Power Grid Strategy Tips: Do’s and Don’ts

Power Grid is one of my favorite games, partly because of how easy it is to teach, but also because of how it presents a plethora of choices that forces players to analyze the board position and act accordingly. The decision making that goes into Power Grid turns nearly every game I play into a gratifying nailbiter as everyone tries to jockey for position to build and then power the most cities.

But I get it. New Power Grid players can easily be overwhelmed by those choices. That’s why I decided to make this Power Grid strategy guide, taking the form of a list of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while you’re playing the game. If you want it in video form, you can check it out on the My Board Game Guides Youtube channel. Otherwise, if you’re fine looking at it in text form, then read on!

Power Grid Do’s

1. Pay attention to what resources are in demand:
This will give you an idea of how much resources will cost each round and help you decide how much of it to buy yourself. If you find yourself competing for those resources and can buy them cheaply, go ahead and do so. You can even buy more when it’s cheap since it might save you money in the long run or make it expensive for other players. Finally, keep track of the refill rate to predict what resource prices will look like next round.
Power Grid 1b
2. Understand that power plant capacity is the King in the endgame:
The game revolves around trying to power the most cities possible. Your goal then, should be to make sure you can power at least the same number of cities as the win condition (17 cities in 4 player, 15 cities in 5 player). You can even go for more if you need the insurance policy, but it’s not necessary unless the game goes on longer than you think it’ll go.

Power Grid 1a
3. Look at the power plant futures market and adjust your bidding policies accordingly:
There are some power plants that serve as end-game plants that you’ll want to get as soon as possible. When they appear and if you think you’d be able to snatch them up, ignore the other power plants that are available on the auction block (within reason) and try to go for the end-game plants.

Power Grid 1g
4. Pay attention to turn order:
Turn order dictates when you can get resources and when you can expand your cities. The later you are in turn order, the earlier you get to buy resources and the earlier you get to expand, which can make it really cheap for you and allow you to move into high-priority cities. It also protects you from being denied resources you need to power your cities.

5. Track which cities are a high priority and which aren’t:
In Power Grid, positioning is everything and you need to make sure you can win the city expansion battles that will inevitably pop up during the course of the game. Make sure you’re in position to take those critical cities before anyone else gets to it otherwise you might just find yourself blocked off, and that’s no fun. Cities that you know you have locked up aren’t as important of a priority.

Power Grid Don’ts

1. Buy too many power plants:
Power plants are a big investment cost in terms of money and the really expensive ones might result in you having to give up on expanding for a turn. As a general rule, you’ll want to use your money wisely and purchase… probably no more than 5-6 power plants during the whole game. If your power plants aren’t seeing at least 3-4 rounds of use, you’ve probably invested in a non-critical plant, which means your actions are inefficient relative to everyone else. Also, when you bid, set a reserve price to keep yourself financially disciplined.
Power Grid 1f
2. Overpay for green power plants:
Sure, green energy looks great because they don’t cost resources to use, but by going that route, you’ve taken yourself out of the running for buying resources, which means you’ve made resources cheaper for everyone else. In addition to that, green power plants often cause bidding wars to take place between newer players and there might be a tendency to overspend on those. As with the guidelines above, if you’re not getting at least 3-4 turns of use out of green power, it’s not really all that worth it unless you get it for a good price.

Power Grid 1e
3. Over-expand:
This relates to turn order because you want resources to be as cheap as possible and you want position on other players so that you can get to the higher priority cities before they do. Going last all the time in those critical areas is no fun unless you can take advantage of that position to generate more revenue to keep up with the savings everyone else is getting.

Power Grid 1c
4. Rely on one power plant type, especially if it’s a resource in high demand:
The plants you own might be very effective and efficient, but you always run the risk of it being too focused on one resource. When that happens, people will try to deny you access to those resources by buying out the entire resource market for that particular resource. Remember that if you can’t power cities, you cannot win the game.

5. Don’t buy too many resources if it’ll cost you a city:
There’s always going to be a tendency for you to want to buy more resources than you need just to make it expensive for people who come after you. While that is prudent, what you should be more concerned with is being able to generate more income than the other players. City building up to your powering capacity is what you should focus on, so when you buy resources, make sure you’ve calculated how much money you’ll need left over to build the number of cities you’ll want to build to maximize your income.

Hopefully these tips will help you to build your strategy foundation in Power Grid and help you play better. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave your own tips in the comments section below so that other players can learn and get better at the game! And if you’re looking for a condensed Power Grid rulebook over a strategy guide, we have you covered!

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