Puerto Rico is a role-taking colonization board game set in San Juan Bautista (now Puerto Rico) in the 16th century. The game is a little disingenuous about its brown “colonist” tokens. Watch Ryan tackle the issue delicately in this instructional video:

(click to view transcript)

(guitar strum) (singing) Pueeeerto Riiicooo… is a board game for 4-5 players. Hi! I’m Ryan from Nights Around a Table. Let me show you how to play! You and your friends play 16th Century Spanish colonizers looking to get rich from the island of San Juan Bautista that Christopher Columbus “discovered’ 50 years earlier. A boat that the game very spuriously calls a “colonist ship” delivers “colonists” to work your plantations and buildings. These brown “colonist” tokens are a few shades darker than any Spaniard ever was. Iiiiit’s blatantly obvious to anyone who’s played the game that these are African slaves sent by ship to work the island, but let’s play along and call them “colonists” like they do in the instruction book. You place your slaves on plantation and production buildings to generate resources, and you ship those resources on separate, non-slave ships back to the Old World to earn victory points. Certain conditions cause the game to end, and the player with the most VPs at that point wins. These role cards are the heart of Puerto Rico. You’ll use a different number of them depending on how many players you have, but in a 4-player game, the gang’s all here: Captain, Trader, Prospector, Settler, Builder, Mayor, and Craftsman. On your turn, you pick one of these roles. Each role lets everyone around the table do a certain thing, and if you’re the person who picked the role, you get a perk! So you’re the first player, and you have the Governor card to prove it. You pick a role. You do the thing, if you want to, and you get a perk if you do it. Then you go around the table, and everyone does the thing, if they want to, without the perk. Then the next player, going clockwise, picks a role, optionally does the thing with a perk, and then we spin around the table as everyone else gets a chance to do the thing without getting the perk. Continue that process until everyone has chosen a role, and the whole table has had a chance to do the… thing. Put a doubloon on the remaining three cards that nobody chose this round, and pass the Governor card on clockwise. So! What kinds of things do the roles allow you to do? And what kinds of perks do you get as the picker? The Settler lets you take a face-up plantation tile and put it on your island, as long as you have an empty space to place it in, and as long as the plantation tiles haven’t run out. These plantation tiles help you grow corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Placement makes no difference, and you can move the tiles around whenever you want, but you never REmove a tile. Everything you build is stuck there for the rest of the game. As the picker, your perk is that you can choose to place a grey quarry tile instead of a plantation tile. We’ll talk about what quarries do later. At the end of the phase, the Settler-picker sweeps any remaining face-up plantation tiles, and then deals out new ones for next time: one tile more than the number of players. Plantation tiles don’t do anything unless you have one slave working them. The Mayor card lets everyone take at least one slave from the slave ship. You keep going around the table, with each player taking a slave until the ship is empty. As a perk, the person who picked the Mayor can choose to take a slave from the supply before taking his or her first slave from the ship. Well because he’s not from the boat, this slave must represent one of the Taíno people native to Puerto Rico you know, one of the ones who hasn’t already died from the infectious diseases brought over by the European people. Well, get going, buddy! Spain needs corn! You fill up all the empty circles with your slave tokens. If you acquire more slaves in this phase than you know what to do with, you…. ship them back to Africa to let them lead free and happy lives. Beh-heh naw. Just kidding. You stick ’em in San Juan until a future Mayor phase when you’ve got work for them. The Mayor phase also lets you rearrange your slaves so that different people are working in different places. If you have empty circles, and slaves to fill them, you gotta fill them. A tile with a slave on it is said to be “occupied.” Remember that word for later, because it’s important. At the end of the Mayor phase, the person who picked the Mayor counts up the number of empty circles on all the players’ buildings not the quarries and plantations, but the buildings and puts that many new slaves on the slave ship. The slave ship always gets at least as many slaves as there are players in the game, regardless of what’s going on with the blank spaces in the buildings. If someone chooses the Builder card, everyone gets the chance to buy exactly one building. There are three types of buildings: ones that help you generate goods, ones that help you break the rules, and large, two-tile metabuildings that score you extra points at the end of the game. The building prices are here, and the number of points a building is worth is here. Every building you construct has to be unique. The person who picked the Builder gets a one doubloon discount on buying a building. Additionally, any quarries