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Hallertau brings us Uwe Rosenberg’s 36th iteration of managing crops and your animeeples (who knows if that’s right - but it’s a lot). How...

Hallertau by Uwe Rosenberg Hallertau by Uwe Rosenberg

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Euro Game



Hallertau brings us Uwe Rosenberg’s 36th iteration of managing crops and your animeeples (who knows if that’s right - but it’s a lot). However, I’ve only played half a dozen or so of his designs but this one is as good as they come, assuming you like minimal player interaction and lots of mechanisms that integrate seamlessly with each other.

During the game of 6 rounds, you’ll develop your farm and manage your crops (and sheep) to build your typical ‘Uwe-Engine’ and a smorgasbord of points to claim victory. If you don’t have enough friends to invite over (even if that’s allowed now) and ultimately ignore whilst you crunch through the actions and work out your optimum moves, the game features a solo mode that plays exactly like the friend-version.

Gameplay




Each of the 6 rounds has 10 phases … there are a standard few phases of round prep, and necessary round-tear down-phases at the beginning and end of a round. These are all nearly dealt with simultaneously by all players, so don’t let 10 phases put you off. What separates my experience of this and other games of this ilk is that the worker placement phase (i.e. the Actions in Hallertau) is far from the only phase in which your Analysis Paralysis can be freely exercised.

That extra AP-inducing phase is Progress in which you’ll be clearing the ground (by picking rocks) and improving buildings surrounding your farm/community centre. This will ultimately give you more workers with which to use next round.



Your workers/blue cubes will be interacting with 13 different resources, 4 different types of cards and five buildings all in an effort to get (more workers, because that’s always a good thing) and get the most victory points.

Ten phases, 13 resources, so far so Uwe… but it really is far simpler than it would appear at first glance. The mechanisms are obviously the result of a seasoned and expert designer to the point where even in your first game the rules will quickly disappear and you’ll properly be playing the game instead of the rule book. I’ve got some games where I’m still constantly referring to the rules (here’s looking at your Fields of Fire).



The only real interaction you’ll have with other players is by denying action spaces to your opponents or more accurately making action spaces more expensive for them. This game is the epitome of multiplayer solitaire, and I consider that a good thing. So much of your brain is engaged optimising your choices that any extra randomness would be unwelcome i.e. having your opponents actively trying to subvert your plans would serve to lessen the experience.

There is a little bit of randomness (driven by 4 decks of cards) and quite a bit of setup variability due to having 8 decks of the cards from which you only need to draw 2. That amount of entropy is just about perfect for this ‘Expert’-level game. Just leaving you reacting to the game state and not the other players (for the most part). You only really have two decisions: whether the cost per action is worth it and how best to optimise your building improvements cost. Despite the cornucopia of resources you need to factor into those two decisions, you’re left with what I think is quite a simple game and why you can quickly ditch the rule book.



During the Actions phase in turn order players will place their supply or workers onto the board and immediately resolve the effect. This continues until every player has exhausted their worker pool or passed. The Action board has 20 spaces and they can be chosen at most 3 times each. If one worker has already been placed on the action space, you’ll need to send two workers to take that action again. (Can you guess how many workers will need to activate the space a 3rd time?) The downtime between your turns is no more than a couple of minutes and the game moves along at a fair clip. For such a thinky, four-player game that is an achievement.

Each round the top row of workers will be removed which creates a mini-supply and demand economy for action spaces. The most popular spaces (i.e. Land Sale/Town Hall) will rarely have fewer than 2 workers on and should be taken (IMHO) at every possible opportunity. They are the only space which grants you Jewels, which are often necessary to save your bacon towards the end of the game.





Another brilliant mechanism that keeps you involved even when it’s not your turn is the ability to play a card from your hand at any time. Most cards will either require you to spend resources or just have a number of resources in order to use them. After a game or two, you’ll start to appreciate how important the cards are...if you want to do well you’ll need to optimise your card play. The most important cards are the bonus cards which give you a welcome boost during the income phase. The earlier you can play them, the more decisive their impact. Towards the end of the game, your focus will likely shift to the Point cards but these are often such a high cost to play (they give large numbers of victory points) that in order to use them you’ll have had to have a strategy throughout the game.

