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Tonight I'll be playing Power Grid for the second time with my game group. It's the second time for all of us.

What key strategy or tactic should I focus on to give me the best chance of winning?

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Here is an earlier discussion of How to chose a power plant for a beginner – Pat Ludwig Oct 26 '10 at 21:29
up vote 41 down vote accepted

There really isn't a set strategy here, but a number of tips I've found useful from playing Power Grid, and I hope they can help you, too:

  1. Look at what everyone is buying -- if you're playing 3rd in a 5 player game, and the first two players bought coal plants, consider going with a different fuel source, as coal could get expensive quickly if everyone is buying it. Pay attention to how quickly fuel sources will replenish at the end of the turn as well.

  2. If you are first to buy resources, consider buying the maximum amount. It may cost you a little extra to buy them, but anyone else needing those resources is going to have to pay that much more. Feel free to put the squeeze on people this way.

  3. Don't overpay for Enrvironmental plants -- the environmental plants (the wind plants) are definitely a good buy, and everyone knows that. If you get lucky and can buy one at the end of the round for face value, go for it. If the #37 shows up and it gets bid up to $60 or $70 quickly, think very hard about how much you'll be saving if you buy it. They're good, but don't overpay for them.

  4. Beware the East coast -- there are lots of cheap connections in the East coast, which is great for expanding quickly, but if you buy lots of houses quickly, you'll be in first position, which means you'll be going last lots of the time. Also, with cheap connections, people might crowd around you and block you in, meaning you may have to expand two or three hubs away, and pay some steep connection costs. I personally like moving into the East coast during phase 2.

  5. Nuclear plants are great later on -- early on, nuclear fuel is very expensive. Within a few turns, however, the fuel can get down to $7 or $8 for a single piece. Compared to how much coal and oil may end up costing, nuclear plants are good for mid- to -late game.

  6. Time when you buy cities -- sometimes there may be a good plant on the table coming up, and you want first shot at it. If everyone else is buying cities, consider staying at a lesser amount of cities so you have a better chance at going first.

  7. Don't buy plants for the sake of buying plants -- If a good plant comes up, feel free to bid on it, but don't feel like you have to bid every turn. Try to buy as few plants as possible.

  8. Have a long-term strategy -- if the game will end when someone has built their 14th house, figure out what combination of plants will best get you to 14, such as a 4/4/6 setup, 4/5/5 setup, 3/5/6 setup, whatever. There are some fantastic plants mid-game that you can use for the rest of the game.

If I think of anything else, I'll add them here.

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Very nice, good summary! – Pat Ludwig Oct 22 '10 at 17:00
+1 For a very clear, well thought out answer. – Codemwnci Oct 22 '10 at 18:25
Thanks for the great answer! I was the victor last night. ;~) – wdypdx22 Oct 23 '10 at 17:28
@wdypdx22 - that's what I like to hear! Glad I could help. – LittleBobbyTables Oct 23 '10 at 17:32
The advice for no6 is good, but the reasoning is a little wrong. It's not that you want first shot by going first - everyone can bid on whatever the first person goes for. You want to go last, so that there's more chance that it will have come down into the current market by your turn. And you get to be last in the power plant market by having the least cities. – AndyT Feb 19 at 16:30

The best advice I can offer is

don't buy a city unless you can fire it up

This is especially important in the early game, when turn order hinges on a single city. If you do, then all you are doing is sacrificing turn order. Even if it makes no difference because you have the highest value plant, it may make a difference next turn.

When bartering for a power plant, consider a few things

  • how much will you save in terms of raw materials by having this plant
  • even if you are the only person buying garbage, coal, oil etc, how long is that really likely to last
  • how much is it worth to your opponents

Try to think as long term as you can with all of your decisions. If you base your decisions on the current status, it will change within a round or two and your decision may quickly look unwise.

Green powerplants

I rarely have found these to be worth it. At cost price they can be, but often they are a hindrance and quickly replaced anyway. It of course depends on how much other resources are costing, but do not overbid as it will cost you in the long term.

