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Subject: The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge rss

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Jim Campbell
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The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge

After playing Andreas Seyfarth’s Puerto Rico (hereafter called PR) for the first time, it quickly became one of my favorites. One of the only weaknesses in the game’s design (and it’s a flaw common to many multiplayer games) is that the outcome is sometimes decided by the mistakes of the weakest player. Veteran players often complained about this, but I didn’t see much effort being made to share knowledge about strategy. Most of the strategy advice available in English is comprised of comments made after just a few games. It is also clear to me that most of this information comes from people who have played PR against a small variety of relatively weak opponents.

Why do I believe that most of what I’m reading is uninformed? I’ve played over 1000 games of PR, more than 95% of them on the Brettspielwelt (BSW) online game server. Because PR on BSW takes only 15-45 minutes per game, there are a large number of highly experienced players there. The level of play on BSW thus tends to be much higher than in a typical face-to-face game; most players who have played 200 or more games on BSW would have little trouble defeating someone who hasn’t. This is not to say that “all of the good players are on BSW”, merely that it gives a multiplicative combination of learning advantages to those who play there. The evidence of this is that nearly everyone who bothers to give advice about strategy tends to give the same mistaken recommendations, based upon playing longer games against opponents who make more errors. This is often made clear when people who always win in their face-to-face group play on BSW for the first time.

I should explain what I believe is the difference between the stronger play typical on BSW and the sort of game most players see in face-to-face PR. In a typical face-to-face game, there is relatively little competition for money early in the game. Much of the money earned early on is wasted on poor building choices, which makes the game less dynamic and increases the number of rounds necessary for most players to establish large incomes. This gradually concedes advantage to the players who are producing and loading the most barrels, turning the game into a race to acquire the harbor and/or wharf. It’s also a bit of a lottery, since the players who started with corn have a larger advantage in this style of game. After seeing a couple of wins with the corn/harbor/wharf strategy, the players often start emphasizing corn instead of quarries, which reduces the frequency of the builder and exacerbates the problem. Unless someone decides to break out of this strategy rut, the players are stuck with a game in which the players who start with corn are considerably more likely to win.

Contrast this with a game populated by strong players. Competition for money early in the game is more intense, and almost no money is wasted. The dynamic middle of the game, with its large incomes, arrives much earlier. Both of the factories are typically purchased, overall barrel sales are higher and there are more quarries in play. This makes builder phases more frequent, and it is likely that at least one player has built something in every single builder phase. Threatening to end the game by quickly filling all 12 building spaces (and thus reducing the game length until it is closer to the minimum number of rounds) changes the tempo of the game. Focusing effort on loading goods can be disastrous if the time to exhaust the supply of VPs runs out prematurely; money spent on a wharf is wasted if there is not enough time for it to be used effectively. I am not saying that strong players build instead of making VPs; I’m saying that their building effort is balanced with their shipping effort, leading to a more dynamic game with higher scores for all players.
A common response to this observation is to claim that a single player is, to some extent, at the mercy of the strategy of the other players. Although you can only react to moves that your opponents actually make rather than the moves they should make, it’s not as if your opponents can force you to imitate them in order to be competitive. That’s an illusion. If your opponents scramble for every available corn plantation and then frantically produce and load goods, you can respond by getting paid 2 doubloons to choose the roles they are ignoring. The extra cash can finance a variety of production buildings, factory, harbor and a couple of bonus buildings (or, for that matter, a number of other competitive variations). The deficit in VPs can be more than overcome by a gross advantage in building points. Even if the strategy of all of your opponents is very different from yours, there is no need to allow the game to play you. The tools to play a strong game that has an excellent chance to win are always available to you, regardless of what the other players choose to do.

This document is my attempt to address as many PR strategy issues as I can in one place. It is not a collection of hints or comments, but a structured description of how to play a strong game. Since this isn’t a collection of competing theories, it does approach the problem from a specific point of view that includes my biases. I have carefully considered everything written here and consider it to be the truth insofar as I can discern it. I have tried to avoid stating something absolutely except when I believe that it is the case 100% of the time. PR is a complex game full of ambiguous situations, in which there is often more than one strong move available. It isn’t tic-tac-toe, and there are rarely easy answers to strategy questions. Most of what I offer here are approaches, ways of recognizing what is important about each aspect of the game. Out of those approaches comes more specific advice on what to do in certain kinds of situations.

My primary purpose is to help novices bypass the trial-and-error stage of learning PR and begin playing at a much higher level. My motive for this is actually a bit selfish: Not only is it more fun to play well and win, but it is more fun for me to play against opponents who aren’t inadvertently throwing the victory to someone else. Beyond that, I hope that more experienced players can benefit from a structured presentation of game strategy. Whether you agree or disagree with the ideas presented here, I hope that your reaction to them helps to improve your understanding.

I offer my thanks to the many players who shared their skill and insight with me as I learned the game. On Brettspielwelt (www.brettspielwelt.de) Alexfrog, coolala, HalloChr, Esterio and RicoSuave were especially helpful in providing me with the dozens of losses necessary for me to improve. I strongly encourage anyone seeking stronger opponents to try BSW. The difference between playing against inexperienced opponents and opponents with hundreds of games’ experience cannot be overstated. Nearly all PR games on BSW last 20-45 minutes, and the way the presentation makes it easier to see the entire game position in one view. If you would like to play against me on BSW, my name there is “icetrey” and I play from the Pacific time zone. If you want to play against the best player on BSW…you’ll have to find that person yourself.

I. Overview

The initial experience of playing Puerto Rico can be overwhelming, with so many different things happening in each turn and a wide variety of buildings available. The tempo and scoring in different games varies widely, making it hard to draw conclusions about which strategies are effective. The tendency is to keep trying to do what worked for the winner of the previous game, which causes two problems. First, not all starting positions are identical, and trying to wedge a particular strategy into an incompatible starting position will usually fail. Second, a kind of consensus can form about which strategies “always win,” causing inexperienced players to abandon most of the options available. The solution is to understand how to construct a diverse position that can take full advantage of your unique situation.

Although your role choice will probably be your most effective move of each round, it is critical to make progress during the roles chosen by the other players. Each time your opponents can skip your move by choosing a role that won’t benefit you, they probably will. Strong players construct a position that allows most of their opponents’ role choices to work for them; this is what I mean by a diverse strategy.

Each seat at the table has its own characteristics, both in terms of starting plantation (corn or indigo) and which roles are most favorable during the first round. A strong player uses the strengths of that position to generate the resources necessary to fix most of its weaknesses. The result is a balanced and diverse position.

Although it is very important to master the selection of plantations and buildings to suit your situation, the most critical thing to understand is the difference in the value of money at different times during the game. PR is a game of expansion in which each player turns a few doubloons and a plantation (and the variety of free stuff provided throughout the game) into a bunch of buildings and a stack of VPs. A VP scored in round 1 doesn’t do anything but count as 1 VP toward the final score. A doubloon earned in round 1 helps to buy a building that will generate additional plantations, VPs, colonists or doubloons. These can be used directly or indirectly to buy more buildings, which generate still more income and other effects. Although doubloons don’t count toward the final score, the buildings they purchase are themselves worth points and greatly contribute toward gaining VPs. This reinvestment effect makes doubloons much more valuable than VPs early in the game. Failing to recognize this leads to situations late in the game in which none of the available role choices are attractive, because your opponents gain much more than you do from each of the available options. A small VP advantage gained early is easy to overwhelm with large scoring moves late in the game, moves made possible by a larger income to spend on buildings.

The flip side of this effect is that money rapidly loses its value as the end of the game approaches. Late in the game, the focus should shift to scoring as many points as possible. Doubloons earned don’t have time to multiply, so they are only useful if they can be immediately spent on buildings.

If you are wondering where the line between the early and late game is drawn, the answer is that there isn’t one. Rather, there is also a middle stage of the game that is characterized by “normal” play. Once you have established a reliable source of income and can build something useful each time the builder role is chosen, you are mostly free of the need to scramble around for money. Then the situation is balanced between earning money and scoring and you have entered the middle stage of the game. The middle is over when the opportunity to make money starts to lose its value. This happens when there are not enough builder phases remaining to spend your current cash and future income.

It’s worth noting that not all of the players enter the middle or late stages of the game at the same time. It is quite possible to leave someone stranded and cash-poor in the early stage. It is also possible to leave a captain-oriented player behind in the middle stage while you spend the late stage filling up your last few building spaces. Understanding the difference between these stages of the game is critical to recognizing the best moves for each situation.

II. Roles

When choosing a role, one must consider the number of bonus doubloons on each role, the role’s benefits to you and each of the other players, and whether most of the benefits of the role can be gained without actually choosing it.

Early in the game, the best choice will often be a role that has a doubloon on it, if one is available. This is because early in the game, when players have fewer resources, the potential value of each role’s basic effects is much smaller. The relative value of a bonus doubloon is thus much larger than it is later in the game. In addition, doubloons are scarce early in the game and the necessity to build in order to get a strategy started is much greater. One must have a strong justification for choosing a role without a bonus doubloon early in the game.

Conversely, in the second half of the game the roles become much more valuable, with some of the choices leading to big scoring moves. The need for money is also not as severe. All this combines to make bonus doubloons less important.

Besides bonus doubloons, there are the benefits of each role to consider. The benefits of choosing a particular role can be divided into a few types:

1. Positional. Many of the choices in the early and middle game are made to gain quarries, make essential buildings, or occupy plantations and buildings. Moves designed to raise money early in the game fall into this category.
2. Scoring.
3. Defensive. Preventing your opponents from making strong moves can be critical. Sometime it is convenient and can be accomplished in the course of a scoring move. At other times, you must choose a role for the sole purpose of defending against a big move.
4. Game Ending. Intentionally reducing the length of the game can be decisive. Late in the game one must take this into account when choosing a role.

