First off, I'm no expert. Let's just get that out of the way first.
I purchased the Puerto Rico PC game to see whether this was a game that anybody else but me would be interested in. I needed about four or five plays through to sort out the rules really well; then I taught it to my six-year-old son, Noah, who ended up enjoying the game a lot more that San Juan. Of course, the PC version is very quick, so that helps with a younger person's attention span. Finally, he started pestering me to get the original board game version, so I ended up trading Robo Rally for it. (Thanks to user badweasel!)
The five people playing the game were myself, my mom (who teamed up with my son), my good friend L, his girlfriend E, and her mom J. My mom has been patient with the Euro games I've showed her in the past, taking well to most of them (including things like Ingenious, Qwirkle, and Coloretto). But I haven't tried anything this heavy with her.
The other three I've really only played mostly party games with; the heaviest game my friend L has played with me is Ticket to Ride. So my wife advised me that this might not be the best group to try out a 2½ game with. But they were all willing to give it a try, anyway.
Naturally, the first few rounds were pretty rough going as everybody became acclimated to the roles and exactly what they needed to be doing. People got caught out by selecting Craftsman, then having to dump the remainder when the Captain came along, for example. One big difference I noticed between the game we played and the PC opponents was that there were tons of colonists showing up, especially early in the game. Quite a few went for the large Indigo Plant/Sugar Mill; we ended up with 10 colonists on the ship by round 4 or 5, though it was typically the minimum.
By the mid-to-late game, the other four had pretty well grasped the mechanics of the game and started developing some rudimentary strategies:
- J had the Office and was the only one with Tobacco for most of the game; she was the eventual winner and managed to do this by basically getting her own private ship with the Tobacco, though what she was trying to do was cash in big time with the Large Market.
- L was quick to pick up on the shipping strategies, which enabled him to catch up late in the game as the VP stack dwindled quickly.
- My mom was somewhat stuck on my son Noah's typical track of "try to get as much money as possible so you can get one of the 10 buildings." But she made the most of it after Noah saved up for the Factory; she recognized the importance of diversifying her production and managed to accomplish this pretty well.
-- I'm not sure what E was doing exactly. She was sitting right next to me, but I wasn't paying close attention to her game as she wasn't as vocal about asking questions. She must have been doing something right, though, since she beat me.
My own game suffered markedly, I'm sure, due to the fact that I was having to run the game and help everybody else figure out which actions were available and, of those, which ones might benefit them more than others. I needed to do this less and less as the game went on, but the damage was already done. And I just couldn't figure out how to get any money, which didn't help.
It was pretty obvious to me that J was going to win when we were still about 3-4 rounds out. I thought that the colonists were going to force the endgame (which actually was the reason), but the VP chips went away so fast once everybody had their production up and running and there were only 4 or 5 chips left at the end. Like I said, L made up ground at the end, though he also had the highest total of buildings.
Final opinions: Everybody said they wanted to play it again, which was immensely gratifying; of course, I also want to play it again. L and J in particular were engaged in the entire game and seemed to enjoy it, even if each of them believed they didn't know what they were doing.
Four more fans of PR, coming up!