Author: Andreas Seyfarth
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Players: 3-5 (2 with variant)
After at least fifty games under my belt, I figured it was time for me to write a review of my favorite game. I must first say that Puerto Rico is not the ideal game for a new player, but it is a definite must for the serious board game player.
The goal of Puerto Rico is similar to many others - collect as many victory points as possible. Where Puerto Rico excels is in the many possibilities that can occur. The premise is simple - the first player chooses one of seven role cards with specific actions to perform (or as few as six for three players) and then the other players get to choose from the remaining roles. It is important to note, though, that when you choose an action, everyone else also gets to perform it. So not only do you need to make sure that the role you choose is necessary for your own advancement in the game, but also that you will benefit from it more than anyone else. The only advantage to being the first to choose a particular role card is that you are then given a specific privilege related to that action. However even with this privilege, players have to be constantly aware of the benefits each action gives to their opponents.
For example, the “builder” card allows everyone to construct a new building of their choice. The person who chooses the “builder” card gets to pay one less than the indicated cost and then everyone gets to build at the normal cost. Then the next person chooses a role card, until everyone has done so. Once all the players have chosen an action, all the roles are put back and the next round begins. The starting player position moves clockwise around the board and the roles are once again chosen turn by turn.
The seven roles that can be chosen are (privilege is in brackets):
• Builder – let the players construct a new building (cost is reduced by one)
• Settler – choice of a new plantation (can choose a quarry instead)
• Trader – can sell a good (one extra doubloon/dollar)
• Mayor – gets new colonists (one extra colonist from bank)
• Craftsman – produces goods (one extra good)
• Captain – ships goods (one extra victory point)
• Prospector – no action (one doubloon from bank)
As mentioned above, the goal of the game is to get as many victory points as possible. The first way to obtain these victory points is through shipping goods. However, Puerto Rico does not make this easy. Each action has a downside, and you must fight with the other players to do what you want. To produce, you must have not only a production building of that good (of which there are five goods), but also its corresponding plantation, a settler on the building and on the plantation and the good must be in stock. There is also a limited amount of each building and the plantation is chosen at random.
Adding to all this competition is the fact that each player is aiming for the same thing. However, there are other ways to get points. Each building gives you points at the end of the game, so you don’t necessarily have to produce goods to win. Then, when you ship goods, there are only three boats, each of which can only carry one type of good and are only emptied once completely full. Also, you generally can only store one good to ship at a later time.
Due to all these constraints, you must make sure your buildings are carefully chosen to give you an advantage. The buildings let you store goods, have your own ship, get extra money for producing, get settlers faster and so many other things. When used in combinations, the buildings can lead to huge advantages, but since they are in limited supply and are often not cheap, it is not always possible to get the building you want. And since you cannot always chose the role you want, you must take advantage of what others are doing. If you know someone else will play the builder, you may want to pick something else. This is where the complicated strategy of Puerto Rico gets interesting. A player must watch his opponents and adapt his strategy to it. If you want to produce a lot, but each time you take the craftsman card, another player produces more, you will continually fall behind and must alter you strategy.
Another thing I love is that the game can end in three ways:
• Once there are no more victory points;
• Once there are no more settlers; or
• Once someone fills their building area.
These three possibilities can greatly change the strategy of the game. For example, a player can simply concentrate solely on building as fast as possible, not giving someone else the chance to get a lot of points from producing and shipping goods. With each game, the play will be different and your strategy must be adapted to what your opponents are doing.
Although there is a lot more to the game and a lot more constraints, I don’t want to get into each one. But if you like a lot of management and quick thinking, this is a must. I cannot say that any two games have been the same and with all my play, I would still play every week. This is not a light game by any means, however it lasts approximately one to two hours and can be played by two to five players (the two player game requires a variant).
(Special thanks to ck13 for contributions to this review)
Michel, this is a great overview of the game - Thanks! I've been on BGG for about 6 months and I've heard a lot about Puerto Rico, but I've had difficulty getting a picture of the complete game. I think it's been like the old saying, "you can't see forest for the trees". There is so much written about all the finer points of the game, that I felt like I was missing out on basic operations and overview.