Many cards will also allow you to draw another card when you play them, and having the ability to play cards at any time can lead to playing a 2 or 3 card combo even when it’s not your turn from cards that you’ve just picked up - beautiful. Fulfilling the requirements to play cards is the primary tactical game here. You’ll be choosing action spaces based on the cards in your hand and not necessarily what gives you the most resources.

The other primary tactical consideration is how to most effectively improve your Community Center. This is done in the other AP-inducing phase Progress. During the Progress phase, you’ll slide your community centre as far right as your five community buildings allow. You slide those right by paying their improvement costs - which are each different and are increasingly expensive. By the end of the game, you’ll be paying effectively 6 times what you paid in the first round.

As you improve your community buildings and slide your community centre to the right you’ll unlock more workers (your thriving community can support more workers), allowing you to do more actions. You start the game with 6 workers and this can increase by one per community centre shift up to a maximum of twelve. But the primary purpose of moving your community centre is to get those sweet victory points, the vast majority of which will come from improving your buildings i.e. shifting your buildings right.


There are many other mechanisms that I won’t elaborate on here, suffice to say that Uwe’s expert hand is very visible throughout the game and the different interactions and combos that can be done is rewarding.

Components


The best component is arguably the player aid and the design of the game itself. With the player aid, which is relatively small any player should be able to walk through the entire round with no recourse to the rulebook. This is only achievable because the game, despite the amount of stuff (and phases) you’re dealing with is fundamentally simple … I’m prepared to defend that position too, despite it being contrary to most other reviews I’ve seen.



As ever with a pure Euro we’ve got fantastic wooden bits. I love me some wooden bits and these don’t disappoint. The workers are abstracted to a nice chunky cube and the resources are different shapes and colours and they’re certainly satisfying to move up and down your resource track. They are quite thin, but if they were any thicker then the box would be even deeper than it currently is.

The rules are excellent and should you need them, provide a comprehensive card index (and summary explanation) of every card in the game, of which there are well over 300! The rules also provide a detailed overview of the game which is often lacking in other ‘Expert’ games and I found it helpful to understand the core game before reading the rules properly. I would like to see more rules written like this.

Criticisms


As can be applied to many ‘Euros’ the theme never really grabbed me. I never felt like I was farming hops in Southwest Germany. The names of the resources, Rye, Barley, Flax, Hops were quickly reduced to, ‘the blue one’ or the ‘green one’ for example.



The game is also a bit of a table hog, each player area has got 6 boards in it! However, with so much going on, it’s not really a criticism, more of a ‘be prepared'. I would also like to have bigger cards as they’re the small Euro size but I shudder to think of the required tablespace if they were any larger.

I 3d-printed an organiser for this game which nicely fills up all of the space in the box, (there is still a massive amount of unused space) however even with baggies I found the box to be unnecessarily deep. Unless there’s a plan for lots of expansion content and I don’t really think this needs or could have any, I would love to have a smaller box.



Conclusion


This game has got Uwe stamped all over it. If you like Agricola, Ora et Labora, Fields of Arle et al I am sure that this will be right up your street. I like the seemingly endless amount of resources and different rules at first glance which fundamentally boil down to some simple interactions and easy to grasp rules.

I love the fact that the solo mode is almost identical to the main game. As much as I appreciate a solo mode to many games, I’m not so keen if I have to learn a whole new game (running the AI) in order to play solo. Obviously, we’ve all been a bit constrained with our playing partners but my game groups are back up and running and I can’t wait to play with a few more players. I know this will be a hit.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store, which need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designers: Uwe Rosenberg
Bgg page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/300322/hallertau
Playtime: 50 - 140 mins
Players: 1 - 4




Florenza X Anniversary edition is a reprint of a game I knew nothing about. I love games with unique themes and this one is the first game ...