with slaves on them will give you building discounts, even if you’re not the player who chose the Builder. Buildings you buy from this column can be up to one doubloon cheaper, if you have at least one well-slaved quarry. You get a maximum discount of two doubloons on buildings in this column, if you have at least two occupied quarries, and so on. You can combine your builder discount and your quarry discount to get an even deeper discount, but a building can never be cheaper than zero doubloons. And if you picked the Builder but you decide not to build anything, you don’t get a free doubloon in lieu.You have to build something in order to get that perk. The Craftsman role produces resources. Most plantations have to be matched up with a production building to produce something. So this indigo plantation has a slave on it, and so does this small indigo plant. That means you get one bucket of indigo to put here, on your compass rose. If you had a large indigo plant with three slaves, but only one indigo field, you’d still only produce one bucket of indigo. Conversely, if you had two occupied indigo fields, and only one person on production, you’d only get one indigo resource. Corn fields don’t need any matching production buildings. You get one bucket of corn for every occupied field. The player who picks the Craftsman gets to take all of the goods that their island is able to produce from the supply, and puts them on the compass rose, and then everybody else gets a turn to do the same thing, going around the table in clockwise order. Now order matters, because if your token supplies run out, some players may go empty-handed. If you’re the person who picked the Craftsman, you get to take one extra barrel of something that your island is able to produce, and put it on your compass rose. Now, you only get that perk if your island actually did produce something this turn. When the Trader is chosen, players get a chance to sell one bucket of stuff to the trading house for the prices listed on the card. The catch is that the trading house only buys goods it doesn’t already have. So if someone has already sold a bucket of sugar, the trading house won’t buy any more sugar. All the goods have to be unique. The player who picked the Trader gets an extra doubloon for selling something. At the end of this turn, if the trading house is full of four goods, the Trader empties the card, and the goods go into the supply. If the trading house isn’t full, the goods stay on the card. The Captain enables or, more accurately, forces everyone to ship their goods back to Spain for victory points. There are three ships by the side of the board, and which ships you use depends on the number of players. The person who chose the Captain card selects one of these ships, and then loads all of his goods of one type onto it, as much as the ship can hold. Ships will only take goods of a single type, so you can’t mix, like, corn and coffee on a single ship. And you can’t load something onto a second ship if there’s already a ship carrying that type of good. So you go around the table clockwise, and everyone chooses one good to put on a ship. This step is mandatory: if you CAN ship something, you MUST ship something, and you have to ship as much of it as you possibly can there’s no holding back! Now, if you have multiple types of goods that could go on ships, you do get to choose which good to ship, regardless of how many barrels of each type that you have. Play continues around the table, and players may get multiple opportunities to ship goods. Every bucket of stuff you ship gets you one victory point. There’s no difference in value: a bucket of corn and a bucket of coffee are both worth one victory point apiece. You keep your victory points face-down and secret up here on your compass rose. The player who picked the Captain card gets one additional victory point, as long as he shipped something this turn. When nobody can stuff anything else on the ships, each player gets to keep one barrel of goods on their compass rose. The rest of the unshipped goods have to be thrown in the garbage. Hey, wait no no no. I’ve got an idea: why don’t we feed the excess goods… to the slaves? Nah that’s crazy talk. Just chuck it in the ocean. The player who picked the Captain card then empties out any full ships, and the barrels go back into the supply. Partially-loaded ships stay partially-loaded. The player who takes the Prospector card gets to take one buck from the bank. Aaand… that’s it. Nobody else gets to do anything. At the end of a round, the first player puts a doubloon on the three unchosen cards, and the rest of the role cards are returned. The Governor card gets passed clockwise, and a new round begins. It’s possible for the unused role cards to amass a small fortune in doubloons round after round. The player who finally chooses one of these roles takes all the money on the card. Three different conditions can trigger the end of the game. If there are not enough slaves left in Africa for the Mayor to repopulate the Amistad, if someone fills up the twelfth space in the city section of their player board during the Builder phase, or if all the victory point chips get used up during the Captain phase. If this happens, and people are still shipping goods, you just write down the number of points they’ve tallied up. Victory point tokens are limited, but