Saturday, May 06, 2006

3 Player Puerto Rico, in detail

A Puerto Rico game with Rachel and Nadine.

We played with the standard game, with the following changes:

  • Hospice: you can move one of our colonists onto Hospice immediately after buying it.
  • Large Warehouse: Unused, instead we played with Discretionary Hold (a: can store any 3 barrels, and b: can place one barrel of any type onto each full boat at end of captain phase for 1 vp each).
  • Factory: cost 8
  • University: cost 7, and comes with a colonist from the supply.

Since I had played 3rd (corn) the last two times, we decided that I would not be able to play 3rd again this time. I played 2nd.

Many games have standard opening moves, such as chess and go, so it doesn't bother me that the opening moves in PR are also pretty standardized, albeit they leave perhaps even less room for experimentation than the other games.

However, even following the standard moves, the second player is in a slightly weaker position, which is a bit of a problem. I have wondered several times if perhaps this could be addressed, by giving 2nd player corn or sugar, or by giving the 3rd player indigo or sugar, and so on. I haven't gotten around to trying these out, yet.

Anyway, here is how our game went (no notes, since we played on shabbat):

1st round: Nadine takes Settler/quarry, I get a corn, Rachel takes a sugar. I take Builder/Sm Market. I briefly considered trying something new by taking Mayor, until I remembered that giving Nadine her quarry manned before building would be a boon for her. In our games, 3rd player often takes Sm Sugar rather than Sm Market on first build if they got a sugar plantation, and that's what Rachel did. Nadine then passed, rather than buy either Sm Market or Sm Indigo without the quarry reduction.

2nd round: I take Trader, Rachel takes Craftsman, Nadine takes Captain. So ends the scripted opening.

3rd round, Rachel buys Sm Market, Nadine buys Sm Indigo, I pass, hoping to get a trade good going soon. Nadine takes Mayor, and Rachel mans her corn. I then diverged from what would be the most normative play of Settler with a bonus, and instead took Craftsman, since Rachel hadn't manned her Sm Market. Meanwhile, Nadine will likely take Trader, leaving me with Settler with a double bonus.

4th round: Which she does. Nadine trades indigo for 3 (bonus), I trade corn for 1, and Rachel trades sugar for 2. I take Settler with 2 and take a coffee. Rachel takes another corn, and Nadine takes Tobacco. Rachel now has 2 corns and a sugar, Nadine had a quarry, indigo, and tobacco, and I have coffee, indigo, and corn. Rachel takes captain. She has 5 vp, I have 2, and Nadine has none.

5th round: I get builder with a bonus and build coffee with 2 left over. Rachel builds Hospice. You may snort, but Hospice can sometimes quickly pay for itself with quarries and corns; in this game, however, it never did. Nadine buys Tobacco. Rachel takes Mayor, and Nadine takes Craftsman. Nadine was hoping to trade tobacco, but she wasn't also producing an indigo that would have ensured that my lone coffee would have to ship first. Nadine also didn't mind starting a tobacco boat at this point, although it ended up being hard to trade her tobacco later.

6th round: Rachel takes Captain with the bonus, and Nadine is forced to ship her tobacco. I still have my coffee. Rachel is now at 8 vp, while both Nadine and I have only 2 each. That's a hefty gap to start with, but without a trade good she is going to find herself in trouble, soon. Nadine takes Settler, I believe. I trade my coffee for a total of 7.

7th round: From here on it gets a little hazy. Nadine and I both buy a Harbor at this point. Nadine wanted to buy Factory, but was only now reminded that it cost 8 rather than 7, and seeing as she was not yet producing sugar, decided that Harbor was more worthwhile for the cost at this point. I would have liked to buy a Factory at 7 cost, but since I had a coffee monopoly for the foreseeable future, I didn't think that I needed it. What I needed was to start closing the VP gap with Rachel, however. I took Mayor, and Rachel took Craftsman.

8th round: At this point, another lovely coffee trade looked tempting, but not half as tempting as starting a coffee boat. The coffee boat I started now essentially lasted until the end of the game, and ended up being a huge swing in victory points for me. A tobacco boat was also going, if you remember, which meant that Rachel's shipping opportunities were limited to the small boat until she bought the Discretionary Hold or a Wharf. She ends up buying the Discretionary Hold soon after.

On my next opportunity to trade, I trade an indigo, rather than a coffee again. I was still holding a coffee monopoly, which meant the only way to clear out the trading house other than with coffee was with corn, and I didn't want to sacrifice the 2 vp I was getting with shipping coffee with a Harbor. I figured that I would get the money soon enough.

However, I ended up letting Nadine get Guild Hall first, which was a loss for me. Guild Hall is just 2-3 VP better than any other building, most of the time. I'm so glad that I don't play with it anymore when we are at my house. Cathedral is just so much better.

Rachel decided to play a strange strategy by adding University to her Hospice. Under the right conditions, you can use the University to end the game in the last round, by buying a large building and having it come prefilled, while your opponents are stuck with unmanned buildings. Under ideal conditions, it can also do a lot of good with other buildings, too. However, even at a cost of 7 and prefilled, it is not a bargain.

On the second to last round of the game, we hit a strange little bump with this, in fact. I had purposely left 2 colonists in the supply, rather than only 1, for reasons that I can't remember. It turns out that if I had left only 1, I could have taken Mayor before Rachel took Builder as her last move. There would then have been no colonists left in the supply or boat with which to fill her building! But it never came to that, since I had foolishly left 2 colonists in the supply.

On my first opportunity to buy a big building, after Nadine took Guild Hall, I decided to take Wharf, which proved to be very fruitful, as I was producing 2 natural corns and often 3 when I took Craftsman. My coffee boat, and Nadine's tobacco boat, were filling up slowly, which meant no extra points for Rachel's Discretionary Hold.

And my big building, when I got around to it, was Custom's House. So all was well with the world, for me.

Nadine ended with 28 shipping vps and a complete Guild Hall, for 57 points. Rachel had 30 shipping vps and Fortress for 56 points. My Custom's House and 33 shipping vps totaled 62 points. So 2nd place can win sometimes, after all. But only if he gets a coffee monopoly and a coffee boat.


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