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I'm just learning the game, so some of my comments may seem ill-informed. But it seems that strategies fall under two categories, a commodity-based strategy and a building-based strategy.

Commodities are simple enough. Produce a lucrative commodity (and take on roles that will increase production or profitability), then "cash out" for victory points at a high rate in foreign markets. This is what I call a "constructive" strategy.

Another strategy is to invest in the local economy in the form of buildings. At first blush, this seems less lucrative than selling commodities. But many winning players prefer this strategy, perhaps because it gives them some "veto" power over other players' shipments. This is what I call an "obstructive" strategy.

In a game such as backgammon, I would use a "constructive" (running) strategy if I got high rolls early in the game. With low rolls, I would use an "obstructive" strategy of building hurdles to make opponents "waste" rolls. Could an analogous dynamic support the acquisition of buildings in Puerto Rico?

It also seems that with buildings that there are hidden "synergies" or feedback effects. For instance, the "list price" may be five doubloons for a building with three victory points. But under some circumstances, the building "kicks back" two doubloons, which may be used to buy another building (and more victory points. Or it may "kick back" a colonist that may be used to upgrade another building. Meaning that the five doubloon building actually costs "less" than its "list price."

Could it be that buying buildings is a highly "constructive" strategy, but only if you buy several of them in tandem?

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"But many winning players prefer this strategy" Really? I've always seen people have better luck with shipping than building. Source? –  LittleBobbyTables Jul 1 '11 at 1:25
    
I've only played 1 real game with other people and about 5 or so online against an AI. Online I always ended up doing a build strategy and winning. Interestingly many of the AI's also chose the building route. I think the "building strategy" can be very surprising to a new player who thinks the game is only about shipping. That can make it very powerful. –  Kempeth Jul 1 '11 at 8:31
    
@littlebobbytables: Source? Your own comment about the jeweler and villa, etc., which inspired this piece. I think what happened there were compounding, or "cross product" effects where the total value ((1+J)*(1+v))-1= J+v+ jv, where J is the value of the jeweler, v the value of the villa, and jv is the "cross product" effect. While either alone don't seem unreasonable, you may need a "house rule to suppress the Jv term. –  Tom Au Jul 1 '11 at 13:01
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@Tom -- one comment does not equal "many winning players". –  LittleBobbyTables Jul 1 '11 at 17:03
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1 Answer 1

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The value of buildings comes from 2 sources

  1. Providing a direct VP contribution to your strategy
  2. Providing money to implement your strategy

As you have correctly determined there are 2 archetypes of strategies:

  1. The Shippers
  2. The Builders

Shipping Strategy

Obviously they try to win by shipping more goods than the other players. They will choose buildings that give them better yield and control over shipping.

Building Strategy

This strategy is based on filling your city with high scoring buildings a quickly as possible so to end the game before the shippers can play their advantage. They will try to go for at least one big building (depending on what gives them the best score).

Supporting the Strategy

Equally important to both strategies is money. Without a decent income you cannot develop either strategy. So early and mid game the focus will be on buildings that improve the yield of your trades or your chances for getting a trade. Another form of income are quarries. So building that support you in getting one are also good early choices.

What is generally not a good choice is to buy something another player wants but you don't need. Aside from the fact that most buildings exist at least twice and you can only have one, even if you can buy a coveted building from under the nose of an opponent you'll be set back just as much by that buy. The other players will thank you for it. As such, "obstructive building" is not recommended.

Generally speaking the question is not what buildings have good synergies with each other. The question is what buildings have good synergies with your particular strategy.

I suggest you browse the forums over at BoardGameGeek for more strategy on Puerto Rico. There is at least one very in-depth strategy guide there that explains the mechanics far better than I could here.

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Some buildings help you win by ending the game before the shippers can get full value for their goods. Obstructive, but enough of a reason to use buildings. –  Tom Au Aug 21 '11 at 0:21
    
@Tom Au: I wouldn't call that "obstructive" since your goal is not to take a building away from an opponent. Your goal is to end the game by filling your city space - which is indeed what builders usually do. –  Kempeth Aug 22 '11 at 6:46
    
Fair enough about "obstructive." But the idea seems to be to get "first past the post" (mahjong style), before others can come away with a higher score. –  Tom Au Aug 22 '11 at 13:07
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