12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Superb mechanics beneath a dry theme,
This review is from: Puerto Rico Board Game (Toy)
Puerto Rico is a gamer's game. Easy to learn, very difficult to master. The theme itself is extremely dry and isn't particularly immersive; you're shipping goods from a 17th century Caribbean Island back home for VPs. Not one that many people, especially non-gamers will probably jump in delight at.
However don't dismiss it because lurking beneath the average-looking artwork and dry-as-the-desert theme is a game with very slick, efficient mechanics. It is a masterwork of how games should be, with rules that can be learnt in 5 minutes and an average playing length of around an hour or so.
Each player is provided with an island containing spaces for plantations and buildings. The plantations produce five types of crops, which rise in order of their ease to produce and conversely their retail value. So, whilst corn is easy to make, it sells for nothing. Coffee however is difficult to make, but will net you a tidy profit when you sell it.
Players can choose from a number of buildings, some of which turn crops into goods, or others that help you make a better profit on selling goods, store them, or later on in the game, give you extra victory points. Last but not least, the essential part are your colonists, which help turn the crops into produce and then man the buildings to turn them into goods.
The game action itself is beautifully simple. A Governor is appointed randomly, and as the first player each turn, they get to choose from six different actions. As the first person, they also gain a small advantage over the other players - for example, the builder provides them with a discount when purchasing builders, or they get one extra colonist when taking the mayor action. All the other players then get that action as well and then the next player takes an action and so on. At the end of the turn, all actions that are unused then have one unit of currency placed on them.
This all sounds rather dry and a bit non-confrontational, but the dark art of this game is in knowing when to select a particular action. The meat is in the phases of production, selling and shipping, which net goods, currency and VP's respectively. It's here that you can block other players off because both the trading house and cargo vessels are limited in capacity - you can't just sell and ship willy-nilly. For example, if you produce too many types of goods but don't have a warehouse or a ship of your own (which can be built) then you run the risk of losing goods permanently. In Puerto Rico this sort of mistake can lose you the game.
Although Puerto Rico looks a bit cheap and functional, it's a game that brings reward with each play. There are all manner of strategies to use, but it's important to note that this is a game where a beginner will find it hard to beat experienced players. For gamers that's a good thing; there's nothing worse than a newbie beating you through the roll of a dice. I would argue that due to its theme and style, this isn't really a "family" game in the Catan sense of the word due to the relative lack of player interaction, but for a group looking for something mentally demanding, Puerto Rico deserves its place in the pantheon.