These are victory point counters. They come in two denominations, 1 and 5. Unlike pennies and nickels, these are not currency; instead, victory points are awarded for achieving certain goals in the game. For example, each building a player constructs has a victory point value, and each shipment of goods back to Europe has a victory point value, and so forth. As you can see in the picture, the backs of these counters are red and uninformative. Each player is supposed to keep his accumulated victory point counters hidden, or at least face down, to discourage point counting. It is not in the spirit of the game to reduce the gameplay to a min/max algorithm.
There is a finite number of victory point counters, and running out of them in a certain phase of the game is one way that the game may come to an end. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins.
These octagonal brown pieces are colonists. They represent people coming to Puerto Rico to work in a player's buildings and on a player's plantations. There is a finite number of colonists, and running out of them in a certain phase of the game is one way that the game may come to an end.
Crates of Goods
Puerto Rico is an economic simulation, and five kinds of goods are in trade. In this picture (from foreground to background), each blue piece is a shippable crate of indigo, the very dark crates are coffee, the caramel colored crates are tobacco, the light tan crates are raw sugar, and the yellow-gold crates are corn.
The broad flow of the game Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen even more. In the broadest sense, Puerto Rico is about shipping. A ship brings colonists to the New World to work in players' buildings and on their plantations, and ships carry away the crates of goods that all this labor generates. Converting manpower to shippable commodities earns victory points.
The picture shows one transport ship for colonists and five transport ships numbered 4-8 according to how many crates each can carry. Only three cargo ships are active in a given game; which three depends on how many people are playing the game.
The picture also shows two important general purpose placards. The Trading House placard shows the value in doubloons for a single crate of each type of goods. During the Trader phase, a player who produces a crate of goods may sell it there if the Trading House is not full and if the Trading House does not already hold a crate of that type. Whenever the Trading House fills up, the Trader empties it as the final act of his turn.
The Governor placard is like the button (or "buck") in poker. Rounds and turns within rounds always proceed clockwise in Puerto Rico, and the Governor placard passes clockwise from player to player to remind everyone where a given round of play started.
Here's a picture of a transport ship laden with colonists and a cargo ship laden with crates. This image illustrations how the ship cards are used in conjunction with the pieces:
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These coppery coins are Doubloons. (In the German version of the Anniversary Edition, these are thicker, heavier, and golden. However, their lead content exceeded some regulatory threshold and couldn't be imported. So the US gets thin and coppery.) Accumulating them is not the point of the game, but they're essential to gaining victory points. There are several ways to earn doubloons, including playing the Prospector role, playing a role card that has been neglected for a while, or selling a crate of goods to the Trading House.
Doubloons are useful for buying buildings, and buildings are useful for (among other things) more efficiently processing crops. Since shipping crates of goods produced from crops is the main way to gain victory points (and thus win the game!), doubloons are essential to success!
Buildings and the Bank (Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!) This picture shows the upper portion of the Bank Board. This is a central resource similar to the bank in Monopoly. The pile of doubloons resides on the bank board, and four columns of placeholder printing show where various types of buildings for sale should be displayed. At the top of the board, the first column header shows one pile of stones, the second column shows two, then three, and finally four. These cairns indicate how many quarries may be used to offset the construction cost of buildings in that column.
(Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!) This picture shows the Bank Board at the beginning of the game. All the buildings available for purchase/construction are stacked on their respective printed spaces. The cost of construction increases from the top to the bottom, and from the left column to the right column. On each building tile, the specific cost in doubloons is shown in a circle in the lower left, and the Victory Point value is shown in the upper right. Structures with higher values in the end game cost more to build. Using quarries offsets some of the cost of construction.
The six places in the first two rows of the first three columns hold "production buildings" that have a special relationship to the various crops a player might grow. In the first column are inexpensive buildings used to process indigo and sugar. In the second column are more costly buildings with triple the capacity of the simpler, cheaper ones. And in the third column are large, expensive facilities for processing tobacco and coffee.
