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Subject: How To Play Power Grid? rss

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evee c
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Okay -- so a little bit of background from me. I have played Power Grid probably around 15-20 times so far, and have yet to come across any sort of stable strategy that will allow a player to win the game. I also fully acknowledge that I am probably classified as a beginner at the game, and that's why I'm writing this.

Maybe my understanding of the game is too basic -- to me, it almost feels like PG's system is run entirely on the "luck of the draw". Meaning, it is dependent upon the following things: the power plant draw, how the players place their houses (which isn't something you can predict all the time), and the initial starting point of the player (in turn sequence). I have played dogmatically the same way every single time and have landed in every possible end placement because of one of those factors.

My strategy is thus: I start out with a plant that powers two houses. I try to sit myself in a position where I will not get boxed in. I then focus on steady growth of my house position while focusing upon purchasing the plants that will enable me to reach whatever power limitation I need to extend myself to. I also try to hoard resources according to the appropriate ebb and flow that comes with purchasing (which basically means when the dollar value is low, buy up to the point where you're still balanced). Once I am steady with my plants, I then focus entirely upon building houses according to whatever Step the game is in. I won maybe 2/10, with close seconds in maybe 2/remaining 8.

I have also played six, five, and four player games several times over -- mostly on the United States map. I have played twice on the Germany map, but the Germany map merely made me feel like my hypothesis was true because it was considerably more difficult. I have noticed that four player games are easier to play versus five and six, but that is the only difference.

So this is my question. I have yet to see any kind of guide about this game, versus just a review. What is YOUR strategy when it comes to Power Grid? How consistently does it win? What are the positives and negatives of what you do?
 
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Lacombe
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The key to winning Power Grid is following the balanced / dogmatic strategy you've just described well, but also, and more importantly, finding the exact point or points at which you need to break out of balance and make a run for it.

You will rarely win if you just follow the careful balance / steady growth strategy. If you never make a break for it, you will never win. You'll need to just play the field for awhile, but figure out when you can make a sustainable break for the lead.

I win fairly often in Power Grid. One of the things I try to do is buy big plants or tons of houses at unexpected times. Some turns, I won't buy a single house or even a single resource, instead buying up a 5 or 6 plant that chances to make it into the queue early in the game (when other people are usually focusing on building up their network rather than gunning for their final power plants).

I'll almost always buy a 4, 5, or 6 plant that comes up early, even if it means not powering any houses that turn. Better to get the plants you'll eventually need early at a cheap price and lose a bit of income than to keep pace with the crowd and have to fight tooth and nail for what you need later.

Similarly, I'll often sit back and hoard cash for a few turns without significantly expanding my network of houses, especially if I'm leading the house-race and the other players aren't pushing it into Step 2 yet. As a rule, never be the one to push it into Step 2 unless you have a really really good reason to do so.

Above all, don't play reactively. Almost without exception, the winner in our games is the player who was already ready with enough cash and enough capacity when Step 3 rolled around. We rarely spend more than one or two turns in Step 3, and usually just the one. If you're sitting there needing to buy another plant (or, worse, two) and a bunch of resources when Step 3 rolls around, you're sunk.

You need to be ready to spring into action once the board opens up (since it's unlikely you'll be able to build enough houses to win without the third building space available) in Step 3. If you're still trying to increase your capacity and get to Step-2-size networks of houses, you're going to lose. You have to be proactive in preparing for this final stage of the game and not be surprised, but ready, when it comes.
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Tony Chen
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Power Grid strategy is fucked up. It is so twisted and "backwards" (as in reverse/unconventional logic). The power plant draw can be huge, and so can the initial connection placements. I have won 7/23 on BSW playing mostly 3-5 players.

For power plants, you want to have enough time to purchase your "final" plants. These are plants with 4-6 powers, having 3 of which may be enough power to win the game. This usually means owning at least one 4-6 power plant going into stage 2 or 3. Ideally you don't want to buy more than 5 or 6 plants during the game.

Building connections is an art. Building early puts you behind on turn order, but potentially gets you connections for cheaper. You have to weigh those. Power Grid can be quite fucked up the way nobody wants to build their 7th connection and go into stage 2 last in the turn order, because everyone else can then grab their stage 2 connections before him.

Don't hoarde more resources than you have to. It can be quite costly actually.

