The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

More About Puerto Rico Strategy

Given the discussion in the comments of my post on Puerto Rico, I thought I’d clarify.

I agree with Chris that PR has no ‘sacrificial choices’ (Giving up short term for long term). I think it’s about brutal optimization and evaluation. I could sit down in the middle of a PR game (taking over someone’s spot) and feel no real handicap that I had to make a move without knowing the previous player’s plan. [I may grumble about the strange position he has … ]. The same could be said of Chess.

Defining strategy is tough — how about “Can I play in vastly different styles with roughly equal outcome of victories?” I contend that the opportunistic style (Playing the best move according to the thesis set out in my strategy guide, by Alexfrog, Jimc, etc) of PR is superior to the ‘set strategies’ put out. Obviously, this strategy is complex.

Now, whether a game counts as strategic depends on the level of play. Chess is strategic for most players, but if the game is solved, the answer may become “No.” 1.e4 wins, 1.d4 losses. [Or some such]. Computers don’t play with a strategy. They have an algorithm that tells them “How good is this position” and a method that lets them search through millions of positions a second to rank moves based on resulting positions. That’s it. But at other levels, players have strategies. World champion chess players have styles, but Chess itself may be solvable. Many positions have an objectively determinable best move, and it doesn’t matter if you play an attacking, defending, sacrificial or loony style. The entire game probably does, too. I think the same is true of PR, even if I don’t always find the right move.
For a chess player “Strategy” means — “I don’t know what the obvious best move is … now what?”

For PR, there are still times when there is no obvious best move (that part would tend to be in the mid-game, like in Chess). I have an algorithm for what to do, but it’s just “maximize net gain.” If I found myself in a hopeless game, I may forgo net gain to lay a trap, but that’s really just maximizing my chances of winning. I wouldn’t call trying to win a strategy, although it’s my objective.

Incidentally, does anyone think that San Juan has strategy?
[I say that as someone who considers it the best game of last year.]

Written by taogaming

February 9, 2005 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Strategy

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. >>I agree with Chris that PR has no ‘sacrificial choices’ (Giving up short term for long term).

    And I disagree with both of you, especially when you factor in the expansion. Consider: Tobacco Storage, or Church? Assuming you already have the tobacco plantation, in the short term you really want to get the tobacco running so you can produce and sell– especially if nobody else is already doing so. But the Church is a very strong long-term play, and getting it before the tobacco means the tobacco will be worth an extra VP when you do get it.

    Even more commonly, consider the Small Market– especially for someone with Indigo instead of Corn. Buying it on round one means it may be two more rounds before you’ll get your indigo plant producing. But in the long term, the market may pay off better.

    These kinds of trade-offs are fundamental to PR. I don’t see how you can say they don’t exist.

    Peter Sarrett

    February 10, 2005 at 1:21 am

  2. Of course. How about:

    I’ll trade this barrel for GP, and sacrifice the 1 VP I would have gotten shipping it, because next round I’ll build a building worth 2 more VP?

    I’ll build this inferior building to prevent someone else from building it and getting a lock on shipping vp’s?

    I’ll ship now and lose vp’s, to prevent my opponent from trading?

    I’ll take this role which doesn’t give me anything to prevent my opponent from beenfitting form it twice.

    I’ll give up this building for that building.

    I’ll take this role instead of that one.

    I’ll ship this good for less to lock this boat.

    I’ll trade this lesser good to prevent my opponent from trading it.

    No short term plays for long term goals. Yah.


    Yehuda Berlinger

    February 10, 2005 at 5:01 am

  3. Short answer — The fact that making the current decision may be difficult doen’t imply that you have (or need) a long term plan. As to specifics …

    Tobacco Storage or Church — Storage early, unless you have money. Depends on other buildings

    Small Market or Indigo — Small Market, unless you are going next and planning to take mayor, as you won’t be able to man the indigo plant this turn anyway.

    >>I’ll trade this barrel for GP, and sacrifice the 1 VP I would have gotten shipping it, because next round I’ll build a building worth 2 more VP?

    Not much of a choice, one clearly gets you more VP. VP aren’t time dependant, unlike money. If you can see ahead it’s not really a sacrifice (it’s called a tactical or fake sacrifice in chess).


    February 10, 2005 at 4:45 pm

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