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Subject: The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico rss

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David Grabiner
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These Ten Commandments are based on my experience, and on several of the longer strategy guides posted here. A follow-up article will explain the Ten Commandments in more detail.

Role selection:

Look both ways before choosing craftsman or mayor.
Don't take a role now if you will get the same benefit later.

Early game:

Ignore victory points when early money is at stake.
Protect your trade good by producing something else.

Early and middle game:

Establish an income source.
There are many roads to victory.

Middle game:

If you don't know what to buy, consider a small warehouse.
Don't earn more than you can spend.

Late game:

Know who your rivals are.
The mayor wants you to man your large buildings.
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David Grabiner
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
Role selection:

Look both ways before choosing craftsman or mayor.


The craftsman and mayor are the two roles that have a significant effect on all players' future actions. With either role, you give the next player a chance to take advantage of the new game situation, and you will usually be last. You have to weigh that cost against the benefits of any doubloons on the role, and the extra goods from taking craftsman or colonists from taking mayor.

If you are considering craftsman, consider what will happen if the next players take either trader or captain. What will you trade if there is an immediate trader, and what if captain is taken first? Will you lose the goods you just produced because there is no boat, or will the good you wanted to trade get shipped instead?

If you are considering mayor, consider the buildings everyone else gets to activate, and what role will be taken; compare this to what happens if you take the role first. If there are unmanned harbors, wharves, or warehouses, you might take captain even though your own harbor is unmanned; you'll get to ship more goods, and other players will be caught empty-handed. If nobody else has much money, you might build even with an unmanned quarry, so that you can man your new building on a subsequent mayor.

Don't take a role now if you will get the same benefit later.

If there is a role you want to occur, but it is not important that you take the role first or take any doubloons on the role, you can take something else. Either another player will take the role and give you the benefit, or the role will come back to you next turn with an extra doubloon.

This can happen with any of the six roles, usually with no doubloons on the role. It is most common with trader and captain. If you will get to trade your best good on any player's trade, and nobody is about to captain the good away, you don't need to take trader for one doubloon. If you won't lose any goods on another player's captain, you don't need to captain yourself for one extra victory point.

Early game:

Ignore victory points when early money is at stake.


An extra doubloon early in the game is worth at least three victory points. Therefore, the early-game strategy depends on getting doubloons, either immediately (by trading or on roles) or later (from quarries or preparing to trade goods).

Even roles which produce victory points should be taken primarily for their cash value. Take captain when it stops other players from making good trades, even if you ship nothing. Take craftsman only when you will get about as much money as the other players after any subsequent trades.

Protect your trade good by producing something else.

If you produce tobacco or coffee early, you want to make sure that you can trade it. If your tobacco or coffee winds up on a boat, you will lose the money from the trade, and it will be harder to trade the good later. If you have only tobacco or coffee, someone else will captain and you will have to ship it. If you have another good, then you can ship that good if someone else captains, and by the time shipping comes around again, the boats are likely to have corn, indigo, and sugar and you will be unable to shibe your trade good.

Early and middle game:

There are many roads to victory.


Many players believe that a specific strategy is the key to winning, based on their own experience. It is better to make early moves which work with many different strategies. For example, it is possible to win by getting four or five corn, and a wharf to ship it. If this strategy comes to you because several settler draws give you corn, and you have a trade good so that you can quickly afford the wharf, you'll probably win. But if you decide from the start that this will be your strategy, and take a corn rather than a quarry on an early settler, you won't do well if you can't get enough corn, or if other players are building factories and harbors while you are losing corn that you cannot ship because you cannot afford the wharf.

Establish an income source.

The building which produce the most VP's (harbor, wharf, and 10-doubloon buildings) are the most expensive. Before you try to build them, you need to have some source of money for building. A factory with three or four goods produced is ideal, but combinations of coffee, tobacco, quarries, and markets are also good. If you don't yet have a good income source but have a lot of money, buy yourself an income source such as a factory, large market, or coffee roaster, rather than a VP source such as a harbor or wharf. If you buy the VP source, it will be a long time before you can afford another expensive building.

