ARE DUE BY DECEMBER 15TH, 2011, 11:59PM CST! I will randomly pick two winners the next day. I'll gladly ship internationally, so feel free to enter no matter where you live.