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Author Topic: ranking the best plants in power grid  (Read 7236 times)

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funkdoc

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ranking the best plants in power grid
« on: December 29, 2013, 04:32:03 am »
+4

so i've played a ton of power grid with a friend who kicks my ass at least 90% of the time and has a rather unique mind for this game, and we've had many long discussions about elements of strategy which i rarely if ever see discussed on forums.  with that in mind, i figured i'd start with what i think is one of the more cut-and-dried ones: determining the best overall plant in the game!

what do i mean by "best"?  well, obviously there are many plants that can be the best available for a specific situation, but i am referring to the plant that is the most useful in the largest number of different situations.  this includes several components besides the obvious capacity & efficiency:

- turn order advantage/disadvantage compared to other "top plants" people are likely to have when a given plant generally becomes available.

- length of time the plant can be useful.  obviously part of this is being a legit endgame plant, but there are other factors which tend to be remembered less; consider how early the plant can make money, as well as how early the plant comes onto the market on average.  this is why i don't like to rank plants in the top 10 if they're almost never available outside of step 3, for example.

- safety of the plant's resource, particularly in the endgame.

- a bit of a flipside to the above...ability of a plant to "play offense" by driving up prices for others as it runs.  hybrid plants are the strongest in this regard, as they often allow you to switch between "offense" or "defense" (buying the cheaper resource) as needed.

- how strong a position the plant gives you on turn 1.  this applies to a small subset of plants and i would never consider a starting plant to be the overall best on any map, but the start is so key that i would rank the 04 and the 08 in the overall top 10 plants for USA/Germany.  probably even the 03 for USA...

with all of this in mind, i think i have a good answer to this question for USA/Germany and other maps with a similar resource structure.  on these, i would say that the best overall plant is the 26, and it's not even particularly close.

this may seem odd to some since the 26 has low-end endgame capacity and medium efficiency, but let's look at those additional factors we just talked about:

- turn order is a major strength.  it only "loses" here to two 5-capacity plants and two 4-caps.

- you can buy this plant on turn 2 and make money right away, and it should last you the entire game...can't get much better than that!  it's also available earlier on average than the vast majority of endgame plants.

- i think out of all the resources, oil provides the best balance of safety and attacking other players.  it definitely hurts others to drive up the price, but it's significantly less likely than coal to be completely run out.  there are just very few early oil plants worth buying, and in my experience the 32 is the only other endgame oil plant with a decent chance of coming out before step 3.


as a point of comparison, i think the 25 is the second best plant under the same conditions.  it has most of the same advantages as the 26 and an additional turn-order advantage, but it forces you to deal with the scariness of the endgame coal market. its efficiency and lower number often make this manageable enough not to drop this plant further, though.

i used to think the 30 was in a class by itself as the #1 plant: extremely safe (and often cheap by the end!) resource, great capacity, one of the only 6-caps you can realistically get before step 3, and incredible turn order for how powerful it is.  then i played a (smaller) game where i was able to buy it on the 3rd turn...and that one move cost me the game.  it just sat there collecting dust too long, as it took me a couple more turns to even reach 6 cities and trash had a worse ROI than coal & oil at that point (not to mention the much lower step 1 restock rate).  if that had been the 25 or 26 in that position, i could very well have won instead of finishing last!  however, i would still say the 30 is the third best plant thanks to everything else mentioned.

so to conclude all of this, in no particular order after the top 3 our top-ranked plants on maps with "normal" resources would be something like this:

26
25
30
32
08
04
20 (by far the hardest plant to play properly, but big rewards when you do)
21 (hands down most underrated plant imo, will make an entire thread about this one in the future)
38 (yea it's basically step 3 only, but a 7-cap with such a safe resource belongs here)

#10 spot is where it starts to get murky for me but i lean toward 03 for most games on maps that aren't "balanced" a la Germany.  don't like 31/36 since they generally don't come out until the point when coal starts to suck, and 46 has some of the same problems though the hybrid element helps quite a bit.  i feel like 39 & 50 (and usually 40 as well) just blend together and you don't lose much if you miss out on one of them and "settle" for another.  29 could be argued for 5- & 6-player games but i just don't think it's all that special when the 28 and even the 24 are there - really don't like the turn order for a 4-cap, but maybe that's not as big a deal as i think...

would be very curious to hear thoughts on this, and rankings for maps with different resource structures!
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 04:35:22 am by funkdoc »
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: ranking the best plants in power grid
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2013, 12:27:46 pm »
0

It would help me (and some others I'm sure) if you could reference what the plants do at some point. I've played a reasonable amount of Power Grid, but I don't have the whole deck memorized by plant number yet. :p

I filled in the ones I know(?)

