- Designer: Dirk Henn
- Publisher: Queen Games
- Players: 1-6
- Age: 8+
- Time: 45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Queen Games
In Powerline, you have been tasked with building an efficient power network by connecting power stations to supply cities with sustainable energy. But which city do you want to supply first, and which power stations will be the easiest to connect? The theme is certainly fitting for the “Green Planet” line – as is the production; the folks at Queen Games told me that his game has a carbon neutral production footprint.
The central board is placed on the table – this has the scoring track around the outside, the scoring tiles printed on it as well – and the round tracker – with 16 steps. Two interim scoring rounds are noted, and above each of these, a stack of one joker tile per person is placed. There is also a row of spaces for the six colored dice. Players start with their marker at the 10VP spot.
Each player takes a player board which has a map of the country on it, with various tracks connecting power stations seen on it. There is a worker chart in the upper left, and the spaces here are filled with your worker chits. There is also a track in the upper right for worker meeples, one each of six colors.
The game will be played over 15 rounds, and in each round, play happens simultaneously. There is interim scoring after rounds 5 and 10, and a final scoring after the 15th. Each of the rounds has the same 3 phases
1] Roll Dice – someone rolls all six dice and places them on the matching colored spaces on the main board
2] Plan workers – each player simultaneously plans the use of their workers, going either left to right or right to left on their chart – which matches the color chart on the main board. Workers can be placed on eligible segments of powerlines – that is if the die of color of the worker has pips that match the segment being placed on. Other rules about placement
- Empty powerlines can be started from either end; once started, all placement must go in that direction
- You can place multiple workers on a single powerline
- You can only place workers on up to three different powerlines in a turn
- You can send a worker to the island at the top of your board; this will cost you 1VP but you can essentially skip that worker and then use the next one in line on your board
- If you have a joker tile, you can spend it to place a worker on any eligible space – the pips do not need to match
Once you are done planning, now check your worker chart in the upper left of your board. Find the column that matches the number of workers you placed this round. Take a tile from that column and flip it over, this now becomes a worker tile. If there are no more tiles for that number remaining, you must plan again, as you must be able to take and flip a worker tile.
3] Construct powerlines – replace each worker on a powerline with a green powerline token. Make sure the green arrows point in the direction that you are building in. For each worker on the island, lose 1VP. Once a game, you can play your vacation tile to avoid paying any island penalties for that round. Finally check your powerlines. If you have finished a powerline, place an energy tile on the city adjacent to it. Score the amount of VPs that you covered up. If a power station has all of its lines completed; cover it with a power station tile and take the appropriate VP bonus.
At the end of the 5th, 10th and 15th rounds, there is a scoring phase. Here you score the three scoring tiles on the main board. In the base game, you use the tiles pre-printed on the board:
- Red – VPs for cities supplied with power
- Green – VPs for power station tiles on the board
- Gold – VPs for joker tiles present on your sun space
Continue play through the 15th round and the scoring. Then, to end the game, players take penalties for any power lines that have been started but were not completed at the end of the game. -1/3/6/10/15…VP for 1/2/3/4/5…. lines not complete.
The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player who has placed more power station tiles.
Once you have played the game a few times, there are variants included in the box; they can be added in a mix and match fashion. You can:
- Use a different worker chart
- A more complex island tile to hide your workers on
- A set of varied scoring tiles which can be used in the game as opposed to the pre-printed ones
My thoughts on the game
Powerline is an intriguing puzzle game which has been pretty polarizing here. Gamers that I have played with have either really liked it or knew before the end of the first game that they would only play the game once.
For me, I have really enjoyed the base game. It presents you with an interesting efficiency puzzle. Sure, there is a lot of dice luck involved, but everyone has to work with the same roll and same dice luck, so that will even out. What you have to do is to figure out when it is worth it to send your workers to the island in order to get to the numbers you want.
Additionally, you need to manage your workers as you have a limited number of opportunities to use particular numbers of dice, so there is a fair amount to consider as you try to fill your board.
As you near the end of the game, you have to also consider the penalties for incomplete lines. While you would like to use the numbers available to you, the penalties can definitely add up. The single point for sending someone to the island is often a better choice.
As far as strategy goes, admittedly there isn’t a lot of deep strategy here. You can prioritize things to maximize your interim scoring, but for the most part, you have to work with the numbers you have available, and the way the board is laid out, you rarely have multiple options available for a certain die value. So sure, a lot of times the Dice play you.
The game comes with a number of expansion modules in the box where you can change up the bonus scoring criteria or try an alternate layout for your worker chits. Thus far, we haven’t felt the need to explore those. The gamers around here that have liked the game haven’t felt the need to change anything from the basic rule set.
The length of the game is probably directly proportional to how thinky your players are. The round is streamlined in the sense that you only have two ordered sets of options to consider. But, it can take awhile to puzzle out your options once the dice are rolled.
The game is part of the new Green planet line from Queen. It will include games that imagine a bright future for the planet and the human race. I remain interested to see what games follow this in the series.
Powerline does one thing and I think it does it well. But that criteria also means that it does not necessarily have broad appeal as you really only have one thing to latch onto in the game. I would definitely recommend giving this a try as I have enjoyed it. That being said, there are others that probably would have voted to bail on it in the midst of their first game if they weren’t such good sports (or they saw how much others were liking it and they were paying me back for not abandoning one of the games that they had liked earlier in the day). As always, YMMV.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dan B. (1 play): This is actually a sort of game I tend to like – I often enjoy efficiency puzzles – but this just didn’t work for me. The rigid requirements on how many dice you can use how many times are one of the main reasons – they seemed to remove many of the possibly interesting decisions. After the first few turns I didn’t really make any decisions at all as I had so few options each time.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Mark J, John P
- Not for me – Dan B, Steph