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Power Grid FAQ

FAQ for Power Grid

Info taken from FAQs in file area and various forum threads, consolidated into a Wiki page so that people can more easily find all the info in one place and update it.
List of game FAQs

Table of Contents

Expansions sometimes change the basic rules

This FAQ covers the basic rules. If you have a question about a specific expansion, check the rules forum or FAQ for that particular expansion.

Hidden information

Power plants and resources you own are visible.

Money is intended to be secret (see the official FAQ at 2F), and most people play it that way, but it is the subject of much debate (as in all such games with publicly trackable transactions).

The deck of power plant cards is secret, as are any plants removed from the deck before the start of the game.

No loans or gifts

You cannot loan or give money to other players. The rules don't forbid it, but most people consider that to mean that obviously it's not an option, just as the rules don't forbid stealing other players' resources when they go to the toilet. :)

Presumably you could propose deals "I won't build in this city if you won't build in that city", but they'd be non-binding. That's really more of a question for the etiquette and customs in your group.

The exact distribution of paper money bills varies and is irrelevant

The distribution of paper money varies from edition to edition and even set to set. It does not matter anyway since (unlike in 1830: Railways & Robber Barons for example) nothing in the rules depends on the exact amount of paper money included in the game! In practice you will not run out.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/872868/paper-money (includes a comment linking to many more such threads)

How many players?

The game is officially for 2-6 players. As you can see by the "User suggested # of Players" poll, most people feel 4 or 5 players is best, but of course ultimately it's a matter of personal taste. There are many forum threads discussing the issues about number of players, e.g.:
Many people say there's too much crowding or chaos or downtime with 6 players.
Many people say the auctions are less interesting with fewer players.
Many people say the map blocking is less interesting with 2 players (there's no blocking once Step 2 is entered) or 3 players (there's no blocking once step 3 is entered).
Nonetheless there are plenty of players who enjoy the game with 2 or 3 players, and with 6 players.

Note that some Germany maps have a misprint with slots for only 5 players in the turn order. Nonetheless the Germany map is for 6 players, whether your Germany map has 5 or 6 player slots.


Areas do not belong to players!

When picking which areas to use at the beginning, it is only a suggestion that each player pick one area. You could also randomly determine them, vote on them, systematically play all combinations in successive games, use the same areas every time, whatever you like. Note that 2-player games use 3 areas and 6-player games use 5 areas, so it doesn't even make sense to think of "one area = one player" in general. When building your first and later houses, the individual areas have no meaning - each player can build in any of the areas in play for that game. (And of course no player can ever build outside of the selected set of areas).

The map areas are simply a convenient way to have variable starting conditions with an appropriate number of cities in play each game. For some reason this causes continual confusion among new players, with many forum threads.

Resource Market

Overall idea: When you buy resources, you pull them from the left end, paying whatever cost is on the resource track for each one you take. Thus players buying later pay more. Then at the end of a turn, more resources will be added, from the right, making more available and reducing the prices a little.

Power Plant Market

Overall idea: 8 plants are always visible "on the market", and the 4 lowest numbered plants are available for purchase in phase 2. The 4 highest numbered plants are simply visible so you have an idea of what is likely to be available in the near future.

After you set up, you should have 8 plant cards visible (plants 3-10 - they are the starting market), and the face-down deck should look like this from top to bottom:

  • plant 13.
  • the rest of the plants, randomly shuffled, with some removed if 2-4 players.
  • the step 3 card.

At no time should there be a power plant in the market whose number is less than or equal to the number of cities of the player with the most cities on the board (see notes under the specific phases).

Phase 1: Determine Player Order

Note that in the first turn of the game, the player order is random (for purposes of the Phase 2 auction) and then you re-determine the player order after the first turn's auction phase.

Phase 2: Auction Power Plants

Each player will end up buying 0 or 1 power plants in the auction.

Player order to start auctions, table order for bidding in an auction

Starting auctions is in player order, so at the beginning of phase 2, player #1 passes or starts the bidding on one of the 4 available plants.

Bidding within a single auction is clockwise around the table. (This is the only thing that goes clockwise during the game.)

After each auction is resolved, the next auction is started by the lowest numbered player who has not yet bought a plant or chosen not to start an auction.

Bring out a new plant when one is bought

As soon as a plant is sold, a new one is drawn and put into the appropriate place in the order (i.e. based on the plant's number). Thus the new plant might be immediately available for auction or not, depending on its number relative to the 7 plants already there.

If the power plant number drawn is less than or equal to the number of cities that the player with the most cities on the board has, immediately discard it without adding it to the market and draw again.

Last player buys at market price

The last player in the auction phase who has not bought a plant or failed to win a plant brought to auction on their turn faces no competition in bidding for any plant they select; therefore, if they choose to buy a plant, they can do so at the minimum price for that plant.

