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I’ll have oranges because they’re healthier than tobacco

February 4, 2013

Santiago de Cuba is one of those lighter-weight spinoffs from another game, in this case Cuba, which I have not played. SdC is a quick-playing little game where you drive around town visiting the locals, collecting goods and trading them with ships waiting in the harbour.

I don't know what that creature is, but apparently its name is Dandy and it likes to visit people in Cuba.

I don’t know what that creature is, but apparently its name is Dandy and it likes to visit people in Cuba.

I say quick-playing, and it is if you are playing with adults (I had previously played this with S, with neither of us having played before, and it took about an hour including the rules explanation) but with a six-year-old things are rather slower. The issue is similar to the one we had with Lords of Waterdeep: each player taking a great many very short turns can give us a problem as Miss B regularly needs reminding that it is her turn now. Like Waterdeep, though, she quickly got the hang of the way things work and soon started making some decent decisions for herself. The way the game works effectively restricts the number of options available each turn (for the game geeks, action is controlled by a rondel, with players sharing a single marker as it moves around) which is a great way to avoid analysis paralysis. The mechanics in this game are really quite slick.

It must be said, however, that there are a couple of issues with the implementation of the theme. This post is turning a bit geeky and technical, I’m afraid, so sorry about that. First, you collect money which you use to pay for extra movement, while you trade goods for victory points; why not trade goods for money and use something else for movement? Secondly, the rondel (movement track) is a route around the harbour which ends up with the car having to teleport magically across the water to start its next journey; perhaps a more logical design wouldn’t have looked as nice (I love the look of the board, by the way, though S thought it overly cluttered). S spotted this stuff straight away, as did Miss B, though I have to admit I didn’t think about it until it was pointed out. The other difference between the three of us is that S finds these issues very distracting for the game, which I can understand, though I am more interested in the slickness of the game play and it doesn’t really bother me much — or Miss B, for that matter.

So our game went pretty well, with both Miss B and I stuffing and gazumping each other a few times. We don’t usually play to directly affect each other as much as we did here and I am very proud of the way Miss B conducted herself, fighting back very well. However, by mid-game the clock was ticking along quite heavily and it was nearly dinner time, so we agreed to shorten the game by a couple of ships (you usually have seven ships to trade with). When the game ended, Miss B was disappointed with a loss and convinced that if we had played a full-length game she’d have done better. I guess next time we’ll just have to allocate more time and take a mid-game break.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “I’m disappointed that it was a short game. Maria and Alonso were my favourite characters.”

The game: Santiago de Cuba (Pegasus Spiele), 2 to 4 players aged 10+.

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