Most of your effort will be spent comparing your benefit from each role with the benefits for the other players. Understanding the benefits of each role for each player is more complex than just doubloon and point totals and can sometimes be more art than science. Learning to compare the available options can only proceed so far in theory, with experience in games situations being the only really effective teacher. I go into more detail about the benefits of each role in the rest of this section.

A further consideration is whether one can derive the benefit of a role without choosing it. If your benefit from the role does not rely on the turn order specific to your choice (for example, if there is plenty of space on the ships for all of the barrels you would like to load), it might be possible to gain those benefits after choosing a different role. If there are bonus doubloon(s) on the role, or if another player will also be helped by it, they may choose it for you. If the role has no bonus doubloons and no other player chooses it, then you may be able to collect a bonus doubloon for choosing it in the following round. Putting off important moves can be dangerous, so use this technique carefully.

Finally, there is the Governor Effect to consider. Unlike many games, moves for each player don’t occur with complete regularity. The Governor Effect is the uneven rhythm of the role choices, such that after choosing as the governor each other player gets to choose twice before your next choice. Consider the following turn order at the beginning of a 3-player game:

Round 1: 1 2 3
Round 2: 2 3 1
Round 3: 3 1 2

After #1’s governor choice, players #2 and #3 each get two role choices before #1 finally gets to choose again at the end of round 2. The effect applies to #2 in rounds 2 and 3. Consider the Governor Effect when making your governor choice, and remember that you won’t get to choose a role for a while after this one.

The flip side of the Governor Effect is the short break between choices for the last player in each round. After choosing last in round 2, there is only one opponent choice before #1 chooses again in round 3.

1. Settler

The settler is almost entirely a positional role. Although the residence offers an indirect way to score points and there are some defensive moves available while choosing plantations, nearly all of the benefits are positional. Because of this, the settler becomes progressively less important as the game continues, until it offers almost nothing but bonus doubloons near the end of the game.

The most important thing that the settler does is offer a quarry. You should nearly always take that quarry. There are two situations when I consider choosing the settler and taking a plantation instead of a quarry: 1) When I have constructed a coffee roaster or tobacco shed, but don’t have the corresponding plantation, and I am concerned that I won’t get that plantation during another player’s settler; 2) When I am focusing on a large-volume shipping operation and I am only interested in acquiring corn plantations. These two situations are relatively rare. In general, if getting a quarry is not very interesting to you then the settler is best left for someone else.

You may wonder why I consider quarries to be so important. As I see it, a quarry is a plantation that makes 1 doubloon each time the builder is chosen. As I mentioned in the overview, for most of the game money is more powerful than VPs. In addition, quarries are rarer and more difficult to acquire than plantations.

Despite all that, it can be dangerous to assume that getting a quarry is so beneficial that it is clearly the best play. Remember that every quarry you take is one less plantation that can make goods, and requires a colonist to operate it. If there are several useful plantations available, then choosing the settler and taking a quarry can actually be counterproductive. You may be better off letting someone else take it, and then grabbing something nice on their turn. The opposite can also be true; if there are a bunch of useless tiles in the plantation draw, look for an opportunity to avoid them by taking the settler and a quarry.

Another consideration is whether you truly need another quarry. There is a diminishing return effect when acquiring more than one. The first quarry discounts the price of every building in the game, while the second one doubles that discount for nearly all buildings. These are both quite useful. The third quarry, however, increases that discount by 50% for less than half of the buildings on the chart. The fourth quarry is nearly useless compared to the others. Thus when considering whether to acquire a third quarry, it’s important to estimate how many 3- or 4-point buildings one is likely to buy. Sometimes taking a plantation during someone else’s settler will be stronger than taking a third quarry.

When someone else chooses the settler, you must still choose a plantation. Usually there is a plantation available that can fit into the current plan, and the best choice is obvious. Sometimes it is more difficult to decide. Generally:

1. Diversifying into a new type is better than duplicating one you already have, since diversity helps in trading and shipping and breaks up the monopolies of your opponents
2. Corn is better than the other plantations, since it requires only one colonist and no building to make one barrel
3. A monopoly is a useful thing indeed
4. Making the same high-value good (tobacco or coffee) as the player to your right is not very effective.

Some of these factors become much less important later in the game. For example, diversifying requires construction of new production buildings, which can interfere with construction of a harbor or a 4-point building. Sometimes corn is less useful later in the game, when there is more competition for both the small supply of corn barrels and the space on the ships.

In many cases, all of the remaining plantations are of no use. In that case the only value in choosing one (besides the Residence bonus) is defensive, by limiting the options of subsequent players. That’s still valuable, so don’t forget to thwart someone if you can. Choosing the settler for the sole purpose of taking a plantation that someone else needs is a bad move, in my opinion. A specific plantation type is not very hard to acquire, and the move requires some luck in the next plantation draw in order to succeed. Also, it only causes a problem for one opponent, which is not of much value.

2. Mayor

Like the settler, the mayor is mostly a positional role. Unlike the settler, the mayor is a critical role throughout the game, and has important scoring and game ending effects. There is also an occasional opportunity to use the mayor defensively. It has some of the danger of the craftsman, since it is easy to set up strong plays for one’s opponents by choosing it. More than any role except the craftsman, the mayor seems to lead to a lot of mistakes for beginners.

How do you avoid these mistakes? First, it is necessary to evaluate how every player will benefit from the mayor. If there is an opponent who desperately needs colonists, choosing the mayor solves their problem and effectively grants them a free move. They can now choose another role instead of the mayor. While it is disappointing to gain a new building or quarry and then be unable to use it immediately, often it is best to rely on someone else to choose the mayor. When I need the mayor, but don’t want to help my opponents too much by taking it, I will often choose the settler and a quarry or choose the builder. By gaining more uses for colonists, I create a situation where the eventual mayor will help me even more.

Second, you must determine whether the colonist ship is unbalanced. A balanced ship has x, 2x or 3x colonists on it (x being the number of players in the game), and will distribute the same number of colonists to each player (except the bonus colonist given to the mayor). The best example of an unbalanced ship has x+1 colonists, which gives 3 colonists to the mayor, and only 1 to everyone else. Two extra colonists is an advantage, and will diminish the need to take the mayor later on in the game. Let’s return to the earlier problem, in which one needs the mayor but doesn’t want to provide great help to an opponent. With an unbalanced ship, it’s possible to gain the full benefits of the mayor while still leaving opponents in need of colonists. In addition, the unbalanced mayor choice has been denied to one’s opponents; if they needed more than one colonist, they must wait for another opportunity to get them.

It’s important to realize that for most of the game the mayor occupies buildings and plantations that will eventually be occupied anyway. Thus the appropriate question is not usually “How will occupying my new items help me?” but rather “How will occupying my new items help me right now?” One case where that isn’t true is near the end of the game, when each mayor might be the last opportunity to occupy buildings. In that situation, the mayor becomes a scoring role when using it to occupy 4-point buildings.

The mayor can also be used to intentionally shorten or end the game. It’s very important to keep track of this, so that you can prepare for it. Even with 15 or more colonists in the supply, it’s worth making a quick count to see if ending the game with the mayor is possible.

Sometimes, there is an interesting defensive benefit to choosing the mayor. In a situation where opponents are ready to build but you are not, you can choose the mayor so that they will have to wait to occupy their new buildings. It forces the builder and mayor to occur in the least efficient order; hopefully, the extra time will allow you to raise cash so that your new building is constructed in time for the next mayor.

Once the mayor role is chosen, there are usually some decisions to make about which plantations and buildings to occupy. It’s usually very clear where to place them, but there is room to make some mistakes, especially if one is suffering from a shortage of colonists. It’s important to evaluate each building and plantation to see if they are still useful. Avoid enshrining colonists and forgetting about them. When forced to choose which goods to produce, check the trading house, ships and your existing barrels to see what you don’t already have and what is likely to trade or load. When occupying some or all of your quarries, consider your cash, income and which building(s) you intend to construct. If your next building won’t benefit from a second quarry, consider using that colonist somewhere else.

The mayor is one of the least dynamic roles. Though the timing of the mayor choice is critical and the function of the mayor is essential, it doesn’t directly result in big scores like the builder or captain. For this reason, as a player’s skill increases they tend to choose the mayor less frequently and choose scoring roles more frequently. Learning to live with the effects of the mayor and choose it less often is an important part of improving your game.

Some other mayor-related points are addressed in other sections. Discussions of the mayor in the opening and the endgame are in sections IV and V, respectively.

3. Builder

The builder offers diverse benefits. It is a positional, scoring, defensive and game ending role. Almost every time it is chosen, the shape of the game will change significantly. There are two main issues concerning the builder: When should it be chosen? What (if anything) should be constructed during the builder?

When considering a builder choice, note how many quarries each player has. If you have no quarries, choosing the builder will give a nice benefit to everyone who does have quarries. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the builder for your opponent to choose. Conversely, if you have invested your plantation choices in quarries then you have committed to building frequently. You will then need to take the builder more often in order to fully benefit from your strategy.

A second factor in the decision is how much buying power each player has and what they are likely to buy. If your opponents can build critical buildings (such as a factory, harbor, or guild hall) it might be better to force them to choose the builder to accomplish that. On the other hand, if your opponents are not ready to build and/or have little buying power, the builder can offer a great opportunity for a combined scoring/defensive choice. Look for opponents that have unoccupied quarries, or that don’t have enough money to purchase the building they need. Especially important near the end of the game are opponents whose buying power is just short of the 10 necessary to build a 4-point building; choosing the builder before they are ready can be a critical defensive play.