Middle game:

If you don't know what to buy, consider a small warehouse.


If you do not have a production building that you need, and you cannot afford an expensive violet building such as factory or harbor, the small warehouse is often the best mid-game purchase. It costs just two doubloons if you have a quarry, and it can easily be worth a lot of victory points for the cost. An early small warehouse may save you the need for a large warehouse or wharf later in the game once both small warehouses are gone. The other inexpensive violet buildings (construction hut, hacienda, hospice) have to be bought early to be worthwhile. The mid-priced buildings (office, large market, large warehouse) are useful only in specific situations; you'll know if you need one.

Don't earn more than you can spend.

It is embarrassing to end the game with lots of doubloons, or to have ten doubloons late in the game and have no large building to buy. If you already have high income (such as coffee and a factory), you no longer need to maximize your effort to earn money; instead of taking trader for the money, take captain and reserve a boat for later coffee shipment, or take builder and spend the money you already have. For similar reasons, buying a large market when you already have a good income source (such as coffee and quarries, or a factory) is usually wrong; if you take trader to use your large market, you won't be able to spend the money.

If you do have very high income, try to get the guild hall as your first large building. The guild hall allows you to get a lot of victory points from unmanned buildings, rather than saving for another large building and possibly not getting it at all or having the game end before it gets manned.

Late game:

Know who your rivals are.


At the end of the game, you aren't in competition with all of the other players, only those who have a chance to win. Even without tracking points perfectly, you can tell who these players are. If you have a choice of which good to trade or ship, you can make a choice which hurts you a bit but hurts your main rival more. Choose roles which help players who will not win anyway. (But be careful; if you take craftsman several times and present the player after you with a shipping bonanza, he might have a chance to win after all.)

The mayor wants you to man your large buildings.

Near the end of the game, mayor is taken primarily to man large buildings. If there are several turns to go, you do not need to take mayor yourself as soon as you build a large building. However, whenever anyone takes mayor, you should man your large buildings in preference to manning other things, unless you are confident that the game will end by running out of colonists. If you do not man your large buildings immediately, you will probably have to take mayor yourself on a later turn. This may cost you a valuable chance to take captain, builder, or trader; it may also prevent you from ending the game by filling your building space.

Even if you have one large building and are planning to get another, you should still man the first one. If you have only one unmanned large building, another player with an unmanned large building will probably mayor to get about as many VP's for himself as for you. If everyone has one unmanned large building, nobody loses much relative to anyone else. And if you get a chance to end the game by filling your building space, it won't cost you too much with one large building manned. But if you have two unmanned large buildings and are threatening to win, nobody else will take mayor for you.
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Yehuda Berlinger
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
David Grabiner (#92064),

Very nice.

Yehuda
 
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L S
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
Excellent, thanks!
 
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Ulf Schenk
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
David Grabiner (#92064),

nice article.

I have one question though to your chapter
"The mayor wants you to man your large buildings"

I thought the rules imply that it is not necessary to man the large violet buildings in order to count their VPs at game end.
Am I missing something?


thanks,
Ulf
 
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Ulf Schenk
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
ulf1 (#365880),

darn,

I played it all the time wrong. I read the rules again and they state clearly

That the inprinted VPs of all, even unoccupied building are counting at game end.
But the additional VPs of the large violet buildings counting only if they are manned.

Thanks again.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
ulf1 (#365886),

Time to dig up the common rules errors thread. Anyone else want to admit to making this mistake?
 
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Jim Campbell
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
David Grabiner wrote:
Role selection:

Look both ways before choosing craftsman or mayor.


One way to divide the roles is between generally weak ones like mayor, craftsman and settler that set up the decisive moves, and strong ones like trader, builder and captain that actually make the decisive moves. New players can watch who seems to be making more of each and probably learn a thing or two.

Don't take a role now if you will get the same benefit later.

Corollary to this: Like many games, you'll know you're playing at a higher level when you've begun to play all the positions at once in your head. That is, every time someone is about to move you've already guessed at the best move for their position. Figuring out whether a role you need is urgent to choose is closely related to that kind of predictive skill.

