The colorful map that comprises the "Power Grid" game board depicts the U.S. and its major cities. The other side of the board represents Germany.

Courtesy Ed Grabianowski

Power Grid is a popular board game in which players compete to purchase power plants, expand their power networks into cities, then buy enough natural resources to power those cities. It combines an economic system that simulates supply and demand with an auction round that pits players against each other as they try to buy the latest power plant technology.

The game was originally created in Germany under the name Funkenschlag. In the original incarnation, Funkenschlag was a crayon game: The connections between the cities weren't fixed – players drew them in with crayons, which could be wiped off the board when the game was over. The second edition of Funkenschlag removed the crayon mechanic (made famous by the Empire Builder series of railroad games, among others) and replaced it with fixed connections between cities. When Funkenschlag was adapted and translated to English via U.S. publisher Rio Grande Games, it got a new name: Power Grid. While the basic version comes with a two-sided board depicting the U.S. and Germany, there are expansions and international versions available that depict Italy, Japan, Central Europe, Korea and other nations or regions [source: Rio Grande Games].

While Power Grid is a fun game that creates many interesting competitive situations, it's also a very effective educational game. Kids who play Power Grid will learn about basic economic principles and environmental issues, and their math skills will get a serious workout.

If you want to know how to play Power Grid -- and better yet, how to win -- you've come to the right place. We'll start on the next page with the rules.