Later in the game, the game-shortening effect of the builder must also be considered. Typically a player with two or more quarries does not produce a large number of loadable goods, and would like the game to be as short as possible. Building 4-point buildings that occupy 2 spaces along with cheap buildings like the large indigo plant can shorten the game by 1-2 rounds, preventing a large number of VPs from scoring.

Once the builder has been chosen, you must now decide whether and what to build. This decision, recurring throughout the game, is where the difference between the skillful and the inept is easiest to see. Every building in the game is specialized. Some are nearly useless and others are useful in a wide variety of positions, but no building is useful with every kind of position. Wasting money on buildings that are inappropriate for the current position is the most common form of ineffective play in PR.

The applicability of a building is best judged by two standards: 1) Effectiveness with the existing plantations/buildings; 2) Effectiveness over the time remaining in the game. These can be seen as an equation in which the benefit gained from a building is multiplied by the number of times that the building will deliver that benefit. In order to apply these standards, one must learn the positions where each building is most effective, and the best time during the game to buy each building. Section III gives an explanation of each building’s situational value.

The building purchase must also take into account the choices of your opponents. Sometimes it is necessary to buy a building earlier than planned because the limited number of those buildings will soon run out. A purchase can also have defensive value, by preventing an opponent from acquiring that building. In the case of more expensive production buildings like the tobacco shed or coffee roaster, it’s essential to pay attention to which of your opponents have built or may build the same production building. Producing tobacco or coffee while the player to your right is also producing it makes your high-value barrels extremely difficult to trade. This negates most of the value of producing the barrels and can turn one of these more expensive buildings into a waste of money and a setback.

If you have quarries, there are times when it is important to buy buildings that you have no intention of using. In the second half of the game, you will often not have enough cash for your preferred purchase. In that situation, there are some buildings that are very inexpensive to buy if you have enough quarries. Buildings like the indigo plant, hacienda, construction hut and small sugar mill only cost 1 doubloon, but generate 1-2 points and take advantage of your quarry discount. If you have (or later buy) a City Hall or a Guild Hall these purchases can yield an additional 1-2 points each.

One last consideration when choosing a building is whether that building will generate the cash necessary to construct other buildings. The factory is a good example of this; I usually build a factory before building a harbor, since the factory will provide great help in raising the money for the harbor. This is especially critical at the beginning of the game, which I explain in section IV.

4. Craftsman

The rulebook warned you about this one. The craftsman is a very hazardous role, because it provides the goods necessary for the next player to take advantage of the trader and captain. Since the craftsman player has just moved, they will have the last opportunity to trade or load goods if the next role is the trader or captain. In general, you must be producing a large number of shippable/tradable barrels and/or receiving 1 or more bonus doubloons in order to justify choosing the craftsman.

There are a few situations in which the craftsman is the best choice. One of these is to produce a high-value barrel that leads to a guaranteed opportunity to trade that barrel. If your opponents can’t force you to load your trade good using the captain, and they can’t prevent you from trading that good during the next trader, that may be an important enough trade to justify taking the craftsman. Another is when the effect of your factory combined with the bonus doubloons from the craftsman generates a large sum of doubloons, especially if it provides the buying power necessary to make an important purchase. A third situation is when you have a wharf or a warehouse and can produce a large number of goods. The wharf or warehouse then helps prevent you from being denied the opportunity to ship your goods. Finally, a shortage of available barrels can make the craftsman a worthwhile choice, to ensure that you get full production out of your plantations. Remember that even in these situations, the craftsman may still benefit your opponents too much to justify choosing it.

A shortage of available barrels can allow a “double craft” move. In a “double craft” the craftsman is chosen, leaving insufficient barrels for full production. Before the captain can be chosen the craftsman is chosen a second time, leaving other players with only partial production. When goods are finally loaded, the player who double crafted has a very large number of barrels. To be effective the “double-craft” move usually requires a wharf and the ability to produce a large number of barrels.

Which bonus barrel to produce is a recurring decision throughout the game. There are several factors to consider when deciding this. First, examine the total number of barrels of each type held by each player, and compare it to the amount of space left on the corresponding ship. You can then use your bonus barrel to adjust this total (or not) to achieve one of 3 different effects during the captain.

If the total number of barrels is exactly enough to fill the available ship space, then no barrels of that type will be left over for trading. Every barrel of that type will be loaded during the captain, and that ship will be empty for the next captain. This is useful when you want to guarantee loading of more of your barrels and/or prevent your opponents from trading after the captain.

If the total is greater than the available space by exactly one, then one barrel will be left over. If you can ensure that you will have that extra barrel, this is a good way to increase your chances of trading.

If the total is slightly less than enough to fill the ship, then all the barrels will be loaded and that ship will not be cleared. This type will be more difficult to load next time, and the global total of barrels loaded will tend to decrease until the ship clears. In addition, the large number of barrels in play after the captain reduces the number available for later production, possibly causing some players to suffer partial production of barrels. Setting up an “almost full” ship is a useful technique when trying to slow down the rate of VP scoring.

Try to optimize your barrel supply for the best combination of these outcomes. If there are ships empty, it is more difficult to predict what will happen. If the ships are congested and you have a warehouse, adding a bonus barrel to your largest stack is often a good idea. If you have a monopoly on a high-value trade good, having at least two of those barrels for multiple trades can be very lucrative. For that matter, being able to trade a good and then start a ship for the same type is useful.

The craftsman is similar to the mayor, in that everyone needs for it to be chosen in order to set up other moves. Thus, by choosing it, you are granting one or more other players a free move. They can now use their choice to do something more desirable. Because of this, it requires a larger inducement to make the craftsman an attractive option.

5. Trader

The benefits from the trader are perhaps easier to see than those of any other role. When you need money and have a high-value barrel that will fit in the trade house, it can be hard to see how any other choice makes sense. It’s actually not so simple, because the trader isn’t the only way to make money and choosing the trader isn’t the only way to sell goods.

When considering the trader, it’s critical to determine whether you will get to sell your barrel regardless of who chooses the trader. If there is not an immediate and pressing need for the money, choosing the trader just to sell a barrel you will eventually sell anyway can be a wasted move.

A second consideration is whether the trader offers defensive value by preventing one of your opponents from trading. This is accomplished either by filling all the available spaces in the trade house, or by selling a specific type of barrel before your opponent can. This is especially important early in the game, when there is intense competition to make money.

Third, check whether you will be forced to load your trade barrel during the next captain phase. If not, consider choosing the captain to force tradable barrels onto the ships. This can leave you with one of the only tradable barrels, denying income to other players when the trader is eventually chosen.

Be sure to check the amount of money you will earn from other sources this round, including the bonus doubloons on the non-trader role choices. It may be possible to make plenty of money this round without choosing the trader, which can free up your choice for another role that is important to you.

Always know exactly how many doubloons are necessary to buy your next building. There is no point making decisions about income without a clear goal in mind. This is especially important in the late phase, when most players are trying to accumulate the 10 doubloons necessary to buy a bonus building.

It’s also important to avoid choosing the trader unnecessarily during the late stage of the game. Usually incomes are high and builder phases are scarce near the end of the game, so there is a real risk of raising more money than you have time to spend.

Since the influx of money from the trader leads naturally to the builder, try to estimate what choosing the trader will allow your opponents to build. It’s possible to set up moves that will deny you a building that you need, or allow someone to shorten the game by filling more building spaces.

Once the trader has been chosen, it may seem obvious that each player should simply sell a barrel for as much money as possible. However, the best move is not always to sell the most valuable barrel, or even to trade at all.

One reason to sell for less money is if the more expensive barrel is the one you would prefer to load onto the ships. This is especially important if you have a harbor and/or you would like to reserve a ship for a good type that you have monopolized.

Another motive is to prevent another player from selling an identical barrel. This can often lead to your more expensive barrel being sold anyway during the following round, yielding the benefits of both trades while reducing your opponent’s income.

Refusing to trade is a useful technique when you have neither a highly valuable tradable good nor much prospect of making a large amount during the next trader phase. If you are at a serious ongoing disadvantage during the trader, it’s worthwhile to slow down the selling of barrels. One way to do this is by intentionally leaving the trade house three-quarters full so that only one barrel may be sold during the next trader. There is actually a situation in which refusing to trade can be a critical defensive move: The “double trade,” in which one player produces two high-value barrels and then trades one of them. If the house fills up and clears, it can leave that player with another big (and perhaps solo) trader move on the following turn. Allowing someone to make such a large amount of money early in the game can be disastrous, and a refusal to sell in order to prevent the trade house from filling and clearing is sometimes the only way to stop it.

Because both the captain and the trader draw on the same pool of goods, the trader phase can make critical changes to the barrel supply that affect the next captain phase. Sold barrels can change whether there are enough barrels to fill (and thus empty) particular ships or whether a tradable surplus is left over after the captain phase. This isn’t the largest or most important concern during the trader, but noticing these effects can reveal an occasional opportunity.

Conversely, the captain phase can be used to manipulate the pool of tradable goods. I address that subject in the following section.

6. Captain
This is a big scoring role that includes some important defensive functions. It combines offense and defense more dynamically than any of the other roles. The loading tactics include some subtle effects that often distinguish the strong player from the weak player. Because sub-optimal moves during the captain phase can be very damaging, it’s hard to improve your overall game without mastering the loading of the ships.

