Saturday, 12 July 2008


Another game played at Carcasean was Cuba. For most of the games I played at Carcasean, I had researched the rules and made rule summaries beforehand. So I was ready to play without needing anyone to teach.

Cuba suffers from being considered too similar to other games, i.e. being accused of lacking originality. Puerto Rico (especially so), Pillars of the Earth, Caylus. It has some original and interesting mechanisms, namely the plantation board, a 3x4 grid, and the bills that get passed into laws. Overall, I feel the same as other gamers, that the game doesn't feel very fresh, despite having some innovations. To me it feels like "another victory point generating game", basically converting one thing into another and eventually into victory points.

The game is played over 6 rounds. There are 4 new bills proposed each round, and 2 of them will be passed into law. These bills are revealed at the start of the round, and are voted on and enforced at the end of the round. The main activity of a round is the player actions. Each player has 5 roles from which to choose 4, and carry out the corresponding actions: collecting resources / products, buying or selling products / goods, constructing buildings, activating buildings (e.g. turning products into goods, collecting victory points, earning money), and shipping products / goods for victory points. Sounds familiar?

Let's look at the two more innovative aspects of the game, the bills and the plantation board. There are always a tax bill and a duty bill in effect, where you are expected to pay money and products respectively. You gain 2VP by fulfilling one of them, and 5VP by fulfilling both. That is actually a substantial amount of VPs. There are other bills which also award VPs, and others which have special effects on the game, e.g. a worker is only allowed to harvest one product. Winning elections and gaining the power to decide what bills to pass can be a big advantage. You may want to pass a new bill which is beneficial to you, or you may want to pass it simply because you want to cancel the old law.

The other innovative aspect is the plantation board or the player board. It has a 3x4 grid, with a warehouse in one corner, and various fields producing resources or products. When you use your worker to collect resources / harvest products, you move your pawn to a desired location, and he collects / harvests from all fields in the same row and column. Now, if you use your foreman to activate your buildings (which have to be built on top of your fields, forcing you to lose fields), you cannot move your pawn and you can activate the buildings also in the same row and column (or you can activate any one building). This forces you to choose and plan carefully - fields or buildings, where to place your pawn, what order to play your worker and foreman. I find this rather restrictive. I can understand the intention (else there would not be enough tension), but I just feel too restricted. Maybe I need to play more to be able to manage this aspect better.

The good looking board. Ships waiting for products / goods on the left, bills and laws (passed bills) at the top, market in the centre, score track on the outside of the town.

The player board. The cubes are resources. The octagonal pieces are products. In this game it is important to be clear about resources, products and goods. Resources are water, rock and wood. Products are citrus fruits, sugar cane and tobacco. Goods are cigars and rum.

The buildings.

There are many buildings available in the game, and you won't be able to build more than 6, so that means you really need to decide your strategy early. I randomly decided to pursue a turn-sugar-into-rum-and-ship-it strategy, which, unfortunately for Chong Sean, clashed with his. Han focused on money generating buildings, and then VP generating ones. At game end, Han won with 57VP, Chong Sean had 56VP, and I had 54VP.

I don't mind playing Cuba again to explore it more, but I don't need to own it.

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