The First and Second Expansions to this game originally released in 2004 and 2009 respectively and recently reprinted as a set in 2019 have not received nearly enough recognition as great additions to base game offering variation and new strategies, while not completely changing the game with too many new mechanics. Before going any further, it is worth mentioning that this article assumes knowledge of the base game.
The expansions are primarily just a variety of new Violet Buildings which replace Buildings from the base game. The rules suggest that all Buildings from the base game and expansions should be placed beside the game board at the beginning of the game. Players should go round selecting Buildings which they wish to be in play until the supply is full. There must still be the same number of Buildings worth the respective number of doubloons as in the base game. For example, only Buildings worth 2 doubloons can be placed on the Hacienda and Construction Hut spaces on the game board. There is also the option of just randomly selecting buildings to ensure every game setup is different. So, what are the new buildings?
Both the expansions are entirely compatible and being sold as one unit really makes it feel like one large expansion. Nonetheless, it is still worth considering them individually. The First expansion introduces 12 new Small Violet Buildings. There's enough to replace the entire base game if desired, and two Large Violet Buildings. Rather than just going through all of these, I have picked out some of the most interesting additions.
The Aqueduct (1 doubloon) can replace the Small Market of the base game. An occupied Aqueduct will allow a player to take one extra indigo from the supply during the Craftsman Phase. This is if they produce at least one indigo with a Large Indigo Plant. But also one extra sugar if they produce at least one sugar with a Large Sugar Plant. This is such a useful bonus from such a cheap Building. Thus meaning that a player could in theory fill a five or even six ship with either good after just one Craftsman Phase. This is a great addition for players who like to score big on shipping goods.
The Forest House (2 doubloons) adds new island tiles to the game: forest tiles. An occupied Forest House allows a player to choose a forest tile. This is rather than a quarry or plantation during the Settler Phase. These forest tiles act similarly to quarries, reducing the cost of building by 1 doubloon for every two forests on an island. Unlike quarries, they do not require occupying colonists. There is no limit to the number that can be used to buy any Building. A player can plan their whole game around this Building. Significantly reducing the cost of building by filling their island with forests, at the cost of producing goods, in order to score big on Building tiles and acquire multiple Large Violet Buildings.
The Storehouse (3 doubloons) is a variant of the Small Warehouse, the Building which it can replace. Rather than allowing the owner to keep all goods of one type the end of the Captain Phase, the Storehouse permits the player to keep three goods of any type. As well as the one good all players may keep. This is invaluable to players producing a range of goods. It can work particularly well in conjunction with the Factory from the base game. The owner with doubloons for each type of good they produce in the Craftsman Phase.
The Trading Post (5 doubloons) can replace the Office or Large Market. It is essentially a slightly more powerful version of the former. This Building gives the owner their own trading house. During the Trader Phase, they can choose to either sell to the communal trading house or their own Trading Post by placing a good in the supply. Regardless of whether that type of good has already been sold. This is very similar to the Office. The key bonus being that the owner can trade even if the trading house is full.
The Church (5 doubloons) rewards players with either 1 or 2 points for buying Buildings from the 2nd, 3rd or 4th column. This can be used particularly well in conjunction with the Forrest House or any other strategy which ensures the player always has plenty of doubloons or building is cheap.
The Speciality Factory (8 doubloons), which unsurprisingly can replace the Factory from the base game, works similarly to it. Rather than rewarding production of a range of goods, it rewards the production of one type. During the craftsman phase, the owner will take doubloons equal to the goods he produces, with the exception of corn. Though it cannot produce as many doubloons as the base game’s Factory, the Speciality Factory tends to produce a significant number of doubloons much earlier in the game.
The Library (8 doubloons) doubles the privilege when the owner selects a role. When selecting the Builder they receive a two doubloon discount rather than one, the Trader receives two extra doubloons for trading, etc. This is a really interesting building which can benefit any strategy, but needs to be bought as earlier as possible in the game to ensure it is used as much as possible.