Unfortunately the question of whether to choose the captain is inextricably linked with the questions of what will be loaded, who will score VPs and what barrels will be left behind. To make an informed decision about the captain you need to compare the potential loading sequence during your captain choice with what will likely happen if your opponents choose the captain. This amounts to playing out different possible sequences in your head, and then deciding what you think of each one. It’s actually one of the best ways to spend the downtime between moves. I won’t claim that it’s easy; for the novice just learning the loading rules, it’s a real pain to try to figure this out. I offer the following series of questions that can help clarify the issue.

Will I get to load most or all of the barrels I would like to load regardless of who chooses the captain? If you are assured of loading your barrels, there is probably a better choice available than the captain. This assumes that there is no “double craft” move to change the number of barrels held by the players.

How many VPs do I miss by leaving the captain for one of my opponents to choose? If a large number of barrels will be lost instead of loaded, that must be taken seriously. Losing one barrel is not such a big deal and can often be justified in terms of the first question.

What trade benefits/problems are caused by choosing the captain or by allowing someone else to choose it? It’s important to see which sales can be prevented or enabled by forcing goods onto the ships.

How many VPs is each player going to get if I choose the captain, and how is this different if my opponent chooses it? This is the basic value comparison of the move, and is critical when you are at an ongoing disadvantage in gaining VPs. Choosing the captain when you don’t make many VPs helps your opponents press their advantage and is usually not a good idea. By asking these questions and then comparing the captain to the other options, you can make a well-informed decision about whether to choose it.

During the loading of goods there are some very interesting decisions to make. First of all, remember that the loading move which yields the largest number of immediate VPs is not necessarily the best move. Because of limited space on the ships, lower scoring moves can have defensive value that gives them a higher priority than higher scoring moves. I find that it’s best to evaluate these by examining each ship. When it is your turn to load, each ship will be in one of three states: 1) Partially loaded with enough space for all the barrels of that type; 2) Partially loaded without enough space for all the barrels of that type (glut); 3) Empty.

A ship in state 1 seems at first glance to have a low loading priority, since you will end up putting your barrels there anyway. If there is at least one empty ship then immediately loading to a state 1 ship can be critical if you are trying to manipulate which barrels are left over. Consider the following example: It is player #1’s turn to load. #1 has 1 corn, 1 indigo and 2 sugar. Player #2 has 1 corn and 1 coffee. Ships are corn with 3 spaces, indigo with 3 spaces and an empty ship. If #1 emphasizes VPs then the obvious move is to load sugar on the empty ship to block #2’s coffee. If, however, the priority is to earn income then #1 needs to load corn and indigo until #2 is eventually forced to load coffee. Although #1 must then discard a sugar barrel, the other sugar can be sold and the coffee barrel has been forced onto the ship where it cannot be sold. Note that near the end of the game the money from selling sugar might be completely irrelevant, making the 2 VPs the best possible yield from #2’s sugar barrels.

Ships in state 2 force you to decide between racing to get your barrels on that ship first and avoiding that ship so that you end up with leftover barrels of that type. This choice depends upon whether you need money or VPs, how bad the glut is, and which buildings you own (harbor, wharf and/or warehouses). A state 2 ship is often good to use for a delay move as described above, since there is both an offensive (VP scoring) and defensive (VP prevention) aspect to the move.

Empty ships are the most difficult to deal with because there are 2 different variables, the type of barrel loaded and the amount of remaining space on the ship. Loading barrels to an empty ship is similar to choosing a role in one way: It’s important to know how much you and your opponents will benefit from loading that type. Establishing a corn ship to make 1 VP can be very foolish if it allows someone else to load 4 corn for 4 VPs. Conversely, loading a coffee barrel which you have no intention of trading usually results in a slow-loading ship that makes loading other types more difficult. If you have a coffee monopoly, you will be the only one loading that ship.

Another important effect of empty ships is forced loading. It’s important to check the barrels of the other players to see if there is someone who can be forced to load their only type of barrel to an empty ship. Forcing that move can help to assign more ships to the types of barrels you want to load. If there is enough space for your barrels then you can net a few extra points this way.

When there is more than one empty ship available, you must choose which one to load. To make a good choice, you need to not only consider whether there is a glut on the ship you load, but also whether the other empty ships will have a glut of goods. If you make plenty of barrels of the type you are loading and the ship will not fill up during this captain phase, then the basic technique is to choose the largest available ship, thus reserving more space for future loading. This also leaves smaller ships for other types, reducing the available space for those barrels. If you can choose a ship that will fill up during this captain phase and you don’t mind leaving your opponents with leftover barrels of that type, then you can choose the smallest available ship and prevent your opponents from loading as many barrels. This will leave a larger ship available for another type, however, which may or may not benefit your other loading moves.

Of course, the best outcome is to load every barrel you wished to load while saving only what you want to sell and/or load later. Less obviously, there are some nice defensive outcomes to try for. If your opponents are producing a lot of a particular type, leaving that ship with one space open is a desirable outcome. Not only does it make loading much more difficult during the next captain, but the smaller number of barrels in the supply can cause a production shortage during the next craftsman. If you have a warehouse there is some defensive value in having two different types of barrels left over at the end of the captain phase. Having two types increases your options when occupying empty ships during the next captain.

Some tactics must change to account for the effect of buildings. Players who own harbors are more interested in loading many times than in loading many barrels. Trying to completely prevent a player with a warehouse from loading their goods is difficult; the usual effect of defensive moves against a warehouse owner is to delay loading, not prevent it. Wharf is a special case because it is so difficult to prevent a wharf owner from loading barrels. One interesting tactic is to load an empty ship with the type of barrel that corresponds to the wharf owner’s largest stack. They can then fill up most or all of that ship with their large stack of barrels, preventing anyone else from loading that type. The wharf owner then ends up using the wharf to load 1 or 2 barrels rather than a large stack. Often, this is preferable to the situation in which (for example) there is no corn ship but the wharf owner still gets to load a stack of corn for VPs. By making a small change in your own move, you can negate much of the value of the wharf in that captain phase.

Finally, take the relative position of each player into account when evaluating defensive plays. If someone has no chance of winning, it’s fine to let them score plenty of VPs. Save your defensive options for use against opponents who are actually threatening to win.

III. Buildings

Small Market: This is the most versatile building in the game. Its effect is small, but since it is easy to purchase early in the game, it can be used a large number of times. How effective this building is in your position will depend on which good you are trading; selling indigo for 2 is a 100% increase, while selling coffee for 5 is a 25% increase. In other words, if you are already making plenty of money, small market’s effect is less important. It’s very common to purchase this during the first round. When doing so, make sure that spending that doubloon doesn’t prevent the purchase of something more important, like a critical production building. Small market pairs particularly well with corn in the first few rounds, since being able to trade corn for doubloons is quite useful then. Later in the game, the colonist necessary to operate it is often better used somewhere else; this is especially likely if you also have a factory and several production buildings. Finally, this building is the cheapest way to fill up one of the 12 building spaces necessary to end the game.

Hacienda: In a game with very little luck, this is the only way to add a bit more. If you plan to include this in your strategy, it should be one of your first three purchases. Buying it later doesn’t give much advantage over your opponents, since by the middle of the game everyone has most of the plantations they will ever need. A disadvantage of buying it early is that the extra plantations received don’t immediately return the 2 doubloons spent. This tends to limit early construction of production buildings to the small indigo plant and small sugar mill, as well as possibly delaying construction of the factory or harbor. For this reason, I check the available plantation tiles when deciding whether to buy a hacienda. If I’m likely to get something I want without the hacienda, then buying one will be less effective. In that case a small market might be a better choice. Because diversifying is more important for an indigo player, hacienda tends to be more helpful when starting with indigo instead of corn. Corn players need to focus on getting a revenue source, and hacienda doesn’t directly help with that.

Once you own a hacienda, how to use it depends upon the available plantations. If there is plenty of good stuff available, wait for someone else to take the settler. If not, then choose it yourself and grab a random plantation and a quarry. The diversity from the random draws can easily lead to a good position for the factory and/or harbor, and the large number of plantations works well with the Residence in the endgame. If you get lucky and draw a lot of corn, you can build a small warehouse or a wharf and load a lot of barrels.

Don’t forget to remove the colonist from the hacienda later in the game. Once you have 8-10 plantations the remaining settlers will usually be enough to fill your board without the hacienda, so find a better use for that colonist.

Like the hospice and the construction hut, the hacienda is more useful in the 5-player game than in smaller games. Because role choices are less frequent, gaining an advantage in the settler phase is somewhat more valuable.

Construction Hut: Quarries are quite valuable, so it is tempting to conclude that the construction hut is a broadly useful building. Unfortunately, the situations in which it is the best option are relatively uncommon. Like all of the buildings that affect the settler phase, the construction hut is most effective when purchased early. Its enduring usefulness is fairly limited, since once you have 2-3 quarries, getting more is no longer necessary. It only takes 2 settler choices to get 2 quarries, so the construction hut uses 2 of your precious initial doubloons to get an ability that is already available in the game. In addition, the quarries taken with the construction hut displace plantations that you would otherwise get. Thus if you are unhappy with your current plantations, a construction hut will usually present a difficult decision between an important plantation and a quarry.

In general, I consider buying the construction hut when I already have 2 or 3 excellent plantations (for example corn/sugar/coffee) and don’t yet have any quarries. I also take into account whether I can easily occupy the construction hut, and how soon I will probably receive a quarry from it. Buying a construction hut near the beginning of the game when you already have a quarry is very silly; hacienda is a better (though not necessarily the best) choice in that situation.

