Puerto Rico is a fantastic German strategy board game released by Rio Grande Games in 2002. The game was designed for 3-5 players to play in 90-120 minutes. The player count is pretty firm regardless of the 2 and 6 player variations that exist, however, the time allotment has been known to end up truly being 30-160 minutes depending on how many first time players you have and how many people think before they are expected to make decisions. The basic concept of the game places players as plantation owners in Puerto Rico when it was first being settled (i.e. goods were mainly shipped by wind-powered boats). Players grow crops and attempt to manage their plantations more efficiently than their opponents.
Written by Andreas Seyfarth, Puerto Rico has a unique "role" system which allows the players to choose when certain game mechanics take place with the ultimate goal of achieving victory points. When a player chooses a role he or she gains a privilege for their choice and then also forces all other players to play that role for one round. Roles include settler, mayor, trader, builder, captain, craftsman, and prospector. Crops include corn (cheap and quick), indigo (some players begin with a field of this), sugar (middle of the road crop), tobacco (high yield, higher cost crop), and coffee (low yield, most expensive crop). Key strategies evolve from building choices. Many buildings improve your play during only certain roles (phases), some allow you to process your crops, and still some (the "large" buildings) give you bonus victory points (vp) at the end of the game.
Note: for full rules and variations please see boardgamegeek.com or do yourself a favor and buy the game.
Since the game's release, Rio Grande Games has released, via the Internet, a collection of "extension" buildings to use in the game. These buildings add some new twists such as forests, guest houses, and even a black market. Players who venture to Brettspielwelt (http://www.brettspielwelt.de) will find a plethora of board games to play online including Puerto Rico with or without the new extension buildings.
The key undertone to Puerto Rico is strategy. Players have quickly realized every strategy they may develop or try in the game is both viable and worthless at the same time. Each game you play may require you to alter your strategy based on decisions your opponents make. Strategies regularly revolve around a single building such as the harbor strategy (quick harbor and lots of shipping), factory strategy (lots of different types of crops), and even the hospice strategy (easily farmed plantations). Many conversations both online and in real life will deconstruct the value of many strategies only to find that what they have destroyed will work for some games they end up in. The depth of this game keeps you coming back for more games with many people.
Resources include: Puerto Rico (the game), Rio Grande Games, boardgamegeek.com, and many hours spent contemplating whether I should buy the hospice or the hacienda only to realize I was going to lose anyway.