Employ Your Workers in the Factories of Puerto Rico
Welcome to the 4th in a series of reviews of 10 of my favorite board games. Today I travel to the isle of Puerto Rico to employ the local populace in my fields and factories which will increase my wealth and gain me victory…points.
Puerto Rico has, for many months, been the highest ranked game by users at Board Game Geek – though I think Twilight Struggle usurped that position recently. Some will argue that this ranking is virtually meaningless. It does mean, however, that a lot of gamers took the time to rate it as one of their favorite games to play. The masses can’t all be wrong, can they? The first time I played Puerto Rico I wasn’t so sure.
I can still recall that meh feeling following my first play of Puerto Rico. I had expected something more, though I’d be hard pressed to say what. But Puerto Rico is a game that, like a fine wine (and several other things), gets better with age. The more I’ve played Puerto Rico, the better I’ve liked it.
What makes Puerto Rico different from many games is role selection. Depending on the number of players (3 to 5), there are at least 6 roles you can choose:
- Settler – prepare fields for planting
- Mayor – employ workers in fields and factories
- Builder – spend cash on buildings
- Craftsman – produce goods from fields and factories
- Trader – sell goods for cash in the market
- Captain – ship goods off the island (for points)
Each role has a benefit only available to the selector, but each player in turn has the option to perform that role after the original selector. A key to good play then is to select a role that will, at a given moment, help you the most and your opponents the least.
For example, if you happen to be the only player with goods to ship and there’s still room on one of the 3 ships in the harbor, select the Captain role. You’ll be able to ship your corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, or coffee for victory points, and no one else will gain anything that turn.
Puerto Rico has many paths to victory which are not all obvious at first. That’s part of the reason it gets better with more plays. It invites you to come back again and again to discover more ways to win.