Florenza X Anniversary Edition by Stefano Groppi Florenza X Anniversary Edition by Stefano Groppi

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Euro Game


Florenza X Anniversary edition is a reprint of a game I knew nothing about. I love games with unique themes and this one is the first game I’ve played about Italian renaissance art. What’s slightly ironic in a game that worships at the feet of the most iconic names in art is that its own artwork is a little on the bland and beige side. But you shouldn’t let this minor gripe put you off, there is a good game in here with a ridiculously tight economy.

Gameplay


The game pits you, as a patron of the arts in Florence commissioning paintings, sculptures and architecture. Prestige Points are earned for supporting and funding artworks and they ultimately decide who wins the game, most Prestige Points wins. All of that sounds, quite simple but I had a bear of a time trying to learn the game, I think partly due to the fact the rules never explicitly state that the squares across the boards are the artworks. It’s bloomin’ obvious now I’ve played it a handful of times, but I found the initial learning curve pretty steep and opaque. Not least because everything is written in quite arcane Italian - more on that later.



This is a competitive worker placement game for 1 to 5 players. Every piece of art (its name at least) and character card are part of true history and that is fantastic. I feel slightly cleverer...each time I finish a game of this. There are a bunch of different mechanisms and abilities that change each round that you’ll constantly be taxed trying to work out how to afford Bernino to sculpt the Cupola of the Duomo…(confused? Shame on you for not having any archaic Italian language skills...)

The unique selling point of this ‘medieval euro worker placement’ (do we not have enough of those yet?) is that you place your workers out to action spaces, sometimes to collect resources and sometimes to spend them but you don’t actually resolve the action spaces until a later phase Trying to keep a handle on the cost of what you’re planning on building, in an even later phase, and placing your workers in order to meet those requirements, in an earlier phase, sounds simple when written down but is actually a memory game like no other.



Your best-laid plans can quickly and purposefully be derailed by other players as well. If I plan on building a particular piece of art I should make damn certain that I’ll have the necessary resources to build it otherwise I’ll lose prestige points. However, if you place your workers out to get the resources first another player could usurp you on that artwork and you’re left either with an inferior piece or not being able to build at all. There are some deliciously brutal moves you can inflict on your opponents and I love that in any game.

In order to build a piece of art, you’ll have to hire an artist and give them the necessary resources to complete it. There are 5 main resources in this game Marble, Wood, Cloth, Stone, Gold and ‘the green one’. It supposedly Spice but I can’t figure out what that was used for in renaissance art and it looks more like a paint pot to me. There are 7 rounds in which you’ll be building workshops (to get your ‘engine’ going, collecting resources from income or workshops you’ve built (which ultimately let you either build more workshops and complete pieces of art), hiring artists (which provide bonus Prestige), paying alms to the church, working with merchants of Florence (called Captains of Fortune), becoming a captain of the people or a Bishop yourself or even a Cardinal or simply trading at the market or running your business. ‘Phew’...



As you can see there’s a lot going on. For a newcomer to the game (i.e. me), the amount of archaic Italian on the board and cards was a bit of a stumbling block to understanding and learning the game. I’ve got no idea what a ‘Rione’ is or what a Boscaludolo does, and you’ll not find any English guides to help you. What I didn’t realise until my second game is that the text really doesn’t matter, initially it was a stumbling block but by my third play I was appreciating the Italian flare and I’m glad that the designer purposefully retained the language throughout the game to ‘enhance the atmosphere and immersiveness of the playing experience’.

There are 8 phases each round and the player order is variable based on who was farthest on the Prestige Points track. However, this is definitely not a case of a runaway leader as each time you become the first player (i.e. take the Captain of the People card) you’ll reset your Prestige marker back to 0 and collect that many Prestige points as tokens instead. This was a clever mechanism to move the first player marker around the table not just randomly but also based on skill. It is certainly possible to manufacture a couple of game turns where you stay as 1st player.