Step 3 card during auction

Note that a new plant card is drawn even if the Step 3 card has appeared during that auction phase, although there is disagreement in rules versions (and among players) about this. Apparently one version of a translation accidentally said that you should not draw new plants in that auction phase if the Step 3 card has appeared during that auction phase. On 2009-02-23, an official ruling appeared confirming this:
If the »Step 3« card is drawn in phase 2 (Auction Power Plants), treat the card as the highest power plant and place it at the end of the future market. Immediately shuffle the draw stack with the remaining power plants (the power plants that were placed under the draw stack during steps 1 and 2 of the game), and place it face down next to the game board. Continue the auction of power plants and draw replacements as necessary until all players have their chance to buy a new power plant or pass. After finishing phase 2, remove the lowest numbered power plant and the »Step 3« card from the market and do not draw replacements! Step 3 starts in phase 3.

If you buy a plant, or choose not to start a new auction, you are done for this phase

Instead of proposing a plant for auction and bidding on it, the player can pass, which means they no longer participate at all in this auction phase. The player may not select a plant for auction without offering at least the minimum bid (the number on the plant card), though the player can bid higher if he/she chooses.

If a player wins the auction on a plant (regardless of whether they were the player that started the bidding on it), they no longer participate at all in this auction phase. A player who brought a plant to auction but did not buy it is free to participate in, and start, future auctions during the round.


Throwing away one of your old plants

If you already have 3 plants (4 in a 2-player game), then you must throw away an old plant (not the one you just bought) when you buy a new plant. You may move resources from the discarded plant to any other compatible plant(s) which you own (old or newly purchased) and which have the space to store the resources, since you are always free to move resources between compatible plants which you own.

The plant DOES NOT have to be the lowest-numbered plant in your collection; it can be any plant the player wishes, other than the one just bought. There can be confusion with the many times that players must discard the lowest-numbered plant from the market; plants owned by players are not subject to any of those rules.

Note that this is the only situation when a player throws away an owned plant, even though one might imagine very contrived situations where one might want to voluntarily throw away a plant.

Throw away the lowest market plant if no one buys a plant

If no player buys a plant in phase 2, remove the lowest one from the game and draw a new replacement.

You must buy a plant in turn 1

You must buy a plant in turn 1. In later turns, it is optional.

Illegal to bid more than you have

You cannot bid more than you can pay. If you do it (whether accidentally or on purpose), the group should punish by whatever method is customary in your group!

2F officially states: "The rule is that you cannot bid more than you have. If somebody accidentally bids more money we simply repeat the auction but the "bad guy" is not being allowed to bid for this auction phase anymore, whatever auction is going on. Next game round he may again... If it is NOT accidental, well... then one plays with the wrong gamers..."

Phase 3: Buying Resources

Players buy in reverse player order, so player #1 will buy last (probably spending more). This, along with being the first to build, confers a significant advantage to being the "dimmest bulb" in a given turn.

Storing twice as much as the plants can use

You can own twice as many resources as the resource costs of your plants. E.g. if you have a plant that burns 2 coal, you can store up to 4 coal in it.

Hybrids can store a combination of fuels

A hybrid plant can store (and burn) any combination of its fuel types.

You cannot buy more resources than you can store.

You cannot buy more resources than you can store. You can, per the rules, buy and store twice the number of a resource per plant that the plant will need to fire to produce its power; a plant that requires three garbage to produce power can store up to six garbage. Hybrids can store any combination of coal and oil up to their capacity.

"Naturally, the players usually buy the cheapest resources first."

There is ambiguity and disagreement about whether you can intentionally buy more expensive resources instead of the cheapest:

Players may not voluntarily discard resources

Once purchased, players may not voluntarily discard resources (perhaps with the intent of buying up all of one resource type, for example). Resources are only discarded when the plant where they are stored is discarded. You may keep these resources if you're able to move them onto one of your existing plants (or even the new one you just bought) - also see below.

Players may discard fuel which could be moved

Q: "May a player dump fuel that could be moved? A player was buying an oil plant, and discarding a coal plant along with its fuel. He didn't want to move fuel to his hybrid plant because he was going to corner the market in oil. Corollary: He could have transferred coal from the hybrid to the coal plant just to dump it."

A: "Yes. You are not obliged to move them."


Phase 4: Building

Overall idea: Buy your first building in whatever city you like in any area in play, paying 10. For later cities, you must pay not only the city cost (10, 15, or 20), but also the connection cost from one of your existing cities.

A player builds all their houses before the next player builds that turn

Players build in reverse player order, so player #1 will build last. When one player finishes building however many houses they want (whether 0, 1, or more houses), then the next player builds.

