Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column about card games, board games, and everything else non-digital.
In real life, scarcity isn't fun. Scarcity is the rising price of gas, or the difficulty of finding a job. In a game, however, scarcity can be incredibly compelling, and make for a very unique play experience. Enter Power Grid, a board game by German designer Friedemann Friese which uses scarcity at every level of its design to produce one helluva strategy title.
The player's task in the game is to power as much of the country as possible (United States on one side of the board, or alternatively Germany on the other). As heads of various power companies (think Montgomery Burns or whoever runs PG&E), your tasks are to buy power plants, purchase resources, and allocate those resources to control as many houses in as many cities as possible. Money's not the deciding factor here; players will be judged and ranked solely on the amount of power they're pushing.