SR: 14 December 2007 – Cuba

CubaThis week, we were back down to five players and so I thought it was time to try out Cuba, the new game by Michael Rienick and Stefan Stadler that is published by Rio Grande.

The game is about developing your plantation estate to score the most VPs over six rounds. Players earn victory points by shipping merchandise from the harbour, by erecting and using buildings, and by abiding by the law. Each round, parliament declares four bills that can be voted into law during the round. Players then take turns carrying out actions allowed by their five character cards. Only four of these actions are carried out with the final character being used for the voting. Actions range from extracting resources and products from your plantation, spending resources to erect buildings, trading in the marketplace, using the special functions of your buildings and shipping products and goods off the island. When the vote comes around, players can use pesos to buy extra votes and then whoever has the most votes chooses two of the bills to pass into law. Each of the laws is then checked to see if players can abide by it and, if they can, they are rewarded with VPs. The round ends with some tidying up where players lose any products that they haven’t been able to store and the ships in harbour are rearranged. After six rounds, 2 VPs are awarded for each building a player has built and whoever has the most VPs wins.

This was a great game with loads to think about and various strategies to pursue. As is usual with our first playing, this meant that the game took longer to complete than it should. One culprit who had a vested interest in restricting the number of games we manage to get in before the end of the year (due to the hall of fame standings) should have been locked up and the key thrown away for his delaying tactics. One turn, he spent several minutes deliberating before deciding merely to use the tradeswoman to take a single resource. The long term strategic importance of this play failed to register with Mark K and me, particularly as the guilty party was so far behind in VPs he wasn’t likely to win. Mark K played a good game, generating plenty of income to help his plans. Like me, he was able to get some cheap products at the market (which was not used too regularly in this playing). This stockpile and some cigar boxes allowed him on one shipping action to completely fill the most lucrative ship for 15 VPs and he never looked back, although Steve did his best to keep up by using the law that gave VPs for votes cast in parliament. However, Mark K still won to the relief of Nige.

Trying to find the reason for buying a second warehouse on BGG afterwards, I discovered we did play a significant rule wrongly. We played that the foreman activated all buildings whereas the rules say you chose between using only those orthoganally in line with the worker or a single building. This would give yet further things to think about and warehousing would not be the automatic benefit that we picked. I don’t think the way we played harmed the game but I’m interested in how much it tightens things up.

Cuba was very enjoyable and had lots of mechanisms that we thought clever. We particularly liked the way the statutes impacted play, the way the buildings lessened the opportunity to get resources or products, and the shipping process. Getting combinations of buildings that worked together was important and this is a game I can see not becoming stale due to the variety of approaches you can take to generate your VPs. Next time, however, we need to play a bit quicker.