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Subject: Light review, after few games, from a casual player - PUERTO RICO rss

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Liu Apertotes
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Hello everyone. First I would like to say that my native language is not English, so please, be patient about my grammar and spelling issues.

My intention is to offer a light and subjective opinion of the game from a casual player’s perspective, after not so many games. Probably this will be useless for a lot of people. But there are also casual players reading the geek, and sometimes is not easy to find a review that is not directed towards heavy gamers.

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1. What is it about?

In Puerto Rico every player (from 3 to 5, although there are 2 and 6 player variants) is in charge of a plantation in Puerto Rico, where they can produce goods and build a variety of facilities. Their goal is to achieve more victory points than the rest, and this can be done primarily by shipping goods back to Europe and by building facilities.

Theme interest: 5 (this is how interesting the theme looks to me, regardless of how the game plays)
Theme integration: 8 (this is how integrated the theme feels while playing)

2. How does it play?

Every player has his own plantation board with 24 spaces to use (12 for buildings and 12 for plantations). And then there is a common board with actions/roles (Settler, Mayor, Builder, Craftsman, Trader, Captain, and possibly Prospector), facilities, ships and the trading house.

Every turn there is a Governor, who gets to choose first one of the roles. When a role is activated, every player performs the action described in clockwise order, starting with the player that chose the role, who also gets a special benefit of the role. For example, the player that picked Builder may build a facility for one less doublon than the nominal value.

After one role has been activated and played, the next player chooses a new role for everyone to play (with him/her getting a special advantage). And this goes on until all the players have chosen one role. Then, a doublon is added on top of every role that has not been played, and the Governor card goes to the player on the left of the former Governor. And a new turn begins.

This goes on until one of the end-game conditions is triggered. When that happens, the whole turn is completed as usual, and then the game ends. Players count their victory points and whoever had the most wins the game.

The game can be officially played by 3 to 5 players, and each player count gets a different initial configuration (role distribution, total Victory Points, colonist, goods, plantations, facilities and cargo ships). But there are also 2 and 6 player variants here on BGG (although for 6 players some additional material is needed).

Due to the way some roles interact (mainly craftsman and captain), having players with very different performance level may create a suboptimal gaming experience. Of course, this will be unavoidable many times, so in that case just relax and enjoy this great game anyway!

In my opinion, the game is best with more than 3 players. And given that every role is performed by all players, there is almost no downtime at all.

As for luck, there is almost none involved. And for sure it will not impact on the final score in any significant way.

Gameplay: 8.5 (this is a mix of depth, interesting decisions, strategic options, tactical options, interactivity, clarity and rhythm)

3. How does it look?

In my opinion, Puerto Rico components are utilitarian. They are not pretty (but not ugly either). Player boards are nice, and everything looks sturdy and durable, made out of thick cardboard. It is just that they could have used a little bit of art here and there.

The rulebook is fine. We only had to read it once, and during our first play we referenced it once or twice.

Components: 6

4. Will the family like it?

This is not a sure bet. I’ve had mixed results. Most of my family likes the game, but if they get to pick, most often than not they prefer to play other games like Agricola or Carcassonne. Still, this game sees the table much more often than Through the Ages, for example.

Although the game is not terribly complicated, I do think that it is quite dry, and children do not enjoy it as much as other games, so I think it is better to play something else until they turn 10-12 years old.

Family friendliness: 7

5. How long does it take?

For us it takes about 25 minutes per player, on average. We usually end the game by running out of colonist or by filling the buildings area on the player board. I think we have never got even close to emptying the victory points bag. I have no idea whether that says anything about our playing finesse.

In my experience, this game is mostly free of Analysis Paralysis. Usually players have already decided the role they are going to play by the time it is their turn to do so, and usually the longest downtime is while players decide what to build, but still this does not take a long time.

Duration: 25 minutes per player

6. Is it fun?

For me, this is the most important piece of information. If the game is fantastic, but I do not enjoy it, I may as well go to the theater.

There are many ways to enjoy a game. Not everything boils down to pure fun and laughter. I also enjoy cerebral experiences like Through the Ages, or video games like Europa Universalis or Planescape: Torment.

Having said that, for me, Puerto Rico is not a fun game. I can appreciate the slick design and the elegance of its mechanics. But I do not really enjoy playing it.

The game is really deep and intense, with many significant decisions to make every few minutes. It is highly strategic. It rewards careful planning and at the same time it demands that players be able to make the most out of unexpected situations, since they can only guess what role the other players are going to play.

But, in spite of that all, I do not have as much fun playing as I have with other games.

Entertainment: 7

7. How does it compare to other games?

Sadly I am a casual gamer with only a handful of games. I would say that Agricola is my best game, tied with Through the Ages. A step below, I would rate Puerto Rico. Then Railways of the World. Then Hive, Carcassonne, Indigo, and Risk. But that is a very intellectual classification.