Construction hut’s value increases as you add players to the game. Because in a 5-player game there is more competition for the settler role, for the tiles in the plantation draw and for the 8 available quarries, the construction hut is much more useful. A 5-player game also makes it easier to avoid the following simple countermeasure against the construction hut: When you have a construction hut, your opponents know that you intend to wait for them to choose the settler. They can counter that by refusing to choose it, and since your plan is relying upon getting quarries you will need to take the settler yourself, which wastes the ability of your construction hut.

If it’s already an appropriate purchase for your situation, buying a construction hut while the player to your right has a hacienda can work out well. The hacienda owner is seeking to make the random plantation/quarry play by choosing the settler, so you are likely to get the early quarries you want.

Small Warehouse: Before the PR expansion was released, this was an underused building. Because of a powerful combination with the expansion set’s union hall, the ordinary benefits of the small warehouse are now more widely understood. Each time you save a barrel and load it later on, you have gained one VP. In addition, saving barrels yields benefits in the subsequent trader and captain phases. By saving more than one type of goods you are better positioned for the trader. By saving more barrels than other players you have a better chance to choose which types of goods are loaded and to simply outscore your opponents in the next captain. Until the closing rounds of the game, the small warehouse provides much of the benefit of the wharf, but at a fraction of the cost.

Having said all this, there are many positions that won’t use the small warehouse well. It’s necessary to be making several barrels of the same type (preferably 3 or more) for the small warehouse to be very useful. When I get 2 or more corn plantations during the first few rounds, I look for a convenient opportunity to buy the small warehouse.

There are two additional benefits with the small warehouse. First, each barrel saved is one less barrel available for production during the next craftsman. If the craftsman is timed correctly, you can deny barrels to your opponents due to the shortage. Of course, it is also possible to prevent yourself from getting full production by doing this. Second, the small warehouse makes it less dangerous to choose the craftsman. Your barrels are much less likely to be discarded, though it’s still possible to get the short end of both the trader and the captain.

Hospice: This is the last of the buildings that affect the settler phase. Like the others, it must be purchased very early in the game to be effective. The problem is that each early building purchase needs to be evaluated in terms of how quickly it will return its purchase price in doubloons. Hospice fails miserably in this respect, chewing through most of your early cash and returning only colonists. Nothing makes me smile in round 2 like watching an opponent with a coffee or tobacco plantation buy a hospice.

I find that it’s better to just learn to live with the occasional shortage of colonists. The colonist output does self-adjust as more buildings are constructed, and the effects of a shortage are only temporary. Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t provide a building that solves this problem efficiently.

This building is somewhat more helpful in the 5-player game because the players start with 5 doubloons, role choices are less frequent and the timing of the mayor tends to be more irritating. There is a specific round 1 situation in 5-player PR when I consider buying the hospice. As player #2, if I don’t get a corn plantation during player A’s settler choice, then buying a hospice will allow me to choose the settler as the governor in round 2. I can then take an occupied quarry, which helps to solve some of the cash problem caused by the hospice. This is really only interesting to me if I took sugar or indigo in the first settler. If my first two plantations are indigo and coffee, then buying the hospice delays the coffee roaster too much.

Office: Situations when the office is a good purchase are relatively rare. The problem is that the price is high compared to the effect. If you aren’t producing tobacco or coffee it takes a lot of trading to return the cash spent on the office. Even if you are producing a high-value good and the player to your right is also producing it, you aren’t necessarily going to be thwarted every time, nor is there any guarantee that the trading house will have space remaining for your office to be used.

If your high-value good is also produced by the player to your right, one fix is to buy a large market and sell sugar or indigo to make money. You can then load your tobacco or coffee onto a ship and make it difficult for other players to trade it instead of loading it. I generally prefer this solution to the office because it is more flexible and more likely to pay for itself in the long run.

As in my earlier comments about the hospice, it is usually better to just accept that the trading won’t always work for you. There are ways to gain advantage in trade by using the captain creatively, or by trying to adjust the timing of the craftsman. The office is an expensive fix for a problem that can be solved by other means.

The office is a bit more useful in a 5-player game, but the trading house seems very small in a 5-player game and the office doesn’t solve the space problem.

I have seen games (usually 3-player games) in which one or more of the higher-priced goods aren’t produced for a long time and the trading house stalls. In that situation, an office can allow you to gradually fill the trade house with coffee or tobacco. If your strategy is relying heavily on income, that can be a very important fix. Of course, for the same price (or cheaper) you can just start production of a new type of goods…

Large Market: This building offers twice the effect of the small market, at a mere five times the cost. There is a specific kind of position that will make the large market a very good purchase, but it’s not a very common one. If you end up without a small market and don’t have a tobacco or coffee plantation, cash shortage can be a problem. My favorite solution (if I make sugar, indigo and corn) is to buy the factory. Sometimes that’s just not possible. If you don’t expect to afford the factory anytime soon and you are having trouble making money, the large market is worth considering. This can also be useful if you have several corn plantations but no small market or high-value good to trade.

Many players seem to think that combining the large market with coffee production yields an unstoppable tidal wave of doubloons, and thus a victory. The situation is similar to the small market: Indigo with large market sells for 3, an increase of 200%; coffee with large market sells for 6, an increase of 50%. If you are selling coffee you already have plenty of money, and all the large market does is delay the purchase of your first 4-point building. Focusing enormous effort on the trader is a very narrow strategy, and narrow strategies are generally weaker than diverse ones.

This is a building I often see players buy out of frustration, when the builder catches them without enough money for the building they truly want to buy. This usually prevents the purchase of a factory, harbor or 4-point building during the next builder. The 2-point violet buildings all have this problem, since they are generally not the kind of bargains seen in a higher or lower price range. Avoid building the hospice, office or large market just because you don’t know what else to do.

Large Warehouse: It seems like twice the effect of the small warehouse for twice the cost. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really offer twice the effect. I almost never see someone with two big stacks of barrels after everyone is finished loading. In actual games, the large warehouse is almost identical in effect to the small warehouse. Having a large warehouse of knowledge is, in fact, fantastic. Having one in your colony is just brutal. Avoid it.

Factory: This is one of the finest buildings in PR. Diversifying production is already a great idea, but the game offers the factory just to make sure. The factory helps a building-oriented player manage the production and shipping pace of the game by extracting compensation whenever goods are produced. The money is then used to out-build the other players, to make up for their greater share of the VPs.

There is an additional timing effect of the factory that is subtle and took me a long time to fully understand. The factory offers the only way to gain non-bonus doubloons outside of the trader phase. This allows the factory owner to receive steady income without the trader being chosen, which tends to unbalance the cash supply during subsequent builder phases. An alternative income source frees up choices that would otherwise be used on the trader. Without the clear need for the trader, factory owners can also work to prevent trade without suffering a cash shortage themselves.

There is a tendency to look at the pay schedule on the factory and think that it’s important to make all five types of goods. Purchased relatively early, the factory is useful to buy even if you only ever produce 3 different goods; the 2 extra doubloons per craftsman are well worth it. They can also, of course, quickly supply enough money for a fourth production building, which increases the factory’s output to 3 doubloons.

Factory is also an important remedial building. In the corn/indigo/sugar situation, without a high-value trade good, factory should be given high priority. The extra 2 doubloons helps cash flow without increasing the need to choose the trader, like the large market does.

If the production building necessary to make a fifth type of goods is costly (such as a tobacco shed or a coffee roaster), it is often better to spend the money on a harbor or a 4-point building. Don’t let the opportunity to make 5 doubloons with the factory distract you from scoring points.

Another common mistake is to assume that producing fewer loadable barrels to get more doubloons from the factory is always the best move. If you don’t have enough colonists to occupy all of your effective plantations, consider giving up production of a non-corn good to occupy all of your corn plantations. This is especially important if you have a warehouse or wharf that can help your corn convert into VPs.

Owning a factory makes the craftsman less dangerous to choose, but it’s still usually better to wait for someone else to choose it. Keep in mind, however, that barrel shortages might reduce the factory bonus.

Like all the 3-point buildings, it’s important to buy it early enough to make a difference. Purchasing a factory late in the game can prevent the purchase of a 4-point building and fail to produce enough money to matter.

University: The university is grossly overpriced compared to the benefits it provides. With any combination of plantations, the harbor is a better early purchase at the same price. Late in the game, the university helps to occupy 4-point buildings as they are constructed. There is a specific endgame sequence that can use the university effectively, but it is quite rare and relatively easy to disrupt. I would rather spend the money on something else and plan on choosing the mayor at some point. For 2 more doubloons a 4-point building can be purchased instead of the university. That’s a difference of at least 5 points. This a bad building that doesn’t fit into any good full-game strategy.

Harbor: This building makes points. If you are likely to be loading goods at least twice during each captain, and there are still several rounds remaining in the game, harbor is a very good choice. It combines well with the factory to improve positions that produce a variety of goods.

Another fine combination is with the small warehouse and production of at least 2 barrels of the same type. Making a variety of goods and then saving two different types can set up a very strong captain choice, in which you get to load twice for at least 5 VP while the other players don’t get to do much.

Building a harbor can be a mistake. There are times when the wharf is a much better choice, or when there is not enough time left in the game for harbor to generate many extra VPs. Consider carefully wh
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Chris Kessel
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
I've played just a handful of times now on BSW and done average (won once, placed 2nd a couple times, bombed a couple times). I've noticed a couple players on there are just outright dicks, complaining on every non-optimal move. Granted, I totally tanked one game, but I was 2 points off the winner in the next game, a result I was reasonably happy with, and still the other guy complained I was an idiot.

YMMV I guess, maybe I've just hit a disproportionate number of people having a bad day...


