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John Bandettini
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In my reviews I concentrate on two aspects of the game. A look at what you actually get in the box. The components of the game, a look at both the quantity and quality.

Secondly, my experiences with the game including what I like about it and anything I don’t like about it.

This time I am going to be looking at Santiago de Cuba. It's a pick up and deliver game designed by Michael Rieneck. If you think it looks kind of familiar that because it's another member of the growing family of Cuba games.

The game is for two to four players. Playing time is around 45 to 60 minutes, probably a little longer your first play. The object is to collect victory points, which are mostly collected by sending goods out by ship. There are a few other ways to score points, but that is the main way.

Like it's predecessor Havana it uses some of the ideas and images from Cuba to create a completely new game. Is it as good as Cuba? (Or maybe even better). Lets see.



If you have played Cuba or Havana before looking at the box and pieces will definitely give you a bout of deja vu as it looks very familiar. I like the artwork in Cuba so I don't have a problem seeing more of it. Instead of the almost iconic car on the cover of Cuba this time we have a couple on bike, laughing and obviously having fun. (There is part of a car showing too). It's a pretty attractive cover and one that should catch the eye.

The box is much smaller than most games and is the same size as St Petersburg and Carcassonne. I'm always pleased when I get a box that is not bigger than it needs to be. Let's open the box and see what is inside.

The rule book is pretty good. Lots of diagrams and examples. Full descriptions of all the characters and buildings you will encounter while playing the game. After the first couple of games I don't see you needing to look up much in the rules. It doesn't have a turn sequence on the back of the rule book which is something I always like but as there are only two actions to a turn I guess I can forgive it.



This is the game board. It's around three times the size of the box, which makes it about half the size of a Ticket to Ride or similar board. It carries on the look and feel of Cuba. It's the port in Santiago, and here you will collect goods and load them on ships and send them off to foreign ports.

Along the top of the board and down the right side you will see some boxes with coloured roses at the top of them. When you play the game you will randomly place the 12 building tiles in these spaces. You get to use one of the buildings each turn. I'll explain more when we look at the buildings.

Below them and circling the harbour are some rectangular (with curved top) spaces, you randomly place the Cuban characters here. Each space has a star either beneath or beside it. On your turn you move a car from star to star, moving to the next star is free every additional star you move cost 1 coin each. When you have decided where to move to, you activate the Cuban character that is in the space next to the star. We will have a more detailed look at the Cuban characters in a minute.

There is one star that is not associated with a Cuban character (It's on the bottom of the board next to the crane). When you stop on that space each player starting with the one who moved has the chance to load goods onto the waiting ship. Each player can only load one type of goods at a time. (You move from that space over the harbour entrance to the next star)

Near the bottom of the board slightly to the left of centre you can see the ship. There are five different types of goods in the game, (Sugar Cane, Citrus fruit, tobacco, rum and cigars), but each ship only needs four types of goods. And some of those goods might have a zero demand.

Just above the ship you can see three flags with values two, three and four. at the start of the game and every time a ship sails a marker is put on the two. This shows that that is the current value of any goods loaded on the ship. One of the building tiles allows you to adjust this amount.

There is also a small marker under the flag with the two on it. This is to remind you that you can always load wood instead of any other good, but it is only ever worth 1point. (You can get two wood from one of the Cuban characters)

Down the bottom of the board and to the left you will see a track going from one to seven. This is where you track the number of ships that sail. After the seventh ship sails the game is over.

It's an attractive looking board and works pretty well. Everything is clear and laid out well.



The game comes with 9 Cuban character tiles. When on your turn you stop next to one you activate the tile and you mostly receive something. As icons go they are pretty easy to understand. I'll explain the four in the photo.

Stop by Maria and you get two victory points. Jose will give you two white (sugar cane) cubes. Martinez will give you three coins. Alonzo will allow you to either put one of your property markers on a building tile or activate a building you already have a marker on.

On each of the Cuban character tiles there is a rose. The buildings on the board are all in spaces marked with a rose, three of each colour. After activating the Cuban character, you can place you playing piece on one of the buildings with a matching rose and activate the building. (The roses are marked on the board not the building tiles)



There are twelve building tiles. Like the characters they are randomly placed on the board. They are split into groups of three by the coloured roses above them. When activated by the players they have various effects. I will explain the four buildings in the photo to give you an idea of what they do.

The first building when activated gives you one victory point.

By default each player scores two points for every good they load on a ship. The second building lets you adjust the value up or down by one, within the range of two to four. If it's on four you can move it to the chequered flag to the right of it, which causes the current ship to sail regardless of how full it is.

The third building allows you to load any one good onto the current ship and get two points. It must be a good that current ship needs and can not be wood. This can trigger a ship leaving port.

The forth building allows you to change one of the dice on the ship showing demand for a good to a zero.

You can not use a building if another players piece is already on it.



This is the ship, it's used as a marker on the ship track on the board. When it sails for the seventh time the game is over. The ship only sails when it is full. {Or the chequered flag is used)



You get five coloured dice. These are used to represent the demand for the various goods in the game.