I'll write a more detailed review when I have time.
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Larry Kruger
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I do not think the luck of the power plant draw is a big factor of the game. My strategy is to buy as few power plants as possible, and to avoid bidding wars. I expand my cities aggressively, and I always make sure I have enough money for the cities that I am going to expand to before I bid on power plants or buy more resources. There's nothing worse than realizing that I bought one too many resources.
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Andrew Swan
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evee wrote:
I have yet to see any kind of guide about this game, versus just a review.

I realise that as a new BGG user you might not know your way around the site, but have you seen the other articles in the "Strategy" forum? They go into some depth (and that's an understatement). If you've read those articles and still not found a straightforward answer about how to win at Power Grid, that's because there is no simple or easy answer. That's why it's such a highly ranked game here on BGG.
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evee wrote:
I have played Power Grid probably around 15-20 times so far,[...] I also fully acknowledge that I am probably classified as a beginner at the game [...]


Not really...
 
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evee c
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DaMilli wrote:
evee wrote:
I have played Power Grid probably around 15-20 times so far,[...] I also fully acknowledge that I am probably classified as a beginner at the game [...]


Not really... :)


Well, I guess I feel that to my level of understanding, I am. I think there's a lot that I don't know about Power Grid, and that's why I posted up to see what more experienced players would have to say. :) Thank you, though -- I appreciate the compliment.
 
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evee c
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game_boy wrote:
evee wrote:
I have yet to see any kind of guide about this game, versus just a review.

I realise that as a new BGG user you might not know your way around the site, but have you seen the other articles in the "Strategy" forum? They go into some depth (and that's an understatement). If you've read those articles and still not found a straightforward answer about how to win at Power Grid, that's because there is no simple or easy answer. That's why it's such a highly ranked game here on BGG.


I did check out the other forums -- thoroughly, in fact, before I asked my question. I didn't want to be redundant. But my question wasn't answered in any of the posts -- there really aren't any guides written by people who are experienced at the game, which is why I wrote this.

I actually think there's more to discuss, so even while PG is ranked highly as a game, I wouldn't say that a game can't be figured out just because of that.

Thank you for the suggestions, though.
 
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evee c
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First of all, thank you for responding. :) I really appreciate it.

I hope you don't mind if I throw out some quick questions to you about your post -- just some things that made me curious.

NateStraight wrote:
The key to winning Power Grid is following the balanced / dogmatic strategy you've just described well, but also, and more importantly, finding the exact point or points at which you need to break out of balance and make a run for it.

You will rarely win if you just follow the careful balance / steady growth strategy. If you never make a break for it, you will never win. You'll need to just play the field for awhile, but figure out when you can make a sustainable break for the lead.

I win fairly often in Power Grid. One of the things I try to do is buy big plants or tons of houses at unexpected times. Some turns, I won't buy a single house or even a single resource, instead buying up a 5 or 6 plant that chances to make it into the queue early in the game (when other people are usually focusing on building up their network rather than gunning for their final power plants).


1) I know that you said that I would have to "play the field" in order to figure out where to make the break towards the lead. Is there something you look for in your opponents before you do so? I realized that this is something my opponent did, actually -- and not so surprisingly (now that I understand at least), he has won several times over.

2) When you decide to stop temporarily to buy a plant, what kind of income are you normally stopping at (in regards to powered houses)? Is there a "magic" number of houses that you can pause at? Or is that dictated by how the players around you are reacting?

I have to head off to work, but I most definitely have more questions and will be back later.
 
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Randall Bart
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evee wrote:
Okay -- so a little bit of background from me. I have played Power Grid probably around 15-20 times so far, and have yet to come across any sort of stable strategy that will allow a player to win the game.

What makes you believe a "stable strategy" exists?
evee wrote:
I also fully acknowledge that I am probably classified as a beginner at the game, and that's why I'm writing this.

You're not an infant, but at this game you're a toddler. Yesterday I was talking with my friend in Los Angeles, and I said I tell everyone here in Seattle that I have played this game 200 times. He told me not to lie. He said he tells people he's played 400 times and he thinks I've played 300 times.
evee wrote:
Maybe my understanding of the game is too basic -- to me, it almost feels like PG's system is run entirely on the "luck of the draw". Meaning, it is dependent upon the following things: the power plant draw, how the players place their houses (which isn't something you can predict all the time), and the initial starting point of the player (in turn sequence).

Yeah, it's like that.
evee wrote:
I have played dogmatically the same way every single time and have landed in every possible end placement because of one of those factors.