Note that there is no building for processing corn. Corn may be sold at the Trading House or loaded onto a ship outright straight from the plantation. In contrast, each of the other four crops cannot be converted into a good (i.e., a crate) unless it is first processed at a suitable building. A field of a given crop is only active if a colonist is working it (as indicated by the placement of a colonist piece on that field), and a building is only active if a colonist is working in it (as indicated by the placement of a colonist piece on that building tile. The circles on the building tiles show how many colonists may be placed there.
People plus fields plus processing facilities equals crates of goods. Goods traded make doubloons; Goods shipped make victory points.
More information is provided below about these buildings and other ones. However, that information will make more sense if consulted after the material that comes in between!
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Plantation and Quarry Tiles (Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!) This image shows the quarry tiles and the plantation tiles. There are 8 quarry tiles, and a player who acquires a quarry may use it to reduce the cost of constructing buildings. The number of quarries that may be applied for this discount is indicated at the head of each column on the Bank Board.
All the other counters shown are plantation tiles. The green ones are simply the back sides of the various tiles. All the backs match. At the beginning of the game, these tiles are all shuffled and placed face down in several stacks as shown. From round to round, a few are turned face up and may be acquired by players for their plantations. The five types of plantation tile-- corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee-- correspond to the kinds of crates of goods and to the kinds of buildings where crops are processed.
The Player Board (Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!) Each player has a player board that represents the sector of Puerto Rico under his control. The player board consists of four zones. In the lower left is a set of twelve land patches where buildings may be constructed. Short buildings occupy a single patch, and tall buildings occupy two patches. It does not matter where the buildings are placed in their zone.
In the upper left is a set of twelve topsoil patches where crops may be planted or quarries established. It does not matter where the plantation tiles or quarries are placed in their zone.
The building zone is commonly called the "city", and the agriculture zone is commonly called the "island".
The lower right zone of the Player Board is a reminder of the powers and privileges associated with each of the 7 roles that a player may assume. The upper right zone, called the "windrose" in the instructions, is a general dumping ground for each player's doubloons, unshipped goods, unallocated colonists, etc.
The following picture shows a Player Board on which some plantation tiles, buildings, and colonists have been played: (Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!)
Filling up all 12 city patches with buildings is one way to bring the game to an end.
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Gameplay in Puerto Rico does not proceed by way of random drivers such as dice. Instead, players choose what will happen next. The picture shows 8 cards associated with 7 roles. The powers and privileges these roles enjoy are shown in abbreviation on the face of these cards, in greater detail on their backs, and in greater detail in the lower right zone of the Player Board:
(Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!) The game proceeds, in general, as follows.
One player starts the round with the Governor card. By taking one of the 8 role cards, this player chooses which role will define the action for the current turn in the current round. In clockwise rotation, each player may exercise the action associated with the chosen role. The player after the Governor in clockwise rotation then takes one of the 7 remaining cards, and everyone in rotation may perform that role's action. Play continues in rotation as the third player takes one of the 6 remaining role cards and everyone does that. After each player has selected a role card and all players have taken action, a doubloon is placed on any unused roles (as an incentive), all used role cards are restored to their place on the table, and the Governor card is passed clockwise. Then the pattern repeats.
The sorts of actions that players may take by means of role cards include: drawing a plantation tile and planting it, welcoming new colonists from the incoming transport ship, constructing a new building, producing crates of goods, selling goods to the Trading House, loading goods onto outbound cargo ships, or simply garnering a doubloon.
The main tactical consideration that complicates the gameplay is that a player's choice of role may benefit the next few players, or perhaps all players, and may even help those players more than it helps the one who made the choice. In other words, each player must take into account how things are going for the players downstream clockwise.
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The Anniversary Edition comes with two expansions: More Buildings (which includes a bunch of new buildings) and Nobles (which includes a few more new buildings and a different kind of colonist. We will not be using these expansions (in the first game we play); we will be playing vanilla Puerto Rico.