Ignore victory points when early money is at stake.

An extra doubloon early in the game is worth at least three victory points. Therefore, the early-game strategy depends on getting doubloons, either immediately (by trading or on roles) or later (from quarries or preparing to trade goods).


Try "counting the money" in the early part of your games. It's very interesting and often surprising to mentally "score" the early game this way: For each player, add together their cash and the costs of all their buildings. This tells you how much doubloon-value they've actually earned so far. It doesn't necessarily reveal the strongest money position, since quarries and trade ability are big factors in future income. Nevertheless, I found it helpful in noticing who was actually winning the money race early on.

Protect your trade good by producing something else.

In online PR I've had this in-game chat many times:

[opponent mans a coffee production building without a supporting good]
Me: boat
Opponent: ?!?
Me: that's where your first coffee is going

Early and middle game:

There are many roads to victory.

Many players believe that a specific strategy is the key to winning, based on their own experience. It is better to make early moves which work with many different strategies. For example, it is possible to win by getting four or five corn, and a wharf to ship it. If this strategy comes to you because several settler draws give you corn, and you have a trade good so that you can quickly afford the wharf, you'll probably win. But if you decide from the start that this will be your strategy, and take a corn rather than a quarry on an early settler, you won't do well if you can't get enough corn, or if other players are building factories and harbors while you are losing corn that you cannot ship because you cannot afford the wharf.


Because of the bonus doubloons added to unused roles in between rounds, roles don't get ignored for long periods of time. Since all the roles will be taken with some regularity, diverse strategies that use many roles well are stronger than strategies that use a limited number of roles well. The bonus doubloons are the underlying mechanical reason why this is true; if they weren't added each round then focused strategies would be far more effective.


If you don't know what to buy, consider a small warehouse.


Strong players fight over the two SWs immediately after establishing income. I've written plenty about it elsewhere, so I'll just say here that it's an amazing building relative to its cost and one of the most versatile and least specialized buildings in the game (it seems to help with everything).

Don't earn more than you can spend.

This is closely related to a much more difficult commandment: Know how soon the game will end. Easier said than done, though.

Jim
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Myke Madsen
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
David Grabiner (#92064),

Excellent points! I think that's the most concise summary of good PR play I've seen. These rules should come with the game.
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Brendan Tracey
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
jmucchiello (#445217),

No, but up until 2 nights ago (and I've played quite a bit) I could have sworn that buildings needed to be manned to score at the end of the game. Chalk that up to yet another thing I was taught wrong the first time.

Also, I don't agree with your mayor comment. If you have bought a large building and there are at least a few rounds left, the colonist can often be settled elsewhere.

Thanks for the gold counting idea, it's a good one. Though question, how many rounds do you (try to) think ahead?
 
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Eric Nielsen
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Re:The Ten Commandments of Puerto Rico
howeman (#476139),

Also, I don't agree with your mayor comment. If you have bought a large building and there are at least a few rounds left, the colonist can often be settled elsewhere.

If you don't man a green building during the subsequent mayor phase, good opponents will pounce on this and exploit your weakness.

That single extra working colonist will not generate many points with only a few rounds to go. It's good for 1 or 2 points, 3 if things work well. In exchange for a few points, you have severely limited your options entering the final rounds and expanded the options of your opponents. If you miss an opportunity to start the last captain phase or to build when your opponents had 9db because you needed to take mayor, you've just lost everything you gained and then some.

On the other hand, if it's sufficiently early in the game that there is utterly no danger of the game ending with buildings or shipping, it may be a little too early to be buying greens anyways. Perhaps a harbor or wharf is a better deal.


The exception to this rule is if you are playing at an inexperienced table, where you know absolutely that the game will end by colonist drain. In this situation, wait as long as you wish to man the greens.
 
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Brendan Tracey
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You make a very good point about limiting yourself in the last few rounds, however if there are a few rounds left, someone is probably going to take the mayor. However, that situation is rare, and it may be that I've only been in that place with weaker players
 
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