When I’ll first seriously got into board games, it was generally accepted that Puerto Rico was the greatest game ever made.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but back when woolly mammoths and sabre tooth tigers could be found in most backyards, Puerto Rico had a lot of prestige. As large and diverse as the gaming community has become (which is a good thing!), I don’t know if a game could hold such a central position again.
(Actually, that may be more of a statement of how provincial Boardgame Geek may have been, as opposed to any kind of statement on the actual real world of gaming)
Looking back, there are two things that strike me about my experiences with Puerto Rico. One is that there was allegedly an ideal strategy to play and that an inexperienced player would break the game, giving whoever sat to their left the win.
And I don’t actually think either of those things is really true.
Honestly, if Puerto Rico was solved, it would not have been nearly so successful or beloved. And with multiple paths to victory and the plantation supply being random, I don’t believe there can be one ‘perfect’ strategy. Still, I remember players on BSW who would quit games if they felt people weren’t playing ‘properly’
As for the inexperienced player ruining the game, any game where skill has matters and there’s interaction can be accused of that. I’ve certainly seen inexperienced players throw Knizia’s Modern Art or Sackson’s Executive Decision off more than I’ve ever seen it happen in Puerto Rico. Are poor players a problem or a convenient excuse? Different levels of skill is something you have to adjust for. Complaining about it is more a reflection of the one doing the complaining than the game.
What fascinates me about these complaints is that they didn’t seem to come from haters but from people who really loved Puerto Rico.
But the fact that I don’t think these criticisms hold water just makes me appreciate Puerto Rico more.