How To Teach: Power Grid
Theme and Goal
In Power Grid, each player represents a company competing to supply power to cities on the map. The winner is the player who is able to power the most cities during the final round.
Overview of Game Play
You earn money every turn by powering cities. To do that you need to do 3 things:
- Own power plant(s) that can power one or more cities
- Buy the resources necessary to power the plant
- Buy the rights to the cities you want to power (often referred to as building cities)
NOTE: Budget your money to last you through the entire turn! (buying power plant, resources, and building cities).
Each turn is broken up into phases. Each phase is completed in either turn order, or reverse turn order
- Determine Turn Order discuss near the end
- Buying Power Plants power plants are purchased by players in an auction
- Buying Resources players each take a turn to purchase the resources, from the resource market, needed by their power plants to generate power
- Building Cities players buy rights to power cities on the board
- Bureaucracy spend resources, collect money, resupply resource market, power plant market fiddling
Details of Game Play
- Buying Power Plants - power plants are purchased in an auction
- starting player is first auctioneer - selects from the top row of power plant market (bottom row of power plant market is future market)
- minimum starting bid is upper left number on power plant card
- each player must bid or pass, in clockwise order - pass and you're out of auction for power plant - bidding continues until one player remains
- winner pays final bid
- immediately draw new power plant from supply and put in ascending order within power plant market
- a player can only buy one power plant per round
- if auctioneer does not win auction, then auctioneer selects next power plant, otherwise next player on playing order track who is still in auction is next auctioneer
- auctioneer can pass on selecting a plant to be auctioned, but forfeits opportunity to participate in any more auctions for remainder of the round
- Buying Resources - occurs in reverse order on playing order track
- Last place gets to select resources first
- You generally want to buy at least enough raw materials to power any plants you wish to use this round.
- You are allowed to buy enough raw materials to power up to twice what each of your power plants needs.
- The price for each material is on the track and goes up as less goods are available. If there are none left on the board, you are out of luck (this can sometimes come into play at the end of the game)
- You can only buy goods that your plant needs (so no fair taking the last coal unless you have room for it on your plant).
- Strategy thought: When goods are cheap and you get to buy first, you may want to buy more than you need for two reasons. First, the goods will be more expensive for your opponents. Second, you may save money over having to buy it next turn.
- Building Cities - occurs in reverse order on playing order track
- Last place gets to build cities first
- Your first city always costs 10. After that, the cost is 10 plus the total connection costs to your nearest city.
- At the beginning of the game, only 1 person can build into a city. When Step 2 comes, 2 people can build into a city (the second build costing 15). In Step 3, 3 people can build into the city (the 3rd build costing 20).
- Your cities don't have to be contiguous. If you want to or have to, you can pay multiple connections to get to a new city.
- Bureaucracy - candidate for in-game explanation
- figure how many power plants you are able to fire
- spend the resources (put back in supply) that are assigned to each power plant
- collect profits according to the payment table
- resupply resource market according to table on back of rulebook
- place highest power plant from future market under the deck and replace it with new power plant from the top of deck (step 1 and step 2)
- remove lowest power plant from market and replace it with new power plant
- Determining Turn Order - last phase to be explained, even if it's the first phase of a turn
- player with most connected cities on board
- ties broken by highest value power plant
- exception - first round, draw lots
- At your discretion: turn order is a mechanism to slow down the players who are high in turn order. The influence is most noticable in the resource market, forcing the player with highest turn order to buy resources last and thus more expensively; the effect in power plant auction is more subtle, but it allows players last in turn order to adopt a wait and see what comes up attitude.
- three steps in the game
- step 1
- change: only one player per city
- trigger: start of game
- step 2
- change: second player allowed in city at 15 electros
- trigger: before bureaucracy phase, after the first player has built the 7th city
- step 3
- change: power plant market reduced to 6 plants - all are in actual market (no future market); shuffle draw stack; 3rd player allowed in each city; during bureaucracy, smallest power plant is removed from game and replaced from draw stack
- trigger: step 3 card drawn in power plant deck
- immediately after building phase once a player is first to connect at least 17 cities
- winner is player who can power the most cities after end is triggered
Exceptions, Corner Cases and other Loose Ends
- first round, everyone must purchase a power plant
- can have a max of 3 power plants at a time - must replace if you buy another.