The second player is determined by the Church Influence track - which works very similarly to Prestige and awards the leading player with becoming a bishop for the next round. If you’re ever elected Bishop twice in a row you’ll become a cardinal and although the rule book says that that has lots of bonus points I’ve never seen that happen. The third, fourth and fifth player orders is based solely on their position on the Prestige track. I like variable player orders and this feels a bit more tactical (i.e. I prefer it) to the typical action space that takes the first player marker - here it’s all based on your accumulated Prestige / Influence.

The ordering of the phases in the round, at first glance, seemed a little disjointed to me. It took a few games to really sink in and I was constantly looking in the rule book and flicking back and forth to find the correct interpretation. Unfortunately, the rulebook wasn’t as comprehensive as I would have liked. For example, the income phase is clearly marked on the game components with a purple colour. Nowhere in the rulebook (that I could) find is that explained. I spent the first 30 minutes of my learning game, wondering what the bizarre colouring on the workshops was. But I did feel a bit cleverer...when I worked it out.



Once the round order clicked, I appreciated the ordering of it, and the ordering is actually what makes this game so brain-burnery…(real word). Your workers are placed in Phase 4 and there can only ever be one worker per space. This is sequentially in player order. In Phase 5 you’ll resolve the actions in a specified order and/or trade in the market. Bearing in mind that you’ll have commissioned artists with their own inherent costs and art with their own resource requirements in Phase 4 and it isn’t until Phase 6 where you’ll actually complete that art...If you’re anything like me trying to mentally keep track of what my workers were going to do and how I was planning on funding that artwork should stave off, or induce a good level of dementia. I found it surprisingly difficult (in a good way) to plan and execute the plan without any mistakes.

Not being able to complete an artwork you’ve commissioned can lead to significant penalties. There are three main areas that you can build in, the Cathedral on the mainboard (or Duomo). Failing to build an artwork there will cost you 3 prestige points. The town of Florenza shows five other buildings on the mainboard. Miscalculations here will cost you 2 Prestige Points. Or you could build on your own player board where the penalty is only 1 Prestige Point for failing to build.



‘But surely that won’t happen', I hear you cry; it does and it will to you too. The economy is so tight that it is often the lack of just one resource ‘spice’ (!?) that prevents you from completing an artwork. You can’t just turn around and build one you can afford as your worker has to have chosen that artwork two phases earlier in order to build it. That, in essence, is the game of Florenza - a hybrid memory game with worker placement and a bit of tearing your remaining hair out because your opponents have just knee-capped you. And I loved it.

I certainly haven’t explored every nuance of this game and I’m not particularly good at it. For example, if you complete the four pieces in your own ‘Chiesa’ (anyone?) or the four in your ‘Palazzo’ (anyone?) you’ll get some bonus Prestige points each turn. However, by just completing one big artwork on the mainboard you can claim smaller but more easily achieved bonus points. I’ve never finished my board in 5 games. I like the fact that there are always some difficult decisions to be made, which are made harder by your opponents thinking exactly like you and nicking the spot you were eyeing up. This is particularly prevalent in the end game where many spots (i.e. art) on the mainboard have already been built, and you’re competing with lots more resources for far fewer spaces. Exactly how I like it.

Components


The components are all made from nice thick cardboard stock or wood and are all perfectly functional and easy to use. I particularly liked the likenesses of the artists and buildings on the cards and mainboard. I even recognised some of them…



There are also dedicated areas on the mainboard and your personal board to store resources which is quite a nice touch and necessary as this game will certainly eat up a lot of table space.

Criticisms


This game is crying out for a more comprehensive player aid. They include a workshop costs/benefit chart which I didn’t find overly helpful. But I did have to refer to the round order or a few common areas in the rulebook more times than I care to remember (and still do). My rule book is certainly looking a bit tired. A better player aid showing the round order and card powers would be far more useful, arguably it will probably take up a whole sheet of A4. For example, nowhere on the board does it mention the penalty cost for not completing a piece of art.



