Santiago De Cuba Review
So, have you been in Cuba? I haven’t, but I did play a board game with it’s title, Cuba, that concentrate on the worker placement and auction mechanics, published on 2007. Now, the same designer, Michael Rieneck brought to you, it’s little brother, Santiago De Cuba, which also set in the same place (actually in it’s capital / largest city, Santiago). So let see what this game has to offer for us, despite resembled it’s big brother Cuba.
Well, I had heard this one before released in the early 2011 and did not really put much interest on it, since the short description that it’s an easy, simplified version of Cuba itself. Played Cuba once, though it’s a good game, it’s just not enough to make me want it. So, time passes, til it’s released (on Essen 2011 I guess) and one of my friends has a copy. Played it on the gathering and it’s surprisingly interesting. The game is so simple and easy to play and learn, and also plays quick (around 30-45 minutes). Played it once and I could teach this game to new players. And now I ended having my own copy of the game. So what makes this game so interesting? Basically there are no new aspect from the theme and visual presentation (we all know that Menzel always create a stunning illustrations, one of my favorite artists), but the key is on the game play of the game. This makes the game interesting, for the game feel is quite unique and engaging despite being simple. It offers quite a depth of tactical and strategy to play this game.
What You Get
Well, the game comes in a box with medium size (smaller if you compare it to most common medium boxes) with stunning and somewhat relaxing illustration that depicting the busy street of Santiago yet still has the exotic aura (and of course the romantic experience from a man riding a bicycle with a woman in his back). In the inside you can fine rather simple 2 folded game board (not really take a big space on the table, which is quite an advantage), a few punch boards, wooden player and resource tokens and the rulebook. The punch boards consist of tiles for Victory Points, player screens, coins in Pesos, property markers, ship tile, building tiles and Cuban tiles. The 8 pages rulebook is very easy to read and learn (mostly because the game is simple), you can finish reading it around 10 minutes. The VP tiles are consist of 5 denominations (1/2/3/5/10) which I think it’s quite many, 4 denominations are more than enough I guess. You’ll need plastic baggies (or maybe storage solution with 5 spaces) to sort the VP tiles, for easier setup during the game. The game board has a beautiful artwork from Michael Menzel, depicting the busy activity of the city, a line of street with Cuban business rises up on the occasion and the ever coming and going ships in the port.
It’s a simple game, you learn it by playing in no time. The goal of the game is typical Euro (collecting VP’s), player with the most VP in the end, win the game. The game consist of 7 rounds (shown by the ship marker, which means there are 7 ships waiting to be loaded). At first, a player will decide what demands will be available in the ship by rolling the 5 dice (in different colors refer to the resources colors) and choose 4 of them to be placed on the ship’s slots. The resources are Sugar Cane (white), Rum (red), Tobacco (green), Cigars (black) and Citrus Fruits (orange), but I never been able to memorize all the goods, since also it’s not bear a significant relation to the game play or rules. During each round, players take turns to advance the car token (minimum 1 space forward) and activate the Cuban occupy that space and the building color it refers to. Players may also pay a peso per space if they want to advance the car token more than 1 space (there is no limit a player can advance the car token, as long he / she has the money). This action activate 2 things, The Cuban that occupies the space and the building it refers to, which mean, that active player will get a benefit from the Cuban tile (either resources, coins, VP or etc). And in addition, he must place his player token into one of the buildings that shares the same color of the flower icon on that Cuban tile. If a player advance the car token into the space with no Cuban tile (last place), this is the port, and that player trigger the delivery round. Each player, starting from the player who triggered the delivery round, may sell 1 kind of goods from his supply to the ship as long as the demand of that good is available (this are shown by 4 dice on the ship’s slots). The goods sold generate VP for that player. If the demand of the ship is empty, then the ship leave the port and the next ship is docking. During the game, players can modify the value of the goods, convert goods, money or VP which all held secret by the players. Once players know the game play and how it works, they will find this game is very simple, quick, fun and relaxing. Just take a casual ride on your antique car through the street of Santiago, you’ll find it fascinating.
So you think it’s easy to learn and simple? Not enough meat for you? Well, after several plays you’ll see that this game offer you more than you can see with your one time play. There are tactical aspect and challenge in this game, and all of those related with player’s interaction. Yes, the game depth is in the gaming group, with challenging group with the same level, provide you different feel of challenge during the game. All players will race to grab the opportunity that gives a player the biggest profit. You’ll be forced to guess what resource other players have in their store, how many pesos they have and so on. So, is this a game of observation? Well it’s in a way, but that’s not it. When having a specific resource in a perfect time could give you huge VP boost, if you claim that opportunity before someone else does. Timing comes into mind, yes in here timing is critical! VP is the main goal which comes from resources as it’s main generator. Money in the end game gives you nothing, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. You must realize that money gives you power and influence. Yes, those things give you access to freedom (money gives you everything). With a lot of money in your hand, you have wider options. This is also very useful for delivery timing, since you will want to be the first one to sell the goods to the ship.
Though the game consist of 7 rounds, there are uncertain game length in this game, since players take control of the round length. Players can ‘decide’ how long a round will last, based on the demand options left on the ship’s slots. This make the game more interesting, since a player can also deny other players opportunity and profit by ending the round before that time comes (a shady transaction in the back alley with a corrupted customs officer could throw down one’s deal). This where it leads to another feel of the game, a table talk with a mixture of bluffing, negotiation, sweet talk and deception will blend into your group, create a more challenging and entertaining game in each play.
Well, in an expectancy case, this sure hit the spot. Played it before and surprised by it led me to have my own copy. It surely way above my expectancy level from this kind of game (light Euro game). It’s small, quick, easy to learn, easy to introduce to new players, entertaining and you can play it with fun and relax. A good main course for a casual gamer who is up to get more challenging game and also a good addition in an avid gamer collection.
Some images are courtesy of BGG Users