Thursday, March 13, 2008

Board Game Review - Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is another one of those foreign games that are tons of fun. In Puerto Rico, an economic and city-building game, you are acting as a plantation owner in the city of San Juan on Puerto Rico during the colonial period, and you control virtually all aspects of life: what buildings will be built, what crops will be produced and which of your colonists will work where, among other things. Your job is to manage the economy so as to make more money, build more buildings and ship more goods than any other player.

Each player plays on their own game board, which is divided into two main areas. There is an island area, where you build plantations to produce one of the game's 5 resources: corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco and coffee; and there is a city area, which is where you build normal buildings that have some special effect, like allowing you to utilize your plantations or get extra money for selling your goods in the trading house instead of shipping them. Each building also gives you a certain amount of victory points, depending on how expensive it is: the bigger, the better. Victory points, as the name suggests, are how you win the game, and they are also gained by shipping out your goods on cargo ships. Whoever has the most at the end of the game, wins.

The game is played in rounds, and during each round each player takes a turn. Now what is unique about Puerto Rico is that during each players' turn, they chose to do a single action; however, after they have completed that action, everyone else is given the opportunity to do the same thing, only the original player gets an advantage for picking that action. Each player selects one of the several jobs during their turn, which tells them what action everyone will be taking and what the bonus will be for the player.

There are jobs like the mayor, in which each person gets to place one of their colonists in a job of their choosing, but the mayor gets to place 2; the settler, who gets to pick either a new plantation to place or a quarry to help with building costs, while the other players only get to chose from the plantations left over; the captain, who gets bonus victory points when everyone ships their goods; or the craftsman, who allows everyone to produce but gets extra goods themselves. There are also the Trader and Builder jobs, which are fairly self-explanatory, and depending on how many people there are, one or two prospector jobs, which only give the choosing player extra money.

There is very little direct player interaction in Puerto Rico; it is a game of management, but how you decide to manage your assets affects the others in a large way. The cargo ships can only hold one type of good and in limited quantities; if there is no room for someone's goods during a shipping phase, they have to get rid of them. Only so many goods can be sold to the trading house, so one player can be blocked from selling their highly profitable coffee by another player beating them to the punch. And then, of course, you have to decide every time you pick a job what the effects of the actions taken will be on everyone else. If someone has just built a new building that will give them an advantage, you probably wouldn't pick the mayor job and let them place a colonist in it to operate it. Virtually everything done in the game affects the other players in some way, because you are all on the same small island, working to be the biggest and best.

Puerto Rico is another wonderful medium-sized group game, for 3 to 5 players. At an hour and a half to two hours, it's a game you have to plan to play, but it is perfect for a weekend gaming night or the like. Puerto Rico has won several international board game awards, and is currently ranked the number one game at BoardGameGeek.com, with an overall rating of 8.31 out of 10. With a price tag of $25-30, depending on where you look online, it is most definitely worth looking at and picking up.

There is also a website set up to let you run the game online, against other humans or computer opponents. It is helpful to see how the game works, but be forewarned: if you play against computers, the game moves rather fast and it is sometimes hard to see what their moves were when you are just learning the rules. Also, nothing can recreate the experience of sitting around a table with some friends actually playing a physical game, so if you think you might enjoy Puerto Rico after looking at this online game, I would highly recommend buying it.

2 comments:

Winter said...

Oh man, I know what I'm doing for the rest of the day here at work!

Jeremy said...

Haha, new disclaimer: Hobson's Buffet is not liable for anyone getting fired for messing with Internet stuff they find here during work times. :)