Since I first played it maybe 7 or 8 years ago, Power Grid has been one of my favorite games. I have all the expansion maps, the alternate power plant deck, and even the new deluxe version. We played just this past Tuesday at our weekly game night - this time using the India map, the first time I've played on that map. It was a nice tight 4 player game...however the fashion in which it ended is something I've seen on multiple occasions, and it leads me to wonder if Power Grid is ultimately a flawed game.
Here was the situation - my friend Brian and I were each at a power plan capacity of 14 cities. He had built up to 14, I had previously built up to 15. The other 2 players were behind us at 12ish cities. We had recently turned to Step 3, so all 6 plants in the market were available. The other 2 players had already purchased plants, so it was down to Brian and I, and since he was one city behind me, I had to nominate first. The 36 plant came up (3 coal to power 7 houses). This would push both Brian and to 18 capacity. We basically knew that whoever got the plant stood a good chance of winning? We bid it up to 73 euros, at which point Brian relented, and I won the plant. We promptly flipped up the 38 plant, which takes 3 garbage to power 7 cities. Brian, of course, was able to buy it for face value, and have enough cash to actually build up to 18 cities, while I only had enough cash to build to 17.
I have seen this on several occasions, where there's a tight bidding war...and the "loser" really ends up winning by getting a lucky draw on the replacement plant. Now, perhaps in our situation, "better" players would have remembered all the plants that had been previously placed under the Step 3 card, and knew there was a decent chance to flip up another 7 plant. (We looked at the remaining cards...there was less than a 50% chance - counting the plant Brian got, there was 2 "7" plants out of the remaining 6 or 7 cards (I don't remember the exact count). So, he did get a bit lucky. It should be noted, that most of the remaining plants were "6" values, so he likely could have won anyway, since that would have put him at a capacity of 17 vice my 18, but I couldn't build the 18th house...so he would likely have won on tie-breaker with more cash.
Of course, I have seen the opposite, where someone gives up on a bid, and then a terrible plant is flipped, and the loser is set back to the point where he can't get back into the game. In fact, when I really think about it, I think someone gets screwed one or the other by the plant flip in every game. Perhaps with the exception of the China map, where they come out in numerical order.
Folks who have the entire deck memorized have and advantage, I think (especially on the China map). I don't like that, primarily because I'll likely never have the deck memorized, but perhaps that sour grapes on my part. So, I dunno...is this a flaw in the game, or should you account for this in your strategy somehow?