The biggest criticism I have is the set-up and pack-up time. It’s quite fiddly to do so and I’ve not been able to do it in under 15 minutes. You have to set out all of the available workshops (44 of them in approximately 20 stacks) and then draw 9 different artists from a deck matching the randomly drawn tiles; as well as all the other resources and cards to lay out. Thankfully the cards are all uniquely numbered and easy to identify, assuming you’ve packed the 40 cards away in numerical order.

I’ve played this solo and with three players and I don’t think I’d want to try a five-player game. Towards the end or even the middle of the game, you’ll have 8 kinsmen which will need careful consideration to place and resolve. This was an okay length of time in a 3 player teaching game but I wouldn’t want to teach this at any higher player count. I would only endorse this at 5 players if everyone had played before otherwise, it’s at risk of outstaying its welcome.



Conclusion


I had zero expectations or knowledge of this and it’s turned into a bit of a sleeper hit for me. It’s got a fairly unique theme and looks quite distinctive and not many people have heard of it, I find myself drawn to it more and more. I feel it certainly deserves more attention and is easily the equal of some of the most revered games in the hobby. I would recommend this to any seasoned gamer as a competitive and rewarding experience.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store, which need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designers: Steffano Groppi
Bgg page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/311464/florenza-x-anniversary-edition
Playtime: 90 - 180 mins
Players: 1-5

Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the final instalment of the West Kingdom trilogy (Architects, Paladins and now Viscounts). A series which I...

Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Euro Game


Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the final instalment of the West Kingdom trilogy (Architects, Paladins and now Viscounts). A series which I have immensely enjoyed and if I tell you that my biggest gripe with the series is that I can’t get my head around the thematic link between the game titles and what you’re actually doing in the games themselves, it might give you a clue a to how this review is going to do down…(spoiler I like it).


Viscounts is the most visually appealing of the three games coming with a central circular board and eye-catching 3-tiered castle in the centre of the board through which 1-4 players will be moving their single Viscount figure around the action spaces of the circular board, constructing buildings from their individual player board i.e. ‘building their engine’. As you build you’ll derive immediate and ongoing benefits on both the central board and your individual player board.

Gameplay

Each turn you’ll complete 6 distinct phases, however, the meat and potatoes, if you will, comes as you try to complement your Viscount’s new action space with the ever-shifting cards on your player board. Being able to optimise cards and actions across the boards describes a standard level of competence. What seems to be beyond me, certainly during the later stages of the game, is calculating the effects of your workers as they infest the castle – essentially only 3 workers are allowed in any section and the surplus is pushed into adjacent sections triggering further effects.



Once you’re familiar with the iconography (which is largely shared with other games in the series) your player boards lay out the phases in your turn which repeat in player order until the Kingdom descends into Poverty, achieved by players rinsing the Debt cards and revealing the Poverty card; or by being virtuous and fulfilling Deeds until the Prosperity Card is revealed. However, the Poverty card will reward the players with the most Deeds, and the Prosperity card rewards the player with the most debts so there is a nice see-saw effect of players collectively taking debts and deeds until the game ends.

You’ll start the game with three Townsfolk in your hand and each turn you’ll have to add one to your player board. This will then push the existing Townsfolk to the right until there are at most three on your board. What’s nice, or crunchy – depending on your point of view, is that some cards have immediate bonuses, some have drop-off bonuses, and whilst they are on your board they all provide extra icons for your primary actions. There’s an element of deck building as well as you add cards to your discard pile and discard cards later in the game.

Your primary actions are determined by the icons which are present on the Townsfolk cards on your player board and constitute the meat and potatoes of the game. You can Trade, Build, Mess around in the cool castle or Do Some Churchey stuff. Trade is where you get the resources required to do the other actions all of which give you victory points which is ultimately what we’re trying to do here, as ever.

