We played Puerto Rico last night, my third game ever. My opponents were RealmKeeper, Cyberkev, and Trevor (who needs a nickname!). For once at a gaming night I wasn't tired, so I was able to concentrate on the game and I considered my strategy very carefully. I was second player, so started with an indigo, which was an immediate impediment to a shipping strategy. Cyberkev took settler straight away, denying me an early quarry, which was an immediate impediment to a building strategy. I took another indigo plantation, figuring that producing lots of indigo couldn't be a bad thing. I quickly got a large indigo plant up and running. The other guys were taking hospices and haciendas, but I was hoping they weren't forming a bandwagon I was going to miss. I got my indigo plant up to full production, and ended up with a couple of coffee and sugar plantations I couldn't really use.
I'd bought a small market early, hoping to use it to get some money. As I was only producing indigo, it made sense to buy an office so I could always sell that indigo. RealmKeeper and Trevor, who had corn, were shipping often, but as I often had 3 indigo to ship that didn't hurt so much. When I was able to choose trader I could get 3 doubloons and often nobody else got much at all. As the game progressed, I could see I wasn't going to beat the corn guys by shipping, so I invested in a large market as well, and a coffee grinder. The shippers kept crafting, leaving me with 3 indigo and 2 coffee to play with each time. When I got the chance I could trade an indigo for 5 or a coffee for 8, which is pretty good money.
Of course at this stage I started looking at the big buildings. I had a heap of cash coming in, and not as many VPs as the shipping guys. I looked at the hospices, and how many VPs the others would get if they had the fortress, so I had to take that first. Then I looked at the haciendas, and how many VPs the others would get if they had the residence, so I had to have that next. At this point, Cyberkev and I had abandoned the idea of shipping, so it was a race between the shippers and the builders to see who could finish the game under the right conditions. Strangely, Trevor chose to take the mayor and the game ran out of colonists. I was left with trading as the last action of the game, and sold an indigo to give me a lot of cash in case of a tiebreak.
And indeed, that was what happened. Realmkeeper had been the best shipper, but he didn't have much in buildings and only scored 32. Trevor scored 30. Cyberkev had 38 from his quarry-based building strategy. I also had 38 from my trading-based building strategy. But trading on the last turn of the game had left me with about 7 doubloons, which won the tiebreak. Woohoo!
I've decided I really like this game, and upped my rating to a 9. I've got a basic idea of strategies, and I felt last night like I was able to formulate new plans on the fly when, for example, Cyberkev took the builder role that I really wanted. I know enough now to play sensibly, and I can think on my feet. The game is beautifully constructed, there are just the right buildings and goods and VPs and colonists to keep it tight all the way through. I'm looking forward to playing again.