Puerto Rico is one of my all time favourite board games. It’s a complex game, with depth of strategy not seen very often elsewhere. It is a game for 3-5 players, and different game pieces are used depending on the number of players, which means that playing games with 3, 4 or 5 players are all equally valid options, and provide equally good games.
The basic premise is that the players are landlords and merchants on the island of Puerto Rico, during colonial times. The aim of the game is to score the most victory points, by building factories and other buildings, and by farming various resources and shipping them back to the Old World.
During a turn in a Puerto Rico there will be several phases, one for each player. The player that goes first is the Governor, and he picks a role for the turn. The role picked will determine the next phase played, picking ‘Builder’ will allow building to be created, picking ‘Captain’ will allow resources to be shipped. There are more roles than players, so not every phase will happen in each turn, and the phases will happen in a different order in each turn.
The player that picks a role will have a benefit during that phase, such as cheaper buildings for the player who picked the Builder role. Roles that are not picked during a turn will have a coin placed on them, to make them more attractive picks during the next turn. Coins are required to pay for buildings.
Before we have even considered play strategies and the various ways of winning, you can see that the game changes based on the turn created by the players’ phase picks, it’s an extra element of strategy that is rarely seen, and it works very well.
There is no dominant strategy in Puerto Rico, nor are there certain ways of progressing well tactically given you’ve picked a strategy to follow. It is always possible to prevent another player doing well, and sometimes it’s even possible to block other players without damaging your own position.
This is getting a little long, so I’m going to leave it here, and come back to of how the game works, and go into a bit of detail into the various strategies and tactics of the game.