Power Grid Rules Overview

Power Grid is an extremely good introduction to economic games. But the one thing the game doesn’t do as good a job of is teaching you how to play Power Grid because the rulebook is organized poorly. Thankfully, the game is very simple to learn. So to help you out, I’ve gone through and rewrote and reorganized the Power Grid rules to make it easier for you to learn how to play.

Power Grid Game Goals

Power Grid is a network building and resource management game. Each player represents a power company that wants to be the most profitable and efficient at delivering energy to various cities. The player who supplies electricity to the most cities wins. This is important because the winner is not the person who is richest, but the person who powers the most cities on the map.

How the board looks when playing Power Grid

Setting Up the Game

When you set up to play Power Grid, how you set up the board is dependent upon how many players there are. First, decide which map you’ll use. Then, figure out which areas of the map you’ll play in by having one area per player (up to 5) where all of the areas form an adjacent block.

From there, set up the resources. Starting from the highest value spaces, you will place:

  • 24 coals (brown)
  • 18 oils (black)
  • 6 garbage (yellow)
  • 2 uranium (red)

Then, take the power plants numbered 3-10 and place them in 2 rows of 4 in ascending order. The top row is the Current Market, the bottom row is the Future Market. Remove Step 3 card and power plant 13 from the power plants deck. Then, shuffle the remaining cards and remove 8 power plants if you’re playing with 2 or 3 players, 4 power plants if playing with 4 players, and no power plants if you’re playing with 5 or more. Once you finish that, place power plant 13 on the top, and the Step 3 card on the bottom.

Player Setup

Every player will get the following:

  • One overview card
  • Wooden houses
  • 50 Elektro (Power Grid’s money. Use poker chips if you prefer.)

Place one wooden house on scoring track and one on turn order.

How to Play

Each round of the game has 5 phases. Each phase has a specific turn order

The phases are:

  • Determining player order
  • Auctioning power plants
  • Buying resources
  • Building power plants
  • Bureaucracy – where you get paid out and set up for the next round

First: Determining Player Order

Typically, the first player is the player with the most cities. But if two or more players have the same number of cities, the player with the largest-numbered power plant goes first. Second player would be the person with the second most, and so on.

At the start of the game, pick someone to be the first player. Then have player order run clockwise from that first player.

Second: Auctioning Power Plants

Power Plants in Power Grid

Starting with the first player, then, in player order, choose a power plant from the Current Market (top row) to bid on. When you start the bidding, you cannot start lower than the number on power plant (though you can choose to start higher).

From there, go around and each player may bid on the power plant by placing a higher bid. If they choose not to bid, they cannot come back in to bid on that specific plant. Once a plant has been sold off to the highest bidder, the winner pays the bid amount to the bank and receives the power plant. Move on to the next player if the current player won the plant or continue with the current player who picks a new plant to purchase.

Power plants are refilled and rearranged in ascending order after each successful bid. If a player does not choose a power plant to start an auction, they are not able to bid on future auctions for this round. If a player has already bought a power plant, they are not allowed to bid or offer a plant for auction.

You may have a maximum of 3 power plants at any given time. If you purchase a 4th power plant, you must replace an existing power plant with the new one. Resources on the discarded power plant may be redistributed if possible or discarded. If no power plant is sold in a round, the lowest plant is discarded.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If this is the first round, rearrange the player order where the player with the highest power plant is first in turn order and the player with the lowest power plant is last. Furthermore, each player must buy a power plant in the very first round.

Third: Buying Resources

Power Grid Resources you can buy

In reverse player order, players buy resources from the market. When purchasing resources, note that you have to be able to store the resources you buy. Each power plant can store twice as many resource as needed to produce power once. Resources can be rearranged any time.

Fourth: Building power stations

Also in reverse player order, players add cities to their network on the map by building power stations represented by your wooden houses. In the first round, each player chooses a new city and places it on the 10 spot and pays the cost. All future cities must connect to previous cities by paying the cost of connection (including any jumps if need be) plus the cost of the lowest city space.

Use the following rules when building cities:

  • A player may build as many cities as they can afford. All cities are connected in one turn
  • Each city can only be occupied by 1 player until Steps 2 and 3 occurs.
    • In Step 2, two players can occupy a city, but the second spot costs more.
    • In Step 3, three players can occupy a city, but the third spot costs even more.
  • A player may add any city to the network as long as connection cost is paid.
  • Players do not have to choose starting cities in the first round.
  • Update the scoring track whenever city is connected.
  • Remove any power plant in the market with a lower number than number of cities for any player and replace it with a new plant.

Final Phase: Bureaucracy

First figure out how many cities you want to power. Then, discard used resources used for production and collect the money for powering those cities. Once all players have discarded their resources and received their income, resupply the market according to resupply table.

Check the image below for the Resupply Table and check the number of players and what step of the game you’re in. Take as many of those resources as the table specifies, and refill the resource market, starting from the highest value space.

Then, place highest valued power plant from the market and place it at the bottom of the power plant deck.

Resupply table

This is how you resupply the resource market.

Power Grid Resource Refilling Guide

Power Grid Market Adjustments

As you play Power Grid, you will go through steps where the resource refill allocations and rules will change slightly.

Step 1: Game starts. Each city can only have one power station. Use resupply table for Step 1.

Step 2: This step begins once a player has built the targeted number of power stations in cities. That target is 7 cities when playing with 5 players or fewer and 6 cities if playing with 6 players. When you move on to step 2, the following events happen:

  • Remove the lowest numbered power plant and replace it.
  • Each city can now have 2 power stations.
  • Use the resupply table for Step 2

Step 3: This step happens when the Step 3 card is drawn.

If it’s drawn in Phase 2 during the power plant auction, treat it as the highest value power plant, shuffle the deck, continue the auction as normal. Then, discard the lowest plant and Step 3 card afterward.

If the Step 3 card is drawn in any other circumstance, perform the following steps:

  • First, discard the lowest power plant during the bureaucracy phase instead of removing the highest. Also remove the Step 3 card.
  • When refilling resources, use the resupply table for Step 3.
  • Each city can now have 3 power stations.
  • During the phase in which you buy power plants, you can purchase from both the top and bottom row.
  • During the bureaucracy phase where you set things up for the next round, discard the lowest power plant instead of the highest.

End Game

The game ends when one player reaches the target number of cities in phase 4. The player who can power the most cities at that point wins the game. If there are any ties, the person who has the most money is the winner.

The end-game target is:

  • 2 players: 21 cities.
  • 3 or 4 players: 17 cities.
  • 5 players: 15 cities.
  • 6 players: 14 cities.

Hopefully this is helpful. We also have some Power Grid strategy tips for you to use if you want to do well.

One thought on “Power Grid Rules Overview

Tell us what you think about the game!