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Puerto Rico Board Game Sucks

Game Information

Game Name
There Will Be Games

Love it or hate it? Do you still play it?

Puerto Rico, the game that popularized the 'role selection' mechanism, was hugely popular among Eurogamers, and is considered by many to be a classic. Here however, it never got much love. In fact one of our staff writers, Malloc, wrote this blog entitled This Just in...Puerto Rico Sucks

Matt Thrower Damned it with faint praise declaring Puerto Rico:

Top of it's Class. Shame about the class.

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Do you Play it?

There Will Be Games Puerto Rico Board Game Sucks

Puerto Rico Board Game Sucks
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

Puerto Rico Board Game Sucks
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

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Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #279093 03 Aug 2018 10:28
Oh yes, I absolutely still love this game. I played it a couple of weekends ago with a couple from Arizona that was visiting the city, neither has ever played it before.

I remember back in the day I graduated to this game after over-playing Settlers of Catan way too much.

Puerto Rico still impresses me that each game is so dynamic and different without ANY rolling of the dice at all. A 3-player game is pretty intense, a 5-player game is total chaos (which is fun as well).

It's fun trying to win with the handicap of having the 2nd indigo seat.

it's fun trying to win as 1st corn seat when you are giving yourself the expectation of winning (kind of like Canada's hockey team in any winter olympics - there is only downside).

Whenever I need to explain strategy versus tactics, i think of this game as the perfect example. There is no strategy in this game and if you sit down with a stategy in mind, you are likely to lose. Instead it's making the tactical best play possible which ends up rarely being the thing you think you need to do right now. You never REALLY need to be the Mayor or Craftsman but you can tactically play around those roles as you expect others to choose them (and then get sorely disappointed by your opponents when they don't).

And yes, Settler/Quarry is the undisputed best opening move if you are 1st governor. My family usually goes Builder/Hospice. No wonder I never lose. Idiots. :)

Love this game, love the awkwardness around the brown 'colonists'. Love hearing my mom complain that she doesn't "have enough brown guys in my crops"

i also love teaching this game and think I've pretty good at it (hopefully).
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #279096 03 Aug 2018 10:49
I'll never forget my first exposure to Puerto Rico. Had made plans with friends for a game of Twilight Imperium 2nd Ed one Sunday afternoon. A couple of them showed up with Puerto Rico and wanted to play that instead. Was annoyed as I had really been looking forward to the TI2 game but relented. Huge mistake and honestly I've never quite forgiven that "friend" but he went on to start bringing all the boring Euro's that I soon came do despise so this was just the tip of the iceberg. So I've never liked the game and never will. Fortunately its fallen out of rotation for everyone I know so I don't have to worry about not making the required move to keep the guy two seats north of me from getting a VP.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #279097 03 Aug 2018 10:53
A great, important, and still vital design...

...that is pretty much the scowling poster child for white supremacy in hobby games. It isn’t just that you move brown tokens into’s that the game completely whitewashes the issues of slavery, colonialism, and exploitation in the service of a setting where the players are wealthy white Europeans getting wealthier and more prosperous on the backs of “colonists”. Sure that is a historical truth and it really happened. But this game is not a simulation, and it does not comment on or condemn the practice. Instead, it rewards it. Setting the game in Puerto Rico and establishing a certain veneer of historicity reinforces the racism. It could have been, like Catan, a fictional setting where the “colonists” exist in a different context. But it’s not. Its Puerto Rico, the New World, and Eurocentric colonialism. If there is ever a reprint of this game with a new setting, I hope whoever does it considers that this game is inherently an exercise in white supremacy and white privilege.

It’s not to say that Andreas Seyfarth is a racist or that the racism and historical aloofness (read: ignorance) is intentional. Like a lot of white Europeans, I’m sure he simply did not consider, acting from a position of white privilege, the historical and cultural ramifications of the setting or the themes it produces. But that’s how white supremacy often works and how it continues to poison culture in more supposedly enlightened times.

I remember the first time I thought about what I was actually doing in Puerto Rico. I was introducing the game to a group of friends, one of whom is from Ethiopia. During the rules he sort of looked sideways and said “so we move the brown people from the ship and put them to work in the field?” I had not really thought of it, because I’m a white American and I simply had not considered it from a converse social angle.

It’s a problematic game because it is a brilliant design, and it was a seminal moment in games history. But it strikes me rather like Gone With The Wind or The Searchers, where you have to be willing to overlook white supremacy and “soft” racism to appreciate it.