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Brad Johnson
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
jimc (#18215),
Thanks for the great article! But it seems to have been truncated by bgg -- I'm not sure how much got cut off. Can you post the rest?
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Scott Russell
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
ckessel (#18283),
I've played several games on BSW and only a few have had someone complaining about someone else's moves. Don't give up, most BSW'ers aren't whiners. :-) Just note the handles of the offenders and avoid games where they are playing.

Happy Gaming,
Scott
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Dave Eisen
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
qzhdad (#18292),

I have seen the complaints and frankly been surprised by them. People should grow up. This is not been enough of a problem there to drive me away, most people there are good sports, but it is more than the occasional annoyance too.
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Scott Russell
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
dkeisen (#18297),
I haven't used it specifically on BSW, but in ftf games, I often retort "If you don't like the way others play, play solitare, and everybody will have more fun!"

I wonder if I just play at different times, but I can only recall a few times that someone has complained about another person playing poorly. Now when I am playing with someone I know in person or on BSW, there is a lot of ribbing. But you seem to be talking about serious complaining and I have been fortunate to usually avoid that.

Happy Gaming,
Scott
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Jim Campbell
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Thanks for the comments so far...my remarks about people commenting about sub-optimal play were meant to explain very briefly one of my motives for writing something about PR. It seems that they've distracted attention from my primary purpose, which was to try to write a fairly thorough treatment of game strategy, one that beginners could read and reread as they gained experience and thus help to focus attention on critical areas of the game.

My attitude toward evaluating my game performance is to consider it relative to prevailing conditions. If there's a wholly incompetent player to my left, losing by 2 points to the player that benefited most from the bad moves of that player is usually a "win" in my mind. I can reasonably claim that I played with the most skill. There is a trap to fall into here, in which blaming others for my own problems prevents progress. I try to avoid that.

Another game condition that's tough is starting as the #2 player without getting corn during the settler. That just bites in a way that almost no other seat position does. I think it should count as 1.2 wins... ;-)

The article has been truncated; I've since posted the rest of it. Thanks for the heads-up on that.

Jim
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Mike K
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
I don't see where the rest was posted (the tail end of the Harbor, the Wharf, the large buildings, and any addenda, perhaps including the expansion set), but anyhow ...

Between this article and the recent one by Alexfrog, how long before someone just writes a book on 'Puerto Rico'? I mean, I've seen books on Monopoly and traditional board games; why not PR?

See ya on BSW!
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
I must say that I've played countless games of PR with Jim on brettspielwelt (and several dozen in real life too), and he is one of the strongest players I know.

We've spent many hours discussing PR strategy, and I fully agree with his analysis. (Which is very well written and organized too, as compared to my ramblings)
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Alex Rockwell
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Coyotek4 wrote:
Between this article and the recent one by Alexfrog, how long before someone just writes a book on 'Puerto Rico'? I mean, I've seen books on Monopoly and traditional board games; why not PR?




I have certainly thought about it....but then I begin to contemplate the multitude of pages that would be necessary to do the game justice, and I get discouraged.

I'd like to thank icetrey (jimc) for writing this article. It is extremely well written, and is something I cna now point people to to learn about PR.

Also: Jim, could you post this on the spielfrieks_puerto_rico group at yahoo? Or can I post it for you?


After reading it all, I'll make some comments:

I like how you mentioned the importance of early income, how dubloons early are more important than VPs (as was the subject of my article), and also that the main consideration in buying an early building was how SOON it would pay for itself. Thats an EXCELLENt way to explain it.

The only bit of strategy advice I might disagree on is regarding the factory. It is certainly and excellent building, and purchased early enough it is very strong, but I got the feeling from reading this article that you might overvalue it a LITTLE bit. Many times in the midgame there is a critical decision of whether to buy Factory or Harbor. This choice will depend on exactly how early in the game it is, what other sources of income you have, how the boat situation is. (are there slow filling boats of a type of good you dont have? etc...)

Of course, perhaps I am merely overvaluing the harbor, due to my harbor-fetish.
Generally, I like to take the factory if its before the midpoint of the game, and harbor if its after it. (Depending on other factors too of course).

Maybe I was just reading to much emphasis into the importance of income...


Typo: in a 5 player game you get 4 dubloons not 5.


I cant really find anything to disagree on, and I think its an excellent analysis. Having talked with you about this frequently for many months now, I can say that this is the result of a LOT of research, thought, study, and discussion with other top players, and that everyone who wants to imporve their game should read and study it.


Thanks again for the excellent article!
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Alexfrog (#18368),

Thanks for the compliment, it means a lot coming from you. I think you might find some things to disagree with in part 2 (which still hasn't appeared on BGG...part 1 took almost 72 hours to appear once I sent it, so i guess that's not surprising). Part 2 will include the rest of the building list and sections on the opening and closing parts of the game. I wish there had been an easy way to make illustrated play-by-play examples, like you would see in a book on bridge, go or chess. I could have gone into much more detail about some of the early sequences.

As I write this, it occurs to me that Cyberboard can be used to save and illustrate a game play-by-play. Perhaps we could get some of us together and play a logged e-mail game, with move commentary. The resulting game file could be viewed play-by-play in Cyberboard.

As far as the PR expansion is concerned, I don't yet feel like an expert on the new buildings. I think that for the novice, the distortive effects of the expansion encourage bad habits and obscure the fundamentals of the game. It's difficult enough to learn to play well without adding another entire layer. I wrote this article with that in mind, assuming that newer players should concentrate on learning the original game. I think I will eventually write an article on how the expansion affects the game, strategies for tailoring the building selection to your starting seat, etc.

Jim
(icetrey*)
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Alexfrog (#18369),

I agree that I have oversold the factory somewhat. I guess if someone were to satirize our two playing styles, they could start by mentioning that I always have a factory, and you always have a harbor...

I won't, however, back off of my claim that the unusual timing of the factory's income has peculiar effects on the decision-making in the second half of the game. I was in a situation earlier today in which I was storing corn in a small warehouse, and had something like 5 of the 7 barrels held by the players. We were coming up on my governor choice and because I had a factory that would make 3 doubloons, I got a big move either way. If they don't craft, I get a near-solo captain and gain about 5 VPs on everyone else. If they do, then my cash supply approaches the magical "10" that's so important later in the game. You just don't get that with the trader, since someone must actually make the follow-up move before you get the money. The factory has a tendency to include the equivalent of a free trader move into your opponent's craftsman. That's at least as amazing as it sounds, since it also has a profound effect on the contest to choose how the game ends. While your shipcentric opponents desperately craft to raise the goods necessary to exhaust the VPs, they are handing you the money you need to fill your building display without requiring that you use the trader to get it. While their process takes two steps (craftsman/captain), yours might only take one (builder) instead of two (trader/builder). It's worth noting that optimizing building for points is also a bit simpler than optimizing loading for VPs. The ships are cruel.

Thanks for the comments, Alexfrog. I went through a period as I was editing this article in which I was very unhappy with it, so it's nice to hear positive feedback.

Jim
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
jimc (#18215),

Great article.

I'd just like to make a couple of comments. For such a long article, the fact I only make a couple of comments shows how I agree with the vast majority of it.

In the opening you refer to how in a typical face-to-face game the lack of early-game money focus can lead to strong shipping strategies dominating. From many varied FtF games I have seen many players who try this strategy, but also nearly an equal number who have jumped into another rut where they concentrate on an intensive builder strategy (typically buying Construction Hut and getting 3 or even 4 quarries and then concentrating on Trader and Builder roles). Both of these extreme strategies can work against fairly good opposition, but experienced play of a more balanced strategy usually wins out against them.

Under Builder you state that 'I usually build a factory before building a harbour'. Against good players I am surprised you get the luxury of both. My games usually come down to a choice of one or the other and personally I usually focus more on picking up one of the Harbours.

I thought you were slightly negative of the Large Market (which I agree on the face of it looks bad value for money compared to the Small Market) and a tad overly focused on the Factory. I actually buy the Large Market fairly regularly. Perhaps because it helps as a source of extra income and being cheaper than the Factory still gives you a chance at one of the Harbours. I can see the argument for the Factory giving you income outside the Trader phase being a great advantage, but in tight games the 2 dbl difference in price can be significant and the Large market gives you a lot of Trader flexibility. In my only tournament outing against what I would describe as clued up players there seemed to be a lot of focus on who got the Factories. I never got a factory in any of the games I played, but still won every game. I'm not saying the Factory isn't a good building in the right situation and if it fits in with your buying schedule it can be a winning choice.

Bit surprised by the term 'underused' next to Small Warehouse. For a small outlay this building gives you great trading and shipping flexibility. Only problem is when to buy it (early on you're trying to get income sources up and running, later on there are bigger buildings to buy before others) - there always seems to be something better to buy and it can be hard fitting it into an effective buying schedule. However, I usually try and squeeze it in somehow and regret it if 2 other players buy them first.

James (BSW: JimF)
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Jamesdcfc wrote:
jimc (#18215),

In the opening you refer to how in a typical face-to-face game the lack of early-game money focus can lead to strong shipping strategies dominating. From many varied FtF games I have seen many players who try this strategy, but also nearly an equal number who have jumped into another rut where they concentrate on an intensive builder strategy (typically buying Construction Hut and getting 3 or even 4 quarries and then concentrating on Trader and Builder roles).

Yes, usually someone will notice that fighting the "shippers" on their terms from an indigo starting position is pointless. They will then explore an extreme building strategy. Because there are more steps to making that work, it tends to fail against shipping. At that point, either someone in the group realizes that emphasizing income creates balance, or they don't and strategies seem to shift toward grabbing corn and fighting for the harbor and wharf.