There are three different types of resources for which you’re trading, Gold (okay), Stone (okay) and Ink Wells (wait – what?). Which allow you to take the VP-rewarding actions. The first, Build, requires hammer icons to build either workshops, trading posts or a guildhall. Each building type has its own unique piece (beeple?) and provides permanent bonuses as well as victory points - “So far, so Euro”.




The third action is to Place Workers in the castle. This is the centrepiece of the game and arguably what makes this game stand out to a passer-by (what’s one of those?). Each section of the castle has an effect to resolve as you place your workers and you will also bump other players workers (or your own) off the castle. As more workers litter the castle the combos you can build (i.e. free actions) is nice. In fact, I think it’s one of my favourite aspects of this game – my brain can’t work out what’s going to happen when I place 4 workers on the 1st tier but it’s always a nice surprise when I’m the active player and get to resolve the second tier and third tiers as well as bumping a few other players off the castle. However, these types of combos are only possible when there are a number of your workers (as well as others) already in the castle and won't happen much before the last 30 minutes or so.


The fourth and final action is writing a manuscript…which I’ll admit is a bit of a departure from typical worker placement games action spaces. These manuscripts often have an immediate bonus and endgame scoring points as well as having some very important bonuses for set collecting.

Finally, for the purposes of this gameplay overview, there is a virtue track. Criminals, as in the other ‘West Kingdom’ games are considered wild cards and their icons can be anything but using them does give you some Corruption. Corruption and Virtue are tracked separately on the virtue track and can give lots of Deeds and Debt cards. The castle and this virtue track are the two elements that make this game stand out, not just from the other West Kingdom games, but as a "it’s different from anything else and deserves a place in my collection"-type game.

I’ve not tried to describe every rule, there’s a plethora of other actions and rules I’m not going to cover but hopefully what I have done is given you a flavour of the game and why I like it. I’ve not even touched on strategies, that’s for another person to give but suffice to say I don’t think there’s any particular dominant strategy and you’ll do well by dabbling in a little bit of everything.

Components


The game comes in my newly-favourite sized box – i.e. one that fits the components perfectly with no extra space. I 3d-printed an organiser which did free things up a little bit but there is a massive amount of game in this deceptively small box.



The cards all have a lovely linen finish making them buttery smooth to handle. The wooden components are fantastic and the plastic castle is a nice touch. In an ideal world, the castle and board slot together easily and stay together but that was not my experience. However, this is a very minor gripe about some rather unique components.

Criticisms


The only criticism I have of this game is my lack of awareness of what a Viscount is. An architect designs buildings, Paladins are fighting monks, Viscounts – not sure, do they write manuscripts…? I just don’t have the familiarity with the term or the ability to link my in-game actions with a particular purpose of a Viscount. Maybe the designers’ adherence to the ‘West Kingdom’ trilogy (North, South and East as well) is providing too many constraints. I just don’t feel like I’m being a Viscount or my actions are anything to do with Viscounting…but that doesn't really detract from the excellent gameplay.

Conclusion


So with all that said, what do I think? The initial set up and cards provide a large number of variables and create a highly replayable game. I definitely want to play this again and again, however, as the UK is tentatively eyeing the easing of Lockdown in the next few months I expect that my groups' demands and appetites will be very wide and varied. Replaying the same title month on month or week on week is just not going to happen any time soon.




There is a lovely balance in lots of different aspects of the game and make it feels like it is in a constant state of flux. Any strategy you decide upon will likely have to be adapted turn by turn, in order to do well but any strategy (as long as you’ve got one will probably do alright). This is a testament to the balance of the game. I was initially enamoured of the castle strategy to win, and then the manuscript strategy and I’ve dabbled with the Building strategy (although not successfully). It is clear that the mechanics integrate together perfectly and there are multiple paths to victory.

