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Subject: Three Rounds, Four First-Timers rss

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Paul Szilagyi
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Three Rounds, Four First-Timers
SUBTITLED:
...And Three of Us Had Read the Rules.

WARNING: Some Rambling To Follow. Be advised.

Now, on a guess, can you pick which one of the four won each of the three rounds?

Was it:
A) The one guy who didn't read the rules. (Ben)
B) The owner of the game, who taught everyone. (Paul)
C) The 'dominant' game-player, (John)
or
D) The good-natured bumbler. (Glen)

Pencils down, please. Pass your folded-up, secret ballot guess to the front. (Answer to follow: )

Alright. So, finding BoardGameGeek.com at the end of December, of last year (while researching a certain rules question (I already HAD the status, what I didn't have was a home for it, among my peers) made for some almost-immediate adjustments in my life.

Many of you are familiar with the scenario. The most noticeable, of course, was in the two directly related categories: 1) Time spent on the Internet, and 2) Money spent on games.
shake
That first one really comes into play in my purchase of the wonderful (and well-received in my gaming group, which means I'll get to actually play it!) game, Puerto Rico.

Author's Note: A lot of that reading I'd done on Puerto Rico* lead me to believe that my fellow geeks were starting to burn out on this game, as a result of having played it too much, or too exclusively, for too long. Note the rise of a very-vocal Caylus following. Note the many 'I don't think it deserves to be #1, but...' comments that come up when it's entered on a GeekList.
These comments must, I think, be taken with a grain of salt, and so were largely ignored by me, in deciding to purchase this game. I figure everyone's ahead of the game here, with relation to me. I'll still get many hours of enjoyment out of the game, more than pay for the price of admition, if you will, before I reach that point.

*I'd deliberately avoided reading 'strategy' articles on Puerto Rico, wanting to shield myself from that feeling of having played the game to death before I'd even started! I recommend this approach to all BGGeeks out there.

With that in mind, or not (as you prefer), we're on to:

The Actual Session! Or
How It All Played Out

The game session was scheduled for Saturday, and I'd deliberately rounded up the guys ahead of time, talking up Puerto Rico as much as was reasonable (I didn't want any 'this isn't as good as you made it out to be' backlash), and I tried real hard to get a full 5-player contingent by starting to recruit gamers WEEKS in advance. Still no dice. Only four of us could make it.

O.k., no problem... I'll just run another intro-session later. (I was planning on this anyways)
laugh

So, being a responsible game owner/teacher, and knowing this particular game was going to be fairly complicated to teach, although not necessarily to play, I went to the UPS Store down the street and ran off five complete copies of the rules. These I then drove 1 hr. and 20 min. (round trip) out to the spot where the games would be held.
(John's got the bachelor's pad... *envy* Plus, all my gaming buddies live in one area except me.) So John's going to distribute them from there. This was early on Thursday, mind you, well in advance of game night.

Naturally, the first thing that happened when we'd all showed up is: Ben announces he hasn't bothered to read his rules. O.k., well, I was hoping we could get into a more-advanced discussion before the first game started. I was also hoping we'd have time for multiple games. With play-time listed as 90-120 minutes, if we double that (as has happened for many games our group has played, especially first time runs) that wasn't going to happen.
yuk Stupid Ben. (kidding, mostly)

Fortunately, I'd thought about a system for teaching the game ahead of time as well.
For those of you that are interested (all others skip down), it's:
Step 1): Explain the Goal of the game.
Step 2): How to go about obtaining these Victory Points.
Step 3): Go through the Roles one by one in order of complexity. (Least-complicated to most-complex. You want those tough ones to be fresh!)
Step 3a): While you're doing that, review each of the Buildings that modifies that role. This is also an easy way to see which roles are going to be harder to grasp.
Do not read each section of the rules out loud. This'll take days.
Do not add your thoughts on strategy. That'll just confuse 'em.

So, um, yeah...blush That brings us to:

The Actual Actual Session. Honest.

What follows is (as best I could discern it, with some discussion afterword) the basic thinking of each player, each game, and how it turned out. (Or, more accurately: why it didn't turn out as planned.)

GAME 1: I'd arrived early, the game was already set up. After our rules discussion we got right to it. I'll list us in turn order, from the start: (I own the game, so they wanted me to go first...)

Paul: I'd done a little thinking about strategy ahead of time, I couldn't help it. I figured 'if Victory Points' are the way to win the game, and I've got to ship stuff to get 'em. Best produce as much stuff as possible. Consequently, I favored large production buildings on Indigo(since I started with it) and later Sugar. What I didn't have was a Warehouse until WAY too late. (I produced like a madman, but every time the Captain came out, I ended up chucking a good portion of my produce into the bay.) I also had no real cash-flow to speak of. Bad, bad.