At the start of the game the player to the right of the start player rolls these dice. Every other time a new ship is required the player who triggered the last ship to sail rolls the dice. Whoever rolls them gets to choose four of the dice to put on the ship, the other dice is set aside as there is no demand for that type of resource at the moment. Most of the dice only have values zero to three (with 2 ones and 2 twos) the orange dice (citrus fruit) has a four instead of one of the ones on it.



These are the wooden pieces that come with the game. The five base goods plus wood. You can also see the brown car at the top of the photo as previously explained this moves from star to star around the port. You can also see a bright blue piece this is used to track how many points loaded goods are currently worth.



These are the victory point markers. They are in denominations of 1,2,3,5 and 10. They are not kept hidden.



These are the money pieces. They are in denominations of 1 and 3. Money is used to move extra spaces around the harbour and you can gain or spend them in some of the buildings.



These are player pieces. The meeple is placed in a building to activate it. The other three round tokens are property markers You can place one of these on a building when you visit Alonso. These markers do two things, when someone else activates a building with your property marker on it, you gain a point. Also when you visit Alonso instead of placing a property marker, you can activate a building with one of your markers on it.



This is a player shield. Each player gets a shield of his colour. You are allowed to keep your goods and money behind it.

So what do I think of it?

There seems to be a bit of trend at the moment to develop lighter games themed on an original heavier game. This and Havana are based on Cuba and you have Tournay doing a similar thing with Troyes. So far I have enjoyed all these spin off games and I think they work much better than xxxxxx the card game or dice game.

While it's not particularly original, collect goods load them on a ship and get points, it is done very well and the game plays pretty smoothly. It's quick and fairly simple to pick up.

The turns could not be simpler, move the car around the harbour, stop by a character and activate a building. If you move to the port square you do not move your player piece and you do not activate a building.

As both the characters and the buildings come on tiles the game has a lot of variety and plays slightly different every time. The use of the roses to match the characters and buildings up works well. It's fun see what combinations can do what.

There are a number of ways to effect the demand for the ship. Whoever rolls the dice can select the combination that suits them best. You can manipulate the value of the goods. And you can even set one of the dice to zero.

Alonso is an interesting character. I like to try to place all three of my property markers on the same colour roses, then anyone activating any of those buildings gains me a point, they can't just choose one of the others.

It can be very tricky getting to the characters you want as players can pay money to move extra spaces around the harbour.

Talking of which, if you don't have much to load and it's your turn you can always pay extra coins to skip the ship.

None of the characters give you red (rum) or black (cigar) goods so if there is a demand for them you need to trade for them. Although one character will give you one good of any type, so that is usually used to get red or black.

Overall I like this game quite a bit. I do prefer Havana over it, but only by a bit. I think the components are all first class. It's not that expansive as board games go and you get a pretty good package over all in a smallish box.
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Paul Incao
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Nice job John with the review. I'm a fan of Cuba and Havanna so I was definitely interested in seeing a review of this one as well.

Nice pictures too.

-Paul
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Andy Andersen
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Well, you've done it again, John. Fabulous review.

Thanks.
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Gary Querns
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Excellent review John, helped to clear up a rule my partner and I had been overlooking. We are really enjoying this little game as a 2 player, which it seems to work really well at. I had thought of buying Havana but is it different enough to Santiago to warrant a purchase?
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John Bandettini
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GQ__ wrote:
Excellent review John, helped to clear up a rule my partner and I had been overlooking. We are really enjoying this little game as a 2 player, which it seems to work really well at. I had thought of buying Havana but is it different enough to Santiago to warrant a purchase?


Gary

Havana is a very different game. It's a role based card game, I actually prefer it to Santiago De Cuba. However I don't think it works so well as a two player game.

If most of your gaming is two player stick with Santiago De Cuba. If you play with three or four regularly I would definately recommend Havana.
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Michael Denman
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I like Cuba. It's NOT Puerto Rico, but it's totally understandable why a casual observer would think it was. Havana and Santiago also cause the casual observer to believe they are more related to Cuba than they really are. With the same art and terms being used, it's hard to not think that. I think they play in different ways though, so your opinion of one shouldn't carry over to another. I couldn't STAND Havana. Really disliked it. I seem to recall it had something to do with how turn order was determined, but it's been a while. I do like Santiago. My compact description of it is that it's a rondel game where the rondel spots are randomized every game. If it weren't randomized, I'd get bored of this game pretty quickly. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think it best to judge each game on its own merits and don't carry over any feelings good or bad from the others.
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boardgamemuse
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To me this is yet another well-crafted gateway and high quality title that I am not afraid to bring to the table.

For sure, it is games like this one that keep my friends coming over time and again.



This is a Finka-like game, but has the added bonus of tiles with special abilities. No doubt that an add-on would be simple.

And for the record - another game I learned on Yucata (albeit modified rules) and so purchased!
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