Power Grid is a simple, business game for two to six players, in which participants compete to buy power plants, the fuels to run them, and then build networks to sell their generated electricity over. In turn, the profits from electricity sales are used to build newer, improved plants, supplying more electricity, stockpile resources, earning greater profits, with a winner eventually determined on who supplies the most consumers.
The gaming elements are simple enough that the rule booklet, which is clearly written, can be read through and understood virtually in its entirety immediately before play. Each turn of the game runs through four phases. Firstly, power plants are bought at auction, each player proffering an available plant in turn, with the plant going to the highest bidder. Purchased plants are replaced from a visible ‘futures market’, allowing players to plan ahead with their bids. The second stage involves buying raw materials from the market. Each plant produces energy from one of five sources: coal, oil, garbage, nuclear or renewable. The latter plants require no raw materials at all and are oft hardest fought over at auction. The other fuels become increasingly expensive as supply dwindles, forcing players to either diversify their sources, or stockpile for future shortages. The third phase has players building an electricity network to supply power to their consumers. The network costs are based on proximity, and as players can only initially build in unoccupied cities, good initial placement can be a crucial factor. The final phase of the game is called the ‘bureaucracy’ phase, dealing with the supply of electricity (and thus generating profits), and various bits of setup to keep the game flowing.