[The Gentleman Nerd is a weekly column written by Jason McMaster and is dedicated to the more discerning tastes of the refined dork. Due to Jason's extreme nature, most of his columns will be subtitled 'Why I Love...' or 'Why I Hate...' - in case you were wondering.]

I am, usually, not so fond of economy games. In fact, I’m what most people would call a fan of killing stuff. Unless something is blowing up or I get to remove a piece from the board, then I’m not really into it. That’s why I approached Puerto Rico with a fair bit of skepticism.

Puerto RicoOn the surface, Puerto Rico appears to be a boring, counter-based game. That notion carries on throughout opening up the box for the first time. Oh boy, a ton of cardboard squares and circular counters. I wasn’t particularly excited about playing this game at all. The only thing I knew about the game is that it’s the highest rated game on Board Game Geek, and my friend Brian wouldn’t shut up about it. So, I gave in to the pressure and we set up the board. I must admit that when you set up all the pieces, it looks completely baffling and dense. Then we started playing.

Have you ever had a moment in your life where, after struggling with something, it all makes perfect sense, and that realization happens in a second’s time? It’s happened several times for me throughout my life. The first experience I can remember like that is when I was a kid and my dad bought me the full version of Quick Basic for my birthday.

Puerto RicoMy dad began programming in the seventies and I wanted to follow suit. So, I would sit in my room on my 8086 and try to figure out how to program stuff in BASICA. I eventually lost interest in it, and had forgotten all about programming until I received that gift. I’m not sure if it was just that I was older, or that I had access to more helpful documentation, but it all just started making sense. I completely understood the logic. That’s what happened with Puerto Rico.

My initial shock wore off and the game started making perfect sense. Each of the gameplay mechanics manages to be clever but not too complex, and there’s only one way to interpret any of the rules. The game’s layout is no-frills and concise, but for Puerto Rico, that works. In other words, I’m very pleased to say that all of my initial reactions were dead wrong. Puerto Rico is one of the strongest board games I’ve every played.

Puerto RicoLet’s take a quick look at how the game plays. On each turn, you choose a role card. These role cards decide who is what for the rest of the round. Once the round has ended, the role cards go back into the center and can be chosen again. These different roles allow for different actions, and whoever chooses that role gets a bonus to that action. The actions vary, but mostly have to do with the production of goods, purchasing of buildings and manning of farms. The game continues until all of the victory points have been given out, someone fills up their building spots or all of the workers are gone. Whoever ends the games with the most victory points wins. It’s a very easy game disguised as a complex one.

What the instructions don’t tell you, however, is that the real fun in Puerto Rico is screwing your friends over. There’s nothing better than taking the last farm that your friend needs and not even manning it. There’s this look that people get when they realize that you just took something from them just because you can. It’s like manna from heaven. Who ever thought that human suffering could be so fulfilling?

That’s why I love Puerto Rico.

[Jason McMaster is a freelance writer who has written for GameSpy, Firing Squad and several other publications. He’s currently working on a few small projects and updating his blog, Lamethrower, as often as he can.]