Looks like we're stuck with small game nights for a while. I apologize that I'm writing this without notes right now, so I'm missing some of the scores and the names of the new Puerto Rico expansion buildings.
YinshJon 3, Mace 0
I taught this to Mace, who didn't take well to it.
El GrandeMace 98, Jon 94, Nadine, Elijah, Gili/Nechama
First plays for Mace and Nechama. Nechama actually played as a team with Gili. Our group tends to run long with certain games, and this is one of them. It took about three and a half hours.
Nadine has a habit of winning this game, which I tell everyone whenever she plays, much to her annoyance. She believes that people will prjudicely gang up on her as a result, which they don't really do until she starts winning. I haven't looked at the records recently, but I'm pretty sure she really does win most of her games. She started off ok in this one, too, but eventually fell behind.
I usually try for a "second-place in many regions" strategy, which works right until the card that scores only the first place in every region shows up and kills me. In this game I actually didn't have that many cubes on the board at all. Somehow, through the judicious placing in lightly contested areas and some interim scoring cards, it looked like I was winning about mid-way during the game. Of course, in El Grande, it's better to be second place, because first place gets ganged up on. And wouldn't you know, second place Mace pulled to a close victory in the end.
Mace poured a lot of his cubes into the Castillo. He, and Nadine and Gili/Nechama, contested heavily for a few places, sometimes with 10 or more cubes each in one area. Actually, the only reason I did as well as I did was choosing the right place for my Castillo placements on rounds 3 and 6; I chose wrongly on round 9, which cost me 3 points (just shy of winning, anyway).
Puerto Rico + Nobles expansionMace 49, Jon 46, Nadine, Rachel
The three of us are far more experienced at Purerto Rico than Mace is, but a) that doesn't mean that we win, since we all hold each other in check, and b) this was the first play of the Nobles expansion for all of us. I used every nobles building, using the standard non-expansion buildings for the other slots.
It first seemed that the nobles are an absolute must-have. Mayor was taken nearly every single round. And some of the buildings that used nobles, especially in combination, were pretty strong. For instance, the 7 and 8 cost buildings together gave you +1 noble each mayor phase and +$1 for each noble you had each craftsman phase, respectively. That's strong. But it's not really stronger than a Factory/Harbor combination.
The 2 cost building that lets you trade a $1 for a plantation or a plantation for a $1 was very weak. Very very weak, even with the 4 cost building that gives you points for having the least number of plantations. On the other hand, the 3 cost building that gives you either a $1 or a points each round was very strong. Very, very strong. On the other hand, both of the players who took that building - Rachel and Nadine - lost, and both of them were corn players, too.
Nadine shipped good points with the 6 point semi-harbor. But in the end, Mace's and my buildings proved to be the major point earners.