SNAP Review – Power Failure
[Andrew] I really wanted to start this review with a He-Man “I’ve Got the Power!!!!!” but you said we couldn’t. Because I’m a failure.
[Anitra] No, you’re not a failure. This game has a failure. A Power Failure, specifically.
This is a SNAP review for Power Failure.
Two to four people can play it in about 45 minutes. The box says it’s best for ages 14 and up.
So let’s talk about the art in Power Failure.
[Andrew] Sure, let’s do that.
The art for Power Failure is simple but effective. It features flat 2D representations of power plants and fuel types, along with cubes for tracking actions on a very basic “player mat” card.
[Anitra] There are also cards representing cities you can provide power to – I love that each one is drawn encased in a lightbulb. These cities also represent your points – but we’ll get to that.
[Andrew] There’s also a large number of these black hexagonal “carbon blocks” – what are those things for?
[Anitra] Those are actually really important to the game. Why don’t we talk about the mechanics and how we play Power Failure?
In Power Failure, your goal is to build the best energy empire by providing the most power to cities.
Everyone starts the game with five action cards in their hand, and you start with a “carbon tower” by stacking three carbon blocks in the middle of the table.
On your turn, you must take exactly three actions, which you’ll track with these little “action cubes” on your player mat. You may: take an action card, play an action card, or activate one type of power plant with each of those actions.
Taking an action card is exactly what it sounds like: Take a card from the supply. You can do this up to three times, but the supply is not refilled until the end of your turn. …and if you have six or more cards in your hand, you need to add a carbon block to the carbon tower. More on that in a second.
Playing an action card is another option. If the card you play is an Event, you get that card’s bonus for the rest of your turn. If it’s a power plant, you BUILD the plant by immediately adding a block to the carbon tower. (There it is again!) If the tower collapses while you add the block, return the power plant to your hand and end your turn.
Your third option for actions is to activate one type of power plant – coal, gas, or nuclear. You pay the specified cost by discarding cards and stacking carbon blocks. You can activate more than one plant as a single action, as long as you pay the cost per card.
We mentioned the carbon tower – this is a good time to talk about what happens when the tower falls.
Any time the carbon tower falls, the current player’s turn ends immediately – even if they haven’t completed three actions yet! Then everyone has to discard an action card from their hand. Create a new carbon tower that’s exactly three units tall, and move on to the next player’s turn.
Speaking of turns, let’s get back to those turns! If the tower didn’t fall, and you produced enough energy to meet the requirement indicated on a one or more city cards, take them for your scoring pile. Unspent energy doesn’t carry over to future turns! (Entropy!)
When the City supply runs out when filling the face-up cards, every player, other than the one who just went, gets one more turn. Then whoever has the most points on their city cards, wins!
[Andrew] I have the power!
[Anitra] I knew you were going to get that in here somewhere.
But what did we expect from Power Failure?
[Anitra] I had heard great things about this game from our friends at The Game Schooler Podcast. And when I first opened the game, it looked like a stripped down version of Power Grid by Friedemann Friese, which I’ve enjoyed in the past.
[Andrew] There’s a lot of similarities with Power Grid for sure. You’re balancing power generation with pollution generation, and I could tell there would definitely be a dexterity tension around the shared carbon tower. It felt like it was going to be lighter (simpler) than Power Grid, but that shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
[Anitra] The action cubes and single card “player mats” didn’t excite me at all. That part looked kind of boring.
[Andrew] But there were some surprises. What surprised us about Power Failure?
[Anitra] My biggest surprise was the way this game combines a fairly traditional hand-management, point-collecting kind of game with that dexterity element. Fueling a coal power plant is easy, it just requires one card! But it’s risky, because you have to stack three more blocks on the carbon tower!
I also really loved that there were various kinds of “green” power plants in the game, which don’t require any activation – but all of them only generate a small amount of energy. And the wind and solar plant output is variable – each one might generate two power on a turn, or one, or even nothing.
[Andrew] Sometimes the mechanics of a game tied to its theme hit me a particular way, whether that’s positive or negative, and Power Failure actually did a decent job of reminding me that we are all connected. Here it’s power and pollution, but that’s not the only place. The actions of other people affect us, and vice versa.
I like that the game reminded me of that with this really smart carbon tower dexterity mechanic. That’s why real world themes are good sometimes. And it helps that the game is fun to play and fairly quick to boot.
[Andrew] So Anitra, do we recommend Power Failure?
[Anitra] Power Failure is a great family game. Although the box says ages 14 and up, we’d recommend it for ages 10 and up or so.
[Andrew] I totally agree with that. Mechanically, this game is even simpler and could go younger in age, but you really need fine motor skills for that carbon tower, so I think 10 is about the right age.
[Anitra] Yeah, you could have a lot of frustration if you’re constantly trying to do risky actions that require you to stack more things on the carbon tower. There’s a balance here of going for points, but not going for broke, and waiting for the right time when you’re likely to succeed.
So what are going to rate Power Failure from Artana?
I think we’re going to rate it 4 power plants out of 5.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Power Failure from Artana for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Age Range: 14+ (we say 10+)
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 45 minutes or less