Power Grid is a resource-management {{Eurogame}} based around the concept of running a string of electric plants around a map. Players start off with a certain amount of money and no power plants; plants are then bid on in auctions as the players expand their territory and their influence. Each power plant has a different fuel source that must ''also'' be bid on and purchased, and the primary strategy of the game comes from balancing the cost of those materials against the benefits provided by the plants. Each turn, more efficient or larger-capacity power plants become available, and players must periodically trash plants they already own in order to upgrade.

By default, the game includes maps of the United States and Germany. Expansion maps are available, portraying Europe, East Asia, and other regions of the world.

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