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It takes quite a lot of time to set up Puerto Rico, especially when switching between games with a different numbers of players; a quarter of an hour I'd say. The problem is that it is rather time consuming to separate the different types of chips, count the colonists and victory points, restrict the number of plantations, putting the buildings on the board, etc...

I'm probably asking the impossible, but does anyone know a trick to cut down this rather long set up time?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Certainly -- the trick is do all the prep work after you finish a game. Once you are done with the game, sort everything out for the next game.

These instructions all assume you will want to take into account the 2-Player variant when sorting; if you want to ignore the 2-player variant, ignore the bullets flagged with two stars (**).

Personally, I play a lot of the 2-player variant because I have a hard time finding a third, so I have plastic bags labelled 2 Players, 3 Players, 4 Players, and 5 Players.

  • ** For the 2-player variant, I have sorted out 2 of each production building and 1 of each purple building into one of the trays, and have the remaining buildings in a separate tray labeled "3+ Player Buildings".

  • ** I have removed three of each type of plantation, and placed the remainder of the plantations in one of the tray spaces.

  • ** The 2 Player bag contains: 65 victory points, 42 colonists. It also contains all the barrels of goods except for 2 barrels of each type (per the 2-player rules).

  • The 3 Player bag contains 10 more victory points, 13 more colonists, and the remaining plantation tiles and goods barrels.

    • Alternately, if you don't ever plan on playing with only 2 players, the 3 Player bag should contain the base 75 victory ponits and 55 colonists. You won't need to sort out plantations or barrels in this case.
  • The 4 Player bag contains 25 more victory points, and 20 more colonists.

  • The 5 Player bag contains the last 22 victory points, and the last 20 colonists.

If you write the contents of what the 3, 4 and 5 player bags should have, you can fill those up, and the remainder goes into the 2 player bag.

Now all you'll have to do is fish out the necessary corn and indigo plantations to determine who goes first, and you're all set.

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I think there's two types of answer to this depending on whether you mind longer putting-away times or not.

If you're happy to put some extra effort into packing the pieces away, then a huge amount of time can be saved by storing the components in bags related to the number of players. For example a "3 player" victory point bag with 75 VPs in, a "4 player" victory point bag with 25 VPs in (100-75), and a "5 player" victory point bag with 22 VPs in (122-100). To play with 4 players simple get out the bags for three and four players.

The same trick can be applied to the colonists. There is an example of this being done very neatly here: http://boardgamegeek.com/image/841793/puerto-rico

Assuming instead that you want to save time overall then I know of a few other things that help.

The same idea behind having separate bags can be applied, by marking some of the victory point chips and colonists. For example it wouldn't affect the gameplay to have colonists painted in three different shades of brown or the front of the victory point chips marked with small dots.

Alternatively colonists can be counted very quickly when they are flat on a surface by using two straight edges. The trick is to push them into a triangular shape and then select colonists by the number of rows. See this image, and the comments below it, for details.

A final obvious, but sometimes overlooked, way to speed up the game set up, is to distribute the tasks. I usually end up doing this as otherwise some players have a tendency to stand back until the game is ready to begin.

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I was just coming here to say "paint the colonists". Also, if marking victory points isn't obvious enough (or doesn't work well on the coated surface), there's no reason you can't have different types of tokens for VP -- poker chips, coins, or anything else of that sort work just as well. (To keep it secret, you can throw a napkin or inverted small bowl or something over your pile.) –  Monica Cellio Oct 25 '12 at 17:29
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