Ladies and Gentlemen of the internets, I don't know what you like to do in your free time.
If you're looking at this particularly-themed space, then you're likely into board games. I had a chance encounter about a week ago with this game: Puerto Rico by Rio Grande Games.
The group was supposed to play Settlers of Catan that night, but the owner of that game had to bow out of the event at the last moment, leaving us scrounging for a new game. I looked at Puerto Rico's box and said, "Hey, I know that game from somewhere, don't I?" Maybe its because I saw it here on Boardgamegeek.com, sitting solidly and comfortably in the number 4 slot for BEST BOARD GAMES. I had to give it a try.
I have come here to tell you: play this game.
The game is described as such:
"The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops—corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee—they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors: growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and, most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.
The game system lets players choose the order of the phases in each turn by allowing each player to choose a role from those remaining when it is their turn. No role can be selected twice in the same round. The player who selects the best roles to advance their position during the game will win."
The game is delicious in its mechanics and flavor. The goal of the game is to collect the most victory points through shipping your crops back to the Old World, but there are many, many different facets and routes you may take to achieving this aim. At the beginning of the game, a fixed number of victory points and colonists are determined by the number of players present. The game ends when one of those numbers becomes exhausted, or if a player fills up all of their colony slots. Then bonus victory points are assigned and tallied to find a winner.
Each player's turn has them picking over a group of roles which determine the action they'll take that turn: sowing crops, constructing buildings, assigning labor, collecting their crops, selling crops, shipping crops, or prospecting for gold. Each player gets a little bonus for picking their particular role, then everyone at the table can choose to take the same action. Then the turn passes to the next person and so on. There is a fixed number of Goods available during the game and also limited opportunities to ship & sell your goods.
The game is fine-tuned and each step of decision-making is crucial.
For example, you could plant corn in your colony or you could plant coffee. Corn requires no building to harvest, coffee requires that you purchase and build a coffee mill, and also assign labor to it. You may sell your corn for 0 doubloons, but you may sell coffee for 4 doubloons (there are situational bonuses to those numbers). However, each crop of corn and coffee is worth an equal amount of victory points. Plus, players are vying for space on a cargo ship for their particular crop before it fills up and sails away.
So, you could plant corn for those victory points, but you cannot sell it for money that buys you more buildings and bonuses. Or you could plant coffee, which costs an initial investment and it pays for itself, allowing you to build other items, but it isn't worth any more or less in terms of winning the game.
The various strategic moves one can make during the game make for a political battle at the table. You really feel like competing colony owners. The simple images of the game tiles and wonderful little wooden chits have a charming appeal that make Puerto Rico engaging for a wide variety of players. A smart 10 year old can grok the mechanics, and the game remains interesting to mature audiences.
There's a reason this game is sitting atop that Boardgamegeek.com ranking. It's intricate and incredibly smart in its design, while remaining simple with a great replay value. Each game of Puerto Rico changes with the players partaking. At the end of my first game, each player had a clear role and we dubbed each other with titles such as "The Construct-or," "The Coffee King," and "Miss Ship-It!"
If that isn't enough to convince you to try Puerto Rico, here's a man in a wig and brassiere playing:
What else could you ask for?!?
It's truly great game and one I have to find for parties or boring weekday nights. Any fan of the strategic board game will love Puerto Rico.
Sure, it has no fantasy or sci-fi leanings as it fits squarely in the "historical strategy" genre. But, as our host and owner of the game pointed out oh-so-very smartly, that can make the game much more appealing to certain gentle and attractive party-goers(also wives, girlfriends, and other partners).
Check it out, you won't be disappointed.
-Andrew B @ ROTDOG