Ben: Ben's quick on his feet, mentally speaking. He figured out the very first round that it'd be a great idea to have a monopoly on one of those shipping boats. The first Craftsman draw included only one Tobacco plantation, which incidentally does o.k. at the Trading house. Ben decided to gum up the 6-space ship with his Tobacco, and none of us could do anything about it for many rounds. Thereafter, the Captain was Ben's friend.

John: John had been listening very carefully to the descriptions of all those buildings. They're pretty powerful, in P.R., and he figured the only way to get them is to get the cash! Consequently, John built both Market buildings, and got into Coffee early. It payed off in cash and eventually buildings. What it didn't pay off in was lots of individual barrels of goods.

Glen: Had also been paying attention to the 'How to gain Victory Points' section of the game. His thought was that if he had a little of everything then he'd never be shut out when it came time to ship the goods. Glen's strategy of diversity went o.k., but again... without a real focus, his number of barrels produced suffered, and though his points were steady, they weren't plentiful enough to win the day.

FINAL SCORE:

Ben: 55 coffee
John: 48 tobacco
Glen: 38 sugar
and
Paul: 36 indigo (What? But I was getting so much stuff...)

Game 2:
Everybody's first reactions were really positive. Lots of buzz about what everybody was thinking, and how it all went, etc. That's exactly what you like to hear when you're done with the first playing of a new game. Especially if you're the guy that just shelled out the cash for it!

Game two started in the same order (we rolled dice *gasp* for it...)

Paul: O.k., cash flow was my main problem in the first game. Time to address that. Taking a cue from John, I got into Coffee early... although I didn't use his strategy of maximizing the market value. Instead, I also snapped up Tobacco as soon as I could, and put out as much of it as I could. I figured 'Both expensive commodities will help at the Trading House, and maybe I can do like Ben did and gum up one of the Captain's ships.' Unfortunately, everyone had learned the lesson from Ben's win on this. Others jumped into the cash-crop marked with me. No monopoly was to be had. In a last-minute bid for V.P., I built the Guild Hall to go with my Large Production buildings.

Ben: Ben liked his expensive commodity gambit from last game, so he started out shooting for 'rich' again. There went my monopoly. It helped that the initial Craftsman draws were extremely varied. Nobody was left without at least one option of what to pick. When he saw that he wasn't going to have a lock on anything, though (we'd all got that memo), Ben switched to a strategy of diversification. This is about the time he discovered the Factory. Improved cash flow lead to more building choices. A Large Warehouse and a Wharf followed.

John: John's a thinker. That's why he has a tendency to win. He's usually the first to grasp a game's intricacies, and almost always the first to realize the full potential of a given strategy.
Consequently, it took him no time at all to catch on to the fact that Corn costs nothing extra to produce, you can produce a lot of it, and consequently, it's almost always on one of the Captain's boats. After all, Victory Points and not Money win the game, right? Unfortunately, you've gotta have some cash, and Corn doesn't give it to you. Another drawback of this strategy was the in-game fact that the OTHER players were all producing very little Corn. That 'always on a ship' thing didn't play out like he'd hoped... he had a Warehouse, but with no Wharf available (read on), John was often forced to 'eat' his harvest. Or at least sit on it for a few turns at a time.

Glen: Depsite his description at the outset, Glen's no real slouch... he just has a tendency to make inexplicable moves at some point in a game, which often lead to his confounding others, but don't often lead to victory. CASE IN POINT: Glen has decided to specialize in Indigo and Corn exclusively. Nevertheless, a few rounds into the mid-game portion of Puerto Rico, Glen (seeing how well it was serving Ben) decides to buy a Factory. This absolutely KILLS me.devil
I'd been diversifying for some time, after my initial set-up, and I was one turn away from buying the Factory myself. I would have served me well (not that Glen noticed this, I'm told) but did very little for him. He did, on the other hand, get a Wharf, which did very well for him...
(Incidentally, Glen built the Construction Hut, early in the first game, and discovered a love for the monetary benefits of Quarries. This game saw him increase his Quarry output, but, often taking the Settler, he never had to buy a Construction Hut this game. This would lead to the nickname 'Stonehead', as he never could keep himself from trying to take a Quarry on anyone else's turn, for the remainder of the night...)

FINAL SCORE:

Ben: 55 coffee
Glen: 53 tobacco
John: 48 sugar
and
Paul: 45 indigo (*sigh* Two in a row. But I'll get 'em next time...)

BREAK FOR FOOD!!! (and much chit-chat about strategies played)

Game 3:
The third game went the fastest. Again we rolled, and it's:

Glen: Glen had seen the promised land, the last game. He'd come close to victory, and in the end was only a few points off. This game, he went gunning for the Wharf again, but figured the position to be in, once he had it in hand, was to have only one major crop. This turned out (by the Settler's draw) to be Sugar.
He got his wharf, but the money was hard to come by. It was later in the game, by the time that Wharf was built. Consequently, the points flowed in slower than he would have liked.

