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Subject: A perspective from someone who has played this game a lot rss

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Michael Denman
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Katy
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Most reviews are written very soon after a game is released. Makes sense. Reviews are probably read primarily by people interested in new games and there’s a pressure to get reviews up quickly. The thing is that those reviewers have only played the game a few times, probably only once. I know my opinion has changed on some games after more than one play. So I got to thinking about writing reviews of older games. I won’t spend a lot of time regurgitating the rules. Initial reviewers have that covered. I’ll try to focus on opinions and maybe some strategies I’ve seen after numerous plays.

There are plenty of in-depth strategy articles on BGG for Puerto Rico. If you’re looking for that sort of thing, stop reading this review now and go find those threads. I hate that level of strategy, particularly with Puerto Rico. It’s all well and fine to have some idea of what you’re doing when you sit down to play a game, but when you have planned out what you’ll be doing every turn and you’ve even NAMED your strategy then you’re probably not someone I want to play Puerto Rico with. I had some interest in Puerto Rico when it first came out, but abandoned the game because everyone who wanted to play it was of the above-mentioned type. I do try to win games when I play, but I just don’t want to play anything with chess-like determination. It’s only in the last couple of years that I can play Puerto Rico as I have many like-minded players in my group. OK, so enough on that rant.

So what’s the game about? Each player is running the economy of a small island. You’ll plant crops, construct buildings, sell & trade goods, and gather colonists. Whoever can do that best will win. Best is defined by having the most victory points when the game ends. The game can end in a few different ways. The points can be gained in different ways. And that’s one thing that can make this game really interesting. How will it play out this time?

I think if you had gamers write up a top 10 list of the best euro-games ever made, Puerto Rico would be on nearly every list. This game really does offer a lot on entertainment and some interesting mechanisms. I think the only two things that might intimidate new players are having to play with veterans (see above) and sorting out what all of the buildings do. Sure, you’ll figure all of that out after a game or two, but it can be a bit much the first time through.

We’ve all played games where you do things in a strict order. Roll dice. Move. Buy Stock. Announce Mergers. Next player! This is where Puerto Rico innovates. Instead, there are a number of roles (depends on the number of players). If it’s your turn, you choose a role. EVERYONE does that action. Since you chose it, you get a little extra benefit and you get to do it first. After everyone has had a chance to do that action, the next player chooses roles from what’s left, and so on. After everyone’s chosen, the roles reset and a new start player begins the process again. Unchosen roles get money placed on them that accumulates. The person who eventually chooses one of those roles gets the money, so the game bribes you to choose roles you might otherwise have had less interest in.

I can’t stress enough how important the roles selection is in this game. I think this is one of the first games where gamers where gnashing their teeth and crying out "It’s multi-player solitaire!". This is so far from the truth that I think some of those really don’t understand the game. Others don’t recognize interaction if it doesn’t involve being able to throw a pipebomb at the player of their choice. If you’re playing this game as it were solitaire, then it probably IS solitaire in that you’re the only person who keeps losing. It’s critical to watch the other players.

Let’s say a round begins and there’s one or two players sitting on a pile of cash. They want to build this turn. It’s the only way to put that money to use. So why should you choose that role? Make them spend their own turn doing that. Or maybe there’s a player with many crops/buildings sitting around unmanned. He wants colonists bad. Let him choose the role and you pick something else. And one of the biggies... shipping. Everyone is sitting on piles of goods. Whoever chooses the role gets to ship some goods first and then you go clockwise. You don’t want to be at the end of that rotation most of the time as there are very limited markets and much of what you’re unable to ship will be destroyed. Yikes! There are other considerations too. Let’s say Fred is going third in your five player game. He’s sitting on some goods and he will likely want to ship. You don’t have any goods right now. Maybe you should choose production so you’ll be able to ship when he picks shipping. But will that really help you or does it just give others enough goods to glut the markets before you get to ship? There are five different kinds of goods. If the guy to the right of you is focused on Indigo and the guy to the right of him is focused on Coffee, perhaps you’d be wise to plant something different from them so that you won’t have them competing with you as much. By the same token, if the guy to your left seems to be doing well, maybe you could plant the same crops as him and reduce his ability to get his goods shipped. Or maybe the guy to your left is planting Coffee and instead of shipping it (for VP) he prefers to sell it, which is often the case with Coffee since it’s worth the most money. Maybe you choose to ship because you can see he will have to ship that coffee instead of sell it. If you’re choosing roles without giving any thought to what everyone else wants, you had better have somehow already gained an insurmountable lead. This is not a solitaire game.