House Rules 1. The game's designer has apparently endorsed the widespread sentiment that the costs for building University (8) and Factory (7) should be swapped to make the Factory harder to build and to encourage use not only of the Uni but also of the lesser production facilities. We will be swapping the University's and Factory's construction costs.
2. A deep statistical analysis of many games has shown that the players in third and fourth position, who start the game with a corn farm instead of an indigo farm, enjoy an advantage because of the lower cost of selling or shipping corn. Starting corn farmers with fewer doubloons (namely, x-1 where indigo has x) has been shown to offset this advantage and restore the balance. So we will be following the Corn-1 rule.
Experience has shown that certain combinations of buildings throw the game out of balance. 3. In Column 1 of the Bank Board: Hacienda and Forest House may not be in the same game. <== House rule for Extra Buildings expansion 4. In Column 2 of the Bank Board: Office and Trading Post may not be in the same game. <== House rule for Extra Buildings expansion 5. In Column 3 of the Bank Board: Factory and Specialty Factory may not be in the same game. <== House rule for Extra Buildings expansion 6. In Column 3 of the Bank Board: Villa and Jeweler may not be in the same game. <== House rule for Nobles expansion
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This image, repeated from above, shows the six short buildings that are used in the conversion of crops to goods. These fill two rows of the Bank Board's first three columns. However, the remaining rows of those columns contain twelve other short buildings, and the entire fourth column contains five tall buildings:
(Click to embiggen. Click again to embiggen some more!) The twelve short buildings and five tall buildings (collectively called the "beige buildings") serve special purposes. Each, when occupied by a colonist, enables its owner to bend the ordinary rules of the game in a particular way. Combining active buildings in clever ways to achieve victory point supremacy is at the heart of Puerto Rico's gameplay.
Here's an overview of each building's cost in doubloons, name, and benefit to its owner:
Production Buildings (1) small indigo plant: to produce indigo (4 on the Bank Board) (2) small sugar mill: to produce sugar (4 on the Bank Board) (3) large indigo plant: to produce indigo (3 on the Bank Board) (4) large sugar mill: to produce sugar (3 on the Bank Board) (5) tobacco storage: required to produce tobacco (3 on the Bank Board) (6) coffee roaster: required to produce coffee (3 on the Bank Board)
Short Beige Buildings (two of each on the Bank Board) (1) small market: In the Trader phase, the player receives an additional doubloon for his crate of goods. (2) hacienda: In the Settler phase, the player receives an additional plantation tile. (2) construction hut: In the Settler phase, the player may take a quarry instead of a plantation tile. (3) small warehouse: In the Captain phase, the player may store leftover (i.e., unshipped) goods of one type. (4) hospice: In the Settler phase, the player receives a bonus Colonist for his new plantation tile. (5) office: In the Trader phase, the player may sell to the Trading House a kind of product already present there. (5) large market: In the Trader phase, the player receives two additional doubloons for his crate of goods. (6) large warehouse: In the Captain phase, the player may store leftover (i.e., unshipped) goods of two types. (7*) university: In the Builder phase, the player receives a bonus Colonist for his new building. (8*) factory: In the Craftsman phase, the player receives bonus doubloons for the diversity of his product line. (8) harbor: In the Captain phase, the player earns an extra victory point each time he loads onto a ship. (9) wharf: In the Captain phase, the player may ship all goods of one kind on a private boat.
Tall Beige Buildings (one of each on the Bank Board) (10) guild hall: Additional victory points for small and large production buildings owned. (10) residence: Additional victory points for plantations and quarries on the island. (10) fortress: Additional victory points for population of colonists. (10) customs house: Additional victory points for victory points. (10) city hall: Additional victory points for beige buildings (short or tall) in the city.
*The cost of the factory and university have been swapped. See house rules in section 5 of this guide for more information.
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Here we see the flow of resources, driven by players' choices among the seven roles. Each role defines a phase in which some resources (or no resources) may be used to produce other resources, all with the goal of generating victory points. The beige buildings are mentioned next to the phases they affect.