the points themselves aren’t. To see who won, count up the secret victory points on your compass rose, and add up the points in red that your buildings are worth. And then, calculate the bonus points that your big buildings give you, as long as they have slaves on them by the end of the game. Whoever has the most VPs wins, and leftover doubloons and goods break any ties. So what’s up with those buildings? These six are production buildings that enable you to generate buckets of stuff during the Craftsman phase. The small violet buildings let you break the rules. Watch: Small and Large Market: Extra buck or two when you sell a good. Hacienda: extra face-down plantation tile when you settle. Construction Hut: take a quarry, instead of a plantation, even if you’re not the player who picked the Settler role. Hospice and University: take a free slave from the supply when you place a plantation in the Settler phase, or when you buy a building in the Construction phase. The slave has to go on the tile you just acquired. Office: Sell a duplicate good to the trading house. Small and Large Warehouse: Pick one or two kinds of goods, and store them on your compass rose at the end of the Captain phase, in addition to the one barrel you’re already allowed to store. So, for example, you store one corn barrel as your freebie. As a Small Warehouse owner, you also store all of the indigo barrels that you didn’t ship. As a Large Warehouse owner, you could store all of your indigo barrels AND all of your sugar barrels too. Now, the ability to store goods at the end of the Captain phase doesn’t prevent you from having to ship all of the stuff that you possibly can, as long as there’s room on the boats. Factory: earn doubloons for every KIND of good you produce in the Craftsman phase. You net 0, 1, 2, 3, or 5 buckazoids for each kind of good you get, but not for each individual barrel you get. So if you generated two indigo barrels and four sugar barrels, that’s two kinds of goods. So you’d get one doubloon. Harbor: You get a bonus VP each time you load a good onto a boat in the Captain phase. This isn’t a per-barrel bonus, so if you ship three indigo barrels, the Harbor gets you one bonus victory point. When it comes back around to you, if you throw five corn on another ship, you get another single victory point bonus. Wharf: During the Captain phase, you can load up to eleven barrels of one kind of good on an imaaaaaginary ship. You pick the kind, and it can even be a kind that’s on one of the non-imaginary boats. You don’t even have to pick the thing that you have the most of. You can use your invisible phantom fairy boat once per Captain phase. Finally, the large 2-tile buildings score you metapoints on certain conditions at the end of the game, as long as they have a slave on them. Guild Hall: Well this one gets you 2 points for every big production building you have, and 1 point for every small one. The production buildings are the ones that let you generate goods. Residence: Well this building scores points for every well-slaved plantation or quarry on your island. Fortress: This one gets you points for every 3 “colonists” on your board. Customs House: This one gets you victory points on top of victory points 1 point on top of every 4 points you’ve already earned. Only physical VP tokens count. The points you earn on your buildings don’t enter into it. City Hall: This building scores points for every purple building you have at the end of the game, occupied OR unoccupied, including itself!* (*As long as it’s occupied.) To set up the game, everyone takes an island. Throw the buildings out on the main board. The first player is the last person to subjugate an island nation for profit using slave labour. First player gets the Governor card, and places a blue indigo plantation on her island. Every other player starts with an indigo plantation too, except the last player, who gets corn. In 4- and 5-player games, the last TWO players get corn, instead of indigo. Everyone gets 2, 3, or 4 bucks in a 3, 4, or 5 player game. Stack the plantation tiles in five piles, and flip over one more than the player count. Choose the correct three ships for your player count. Fewer players means fewer ship spaces. Stock the colonist ship with the same number of slaves as you have players. Round up 55, 75, or 95 “colonists” to supply a 3, 4, or 5 player game. Likewise, lay out 75, 100, or 122 victory point chips. Money goes here, role cards go here, goods go over here, trading house… uh.. wherever you can fit it, and now you’re ready to exploit… (snickering) I mean PLAY… Puerto Rico! Did you just watch that whole thing? Oh hey! To 100% this video, click the badge to subscribe, and then click the bell to get notifications when I’ve got new stuff.


At 13:42, i claim that the Residence building scores you points for every well-slaved quarry and plantation tile on your board. The Residence has to be manned in order to score, but the tiles on your board don’t. Thanks to BoardGameGeek user Kogan for pointing this out.

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Ryan is playing with his legacy copy of Puerto Rico. The deluxe edition is also available, along with some small expansions. If you shop for your own copy of Puerto Rico using this Amazon link, we’ll earn a small commission.

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