Will I play it again? I don’t know. I saw a copy at Half Price Books last week and I thought about how if I bought it, I’d have to explain to my kids at some point that we are playing a game where slavery is glossed over in favor of “fun”.

It’s true that other games, like any game where you build pyramids or really do anything in the ancient world also gloss over humanitarian issues. And any number of games reward you for genocide. But this is an instance where the white supremacy/privilege is front and center and a key component of the design. By calling them colonists instead of slaves, it’s basically saying that they were willing to get on he boat, cross over, and work in a white man’s fields.

I thought it was so bold that Struggle of Empires put an African man in chains on its box cover. It was HONEST. It didn’t hide behind happy colonists. And if you go look at Civilization or Mare Nostrum, they also called it like it is- slavery. If it’s there, be honest about it. Puerto Rico hides it plain sight so that the nice white people can enjoy their fun times without being rudely reminded of their ancestors’ cruelty, avarice, and inhumanity.
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #279098 03 Aug 2018 10:59
Small World seems to be a game about genocide but because it's fantasy it's okay i guess

what I love about Puerto Rico, from a gameplay perspective, is that novices (and pretty much most people) focus their attention on the person getting VPs early in the game as the 'leader' where if you have experience in the game, you quickly realize that the person that gets early VPs almost never wins. It's the person hoarding dubloons/coins that almost always wins but that player (read: me) goes unnoticed. If the VP guy gets a harbor though, then it's a different ball game.

Love this game.
Motorik's Avatar
Motorik replied the topic: #279100 03 Aug 2018 11:09
Don't really care if I ever play Puerto Rico again, but my wife and I still enjoy San Juan a couple times a month.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #279102 03 Aug 2018 11:34

By calling them colonists instead of slaves, it’s basically saying that they were willing to get on he boat, cross over, and work in a white man’s fields.

I always thought the colonists were the plantation and business owners/managers not the workers/slaves. The game doesn't try to cover up the slavery, it outright ignores it by never going below the management level. I could be wrong. Its bad either way so I'm not trying to defend it.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #279104 03 Aug 2018 12:11
I really like PR but haven't played it in a couple of years. It's a great design. I picked up the 10th anniversary edition when it was released, and even for a $100 game I've more than gotten my money's worth.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #279107 03 Aug 2018 12:45
I played a three-player game once. It was boring. Aside from cockblockery in the role selection, I don't recall much interaction. Seems utterly ridiculous that this game is still ranked #16 at TOS, outranking every game I enjoy.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #279116 03 Aug 2018 14:10
I played it back in January in a 4-player game and had a fun game, looking at my records it was probably five years since I played it before mainly due to so many other games I'd prefer to play.

I have no problem with the aspect of slavery, just like I have no problems with Egyptian or Roman empire games (probably the two biggest slaving and killing empires in history) building wonders (with slaves) and invading and killing or WW2 games playing as Germany (you know that country full of Nazis exterminating any one they thought were subhuman) - fuck, it's all history and unless you're glorifying parts of it then learn from it and move on and enjoy your own life before you become history.
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #279134 03 Aug 2018 16:04
the instruction manual says that the ships are from Europe with eager colonists looking for a life in the New World.

It's weird to me that 90% of this thread about a great game is PC culture. But to be fair, the thread title is love it or hate it, and I guess that's as valid a reason as any to hate it.

When I read back on that original blog, I think it's funny to see that the guy sees no point in playing the game past the early game because there was a clear leader in VP, when in fact that actually means that player will probably lose. I got a friend like that who i don't play board games anymore. If the beginning of the game goes bad, he just scoops.
Rodriguez1's Avatar
Rodriguez1 replied the topic: #293914 15 Mar 2019 23:34
Puerto Rico is the highest rated game I own. It currently ranks as #6 all time board game on BGG. It is my 3rd most favorite game in my collection. Yet it is not a high performer with the rest of the family. We will get back to that later.

Puerto Rico takes place in the times of cargo sail boats and colonial empires. We take on different roles/characters and are using our power and income to build buildings, refine products, and then sell and ship our commodities from Puerto Rico back to England. The point is to gain the most victory points in the process. The theme is thorough and complete, all of the mechanics play well into the theme. Lots of people on top1apk talk about this game. Then, we tried it and we were so happy with our choice.