How to Play the Puerto Rico Board Game
Puerto Rico Instructions, Rules, and Strategy
If youíre looking for a challenging game that isnít mass-produced and stocked on the shelves of your local WalMart, youíll want to learn how to play Puerto Rico. This popular German board game was created by Andreas Seyfarth and published in 2002 (with an English-language version released by Rio Grande Games). Since that time, Puerto Rico has won numerous awards, prompted a number of expansions, and staked a claim as the highest-rated game at the BoardGameGeek website for a record five consecutive years.
Designed for three to five players, Puerto Rico puts players in the roles of colonial governors ruling over the island of Puerto Rico. Your goal is to accrue points over the course of gameplay, either through constructing buildings or growing crops and shipping them back to your homeland.
Iíve played Puerto Rico on several occasions, as well as the similarly-designed San Juan, and I can attest to the fact that itís a challenging and addictive experience. Which strategy will you employ to gain points, and can you do it before your opponents beat you to the punch?
This article provides an overview of how to play Puerto Rico, as well as sharing some of the most popular paths to victory. While it will never surpass games like Monopoly in terms of mass appeal, Puerto Rico remains a hidden gem for those who take their gaming seriously.
Puerto Rico Instructions
Puerto Rico is intended for players 12 years and older, and the average playing time takes between 90 and 150 minutes. While the game comes with individual player boards, a main game board, marker cards, over 100 board markers, marker chips, and wooden pieces, the set-up time for experienced players usually runs about 10 minutes. A set of Puerto Rico instructions is also included in the box, which will fill in any details that I leave out.
To gain victory points, players must ship goods or own buildings. Bonus points can also be earned for large manned buildings, the number of colonists, and acquiring victory point chips before the end of the game.
A game of Puerto Rico ends when one of the following events occurs: the Captain role is selected and a player receives the last victory point chip; the Builder role is selected and one or more players have filled their 12th city space; the Mayor role is selected and there arenít enough colonists left to refill the colonist ship. When any of these events occur, the current round is finished and the game ends.
Puerto Rico is won by the player who obtains the greatest number of victory points. If the game ends in a tie, it can be broken by awarding the win to the player with the most total doubloons and goods.
Puerto Rico Rules
Each round, players take turns selecting a role. This is done in order, and each role can only be held by one player per round. There are a total of seven distinct roles in Puerto Rico, and each dictates specific actions to be performed by the players. In some cases, the player taking on the role may also receive a bonus action (known as a ďprivilegeĒ).
Roles that are not selected in a turn have a doubloon placed on top of their card, allowing anyone who selects the card in future rounds to collect the money. This is an inventive way to encourage players to choose all the roles at various points in the game.
Roles include the following: settler, mayor, builder, trader, craftsman, captain, and prospector. Iíve included a few details about each role, although youíll want to refer to the Puerto Rico rules for greater clarification.
Settler - If players have a plantation space available, they may select a plantation and put it into play. The holder of the card may choose to select a quarry instead of a plantation.
Mayor - Players may take a colonist from the colonist ship and then move them to a quarry, building or plantation. The holder of the card receives one extra colonist.
Trader - Subject to a few restrictions (see the Puerto Rico rules for more details), players may trade a single good for money. The player holding the card will receive a bonus doubloon if they make an exchange.
Captain - Subject to restrictions, players may take turns loading goods onto ship to obtain victory points. The holder of the card earns an extra victory point if they load goods onto a ship.
Builder - Players may choose to buy a building. The holder of the card gains the privilege of paying one doubloon less for construction.
Prospector - Only the holder of this card receives a doubloon. The prospector card is not used in games with three players, while five-player games use two prospector cards.
Craftsman - Goods may be produced by players with production buildings or plantations. The holder of the card may produce one extra good if there are remaining supplies.
The selection of roles and following the instructions on the cards drives the action in Puerto Rico. Before we move on to our section on Puerto Rico strategy, however, letís take a brief look at goods.
Goods come in five varieties in Puerto Rico: sugar, tobacco, indigo, coffee, and corn. In order to produce a certain type of good, players will need to have the corresponding plantation tile and production building. Youíll also need a colonist in both the plantation and production buildings. But once you meet these requirements, youíll be able to produce goods and either ship them home to earn victory points or sell them to gain doubloons.
Puerto Rico Strategy
Puerto Rico strategy can take many forms, which is a large reason behind the gameís enduring popularity. While players are encouraged to develop their own winning strategies, this section will provide a few ideas to get you started.
Income Early, Points Late - One board game strategy that works in Puerto Rico is to focus on gaining income in the early to mid phases of the game, convert income into ways to score points in the middle of the game, and then focus on gaining points in the later stages. This means that each phase of the game will concentrate on either income or points, with a gradual transition being made from one to the other.
Buying Buildings - Buildings that come with a high price tag will get you more victory points, so some players will opt to eschew small cash crops in favor of new structures. By filling up building spaces, the game also progresses faster and may deprive your opponents of the opportunity to rack up points by shipping goods across the ocean.
Producing Goods - This strategy is all about sending goods back to the homeland in exchange for points. Indigo and corn are cheap to produce, making this strategy just as viable as focusing on buildings.
Now that youíve read though this article on how to play Puerto Rico, I hope you have a basic feel for the rules of the game, as well as a bit of basic strategy. If youíve never tried it before, I urge you to buy a copy, invite some friends over, and give it a whirl. Or, if you prefer, turn on your computer and get involved in an online game of Puerto Rico. In either case, youíll find yourself constantly challenged and amazed that a game so simple to learn can be so difficult to master.
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