Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Power Grid Mistakes

Manny, Richard, Nora, and myself met last night to play Power Grid, ranked the 3rd best game in the world by the members of

It was only my second session of PG, and it turned into my second loss. Hopefully, my mistakes will help you learn what not to do.

In my first game of Power Grid, I narrowly lost due to not having enough capacity on the final turn to power as many cities as my opponent. The lesson learned in that loss severely colored my play in this game, much to my detriment.

Here are some of the questions that I have about my play last night:

  • I let Manny and Nora outbid me for Plants 04 and 05, leaving me with Plant 08 and last in line to place my first house.
  • Nora, going first, selected the Pacific Northwest. Manny then took control of the valuable East Coast followed by Richard taking the Central Region. My decision was to fight it out with Manny or to claim an area for my own. I decided to take the expensive West Coast. This left no one to contest Manny for the east, giving him a tremendous advantage. I probably should have played it differently.
  • With the highest numbered plant, I would remain the leader for 2nd round if I bought a house like everyone else the first turn. I decided not to. I’m pretty sure that this was the correct decision since it let me be first in buying resources and placing houses. Also, it only cost me 10 Elektros, which would have almost been completely consumed by what I paid for the resources. The problem was that I started paying way too much consideration to placing myself in a good position as far as the leader track. The disadvantages to being in the lead aren’t nearly severe enough to make staying back too far attractive. In the end, letting Manny pull ahead too far is what killed me.
  • Later in the game, I really, really wanted a plant that was next up in the future market. With both Richard and me left to buy a plant, I took a chance and hoped Richard would outbid me for the one that I nominated. He didn’t. This blunder left me with a suboptimal plant that made me way to dependent on getting massive quantities of coal. In contrast, Manny bought much more efficient hybrid plants that allowed him not to be nearly as concerned with resources.
  • Near the end, I had much more plant capacity than anyone but very few cities. Instead of concentrating on catching up in cities, I spent all my money on resources when it wasn’t necessary. Huge mistake. Manny raced ahead to 17 cities even though he could only power 15. I had capacity for 20 but only had 11. Manny won.

In contrast to all my mistakes, Manny, overall, played an extremely good game. He took an early lead, selected plants well, and managed his strategy to perfection. Maybe he should be writing this article…

1 comment:

Dug said...

PG is one of the best euro-style games out there, and having eight different "official" maps only makes it better. This is one of the handful of games that I feel I am consistently competitive at. Here are my suggestions for good play:

Balance - The end goal is to power x cities, which means you want x capacity and x cities. More will help in a tiebreaker, but not if someone gets to x before you. Think about what you need this turn, next turn, and the turn after that, then figure out the best way to get there.

Planning - Figure out exactly how much money you know you'll spend that turn, worst case. The remainder can be used to bid on plants, overbuying fuel, or to hang onto for the next turn. We use poker chips instead of the paper money, and it helps me to stack it according to how much I'm spending on each element of the game turn.

Turn Order - Know when turn order is important, and when it isn't. I've won games as the first player for more or less the entire session. If you know you're going to compete for, say, garbage, you may want to go early and overstock whatever you can if you've got the extra cash. The same goes in the early turns of each phase when the board is relatively open, although that's not quite as critical.

Adapt - Because of the different maps, different plant sequence, different numbers of players, the game has an incredible amount of replayability. It also means you can plan ahead to a point and no further. Know what fuel you'll be competing for, what parts of the board you'll have access to, what plants are coming up, etc. The game allows you to shift strategy sometimes with no warning at all, leaving other players with expensive fuel they didn't need, so know when you can make those shifts. Know when others can do it as well!

Fight! - I think that it's often better to compete for territory in a cheap part of the board rather than be unimpeded in an expensive part of the board, especially early. For one thing, when Phase 2 comes you'll have cheap links that your opponent took in Phase 1. For another thing, if you've done much leapfrogging, you'll have that many more choices of where to build in the later phases. Don't be afraid to take Manny toe to toe in Phase 1!

Hope that helps some for game 3 (or 4, I can't keep track).