In terms of the trilogy, I have liked each game more than the previous. And I started out liking Architects a lot. Maybe I suffer from a bit of cult of the new, but Viscounts is my standout game of the series.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store; which need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Bgg page:  https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/296151/viscounts-west-kingdom
Playtime: 60 mins - 90 mins
Players: 1 - 4




Puerto Rico should need no introduction; it stood atop the bgg rankings for many years (I believe it is the longest-running #1 game in t...

Puerto Rico Puerto Rico

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Euro Game


Puerto Rico should need no introduction; it stood atop the bgg rankings for many years (I believe it is the longest-running #1 game in the history of bgg).  However, If you’re not familiar, players assume the roles of colonial governors on their eponymous island.  The game makes no attempt to nationalise or politicise the theme, other than alluding to European governors attempting to instil their values of order and industry to their respective islands and incoming colonists.  I too will ignore the politics and real history of the period.  Games are meant to be enjoyed after all and not provide a social commentary on human rights/abuses.

I recently received the Puerto Rico deluxe edition and have been excited to revisit this gem. However, if you’ve never heard of it (!!!) then the TL;DR is, if you like ‘Euro’ games with tight mechanics, don’t read this, just go and buy it.

Gameplay

The primary mechanic in this game is one of Action Drafting, in which the starting player will choose one of the six available actions.  Every other player will then get to do the same action albeit without the bonus ability that the first player gets.  After each player has taken their action, the starting player moves round to the next player on the left and then play repeats.  Although this game may look quite intimidating to a new gamer the repetition of actions 2 or 3 times every round allows the rules to sink in surprisingly quickly. In my experience, there are very few questions from new players after the first 30 minutes or so.
Ready...Steady...Colonise
The game takes place on individual player boards which comprise island spaces and city spaces.  These must be filled by plantations (square chits), or buildings (rectangular chits) respectively.  There are loads of little seemingly insignificant design choices like this (chit shape) which make the game easy to teach and enjoyable to play every single time.  Even if you haven’t played in years, I promise that the rules will come flooding back.

The chosen actions are all part of the Role cards, which are: Captain, Mayor, Builder, Settler, Trader and Craftsman.  There is also a Prospector Role which has no associated action and will only be used in 4 or 5 player games.  These roles all perform a thematically linked action that will help to develop your ‘island’.  After players are familiar with the mechanics it is often quickly apparent which role should be chosen to most benefit you, however where I find the most fun in this game is looking for those roles which most hurt your opponents.
The available roles
The available plantations (corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco and coffee) only produce goods if there is the matching production building (indigo mill, sugar ill, tobacco storage etc) in the city space. The exception here is corn which requires no production building but is worth zero when sold…  It is a multiple-step process to produce any good (except corn); you’ll need to do the Settler action (placing a plantation), the Builder action (building the necessary production building), do the Mayor action which allows you to move your colonists onto the matching plantations and buildings.  All of which will allow you to produce during the Craftsmen action.

It is obvious from this description that some level of strategic thought is necessary to optimise your chosen plantations and buildings.  It is pointless planting sugar cane if you never build a sugar mill… there are many different building and goods options that provide viable paths to victory no one method will guarantee the win. The adage ‘do what your opponents aren’t’ springs to mind, you really do have to play tactically as well and consider the board state and available resources to do well.  New-comers won’t necessarily appreciate these nuances until their second or third play, but they’ll still have a good time whilst they're learning.
What you're playing on
Aside from the money, which allows you to enhance your city by buying buildings, the main VP scoring comes from choosing the Captain role which allows players to ship their produced goods (dependent on their island plantations and city buildings) back to Europe.  Each shipped good produces 1VP, however, there are only 3 ships that only accept one type of good and a finite amount of the first ‘shipped’ good.  However, 5 different types of goods can be produced so some goods may be lost…

Like many Euro games, the economy is very tight, money is often hard to come by.  But the true grease of your VP engine is your produced goods.  Each good can be sold to the Trader for some money but often you may be forced to ship your high-value coffee stock or risk having to just lose it without any gain.  New players don't often realise the ramifications around the table of their role choices but I revel in causing other players to lose their produced goods. 
The player board (near the beginning of the game)
There is a relatively high amount of player interaction even though you’re all playing on completely separate boards.  This is due to the common pool of resources, (plantations, buildings, colonists, goods, ship spaces and trading house spaces) that are finite and low.  During the Craftsmen action, the pool of resources will often be depleted allowing a big producer to deny other players the resources they should be entitled to.  This will not be a happy accident amongst experienced players.

