Puerto Rico Review

Now it is time to review a game that is on my all-time classics list: Puerto Rico.

In Puerto Rico, each of the players takes on the role of a governor on the newly discovered island of Puerto Rico. As governor, they are in charge of planting new fields, building public buildings, ensuring that they have enough workers to man their buildings and fields, sending goods back to the old world, selling goods, etc. At the end of the game, whichever governor has ruled most successfully (as determined by victory points) wins the game.

The first significant pro for Puerto Rico is related to a game mechanic that it introduces - roles. When playing the game, the players will take turns selecting which "role" they will implement - Captain, Mayor, Trader, Settler, etc. Within each role, the person who selects it will get to perform that role's action first, and will also get a bonus for being the player to select it, but then each other player will have the opportunity to also perform that action. (For example, if I take on the role of "Builder", I will be the first person to have the opportunity to build a building, and my bonus is that I can build it for 1 doubloon cheaper than list price. After I purchase my building, however, then each other person in turn order will get an opportunity to build a building.) This mechanic works amazingly well, and forces players to strategize by determining when the best time is to take on each role. Since he knows that whatever role he chooses could help other players too, he must ensure that whatever he selects will help him more than anyone else.

The next pro of Puerto Rico is the balance in the game. As I briefly stated before, each time a player selects a role, he must determine which role he can perform to maximize his benefit and to minimize the benefit of all of the other players. Here's an example: if a player chooses to ship goods back to the mainland, he will get an extra victory point for being the "Captain." However, if other players will be able to ship more goods, then he may wind up having a net loss of victory points because they will be able to ship more, and so this would be a poor selection.  Another example: if a player has 10 doubloons, and he looks around and sees that no other players have any money, it would be an ideal time to be a builder because he would be able to purchase whichever building he would like without anybody else getting any benefit.

The third pro to mention about Puerto Rico is the sheer number of strategic aspects in the game. (This pro is specifically important because these factors change based on number of players, so this adds to the replayability of the game because a successful 3-player game's strategy may fail miserably in a 5-player game and vice versa). Some of the things that a player must balance between include which type of crops to plant - should they plant corn which can easily be grown and shipped, but is not worth anything to sell, or coffee which they cannot grow as much of, but will sell for significantly more. Are all of the other players growing a certain crop? This could mean that there will be a higher chance that there will be a ship containing that good in the Captain phase, but it also might get full more quickly. Players must determine which buildings to build and when - would it be better to get a wharf and have a guaranteed ability to ship goods, or to get a harbor and gain extra victory points when successfully shipping goods. The strategic elements go on and on.

Finally, even though Puerto Rico is so balanced and contains so many strategic elements, it is also very easy to learn and teach other players how to play. The game can be played in around an hour, and can be taught in about 5-10 minutes (from the instructions, it will be a bit longer), and so the appeal of the game is very widespread.

Overall, I give Puerto Rico a 9.5/10. It is one of the best games that I have ever played, and I would recommend it to absolutely anybody that enjoys playing board games. If you have not played this game, go find a copy and try it.

Puerto Rico on Noble Knight Games (about $25)
Puerto Rico on Funagain Games
Puerto Rico on Amazon (about $40)


  1. thanks for posting your reviews! i quite enjoyed reading them! =)

  2. Played this over the break with a friend and our two 12 year old boys who took some convincing to even try it. Reading the rules almost killed us off, but once we started playing everyone loved it. The kids wanted to play it again and again. This is easily in my top 3 favorite games, and makes for a lot of fun for the whole family.

  3. Hey josh. Love your reviews, and have been thinking about getting this game for some time. I mainly play with extended family, who don't play a lot of games but did manage Princes of Florence the other weekend. How difficult is this, as a step up from catan etc?

  4. Hey, Steve. If they can handle Settlers of Catan and Princes of Florence, then I think they'd be able to handle Puerto Rico. Once you understand how the roles work, it's not too bad. The biggest complaint I hear is related to having different levels of experience (experiences players will often slaughter new players), but if you all learn it together, then I wouldn't think that you'd have a problem.

    1. "The biggest complaint I hear is related to having different levels of experience (experiences players will often slaughter new players)" Oh, and also, if there
      s a newbie sitting before or next to him is crucial... So, if there is newbies, they should be two of them at the same time, otherwise dynamics goes straight downhill. I'd say if there is me and others who has played hundreds of hours of this, new ones usually takes 5-10 games to even have slightest chance, and meantime the more experienced feel blah because not sitting before or next to newbie makes winning chances worse.

      It led in one point there that we never played this when new ones came - we ended up for playing other games and having spin off Puerto Rico evenings for a while, where we arranged learning curve with one of gurus to teach and another table for experienced ones. :D