The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops: Corn, Indigo, Coffee, Sugar and Tobacco, they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors; growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.
The game system lets players choose the order of the phases in each turn by allowing each player to choose a role from those remaining when it is their turn. No role can be selected twice in the same round. The player who selects the best roles to advance their position during the game will win.
Sequels & Spinoffs
San Juan (Card game)
Puerto Rico is a game with deep strategic play offering more than one path to victory due to the abstract method employed to gain points. Each turn players select a role from the pool which gives each player an action, but the chooser gains a bonus. The roles vary from adding a plantation, adding workers, building, producing goods, shipping goods, selling goods, and being greedy and taking money. Shipping is the only role with an action that grants points, while two roles grant money which is used to build buildings which are worth points at the end of the game. Production only works if you have a plantation and a production building of the same kind and they are both staffed. Players will find they need to carefully balance what roles they pick at what times, and have a few backup plans as someone may choose a role at a disadvantageous time.
Players do not directly interact, however after shipping goods players may find themselves with spoilage causing all but one of their goods to be discarded. The plantations and buildings in the game are finite, not every player will get what they want, so players must choose the right time to act or else lose out. There are three end-game triggers, so it is difficult to delay the game, and if you are not paying close attention the game may end before you realize it. There are a few good strategies for winning the game, but not all of them will work for each play, so players need to maintain a Plan B while also doing some form of damage control.
Puerto Rico offers depth of play and rewards careful planning and adaptability. There is no luck in the game, though the forces at play cannot always be predicted.