Paul: This was the only time I got to go anything other than first, but I still started out with Indigo as my opening plantation. I don't think this made a difference, but I would have liked to have at least tried a Corn-related opening phase.
Undocumented in my description of last game was the problem I had staffing my buildings. You can only be the Mayor so many times, reasonably, in a game. Consequently, I had begun looking at the University, as a possible answer to my troubles. Get those expensive City Buildings up and running right off the bat. Probably, this was a bad choice for my initial building, as I didn't have the production to really sustain my Builder-loving ways.

Ben: Cruising on a two-win victory streak, (Were you paying attention? Yes, the guy that didn't bother to read his rules won all three games of Puerto Rico played this night) Ben didn't feel the need to vary his strategy too much. He was almost beaten, or tied, every game, but never actually lost. To the Factory/Wharf combination, from last game, Ben added the Harbor to maximize his Victory Point output. Cunning, I know. Somehow it all went his way, though, so his strategies for HOW to do that (which, I'm sure you'll agree, is the tricky part) must have been sound.

John: After the games were over, John confided in me that he had been "testing out" the limits of the various strategies to be played. I don't know how sure I am that this is actually the case, but it is definitely true that John played an 'Extreme'-something strategy. The first game it was Cash, the second it was Corn. This game was his 'Extreme'-Colonists game. John saved his money and bought the University early, (trigering my purchase of the last one), and the Hospice, followed by the Hacienda. It worked, as far as it went. Someone else bought the other of each of the two colonist-adding buildings, and this game flew by, with the supply of colonists dropping fast.
John also got the other wharf, which allowed him to use all those extra plantations to good effect.

FINAL SCORE:

Ben: 54 coffee (coffeecoffee ) and a arrrh
John: 51 tobacco (sugartobacco )
Glen: 46 sugar (tobaccosugar )
and
Paul: 27 indigo (indigoindigo ) and a soblue


Yeah, that's right: I lost each and every game... and that last one, lost miserably. Don't get me wrong, I had a LOT of fun playing Puerto Rico for the first time, and I still plan on introducing it to as many people as possible, so I can play even more, but I am left with one question, which I'd like your opinions on:

Um...guys? Do you think my *sniff* um, poor play could have, you know, kind of helped give the game to Ben? I know he's a good player, and all.... but is that an issue in P.R.?
The simple fact that he won each game, sitting next to the guy (alright, me!) who lost each game can't help but make me wonder...

-ZZ
(or sobluecornmeeple, if you like.)





 
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Sean Franco
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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Quote:
Um...guys? Do you think my *sniff* um, poor play could have, you know, kind of helped give the game to Ben?


It's doubtful, unless you actually really suck. ^_^ But seriously, the first few games are always shakey for any game and any player. It sounds like between a collective 12 games you guys figured out several major strategies and several popular building combinations.

My only tip to give you (beyond keep playing!!) is to perhaps note how to play with more hostility. Ben figured out how to block shipping during the Captain phase in your first game, but everyone seemed to over-react to that in the following games. You should investigate more hostile actions to make, and when it is best to make them . (You said you didn't want to read strategy, so I won't just tell you any!!) People sometimes call this game multiplayer solitare (which doesn't make sense...). These people also generally don't like the game; ignore them.

A final note is to switch player positions between games more if your going to play mini-marathons of Puerto Rico. You only seemed to switch up after you got some food. Since whatever you do will more often than not directly affect the player to your left (and at the same time, you are most often affected by the player to your right), switching this up provides a more varied (and sometimes tricky) gameplay.

Keep experitmenting and have fun!!
 
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Dave Eisen
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ZeroZilla wrote:

Author's Note: A lot of that reading I'd done on Puerto Rico* lead me to believe that my fellow geeks were starting to burn out on this game, as a result of having played it too much, or too exclusively, for too long. Note the rise of a very-vocal Caylus following. Note the many 'I don't think it deserves to be #1, but...' comments that come up when it's entered on a GeekList.
These comments must, I think, be taken with a grain of salt, and so were largely ignored by me, in deciding to purchase this game. I figure everyone's ahead of the game here, with relation to me. I'll still get many hours of enjoyment out of the game, more than pay for the price of admition, if you will, before I reach that point.

*I'd deliberately avoided reading 'strategy' articles on Puerto Rico, wanting to shield myself from that feeling of having played the game to death before I'd even started! I recommend this approach to all BGGeeks out there.





This is true actually, and it's not starting to burn out but long since burned out. Puerto Rico was released in 2002 and was played extensively in every gaming group I know. People burned out by 2004 and in fact, I'm seeing it come out a lot more often lately as gamers remember what a fine game it really is.

Its one downside is that it requires a group of players all of whom are roughly as good at it as each other or it isn't fun. But we're all discovering that unlike in 2003, our groups consist of players all of whom by now are very experienced at Puerto Rico and with whom one can have very interesting games.
 
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