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I love making people overspend for Green Power Plants. – Lance Roberts Oct 26 '10 at 23:19
@Lance: how do you do that without overbidding yourself and risking get stuck with it? – Chris Dodd Sep 29 '11 at 18:52
@Chris, you have to take some chances, it's easier to pull off the more players there are. While your bid may only raise it one electro, if you make it seem like it's a worthwhile investment, then it may motivate others to bid higher on it. – Lance Roberts Sep 29 '11 at 19:18
+ 1 for most important rule for beginners to realise. Underused cities are a massive disadvantage in Power Grid. – AlexC Jan 9 '12 at 9:34
  • Try to minimize the number of plants you buy.
  • Aim to end up with enough plants to power the endgame # of houses
    • Don't buy more than one four plant unless it's great deal
  • Look carefully at the resource costs and double buy if it looks like a resource is in demand
  • A simple strategy is to alternate being first and being last
  • Don't think that $1 doesn't matter
  • Don't always take the cheapest cities, sometimes you need to block others
  • Place your first houses where the connections are cheap
  • Try to bid up other power plants, carefully
  • Hide your money, don't let others make accurate calculations
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+1 - Excellent points about "Don't think that $1 doesn't matter" and "Hide your money". – LittleBobbyTables Oct 22 '10 at 17:38
In a game when the amount you start with and spend is public, I think playing with hidden money is stupid. You're just encouraging everyone to play with a pad of paper so they can keep track. Keeping your money public knowledge is a house rule where I live. – livingtech Oct 27 '10 at 16:47
Everything that can be tracked using paper, should be visible or askable anytimes. Otherwise it would have been blind pulled. – Konerak Nov 13 '10 at 12:48
A belated -1 for "hide your money". Given that it's possible for everyone to deduce how much you have, that it's an end of game tiebreaker, and that the rules don't actually say whether it's supposed to be hidden or public, I think it's far better to just make it public. If you do think that it should be hidden information, that's a rule to make, not something to decide to do on your own as a tactic. You do not want to find yourself with potential tiebreakers on the last turn of the game having an argument between a player hiding money and a player trying to decide what to do. – Jefromi Jan 13 '14 at 4:21
@Jefromi, I think it's a silly rule also, but that is the way the game is played. In Power Grid, money is allowed to be secret. In my last game, I used my smartphone calculator to keep track of the opponent I was most concerned with. – Lance Roberts Jan 13 '14 at 4:23

I would add a single advice:

Plan your turn before the auctions start.

I usually plan my turn backwards:

  1. How many cities can I connect to with the money I have?
  2. How much will I (likely) need to pay for resources for my current plants?
  3. Now how much is there left for auctions? (counting both the plant price and its resources for at least 1 turn)

After this initial calculation I can adjust the numbers:

  • If I don't have enough to pay for resources, build 1 fewer city unless there's an obvious new plant that would use cheaper resources or replace an expensive one.
  • Only bid on power plants that help reach at least the new number of cities, ideally more.
  • Sometimes it can be worth throwing this plan out the window if there is a really juicy plant, especially if you can get it at face value and you won't have to replace it for a long time, or even ever.

I recognise that this could potentially engender some analysis paralysis, so unless everybody does it, please be nice and move on quickly, keep it fun! Or practice to do it faster; I'm slow at mental calcs so I just split the money on my lap.

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+1 Sometimes skipping buying extra resources if it means you can't connect the city is vital – Konerak Nov 13 '10 at 12:50

Regarding some previous comments about hiding your money. Your cash is the ONLY thing that is private. The rules allow this, and it is a critical aspect of the game. Not knowing if someone can win or not on the next turn makes it exciting, sees if you were paying attention, makes you guess, second guess, triple guess. If I was the one who could win this turn I would never in a million years want that advertised. Long story short - do keep your money private, any rule otherwise I believe is just silly and frankly a little juvenile.

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Depends on the group -- in many groups keeping your money hidden (though the rules state it can be hidden) will just annoy the other players, slow down the game (as they calculate how much you have) and result in you not being invited back for another game... – Chris Dodd Jan 9 '14 at 1:33
Honestly, I think it's juvenile to keep it private. You're effectively saying "nanana you don't know how much I have, you have to guess, or keep track on paper". In any case, should you prefer hidden money, that's a rule, not something an individual player can decide. You need to decide on it with your play group, so it's not a strategy tip for a beginning player. – Jefromi Jan 13 '14 at 4:29

If you have a very expensive plant that only powers one or two cities, consider not powering them as the fuel cost may exceed the extra money you will get in bureaucracy. The game is pretty close because of the auto handicapping done by puting the leading player in the worse position when buying plants, resources, houses so very much hangs on the last turn. Even if you played badly, your chances of being in contention ae high. Consider ditching the balanced play strategy here, as playing a fast one can make you the winner faster than anyone else thinks. If you see a juicy plant that looks like it will be up for bidding soon, don't make plans including it, unles you know all the other cheaper plants are already discarded. Chances are high that as new plants are drawn your desired plant, will get farther and farther from the auction or even be discarded alltogether.

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