Each Mayor phase will cause more colonists to be brought to the player's island and when the colonist supply runs out the game is over.  VPs come from buildings and shipped goods and any of the expensive large buildings which will be built towards the end of the game. Amongst equally experienced players the score appears to be fairly tight and a skilled player against newer players should win every time.  As with any mechanically sound game, aside from your opponents’ choices, luck does not feature in this game.
Some of the expansion content
This deluxe edition comes with the New Buildings and The Nobles expansions.  In total, they add 2 additional large buildings and 18 types of small buildings.  When you consider that the base game only has 23 types of buildings it’s easy to see that the expansions, with the additional building permutations, massively add to the re-playability of this game.  Alongside the buildings, players also get red Noble discs, which act just like colonists apart from they’re limited to certain buildings.  Both expansions serve to increase the playtime of 90 minutes to about 2 hours – which is a good thing in my opinion.  However, I would recommend that you don’t draft buildings at the beginning as read in the expansion rules – just draw them randomly.

Components

I was quite disappointed in the quality of the components in what is considered a deluxe version.  The deluxe version, as far as I cant tell, only adds the two expansions (New Buildings and Nobles) into the base game.  Unfortunately, this edition has very thin card stock and I don’t think it will stand up to much normal wear-and-tear.


What you've got to work with
The punchboard used for the components is also thinner than I was expecting from a deluxe edition.  It was quite easy to not only bend the components when taking them out but also to rip them.  I had to go agonizingly slowly pressing out the coins and VP markers to prevent them from ripping (Unfortunately not completely successfully). 

I like the new art-work and I appreciate the insert that comes in the box.  The cubes and goods barrels work perfectly well and I wouldn’t want them to change anything about the colonist discs or any of the wooden components.  The only very minor functional gripe with the functionality of the components is that there are no spaces for two of the expansions’ large buildings on the game board.
Old
vs
New

Criticisms

It’s not easy to find criticisms in a game that is arguably the best game ever! (cult of the new notwithstanding).  However, some could argue that the opening is scripted based on player order.  This certainly may happen with experienced (5+ plays) players I feel like there is enough variability in the plantations and the role choices that after the 2nd or 3rd Actions have been taken this can be ignored.  If you want to analyse the game in-depth I’m sure the optimum play can be found, but you won’t find anyone willing to play with you.  If you add in all the expansion content then this criticism can be completely ignored.

The only real gripe I have is just of component quality which I have already mentioned.  

Conclusion

Some would say there is a lack of direct player interaction but if so, they’re playing the game wrong. Puerto Rico provides a less confrontational experience than something like Tigris & Euphrates but still gives all players the ability to negatively and (unfortunately) positively affect their opponents.  You’re often left with a decision between something good for you or something bad for your opponents and just okay for you.  I like these types of decisions – although I struggle not to (try at least) hurt my opponents as much as possible.
The end
I think Puerto Rico is a true masterpiece of a game that can be enjoyed by any level of gamer.  It scales well from 3-to 5 players and is a relatively quick teach.  This deluxe edition also comes with rules for 2 players but I confess I have not tried at that player count.  This edition is slightly let down by the quality of the card-stock but I am willing to overlook that minor flaw in what is a brilliant game. 

I’d like to thank Asmodee for sending out this review copy.  Many local game stores will have this in stock and you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to support your FLGS or use their online web store. 

Designer: Andrea Seyfarth
Publisher: Alea
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3076/puerto-rico
Players: 3-5
Playtime: 2 hours

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