I’d much rather classify them by playing interest. And the list goes like this:

Railways of the World → Through the Ages → Agricola ------------>Risk → Indigo → Puerto Rico --------> Hive -------> Do the dishes ---------> Carcassonne

What it means is that I would play Puerto Rico if the rest of the group wants, but if possible, I would rather play many other games, or even get out and play a tennis match with my brother.

Interest in playing: 6

8. What is the worst part about it?

Set up takes quite the time. Also picking up everything after playing is a bit cumbersome, at least if you want to reduce the time for the next game. I have different bags for some components, and on top of that, 4 big bags to store the components needed for a 2 player game (base), the components to add for a 3 player game, and for a 4 player game, and finally for a 5 player game. This makes it easier to set up the game. For example, if we are going to be 4 players, I’ll take the bags for 2, 3 and 4 players and use all the components inside (minus prospector/ships).

But once the game is set, there are not a lot of moving pieces like in Through the Ages. This is not a fiddly game at all.

Some people may think Puerto Rico to be a multiplayer solitaire since there is no way to directly attack other players. Well, I disagree. Puerto Rico is not Risk, but the game has a lot of indirect interaction. In fact, I would pontificate that no one that plays it as a solitaire will win the game against equal level players.

What is it that I dislike most about Puerto Rico? I do not really know how to express it. I just do not get a kick out of it. I have a good time playing, but I can’t stop thinking that I would rather be playing Agricola or Railways of the World. Of course, this is a totally subjective experience, so do not draw any serious conclusions from it.

9. Should I buy the expansion?

I can’t help with that. I do not own it. But judging by the feedback here in the geek, I would not recommend it. It seems that the additions are not that interesting. I, for one, have never thought Puerto Rico to be incomplete, and have never felt the need to add anything to the base game.

10. Care to summarize?

Puerto Rico is a great game. It is deep, interesting, strategic, tactical and relatively short. Most people like it and you will be able to put the game on the table very often. It is just not a game that entertains me the way others do.

Puerto Rico score: 8

That's all, folks!
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John Mitchell
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Liu, no need to apologise as someone for whom English is not your first language - linguistically it was just fine!

As one one of the (probably?) most reviewed and analysed games on BGG it was really refreshing to read your review as coming from someone fresh to the game, not intimidated by the reams that have been written about it over the years; so thank you for taking the trouble to do so.
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Dave Maynor
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Great review. I first played it not very long ago, and have only played a handful of time, but let me say this... the game gets better the more familiar you are with it. It seems really dry at first, and I still don't know when the hell I am supposed to ship, but over time I think you like it more and more as you understand the dynamics.
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Chris
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Great write up! Thumbed.

I love this list you made, games you desire to play, quoted below:

apertotes wrote:
Railways of the World → Through the Ages → Agricola ------------>Risk → Indigo → Puerto Rico --------> Hive -------> Do the dishes ---------> Carcassonne


It would be really funny if "Do the dishes" meant just that, but it's a real game, too: Who is going to do the dishes?
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Arthur Rutyna
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I agree that I did not find Puerto Rico fun after my 1st couple of plays. It took about half a dozen plays for me to start appreciating it. Same thing goes for Agricola, except that after a half dozen plays, I still don't care for it.
 
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Paul Edgar
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Thanks for your review.

Well done - keep them coming!
 
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Liu Apertotes
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Liumas wrote:

It would be really funny if "Do the dishes" meant just that, but it's a real game, too: Who is going to do the dishes?


Wow! There is really a game for everything!

Thanks everybody for your kind words.

I see that many of you are saying that the game gets better with more plays. But in my case I think it goes the other way. Not the quality of the game, but the interest.

When we bought it 4 years ago it opened a whole new world to us. Until then, board games meant Monopoly, Pachisi, Party, Hotels and if we were really lucky, Risk. So Puerto Rico left us in awe. It was like going from Asteroids to Fallout 3.

After that we bought Carcassonne, but we did not like it so much, so Puerto Rico remained the jewel in the crown of our games collection.

We played Puerto Rico regularly, but not as often as we would have liked. Maybe twice a month.

Until one day I found myself wondering near our games store. They had Agricola on sale, and I could not resist. We played, and then we felt like another veil had fallen from our eyes. We did not expect any game to be even better than Puerto Rico, or feel even more engaging. But it did. I think that was the turnover point for Puerto Rico. Up till then we had played about 15 games. But after we got Agricola (and later Through the Ages, and even later Railways of the World), Puerto Rico games decreased in their frequency, and now we play maybe twice a year.

So it is not that the game is worse now than 4 years ago. It is just that we have found games we enjoy more.
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