Under Builder you state that 'I usually build a factory before building a harbour'. Against good players I am surprised you get the luxury of both. My games usually come down to a choice of one or the other and personally I usually focus more on picking up one of the Harbours.

This actually needs a lengthier explanation to make sense. For most players, the factory is an early-middle game building, purchased once most of the production buildings are established. The best players, however, will often buy the factory at around the same time that the first coffee roaster or tobacco shed is purchased. They do this by noticing that they won't get a convenient position to make tobacco or coffee, and quickly establish prodcution of the other 3 goods. Once they sneak through a sugar or indigo trade on advantageous terms (netting, say, 3 doubloons including a bonus doubloon on the trader) the cash saved by buying nothing but cheap stuff combines with that to make an early factory possible. This player actually doesn't plan to diversify their goods any further, so harbor is the next logical purchase. Often, they will actually be the first to buy a harbor.

The more typical factory is bought with the proceeds from a coffee or tobacco trade. This player has two big income sources, and tries to get a harbor. That probably fails, because they did after all just buy a factory, so they proceed directly to constructing as many large buildings as possible in an effort to end the game before the harbors can be very effective.

I prefer to buy the factory before (or instead of) the harbor because the factory doesn't commit me to a specific view on how I want the game to end. If I end up with a harbor in addition to the factory, then I have the best of all worlds. If not, then I'm well equipped to race to the end of my building display.

Which one to buy really depends a lot on what else you re producing, what the ships look like, whether I have quarries, etc. They are both excellent. Part of the reason I favor the factory is that I usually have a quarry fairly early in the game, and I try to build every single time the builder is chosen so that I can share control over the endgame conditions. I end up buying the small sugar and small indigo plant in most of my games because they are cheap, and I also end up drawing at least one sugar and one indigo without really aiming for them--they're plentiful, and easy to get whether you want them or not. So I typically have a lot of building spaces filled and at least 3-4 different goods, which makes the factory look pretty good.

I thought you were slightly negative of the Large Market (which I agree on the face of it looks bad value for money compared to the Small Market) and a tad overly focused on the Factory.

In 5-player games there is a much larger role for the large market because the factories, harbors, etc. are in short supply. Below that number, large market seems like more of a remedial building to me. It can solve the problem the office is trying to fix, or it can help out a position without high-value goods. It seems that the large market is in an inconvenient price range that makes it preferable to just save a little bit more money and get one of the good 3-point buildings. I guess what I need to do is try using the LM in marginal factory situations and see what kind of results I get.

Thanks for the comments.

Jim
(icetrey*)



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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
jimc (#18384),

Good point on the possibility of an early Factory build if you don't seem in a good position to be able to get Tobacco or Coffee going early or the player to your right has the one of them you have a plantation for. In which case the Factory with the 3 lower valued goods being produced does still give you a chance for the harbour. Also if you go along this line you can try not selling on the Trader if the Trading House is three quarters full - you still get income from the Craftsman and the Coffee/Tobacco sellers either need to clear the Trader with an Indigo/Corn or buy an Office (neither good use of valuable time/money).

I also end up with a small indigo plant and small sugar mill in nearly all my games. But this is a great basis for the Harbour aswell as the Factory. Harbour and Factory both benefit from goods diversification. I note that you and Alex have some difference on the frequency of choosing Factory vs Harbour. I'm firmly in the Harbour camp, but this might come down to styles of play even though we agree on more general strategy issues. You have probably honed your game to utilise a Factory to its utmost, whereas my win ratio went down when I purposely started looking for more occaisons when I could make a case for buying the Factory rather than the Harbour OR saving for the Factory when I could buy the Large Market.

James
 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
the corn/indigo/sugar start where coffee and tobacco didnt come to me or were inconvenient is the main time I buy factory.


Factory has a big advantage over Large Market in this case, for the following reason:

Lets say you have indig/sugar and a large market. During the trader phase, you can trade for 3-4 and remain even with those trading tobacco/coffee. This doesnt actually gain you over them however.

Now lets say you have factory. You produce 2 coins per craftsman (probably about the same number of times as you would have traded), but there are two benefits:

1) its easier, requiring less role choices from you or others to work.
2) you cna then decline to trade, and leave a 3/4rs ful trader. This will limit others trade income. Thus, you will be gaining more off the factory than they will in trading, so you are benefitting more.


When you buy the factory in this case, its often possible to then buy a harbor as well, in the midgame. It works well.

I'm not as big of a fan of Factory when you already have a big trade income. In that case:

1) You dont need the income quite as badly, and it may be better to focus on scoring points now. I sometimes see people go overboard on income, and they have coffee trading + big factory income. They end up with 20 dubloons and have to use all their endgame trying to build to use up the money. Generally, by buying a harbor instead they couldve received more points, at less hassle, in this case

2) If you have already bought a coffee or tobacco plant, and you now have enough for factory, then its probably already the middle of the game, and factory might not be as good as harbor anymore...

There are many things which will effect the decision, of course...

Often, the situation on the boats will be the deciding factor. If you can gt control of the boats, harbor is probably better. If not, factory probably is, in the middle of the game...

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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Regarding the comment that the warehouse is undervalued by many players:

I agree. Its not undervalued in the sense that players think its bad. Instead, players think its good, when in fact it is VERY good. While the wharf is overcosted (though still can be very useful in the right position), the warehouse is a bargain.

Its a good buy as soon as you reach the middle of the game, and have set up your income. In the opening, there arent boat conflicts, or at least they are very rare, and you need to spend money setting up income. But once the midgame comes, sever al things change.

You have your income source set up, so you can afford to spend the money on the warehouse (and it doesnt take much).

Boats fill up with many goods left over, and since more than 3 goods are being produced, you often dont have a boat for one or more of your goods.

You begin producing several barrels of a type.


All of these factors combine to make the warehouse a great buy, that can score you many point by saving your goods to a future captain phase. The warehouse is of course excellent in combination with the harbor, as you can then score another bonus point on those saved goods. This works whether you buy the harbor first or the warehouse....which order really depends on the details of the position (and what you can afford).

Finding time to fit in the warehouse can sometimes be difficult, and it is made easier by having at least one quarry, and by having an above average number of builder phases happen (because you are choosing it sometimes)


One big tactic which the warehouse allows is the 'double captain'. Jim discussed the double craft and double trade in his article, and while he mentioned the double captain, I dont think he named it specifically. Basically, this manuever is where you captain shortly after antoher captain has just occurred (the next round), BEFORE another craftsman phsae has occured).

The double captain is extremely powerful for several reasons:

1) It scores you several points, while often not giving anything to your opponents. (This is a mid and late game move, not an early one. You are missing out on the bonus dubloon, so it has to be late enoug hthat this isnt important)

2) You get to control what goods go on the empty boats. This creates boats which are mostly empty, onto which you can easily ship your goods next time. For this reason, the double captian is ESPECIALLY powerful in a harbor strategy, and is a very good way to avoid discarding goods in cases where you dont have a warehouse or wharf. Often, I have been able to make do without a warehouse trhgouh the constant choosing of the captain role (as a double captain), to continually control what goods are on the boats throughout the game.

3) You can often choose what several of the empty boats will become, because not only will you choose one, but the player after you, having only one good, will be forced to put that on the other empty boat! (Or some player down the line, if trader has occurred). Obviously, what other goods are going to go on the boats will be a big factor in determining whehter the double captain is a good move. If it creates boats which are bad for you, its probably not a good idea.


The warehouse can also provide you with extra strong double-captain choices, becasue you have a bunch of goods left over. Thus, you can choose captin, control the boats, score extra vps, and dump a bunch of goods on for many vps. In effect, you are then getting the same benefit from your warehouse that you would have off a wharf, but at lower cost in dubloons, and a higher cost in role choices required.
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
I appreciate the attempt to have an in depth discussion of PR strategy (though I get enough of that with the face-to-face gamers I associate with). But the whole elitist premise that BSW gamers are so much better than 'common' F2Fers caused me not to bother reading the nitty gritty. I've heard others try to say how much better BSW players are, but I beg to differ. I think most of the BSW players I've played (F2F, of course) seem to stick to rigid strategies and get trounced their fair share of the time.

It would be interesting to see how many hard-core BSWers played in the WBC face-to-face event a couple of weeks ago. I know several were there. I bet that they fared no better than the collective group of non-BSWers (where a non-BSWer is defined to be someone with less than 100 BSW games under their belt, since many go to BSW and dabble, but then abandon the medium).
 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
I belive the difference in experience is shown when players come onto BSW for the first game and ee the high level of play there (provided that they play with others who are experienced BSW regulars).

There really isnt any comparison between someone with 20 games played and someone with 200....the experience is just too valuable. Its not BSW in particular, its just the sheer number of games and amount of experience its possible to acquire by playing repeatedly on there....


I'd recommend that you come play PR on BSW and see what you think.

I must disagree with BSW players (at least the good ones) sticking to rigid strategies. I find that players with less experience tend to do this more, because they havent played enough times to become good at all the possible strategies.

Of course, if by 'sticking to a rigid strategy' you mean focusing on income early on, as I and jimc have espoused, then I guess I can agree with that, as it really is the true dominant strategy. How to do that and where to go from there vary quite a bit however....so I dont think those players with lots of BSW experience are being rigid in theri strategies.

I anything, playing wit ha wide variety of people forces you to explore all types of strategies, and not just play the same ones over and over.