26
25 -- 2C -> 5
30 -- 3G -> 6?
32
08 -- 3C -> 2?
04 -- 2C -> 1
20 -- 3C -> 5
21
38
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eliegel34

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Re: ranking the best plants in power grid
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 12:38:23 pm »
0

It would help me (and some others I'm sure) if you could reference what the plants do at some point. I've played a reasonable amount of Power Grid, but I don't have the whole deck memorized by plant number yet. :p

I filled in the ones I know(?)

26
25 -- 2C -> 5
30 -- 3G -> 6?
32
08 -- 3C -> 2?
04 -- 2C -> 1
20 -- 3C -> 5
21
38

BGG has a really nice list here:
http://files.geekdo.com/geekfile_download.php?filetype=application%2Fpdf&filename=Plant+List.pdf&filecode=3b17y5sw4g&validationcode=5453fd61f528094ef8caec7619554c5c
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funkdoc

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Re: ranking the best plants in power grid
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2014, 01:58:48 pm »
+1

so yeah, i've changed my opinion on this quite a bit in recent weeks

08 was my worst pick on that list, hands down. it's not nearly as good of a starting plant as i thought, as you will miss out on big plants in turn 2. if the plants on the market suggest things may open up in turn 3 rather than 2, 08 becomes the best starting plant...but that's not too common and very difficult to predict in advance. there are times when 09 is the better choice as a starting plant!

20 shouldn't even be close to the top 10, at least in 3-4 player. strong games will have some players who focus on efficiency and others who will aggressively attack coal & oil, making those resources dangerous toward the end of the game. this means you will have your prices driven up from an early point, and you will be badly behind on money compared to some others. it is much better in 5-6 player with the higher restock rates and increased emphasis on building capacity early, but then again the 4-cap plants become much more viable endgame options in those games too...

38 is debatable in 3-4 player. good players will go for the 24 if it's there when trash gets down to $4-5, and 30 will always be bought if it shows up after the first few turns. trash is less safe than in average games when this happens, but it's often still less scarce than coal or oil by that point. on many occasions, 38 will be the only viable 7-cap plant for players at the top of the turn order, so there is an argument for keeping it on there.

39 actually has a case for similar reasons as the 38, as most of the 6+ capacity plants in step 3 are coal & oil-guzzlers. it's usually cheaper overall than the 50, even for 2 turns, and is obviously much better for turn order.

30 is not top 3 for the reasons mentioned before, but still top 10 overall. there will be games when this plant singlehandedly wins the game for the person who can pay $90 for it and still afford resources. its peak value is much higher than that of the 25 or 26, but those plants are much more consistently strong. i actually think 35 has the highest peak value of any plant period if it comes out early, but that's so rare that i can't in good conscience rank that plant in the top 10.

03 should definitely be on there. gives you great building position and can get you the prime spot to fish for a big plant early on. it also holds up better than the 04 if you have to run it for more than a couple turns (i.e. something like 03 + 13 or 03 + 10).

32 is another plant that's turned out to be significantly worse than i thought, as oil gets attacked much more in good games. coal is still much worse as the game goes on, so this is borderline top 10 in 3-4 player. not the most efficient, but sometimes you just need capacity before step 3 and you can generally store extra oil on this in preparation for the end.

21 becomes kinda weak if it doesn't appear until the middle of the game, but it's so good in the early stages that it still belongs up here. if you plan on replacing it at the end, it's also a fantastic storage plant that can allow you to safely buy something like 40 or 42.

28 & 29 were hands down my biggest omissions from my previous list. among the usual pre-step 3 plants, these two make far more money per turn than anything else besides 25/26 (and even that often doesn't hold up toward the end). this makes them tremendously underrated for 3-4 player, where money is crucial. they are also possibly top 5 overall plants in 6-player, as you can reach endgame capacity in many more ways here with a 4 plant (4-4-6 & 4-5-5 are both realistic). building out for an early win at less than endgame capacity is also much easier in 6P than in smaller games, and these plants give you the money and capacity you'll need to pull this off. 28 & 29 are my two favorite plants in the game now, for real.

so let me try this again...assuming 3-4 player on USA/germany style maps:

26
25
29
28
04
03
21 (for early-game value)
30 (#1 in games with no 24 until late or major coal + oil squeezes)
32
38 (giving this the nod over 39 since a generally-safe 7-cap plant is far more unique)

really though, all a list like this can do is give you a rough idea of the plants that win games most often. this game is so much about situational value that i don't see a point in going farther than this (by, say, making a tier list of all the plants). quite often, the 36 will be a game-winner for the player at the bottom of the turn order and untouchable for anyone else since they risk having coal bought out - does this make it a top-tier plant or a low-tier one? the answer, of course, is neither, as the concept of fixed rankings does not work for this game!

i think the most worthwhile project in this fashion would be something akin to the twilight struggle strategy site: writing an individual article on each plant which discusses its uses in the various situations you will encounter in real games.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2014, 02:00:14 pm by funkdoc »
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