Don't do that. That's like driver in the Baja 1000 saying he drives the same way whether he's on sand or clay or rock or gravel. You need to react to conditions.
evee wrote:
My strategy is thus: I start out with a plant that powers two houses.

Friedmann Friese says the best starting plant is 04. In a 5 or 6 player game, you want to start with a low plant so you have the best shot at a good plant if it comes up in the second plant phase. But with 3 players, or 4 players if a low plant has already come up, you can go for the 08 the first turn, then hang back on the second plant phase. This game is all about manipulating turn order.
evee wrote:
I try to sit myself in a position where I will not get boxed in.

That depends on the map. You want to be sure of getting to five cities in Step 1, maybe 6. But sometimes you only get 4 cities cheaply and you have to jump over to get to 5 and 6.
evee wrote:
I then focus on steady growth of my house position while focusing upon purchasing the plants that will enable me to reach whatever power limitation I need to extend myself to.

Way wrong. Slow but steady gets run over in this race. You should build in fits and starts. If an end game plant comes up early, you want to buy it or force someone else to pay a fortune for it. It's usually best to just stop at 5 or 6 cities and let someone else start Step 2. But if the Step 2 stall goes on too long, you need to jump out and grab first place and build a cash advantage.
evee wrote:
I also try to hoard resources according to the appropriate ebb and flow that comes with purchasing (which basically means when the dollar value is low, buy up to the point where you're still balanced).

Buy extra fuel only to make others pay more or to make others not burn the kind of fuel you are using. But always check your city buying budget before buying extra fuel.
evee wrote:
I have also played six, five, and four player games several times over -- mostly on the United States map.

With 5 or 6 players there are 6 USA maps and 6 Germany maps. With 4 players there are 12 of each. Each map plays differently; some are more different than others. But also, the order of the plants makes for a different game. If there are a lot of low plants early, fuel will be expensive all game long. If only one end game plant comes up early, the person who gets that plant will win, unless he pays so much that he is really squeezed. Make them pay!
evee wrote:
So this is my question. I have yet to see any kind of guide about this game, versus just a review.

Read every article in every forum. Most are crap, but there's lots of good stuff.
evee wrote:
What is YOUR strategy when it comes to Power Grid?

My strategy:
1) Stay back in the turn order, except when conditions warrant otherwise.
2) Buy the endgame plants, except when conditions warrant otherwise.
3) Don't buy cites you can't power, except when conditions warrant otherwise.
4) Don't be the player who triggers Step 2, except when conditions warrant otherwise.
5) Stop at about 10 cities, then build the rest on the last turn, except when conditions warrant otherwise.
6) Pay attention to how this game is playing out.
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Kevin Brown
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Power Grid is a card driven game. Like all such games, the most important thing is "Learn the cards, Know the cards, Live the cards". Knowing what plants are left in the deck and their characteristics will tell you when you need to bid up and when you can let something go in the auction.

The other thing to key on is efficiency. I don't mean focusing on plants that power the most cities for the least fuel, though that's obviously valuable, I mean not buying superfluous plants. Nine times out of ten, the player who wins will be the one who buys the fewest plants. Money is your limiting factor, so the less you spend buying plants the more you'll have to spend on other things. Your city cost is mostly fixed, you can save a few bucks here and there but nothing major. Your control over your fuel cost is also limited to a large degree. The #1 controllable expense you have is the auction. The fewer times you purchase plants, the better off you'll be in the long run.
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Andrew Swan
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pilight wrote:
Knowing what plants are left in the deck and their characteristics will tell you when you need to bid up and when you can let something go in the auction.

Presumably this only applies to a 5 or 6 player game, when all the plants are in play?
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Kevin Brown
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game_boy wrote:
pilight wrote:
Knowing what plants are left in the deck and their characteristics will tell you when you need to bid up and when you can let something go in the auction.

Presumably this only applies to a 5 or 6 player game, when all the plants are in play?


Yes and no. The risks are greater when plants are removed and kept secret. OTOH, the likelihood of any given plant being the next one off the deck is unchanged by hidden removed plants. It's still one out of however many plants you haven't seen yet. Knowing what the possibilities are and their likelihood of being available is always valuable knowledge. It's certainly worth knowing what's already gone and can't come back out until Step 3 and how far down the deck the Step 3 card is, both of which are easily trackable.

I prefer removed cards to not be hidden. Hiding them gives an advantage to weaker players over stronger ones by increasing the chaos level of the game. Power Grid is a much better game for 5 or 6 players than for fewer, IMO.
 
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