Also: BSW vs Face to Face was not the subject of this articel, just the introduction, so I think you are missing out if you avoid reading it for that reason....
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Randy Cox (#18398),

I was worried that my introductory remarks might put some people off, but I was quite cautious in clarifying exactly what I think the difference is. But let me acknowledge what Alexfrog said about experience being the big difference, and add the following:

It's not merely that it's more games, or more games against stronger opponents, but that it is staggeringly, overwhelmingly a larger number of games than F2F players have seen. For example, a serious F2F PR die-hard will have played at least 100 games. 100 games on BSW places you at #374 all-time in games played. There are 112 players with at least 250 games, and 26 players with at least 500 games. There are also some 4-digit game totals. Because of this amount of repetition, there is a very large group of players who almost never make sloppy moves. This means that playing a sloppy game results not just in a loss, but in getting completely crushed (<65% of the winner's score). That's a powerful incentive to change, and it doesn't take long on BSW for players to tighten up their move-by-move tactics.

My experience with BSW players is that they don't generally bother to play a game F2F if they already play it a lot on BSW. It's frustrating to play something for 4 times as long as it would take on BSW. I imagine that the BSW players you have played F2F are not the kind of players I was describing in my article. Some of the BSW players were at the WBC; I don't recall any of the very best ones saying that they attended. I heard some comments about getting into very slow and inefficient games, but I don't know how they fared.

This is a tough discussion to have, since I am essentially asking you to accept our claim that the level of play on BSW is much higher. It's similar to comparing Japanese and American major league baseball. We can look at what happens when the good players from Japan come to the U.S. and vice versa, and try to figure out what the qualitative difference is between the two. Like Alexfrog, all I can offer beyond that is my invitation to play some PR on BSW.

Jim
(BSW name: icetrey)
 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Randy Cox wrote:
I appreciate the attempt to have an in depth discussion of PR strategy (though I get enough of that with the face-to-face gamers I associate with). But the whole elitist premise that BSW gamers are so much better than 'common' F2Fers caused me not to bother reading the nitty gritty. I've heard others try to say how much better BSW players are, but I beg to differ. I think most of the BSW players I've played (F2F, of course) seem to stick to rigid strategies and get trounced their fair share of the time.




Groupthink.

There is no doubt that experience with PR helps, but playing 200 games of PR on BSW teaches you how to play well on BSW. Once people have mastered the mechanics of the game the difference is made in mastering the people playing the game. The reason the strong BSW players are strong is that they have mastered the BSW style - that is to say the style of play that is perpetuated through play on BSW. The complaint about sub-optimal F2F play can thus be reinterpreted as saying that the BSW style does not translate well to F2F play.

-MMM
 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
My personal experience is about 500 games. 420 on BSW against 360 different people and about 100 F2F against about 20 different people, and I doubt my unique opponent:games played ratios are unusual. On BSW, I've seen myriad styles honed in small F2F groups tested against each other.

BSW players aren't 'elite', but I do agree with the folks who claim playing on BSW will improve your game. The means to play so many games against so many different strategies is difficult to find via F2F play.
 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Randy Cox (#18398),

I agree it would be interesting to know how the better ranked BSW players fared at WBC. Did any BSW players with 50%+ win ratios over a reasonable number of games attend WBC?

Also what was the format of WBC? On BSW there tend be a lot more 3 and 4 player games played than 5 player. Another factor is table-talk and influencing other players - this is not very prevailent on BSW, but can be common in FtF and different folk put up with it to different extents. Also FtF player's characters and how they interact can effect the play.

Asked for a gut feel, having played 100 games on BSW and probably 40 FtF (and usually preferring FtF, but PR on either is good), it would still be a great surprise to me if any of the Top 10 BSW players wouldn't do very well at WBC. Reversing it have any WBC players tried out PR on BSW against some of the better players?

I agree there is a danger of BSW player's coming over as elitist and 'know-it-all'. Maybe there is also a danger with a tournament that calls itself the "World" Boardgaming Championship (tongue in cheek).
 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
jimc (#18215),

Long time no see with alexfrog and icetrey.

Thanks for icetrey 's long opinions. I also want to release some my opinion here.

It is enjoyed to play with highly experienced player thana newbie, the reason is obvious. During the playing, I always guess how my opponents do in coming 1 - 2 rounds, and its correct % over 60%, this is the key why my winning % is over always 57%

PR is a great game. 1 points to sell this is: there are 3 way to finish the game. Every player have chance to finish it when they are leading, and no standard no. of rounds played. My record is: I finish the 5P game with 19 points which lose to shlimazl 's 20. And I win a 3P game of 81 points. Leading player should try to finish early and lagging player will try to resist it, it is a kind of interest. From my statistics, in a base game. the ratio of finish game on No space:no VP left:no colonist is 45%:20%:35%, while in expansion is 35%:40%:25%


Before the expansion, what I feel the PR game is simple: just try to balance in making cash and shippings always. In my early playing, all of you know that I would like purchase hazienda, and my winning % with purchasing hazienda in first round nearly 70%. Does it is powerful? Yes, it is powerful for me. Why? it is a building can balance in both building and shipping in the game continuing.
If you agree that: pick settler role and not choosing quarries or corn is a stupid action in first 3 role, then you can read these part, else you can skip this. Before explain, I class tabacoo/coffee as major farm and indigo/sugar as minor farm. NO. of plantation is important in early stages, rather than cash, I think. You can see that the advantages of getting 6 farm than 4 farm after 3 rounds of settlers. Don't forget, you need to produce goods with both Mills and Farm. In normal suitation, picking any farm from hazienda is good besides indigo. If you have 5 different farms out of 6 and when others player only have 4 plantations, then you should easily to know which building you are suitable to build in the following game. Shorting 2 gold? yes, it is. This only means you got 1 round later on building, but understanding the direction of game can overcome it. You can find that during the game, especially *3 and *4, then can get more cash, but they don't know what to build when they have 5-6 gold with 1 quarry, 2 corn and 1 sugar. Remember, gold is only for building, but farm is for both building and shipping. I always playing like when I am *1: pick a quarry, build hazienda ( if there still has), place the colonist to hazienda. In round 2, I stop build if the quarry isnot mened. I select the settler again, pick quarry and get a random farm, for which all is good besides indigo. Then I can afford pick 1 more settlers phase only in following game and refuse to pick it even 2 golds benefit. I will save money for a major mills , this is easy when I have 2 quarry. I get advantages on the unique major production when only 2-3 settlers phase picked. and easy to sell it. Following with factory, the game is easy. I feel boring in playing the game like this, after I get win from 120 out of 200, and I don't know the game 's directions when I cannot build hazienda. Here I has golden rules for me: I can easy get 1 gold, but not easy to get 1 major from other players' settlers role.

Guessing your opponents decision is important. Making the game direction is important. Every player should know what they want in following 2-3 turns. I see that some lovely player only try to sell thier goods, but they don't know which building will be more benefits. From my points of view, I only try to save cash to build what building I like, keeping extra cash is a kind of waste and losing tempo. Also 1 golden rule for me, if I try the factory stragregy, I must build habour in my 5/6 building. If i like shipping corns , then I must try to plant major even it is late.

Hafen and kl.lager is a good combo, even better than hafen + werft. If someone can have the combo with in 6 building and produce 4 goods each carftman, then the game is easy.

The tempo of craftman is the great interesting of PR. Everyone player knows that pick craftman always harmful to them. Based on the fact that, players always waiting other to pick this, I want to discuss some points. Which player making condition that : picking craftman and got less harmful, the player is a good player. There has no standard mode or rules that when picking craftman, it depends on suitation. For me, I will interest to pick it if I am last player, and the no. of goods produce => tohers one, then I will do. More, If i have no risk to discard any goods, I also do. If i pick craftmans which force my next player pick trader/captain and I get same benefit, I do.

I will discuss expansion later.

coolala (joe)

 
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Re:The Large Warehouse of Puerto Rico Knowledge
Did any BSW players with 50%+ win ratios over a reasonable number of games attend WBC?

I can't say. I didn't play in the tournament and I wouldn't know a BSW person from a "commonner" , as I don't go to BSW because of the language issue and because I'm asked to download something when I go to the site.

Also what was the format of WBC? On BSW there tend be a lot more 3 and 4 player games played than 5 player.

John Weber (I think he's on BSW) ran the show, so he could answer, but I'd doubt there were any 3-player. I'd say mostly 5-player. The semi-finals had 5 4-player tables, with winners playing a 5-seat game for all the marbles.

Another factor is table-talk and influencing other players - this is not very prevailent on BSW

I'm glad you mention this, because I didn't know about table talk and BSW, being unfamiliar. But, to me, that's the huge difference in F2F play and any sort of remote play--the ability to socialize. And with that chatter comes some table talk/manipulation. Some people get really riled up about that, but I saw plenty of folk discussing optimal moves for another player. It's kinda infuriating, but it's also some F2Fers strategy.

it would still be a great surprise to me if any of the Top 10 BSW players wouldn't do very well at WBC.

Well, if you're talking top 10, I'd say they'd probably be pretty good F2F, too. I'm talking more like the middle third of players--those who don't live for live play and those who don't live for BSW play. Comparing the top echelon in either group doesn't tell us a whole lot about the mechanism's (BSW) effect on the average player.

I agree there is a danger of BSW player's coming over as elitist and 'know-it-all'. Maybe there is also a danger with a tournament that calls itself the "World" Boardgaming Championship (tongue in cheek).

I, too, have never liked the WBC title. I suggested North American Boardgaming Championship (NABC), and that was with the caveat that I prefer not to stress the "championship" component at all. Nonetheless, 217 live bodies did show up and play up to 4 preliminary games to whittle the group down to 20 semi-finalists. I'd say that most of the semi-finalists would fare very well on BSW, once they got over the hurdle of the interface (if they can get over that hurdle--we Luddites are still missing out).
 
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