Areas don't "belong" to players

No area "belongs" to one player, and there are no restrictions about players building in separate or the same areas.

Skipping cities, paying more connection costs

You are allowed to "skip" cities and pay connection costs to go through a city (e.g. if it's already full of houses) to build in another city on the other side if you wish.

You cannot skip through cities that are in unused areas this game.

You cannot use a single connection cost to go through an unoccupied-by-you city and build several cities in a branching "Y". Each city is built independently and sequentially.

Similarly there is no "memory" of which connection costs you've paid in the past. Each time you connect to a city, you must pay full connection costs to some city you already occupy, even if you earlier paid costs to go through a given city without building a house there.

What's up with Boise-Billings-Cheyenne?

It is simply an inconvenient error on the map that the direct cost from Boise to Cheyenne is higher than the cost of going through the nearby city Billings. You can always pay the lower cost via the nearby city in such situations (unless it's in a map region not in play, which could happen with Cincinnati-Pittsburgh-Raleigh).

Number of houses allowed in a city = step number

In step 1, each city can only hold one house (which costs 10). In step 2, each city can hold 2 houses (and the second house built costs 15). In step 3, each city can hold 3 houses (which cost 10, 15, and 20).

A player can build at most 1 house in a given city.

A player can build at most 1 house in a given city. This is for a couple of reasons. First, players are required to build "out" instead of "up" when establishing their grid, increasing interaction between players as they compete to expand their grid. Second, players cannot attempt to "hem in" another player by quickly building up all adjacent cities to max capacity.

0-cost connection

Some cities physically touch and have no cost shown. Their connection cost is 0. See the example in the rules: "Anna can expand her network from Duisburg for 10 Elektro, because there are no connection costs between Duisburg and Essen."

Throwing away market plants due to city building (Scrapping)

If someone builds a number of cities equal to or greater than the printed number on a plant in the market, the plant is removed from the game and a new plant is drawn and added to the market. You don't remove a plant owned by a player in this way.
Example: Tiffany is the first to build a 15th city. The 15 plant in the market is discarded and a new one is drawn to replace it. If the replacement plant is number 14, it is discarded and replaced as well, etc.

No limits on number of houses

You can build as many cities as you like in your turn (including the first turn), if you can afford the connection costs and they have empty spaces.

You are not limited to the physical supply of houses. (This normally only matters in a 2-player game.)

You build your houses one after the other in the phase, not simultaneously

E.g. there are cities A, B, C connected with costs 7 & 8: A --7-- B --8-- C

If you have a house in A and want to build in B & C in one turn, you'll pay the connection cost of 7 to reach B and then the connection cost of 8 to reach C. You don't have to pay the cost of 7 twice.

Phase 5: Bureaucracy

Earn cash

Money is secret

Money is intended to be secret, though the rules themselves don't specify that. It is generally to each player's advantage to conceal exactly how much money he/she has from the other players. However, money is theoretically also an area of perfect knowledge in the game; it is possible to track a player's balance by keeping track of money paid in (starting balance and powering cities) and out (buying plants and resources), however this can be difficult to track accurately for multiple players without paper and pencil (and players usually have better things to do than play accountant for all other players)

In player order

Players earn cash by powering cities in player order (player #1 announces first which plants they're using). In practice this is sometimes done simultaneously to speed play, but in some cases one player might want to see what another is doing - you might want to not power all your plants to save resources for the next turn, for instance.

Decide for each plant to power it or not

For each of your plants, you either power it (spending the resource cost shown and generating enough electricity for the number of houses shown) or not (spending no resources and producing no electricity). There is no option for partially generating, or using extra resources to generate more electricity. So, a plant that can power 3 cities must provide power for 3 cities or none at all; if the player only has two cities, the extra city's worth of power is wasted; it cannot be sold or given to another player to help them meet demand.

Plants must fire using their own stored resources

A plant may only fire using resources that are stored directly on its card. Note that before firing plants, resources may be shuffled around among plants so long as resource types and limits are observed, but after the reshuffling is done, plants must be fired using their own resources. Therefore, a hybrid plant storing its maximum capacity in oil cannot be fired using coal stored by another power plant. Furthermore, resources cannot be voluntarily discarded to make this possible. This ruling was made by Friedemann Friese himself. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/461575/rule-on-firing-plants

Hybrid plants can use a combination of its fuel types

A hybrid plant can burn any combination of its fuel types; a plant requiring 2 coal or oil to produce power can be fired with 2 coal, 2 oil, or one of each.

Earn minimum of # cities and amount of power

The number of cities you power is the minimum of:

  • the number produced by your plants with the resources you choose to use
  • the number of cities you have house in.

I.e. to power a city you must have a house there, and have enough electrical generation capacity.

