I was asked a question by Jacob in the comments of an earlier post:
Hey, could I trouble you for your opinion of Industrial Waste vs Powergrid? I’ve played neither and I’m intrigued by both. Powergrid is ranked really high on BGG and when I read reviews, I keep feeling that the same negatives (i.e. endgame problems, feeling that the opening doesn’t matter much, disincentive to grow, etc) pointed out by the reviewers would drive me crazy. But I can’t tell for sure.
Does I.W. get the nod between the two in your opinion?
Well, for starters, I think the games fill different niches. They share a common theme and both have a lot to do with money and optimisation of resources, but they are still quite different. Industrial Waste is a quick game for me, 30-45 minutes of swift efficiency practise, while Power Grid is a longer project and has a very different feeling to it thanks to the auctions and the network building.
I don’t think the games have endgame problems. Well, Industrial Waste doesn’t have a proper endgame and that might be the problem. Industrial Waste is bit of a flat game, there’s very little “arc” in it. You just keep on plodding and when someone grows their factory to level 18 or 19, you start preparing to end the game at any moment. Power Grid has distinct phases, so the game has more structure. The end can be somewhat dissatisfying, but I’m not bothered by it. There’s certain tension to it, after all.
In Industrial Waste, the opening doesn’t matter much, nor does any single phase of the game. It’s all about small steps, there won’t be big swings at any points. Is that a problem? I’m not so sure. Sure there’s little drama to it, but I like working in those small steps, doing a bit of process every turn. In Power Grid it’s good the opening doesn’t matter that much — you can’t ruin a long game in the first round… Unlike Industrial Waste, Power Grid has moments of big importance (there can be immensely significant power plant auctions, mostly) and those occur at various points during the game. The opening doesn’t make a world of difference, but I’m not so sure if it should.
I don’t think there’s an disincentive to grow in Industrial Waste. It’s all about balanced growth. Being in the position to end game is power. In Power Grid, the game-balancing method of increased prices for the leader is a limit to growth — unless one can take such a lead that the other players just can’t reach you. That’s hard, so usually it’s a better idea to hang with the pack, collecting resources to make a big leap at some point. Once again, I don’t think that’s an fault of the game, it’s an obstacle that creates interesting tension in the game.
In general, I think Power Grid is a slightly better game, but Industrial Waste will probably see more action because it’s so fast. I enjoy both a lot. They share a similar theme, but are two quite distinct games. In my opinion, either one of them is a good catch.