The most frustrating thing in Power Grid is when I can’t buy the resources I need to power my plants in the endgame. Something about it just seems so… underhanded, like I’m being violated or something. It’s an extremely frustrating thing because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything you can do about it. Well there is, and while sometimes there’s no way out, there are some things you can look out for to prevent this from happening to you.
If you only need to buy three or four bits of wood in order to run all of your plants, the chances of you getting choked drop significantly. Granted, it’s difficult to do this and power a decent number of cities, especially without the use of some of the plants you won’t be seeing until Step 3, but the point of this is more that you realize the risk you run when you buy those inefficient endgame plants like the 20 Plant (3 Coal -> 5 Cities), the 31 Plant (3 Coal -> 6 Cities), and the 32 Plant (3 Oil -> 6 Cities). The earlier you get them, the more likely this is to be an issue.
Know which resources are dangerous
If you’re playing in a 4-player or less game, the entire plant deck will not be used. If a couple of those plants are the same resource type, it will push everyone more towards the other resources and make a shortage more likely. If one resource gets down to costing $1 after the first turn of the game, you should be on your toes.
Green is obviously the safest here. I’ve only ever seen nukes run out once (and everybody was still able to buy what they needed). Garbage is quite rare but can run out under the right conditions. Oil happens reasonably often and Coal is the most dangerous. I’ve seen a game where the top three garbage plants got buried and the person in last place bought every remaining coal AND oil in the supply for each of the last 4 turns of the game. I think I lost that game.
Know which games are dangerous
Maps with expensive connections (except for China) are more prone to this. The game takes more turns, so plants are being run more, etc.
Games with a long Step 2 Stall are more prone to this, since a lot of times people are running low-numbered, less efficient plants, and the Step 1 resource refresh rates are generally the lowest in the game.
4-player games (and less) are more prone to this for reasons already discussed.
The Korea map is especially dangerous for this, since the dual markets allow for easier opportunities to get choked. There can be 4 coal left in the supply and you still can’t buy any! If you’re tied to the North market for nukes, it’s easier for your opponent to target you there, so doubling up on nukes while you can is usually worth it.
A couple of plants are key for this as well. If the 30 Plant (3 Garbage -> 6 Cities) doesn’t show up early or at all, this is a risk factor (you’ll usually see the price of garbage get low when this happens). If you see a couple of those inefficient Coal Plants I mentioned above (20, 25, 31) are in the game, then Coal WILL be an issue and you want to try to get away from it if you can.
Don’t be in first place
It’s rare that you will be choked if you are towards the back of the turn order, because then you’ll get to buy resources first. If building a city puts you ahead of someone else who buys your resources, then either don’t do it, or double up on resources before you do. OK this is pretty generically good advice, but I want to emphasize that first option. If you see risk factors for a shortage, use your initiative as a weapon. Chances are you’ll save enough money on your resources to offset those one or two cities you won’t power, and you get to control the resource market. If the guy to beat is buying the same stuff you are, you have the dagger pressed to his back. If it’s someone else, then don’t bother.
Similarly, a competent opponent will not pass you in the turn order if you aren’t running efficiently; seeing this first will give you a significant edge…
It’s never too early! You can try to prevent getting involved as much as you can, but if you get involved, don’t be afraid to strike first (if everybody buys double this turn, will you be able to buy double next turn? If no, it may be time to strike.) Don’t be afraid to forego powering your plant so you can save the resources for next round, when the game will end.
Being in this position on the last turn of the game can be game-deciding. The 36 Plant (3 Coal -> 7 Cities) is out there, but nobody can bid on it except the guy in last place because there are only 4 Coal in the supply, so they end up paying more than $100 for something that only powers 6 Cities, and sometimes they have to replace a good Coal plant because they have no hope of ever powering it! The effects are devastating, and simply planning ahead can put you in the position with all the power.