- resources can be moved from one power plant to another, if they are same, otherwise discard resources
- if zero power plants are purchased in a round, removed lowest number from market and replace with the top card in supply
- if at any time there's a power plant with a number that lower or equal to the number of cities the best connected player has connected, remove that plant from the market and replace it with a new one.
- NOTE: check rules execptions based on number of players
A Bit of Strategy
(Note: whether to discuss this section is explainer's discretion)
- A major aspect of this game involves the turn order. The player determined by the rules to be in last place gets lots of advantages, while the player identified as the leader is most disadvantaged in each phase.
- Turn order is determined by the number of cities connected. The tiebreaker is broken by the number of your highest numbered power plant.
- That means that whenever it is feasible, you want to be as far back in the pack as possible. However, the fewer cities you own, the fewer cities you can power and the less income you will make.
Suggestions for Teaching
Save discussing the specifics of the administration (resource market resupply, step 3 transition, etc) the game has begun or at least for the very end if players want to know before beginning
Brain Dump Area
Sample verbage to get the rules explanation under way (I like to cover the most eye-catching, easy to understand parts first...and everyone is always curious about how to win, not to mention the beautiful board and their nifty wooden pieces)...
"Note that the winner is the player supplying power to the most cities at the end of the game. In order to supply power to a city, you have to buy your way into the market for that city. You do so by paying a setup fee (starting at 10, but will increase later in the game), along with a connection cost, to run your power lines from your existing "power grid" to the new city. In the first part of the game, only one player can be in each city. If you get blocked in, you *can* build through someone else's city, but you must pay all the connection costs to get to the new city.
OK, so over the course of the game, you'll build a "power grid" spread out across the board. The only problem is you also need to get some electricity running through those lines. You do so by buying power plants in an auction. We'll cover the details of that a little later, but you'll be buying (at most) one new plant each turn. So, let's say you win an auction, and get a really cool power plant. Good job. Just place it in front of you.
But that's not enough! Sure, you have a power plant, and you have run the power lines to these cities on the board, but chances are you need raw materials to fuel your power plant. The requirements for each plant, along with information about how many cities it can power, are shown at the bottom of the power plant card. You'll buy goods each turn at prices according to the chart at the bottom of the board.
All right. Now, you have a power plant, you've bought some raw materials for it, and you have a basic power network set up on the board. At the end of each game turn, you get paid an amount of money based on how many cities you are powering. The chart showing those amounts is on the back of your player turn summary card.
Note that the order of phases within each turn is as follows: First, we auction the power plants. Second, we buy raw materials. Third, we expand our power grids on the board. Finally, you get paid. You have to plan ahead a little bit each turn, and make sure you have enough money to last you through the entire turn, buying your power plant, goods, and expanding on the board."
TURN ORDER: A major aspect of this game involves the turn order. The player determined by the rules to be in last place gets lots of advantages, while the player identified as the leader is most disadvantaged in each phase.
Turn order is determined by the number of cities connected. The tiebreaker is broken by the number of your highest numbered power plant.
That means that whenever it is feasible, you want to be as far back in the pack as possible. However, the fewer cities you own, the fewer cities you can power and the less income you will make.
Other suggestions for play with new players
Divide the bureaucracy responsibilities among the different players. Make sure an experienced player is responsible for the power plant market, since that's the most fiddly task. Make a print of the resource restocking schemes and give it to the resource market restocker, preferably a player with dexterous hands. Make a third player the bank.
By doing this, you ensure that inexperienced players don't see the fiddliness of the power plant market. It also ensures that many people have things to do in the bureaucracy phase while also speeding it up.
And last of all: do not forget to emphasize the end condition and victory condition. Repeat it a few times while playing. The moment step 2 kicks in is a good moment.