After many plays, I have found that some buildings really don’t seem to be priced fairly. I always use a little price switch suggested by the game’s designer. I flip-flop the prices for University and Factory. I can’t say whether or not this has really changed the game much, but I do at least feel better. I’ve never played with the expansions and probably never will. I like game as it is now.

There’s also a card game based off of Puerto Rico called San Juan. It will seem hauntingly familiar to PR fans, but it does play a bit differently. Mainly it carries over the role selection concept from PR as well as the theme. I like SJ and would recommend that to anyone who thinks that role selection might be intriguing, whether or not you have any opinion on PR. And while I’m mentioning other games, I should say a bit about Race for the Galaxy. It’s similar to SJ but it takes a step or two further away from PR. I hated it when it first came out. I’ve just now come to like the game. For me, I think it was the comparisons. If you go into Race and don’t even think about PR or SJ, you’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit more. But I digress.

Has this been a review or a strategy article? Well, I suppose it’s a bit of both. It’s my hope though that these basic strategy tips will help new players avoid the pitfalls that can lead to giving them a bad first impression of the game. This still may not be your cup of tea, but at least if you understand the sort of game it is up front, there’s a better chance of you determining whether or not this is a game that you’d enjoy. As for me, I’m always happy to play Puerto Rico with non-diehards. I greatly prefer to play with the full five players, but four is okay. Two and three seem like a waste of time to me, but they have some value if you’re just teaching the game.
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Volker Hirscher
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I almost always play 2 p, and it's still great!
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Gordon Berg
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Another excellent "played a lot" review. Thank you!!!
 
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Manuel Pasi
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Trump wrote:
There are plenty of in-depth strategy articles on BGG for Puerto Rico. If you’re looking for that sort of thing, stop reading this review now and go find those threads. I hate that level of strategy, particularly with Puerto Rico. It’s all well and fine to have some idea of what you’re doing when you sit down to play a game, but when you have planned out what you’ll be doing every turn and you’ve even NAMED your strategy then you’re probably not someone I want to play Puerto Rico with. I had some interest in Puerto Rico when it first came out, but abandoned the game because everyone who wanted to play it was of the above-mentioned type. I do try to win games when I play, but I just don’t want to play anything with chess-like determination. It’s only in the last couple of years that I can play Puerto Rico as I have many like-minded players in my group. OK, so enough on that rant.


This little rant sums up perfectly why I usually steer clear of games' clubs and why I was reluctant to give PR another go for a long time. Strategy is a good thing, but if you only sit down to go through he motions of a preset strategy, if winning is the only thing one is looking for, then better sit down at a different table...
But since Volker is right and the 2p variant works fantastically, I am sure glad that I got over myself!
 
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Michael Denman
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PasiMax wrote:
Trump wrote:
There are plenty of in-depth strategy articles on BGG for Puerto Rico. If you’re looking for that sort of thing, stop reading this review now and go find those threads. I hate that level of strategy, particularly with Puerto Rico. It’s all well and fine to have some idea of what you’re doing when you sit down to play a game, but when you have planned out what you’ll be doing every turn and you’ve even NAMED your strategy then you’re probably not someone I want to play Puerto Rico with. I had some interest in Puerto Rico when it first came out, but abandoned the game because everyone who wanted to play it was of the above-mentioned type. I do try to win games when I play, but I just don’t want to play anything with chess-like determination. It’s only in the last couple of years that I can play Puerto Rico as I have many like-minded players in my group. OK, so enough on that rant.


This little rant sums up perfectly why I usually steer clear of games' clubs and why I was reluctant to give PR another go for a long time. Strategy is a good thing, but if you only sit down to go through he motions of a preset strategy, if winning is the only thing one is looking for, then better sit down at a different table...
But since Volker is right and the 2p variant works fantastically, I am sure glad that I got over myself!


I think it’s unfair to lay this at the feet of game clubs. The same club that includes people I wouldn’t want to play Puerto Rico with also includes those that I would play with. True, the membership has altered over the years, but it’s still a game club.
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