The First expansion also adds two Large Violet Buildings, both worth 10. The statue is very simple but not especially powerful. It is worth 8 rather than 4 victory points at the end of the game. Essentially making its ability an additional 4 victory points with no requirements. While it has the benefit of not needing a colonist and so could be a useful last minute build. In general, it seems rather underpowered compared to the other Large Violet Buildings when Residence. For example, offers 4 points to any owner as the only requirement is having 9 or less occupied island spaces, with the promise of more points for a fuller island.
The Cloister is more interesting and challenging to play. Awarding 1/3/6/10 victory points to the owner for 1/2/3/4 sets of 3 of the same island tiles. This offers a more reasonable number of points, although achieving the full 10 points is very challenging.
Overall, the First Expansion adds a range of new interesting buildings which offer exciting new potential strategies particularly when acquiring several which work well together.
Alongside more Buildings, the Second Expansion also adds nobles to the game. Nobles look much like colonists, but red. One noble replaces a colonist each time the colonist ship is restocked. They can occupy Buildings and island tiles in the same way as colonists. The big differences are that firstly, each noble is worth a victory point at the end of the game. Secondly, some buildings have different functions depending on whether a colonist or noble occupies them. When playing with nobles, exhausting the colonist supply does not end the game. Additionally, there are six new Small Violet Buildings, one Large Violet Building and one new Production Building. Here are my favourites.
The Chapel (3 doubloons) is an interesting new Building. It rewards the owner with either a doubloon or a victory point during the Craftsman Phase. This depending on whether it is occupied by a colonist or noble respectively. A tactical decision needs to be made each Mayor Phase on whether to place a colonist or noble on this Building, weighing up whether it is worth sacrificing a steady stream of points for some potentially much needed cash. This is a really good example of how the nobles add a new interesting dynamic to the game.
The Zoning Office (5 doubloons) also changes function depending on its occupier. This Building offers a discount of 1 doubloon for each Building purchased from the first three columns when occupied by a colonist and a discount of 2 doubloons when buying Buildings from column 4 when occupied by a noble. Again, this adds an interesting element to the Mayor Phase, trying to weigh up whether you are more likely to build a small or large Building in the next Builder Phase.
The Villa (7 doubloons) allows the owner to acquire nobles more easily. On their first turn in the Mayor Phase, they may choose to take a noble from the supply rather than a colonist from the ship. This is a really interesting building. It can help the owner acquire a significant number of points from nobles, but will allow another player to take the colonist which they have left on the ship. It is possible to score really well off of this Building. Especially when played in conjunction with some of the other new tiles.
The Jeweler (8 doubloons) is the new Production Building, although it replaces either the University or Harbour. This Building simply awards the owner with a doubloon for each noble on their player board during the Craftsman Phase. This is a good example of a Building which can be played very well in conjunction with the Villa. Notably, the Jeweler also counts as a Large Production Building with regards to the Guild Hall, raising the total potential points from that Large Violet Building to 12.
The new Large Violet Building is the Royal Garden. This awards a player one point for each noble they have at the end of the game. This essentially means that nobles are worth 2 points. One just for being a noble and a bonus one from the Royal Garden. This in conjunction with the Villa is a deadly combination and is easily one of my favourite Buildings across both expansions.
It is perhaps fair to say that the Second Expansion is somewhat bolder than the First. Introducing some interesting new mechanics surrounding the nobles. Removing exhausting the colonist supply as a condition which can end the game is also a very interesting aspect. Often making the game slightly longer and more difficult to force an end when you are ahead.
Loving Puerto Rico the way I do and having played it so many times, I found the expansions a welcome addition to the game.
They did not feel too intrusive. Instead, they just gave the game a bit of variety to stop me falling into my same strategies. The nobles are a particularly interesting addition to the game. As they offer a new way to score very highly by focusing on acquiring them rather than building or shipping. Some Buildings are certainly better and more interesting than others, but this is irrelevant when the game offers a mechanic for selecting Buildings from across the expansions and the base game during setup, meaning slightly less interesting buildings can be left out.
On that note, it is brilliant that these expansions work so well with the base game rather than just replacing all of the base Buildings with something entirely new. Overall, I think these are great additions to the game which add a good deal of variety and makes Puerto Rico a really replayable game.