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In the last Puerto Rico game I played I wound up with all corn. I tried to make this work with the following strategy:

  • Office + large market + small market for income
  • Harbor + wharf to ship all my corn for maximum points

This didn't work as well as I had hoped. In particular, even with the markets my income was lower than any other players, so it took me a long time to build the other buildings I needed for this strategy. I didn't get the large building I wanted, and I never occupied it. At the end of the game I did have the most point chips of any player, but the other players more than made up for it with their large buildings and other bonuses.

Is there an alternate strategy that would make all-corn a viable route to victory?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

With most games of this type, the key to winning is balance.

My Puerto Rico strategy is to think of the game in 3 equal strategic phases

  • Phase 1 - get money
  • Phase 2 - get money/VPs
  • Phase 3 - get VPs

You can make a corn only strategy work, but only if you are playing against below-par players. But to get money in phase 1, corn doesn't really help you. To be able to make victory points in phase 2 and 3, a corn only strategy really stops you from preventing your opponents from shipping. Whilst a Wharf will help you, it will not be enough to win in most cases.

If you are playing against solid players, balance is the only option. I try to have 3 to 4 different goods being brought in, which gives great options for shipping and selling.

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2  
Agreed -- it's easy to take off with corn, but you really need either indigo or sugar to make sure you can take advantage of as much shipping as possible, and trade as well. Every resource you have that another person doesn't is a chance at blocking them out of shipping. –  LittleBobbyTables Oct 30 '10 at 17:03

A corn-heavy strategy can be a good one, but corn-only is vastly inferior.

In your example, you spent 12 coin on the office, large market and small market, and you will be trading for three coin each time. You could have bought a coffee roaster and tobacco storage for less (11 coin), and be selling those for four and three respectively.

Even worse, if your opponents are even of average strength, they will never choose captain, and rarely choose craftsman. You will rarely benefit from their choices. Plus, you will probably have to waste several turns calling settler, to ensure that you get corn whenever it is the only one available. Your opponents will be able to play more opportunistically, mixing up their choices and collecting all of the bonus coins.

You are forced to make decisions solely on the basis of how much it helps you, while your opponents will be able to make decisions based on how much it helps them AND how much it hurts their opponents.

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I think that in general Codemwnci's answer is a good one (+1), but I think the one thing missing from the discussion is that the game length in Puerto Rico is variable. If you are playing with only corn, but other people are also aiming to ship large quantities of goods then the game may end earlier than usual due to lack of VP chips. One way to try to improve your chances is to encourage others to invest in shippable goods, and also the other wharf/harbour.

Sidenote: Whenever someone seems to be going for an all out corn strategy I feel obligated to quote Teen Girl Squad - "It's Corn and Corn Alone Day!". In my experience this starts to get thin on the third repetition.

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Corn is a tempting commodity, because it is cheap to produce, meaning that you can get off to a fast start.

That said, it is easy to fall behind with a corn ONLY strategy, because of its lack of synergy with certain other parts of the game. For instance, corn is the only commodity that can't be upgraded to a finished product, meaning that you can't get the extra money, at a time (early game) when money might be important. Also, as you found in your game, it doesn't always co-ordinate so well with other aspects of the game such as building.

"Corn only," may beat unskilled players using a similarly naive strategy. But more advanced players will devise building/shipping/captaining strategies that will defeat your "corn only" play. To win, you'll need to "mix it up" with other commodities, and/or buildings.

In general, an "X-only" strategy is a bad idea in ANY game, even if "X" is a good thing. For instance, in poker, its a good idea to USUALLY have good cards when you bet. But if you NEVER bet with a bad or mediocre hand, your opponents will save too much money by "folding" mediocre hands when you bet.

If you bet the occasional mediocre hand, and bluff with "nothing," one of two things will happen: 1) You will "steal" some extra hands that you wouldn't win in a showdown, or 2) You will get "caught bluffing" in a showdown, and having seen this happen once, people will "pay you off" more often when you bet a good hand.

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