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Subject: A Turn by Turn Guide to Playing Puerto Rico rss

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Quillon Harpham
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A Turn by Turn Guide to Playing Puerto Rico

I have found the following ideas very helpful in learning how to build strong positions when playing Puerto Rico. They are set out in a turn by turn guide detailing roughly what can be done in each turn in a typical 15 turn game. Of course, they don't cover every variation, but should help overcome the initial learning curve which can be quite steep. Even though the suggestions are attributed to particular turns they can, of course, apply earlier or later, depending on the game. It is assumed that the expansion is not used.

Analysis and comments welcome.
Q.

Turn 1 - The Standard Opening Turn
There is a reasonably well established standard opening turn. It depends slightly on the number of players and initial set of plantations. Here is the four player version:
Player 1: Settler, chooses quarry; P2 chooses corn or coffee; P3 chooses coffee or sugar; P4 what's left.
Player 2: Builder, builds small market if he has corn or small indigo if he doesn't; P3 builds small sugar if he has sugar or small market if he doesn't; P4 builds either construction hut, small market or nothing; P1 builds either small indigo, small market or nothing.
Player 3: Mayor, occupies small sugar/sugar or corn/small market; P4 occupies corn; P1 occupies quarry; P2 occupies corn if he has one.
Player 4: Prospector.

Turn 2 - Money, Money, Money
Money is more important than victory points in the early game. After the first two Mayors you must try to produce a good that you can trade such as corn/small market, indigo or sugar (Player 3 often gets sugar up and running in the first turn). Player 1 is least likely to achieve this but he gets an early quarry and must obtain a corn plantation asap. Then start saving up for a better trade good by taking doubloons wherever possible.

Turn 3 - Be the First to get a Quality Trade Good
Your next objective is to be in a position to produce a quality trade good.
i) This will be (in order of preference) coffee, tobacco, sugar.
ii) Support these with small markets wherever you can, especially the sugar.
iii) Try to get a monopoly in one type of good.
iv) Don't select the same good as the player on your right. If you have to duplicate then follow the player to your left unless someone else also has it.

Turn 4 - Defend with the Captain
If another player produces tradable goods before you do (even indigo, corn/small market in the early turns) then choose the Captain to force these goods onto a ship. It is better to concede victory points rather than doubloons in the early game. Conversely, you don't want your quality trade good going on a ship in the early turns. You can prevent this by:
i) Producing a low value good alongside it.
ii) Not producing it until three other goods are being produced.

Turn 5 - Mid-game Building Targets
Once you have your trading position up and running you need to think about your strategy for the rest of the game. The winner will be the player who best optimises their combination of building and shipping. The following buildings are useful for either:
i) A factory, especially if you are already near to producing a wide variety of goods (weaker with 5 players).
ii) A harbour, especially if you forsee a lot of shipping in the game.
iii) A small warehouse.
iv) Production buildings which increase your variety of goods. Don't get caught producing less than three different types.

Turn 6 - The Shipping Strategy
This strategy focuses on earning the majority of your victory points through shipping.
i) This strategy is more likely if you have a weak trading position and less than 2 quarries.
ii) You will need at least 2 corn plantations and a small warehouse (otherwise you will probably have to buy a large warehouse or wharf).
iii) You will want a lot of goods production in an open, prolonged game.
iv) Take the Captain as often as you can to keep the ships turning over goods.
v) Don't neglect building - target the Customs House.
vi) You will have trouble winning if you're the only person following this strategy.
vii) This strategy is stronger with more players.

Turn 7 - The Building Strategy
This strategy focuses on earning the majority of your victory points through building.
i) This strategy is more likely if you have a strong trading position and more than 1 quarry.
ii) You will need at least 1 corn plantation.
iii) You will want minimal goods production in a tight, curtailed game.
iv) Take the Builder as often as you can to get those building spaces filled.
v) Don't neglect shipping - take every tactical opportunity.
vi) You will have trouble winning if you finish with less than 2 occupied large buildings.
vii) This strategy is weaker with more players.

Turn 8 - The Guild Hall Strategy
This is a variation of the Building Strategy. If you're not in a position to buy a factory or harbour in the mid-game, then consider saving your money and being first to the Guild Hall, the most powerful large building. All the points for the Building Strategy, above, apply except:
iv) Try to build production buildings before they run out.
v) There is less pressure to take the builder (as long as you have enough doubloons for the next production building) so you can focus more on tactical shipping.
vi) Build as many production buildings as you can.

Turn 9 - Play Tactically
THIS APPLIES EVERY TURN
Short term tactical play rules over long term strategic play in Puerto Rico. Obviously it is important to get both right, but it is more important to make good tactical moves.

Turn 10 - Careful with the Craftsman
THIS APPLIES EVERY TURN
You should always be reluctant to take the Craftsman since it gives immediate trading or shipping opportunities to the players following. Always consider carefully what will happen if you do this.

Turn 11 - Block Up the Ships
In the mid and end games try to engineer opportunities to part-fill ships with goods that you produce and most other players don't. This will maximise your shipping in the next turn or two and limit the other players.

Turn 12 - Money Loses its Value
Money progressively loses its value compared to victory points, being almost worthless at the end as it only breaks ties. Focus increasingly on victory points as the game draws to an end, using your money for high victory point buildings.

Turn 13 - Occupy Your Large Buildings
Place a colonist on your large buildings a turn earlier than you think you'll need to. You don't want to be the player who has to take the Mayor in the final rounds when valuable opportunites occur as the game escalates.

Turn 14 - Predict the End of the Game
Make sure that you can execute the moves you need before the game ends. Watch carefully for a lack of colonists, victory point chips (these can go very quickly in the end game) or building spaces.

Turn 15 - Don't Mess Up the Final Turn
Games can be won and lost in the final turn:
i) Never take the Mayor when other players have unoccupied large buildings and yours are occupied.
ii) Try to select a role which benefits you more than the other players, even if that means taking the Prospector.
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Patrick Sullivan
Canada
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great article! I agree with almost everything. I especially like the part about occupying large buildings earlier rather than later. I get screwed with that SO many times. I'm playing in my first Puerto Rico tournament this weekend. Can't wait
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Quillon Harpham
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Black Barney wrote:
great article! I agree with almost everything. I especially like the part about occupying large buildings earlier rather than later. I get screwed with that SO many times. I'm playing in my first Puerto Rico tournament this weekend. Can't wait


Thanks. Yes, I've been caught on that one myself, as you can imagine. Enjoy the tournament!
Q.
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Johan T
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Great guide! I´m defenitely gonna try the guild hall-strategy my next time.
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Scott Roberts
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Very nicely written. Good job and thanks!
 
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