We decided to save our “Feature Game” (Guillotine) for an occasion when there’s a more appreciative audience and went straight into a much longer, deeper, and very highly regarded game called Puerto Rico. Although we had all played it before, for some of us it was a long time ago, so we had a quick recap of the rules before we started.
In this game players are plantation owners in seventeenth century Puerto Rico growing up to five different kind of crops: corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Each plantation owner must try to run their business more efficiently than their competitors. First they must grow their crops then they must store them efficiently. Finally, players must sell their crops at the right time or ship their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit. In order to do this most effectively, the plantation owners must make optimal use of the arriving colonists and develop the capital city, San Juan, building useful amenities. In each round, players take it in turns to choose a role, but no role can be selected twice in the same round. Each player gets the opportunity to carry out each action, however, there is a privilege that goes to the player who chose to do it. For example, if one player chooses to build, everyone can build if they want, however, it is cheaper for the person who chose to do it. Ultimately, the player who selects the best roles to advance their position during the game will win. There are two small expansions, but after some discussion, we decided not to use either in the end as we didn’t feel we needed the variety for this game, but maybe next time.
Green decided to start building a couple of quarries and then expanded the indigo plantation that he started the game with, and added sugar (as nobody else seemed to be planting sugarcane). Meanwhile, Blue started out with some corn, built a quarry, then dabbled briefly in tobacco, before going all out for coffee sales. Red, on the other hand, started out with one indigo plantation and added a tobacco plantation. When that didn’t really provide what he wanted, he tried coffee as well for good measure before deciding that what he REALLY wanted was a factory! Red then went into the coffee market which messed with Blue’s plans, so she started shipping corn and coffee which screwed up Green. Towards the end of the game, everyone made a mad dash for big buildings, but the damage had already been done by the efficient factory which gave Red the win with fifty-three points.
We only had time for one other game, and decided on Hanabi. This is a really clever and unusual cooperative game which has just been awarded the Spiel des Jahres. Hanabi is the Japanese word for “fireworks” and the idea is that you are collectively trying make the perfect firework display. To do this, all you have to do is play cards, in order from one to five, in their colour suits. The snag is that you hold your hand of cards back to front so that you can’t see the cards you are going to play, although you can see everyone else’s. Thus, on your turn you can give a hint to someone to tell them something about their cards or you can play or discard a card. Hints are restricted though and you can only point point out all the cards of a specific, common number or colour. You also only have eight hints, although you get extras for every card you discard. You also only have three lives and lose one each time you play a card that has already been played or if you play a card before all the lower numbers of that colour have been played. One of the reasons Hanabi is so unusual is that although players are working towards a common goal, they can’t really help each other. In this game, we made a mistake quite early on when someone discarded the second yellow four and it all went downhill from there, ending with a total of eighteen (out of a possible maximum of twenty-five).
Leaning Outcome: If you teach people too well, sometimes they end up winning!