It’s all about rum, cigars and political power in “Cuba”

By Felix Georgi

You like sunny days at the beach with a cold drink? You enjoy Cuban rum and cigars? You appreciate the laid back mentality of the Cubans and don’t mind a little corruption here and there? Then Cuba by Pegasus Spiele (Pegasus Games) is a board game for you and your entire family since it gives you the opportunity to feel and act like a hard-working Cuban ruler for two hours, with all the privileges that entails! In fact: you don’t actually have to lift a finger yourself since you have peasants and farmers to do the dirty work for you.

The idea behind the game is to find the best business and tradesmen among the players to keep up Cuba’s flourishing economy and important trade connections. In order win you need to be very strategic and smart. You have to pay attention to what your opponents do during their turns, otherwise you might miss or give away profitable opportunities, and your rivals will use them to gather more victory points. That would mean them becoming the rulers over Cuba, and you don’t really want that. Do you?

Although it was two years ago now, I still remember my first match of “Cuba” with my room mates as if it were yesterday. I have to admit that it wasn’t fun at all at the beginning since the rules are ridiculously complex and not at all comprehensible if you read them without looking at the board or the objects of the game itself. Though rather confusing at first, the style of the rulebook eventually helps you to understand more and more. It is written like a little story and you get the feeling that every player is the potential hero of the game and has to take actions within the system of the game to collect as many victory points as possible in order to win. It took us at least four hours to finish our first match of Cuba and I can report that as you play the game most of the rules are actually pretty self-explanatory. Moreover, everybody gets a little card detailing the most important rules and the steps involved in every turn. The entire game is turn-based and after every player has had 6 turns the game comes to an end. Nonetheless we had to look into the rulebook numerous times to clarify certain aspects of the game, especially “democratic” (OK, it is possible to pay extra pesos to get more votes) elections and law-making. Because they affect so many techniques and processes it isn’t quite clear what these new laws actually do. But don’t be afraid, the game isn’t really interrupted if you have to clarify something, it’s not a big deal. And trust me: you will have to look into the rules over and over again since it is so complex.

With complexity comes depth, and this is Cuba’s greatest advantage and the part that actually makes it a lot of fun and also brings suspense until the last card is played. There are so many options and different paths that you can take during the match that it is never boring and you never get the feeling of “knowing everything” in the game. Endless combinations of cards and the fact that everything can change depending on the actions of your fellow players make Cuba always interesting and a unique board game experience. No two matches are the same and you’ll never know whether the strategy that you choose will pay off in the end. If you ask me, the most efficient way to get the most victory points (and that’s what everybody wants) is to go for one strategy that you invent yourself and absolutely stick to it. Don’t change your opinion too often and don’t go off track to much. But on the other hand: stay spontaneous and cautious. Otherwise you’ll miss important opportunities to make some extra points or pesos.

  • Even if the game is really not a game for absolute board game newbies and not that easy to understand at the beginning it will bring you lots of evenings of fun and suspense. Every time you play the game you will discover new ways to collect points and to increase your power and influence. You will figure out which strategy is the most efficient one for you and what you have to do in order to make the lives of the other players a little bit harder. I highly recommend this game to everybody who loves strategic and well thought-out board games with authentic content but which don’t take themselves too seriously on the other hand. If you are new to the world of board games and struggle with the rules of Ludo, this is not the right game for you. On the other hand, why not give Cuba a chance and prove your friends wrong and show them that you can be on the ball with the best of them if needs be. Just buy Cuba and challenge them to a match! (I highly recommend that you start studying the rules a week ahead…)

Cuba:
Pegasus Spiele GmbH
12 years up
75 – 120 minutes game time
2-5 players
Price: €29.95

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