Guaranteed minimum

Each player is guaranteed to earn at least 10 Elektro per round; they do not have to use, or even have, any resources to generate power in order to receive this cash (consider it a government subsidy). This can be an added incentive to "go dark" for one round in order to conserve resources for the next turn. However, it is unlikely that staying "dark" will be a good strategy long-term.

Resupply the resource market

The amount of each of the 4 types of resources added will depend on whether you're in step 1, 2, or 3, and also on the number of players in the game. See the chart on the back of the rule pamphlet.

Remove power plant

In steps 1 and 2, move the highest numbered of the 8 visible market plants to the bottom of the deck. Thus more and more high-numbered plants will end up below the "Step 3" card which you previously put at the bottom of the deck at the beginning of the game.

In step 3, remove the lowest numbered of the 6 visible market plants from the game.

You remove a plant from the game in step 3, even if the plant deck has been exhausted! It is possible to completely run out of plants so the market is empty.

In both cases, draw a new card from the deck to replace the removed card.

If the power plant number drawn is less than or equal to the number of cities that the player with the most cities on the board has immediately discard it without adding it to the market and draw again.

The steps of the game

Read the rules about how steps are triggered and what the effects are carefully!

Step 2

If someone builds 7 cities (10 in 2-player; 6 in 6-player) that does not cause step 2 to happen immediately. I.e. players cannot immediately start building 2nd houses in cities. Only after this build phase, you then begin step 2 by removing the lowest plant on the market from the game, replacing it with a new plant. Then the bureaucracy phase for this turn begins as usual, following the step 2 resupply schedule.

Step 3

The step 3 card can theoretically be drawn while you're still in step 1. That would mean people are playing weird, but it's legal. No problem, begin step 3. There's no requirement that you must spend time in step 2 before going to step 3. The rules say clearly "When the »Step 3« card is drawn from the draw stack, step 3 begins at the beginning of the subsequent phase of the game."

Winning the game

The game ends at the end of the turn (not immediately!) when some player has built a certain number of cities:

  • 21 cities in 2-player games (so a player must build in every city to end the game)
  • 17 cities for 3- and 4-player games
  • 15 cities in 5-player games
  • 14 cities in 6-player games

The winner is the player who can supply electricity to the most cities in his network with the power plants and resources he has. If there is a tie, the player with the most remaining money wins. If there is still a tie, the player with the most cities in his network is the winner.

Note that:

  • It is irrelevant whether the game is currently in step 3. Usually it ends in step 3, but not necessarily.
  • You do not count cities you have but cities you powered. You may have more cities than you will power and those excessive cities are used only as the second tie breaker. If you are able to power the most cities then it may be advantageous to buy more cities than you will power just to trigger end of game and win before other players catch up.
  • You do not count cities you could have possibly powered with your power plants but cities you actually powered. Thus for example if you didn't use some power plants due to missing resources you do not count it towards winning. Resource denial in last turn is a possible way of capturing victory – a player may buy all the remaining resources of some type (if able to store them) just to prevent other players from buying them and powering their cities.
  • The money tie breaker takes place after supplying the cities in the last turn. But this does not matter since if tie breaker is used then both players supplied the same number of cities and thus will earn the same amount of money. So in fact money left from previous turns decides.
  • Number of all cities (powered or not) is used as the second tie breaker. Thus it is not useful to buy additional cities in the last turn just to gain advantage in this tie breaker. Buying cities costs and with less money you will lose in first tie breaker (the money) and additional cities will be useless. (More specifically: if you have more money then the other player you win, if you have less you lose; additional cities do not matter yet. If you have the same amount of money you will count cities. But if you buy an additional city to win city counting you will lose money and now the other player will have more money and win.)
  • There are 22 houses of each color in the game, however 1 is used to mark turn order and another is used to mark the player's score, so only 20 are available to place on the map. In a 2-player game, the 21st city can be placed by removing either of the two marker houses from the scoring track or turn order, or can simply pay the required connection/building cost and state that the player has built their last city. As the game ends at that point, with all players trying to power as many cities as possible, neither scoring track is of much importance, especially to the player ending the game.

Changes for Different Player Numbers

The following rules vary with the number of players:

Number of Players:
Remove X random plants before the game:
Choose X areas of the map to be in play:
Players can own up to X plants at once:
Step 2 starts once anyone builds X cities:
Game ends once anyone builds X cities:
All 21

Whether the random plants removed at the start are secret is somewhat ambiguous

Most people play that the random plants removed at the start (for 2-4 players) are secret. Some rule sets state this explicitly. Others do not. Revealing the removed plants provides more knowledge for the players to know what plants will not be available. Leaving them hidden provides a greater degree of variability and risk in the game play.

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