Each player has their own board an island and a city to build in. Players get plantations, build buildings, get goods to ship back to the Old World. What really sets Puerto Rico up though is the role selection. Each round players select roles such as the Captain or Settler. When they select that role everyone gets to do the action, but the player who selects the role gets to do a bit more. For example, if you take the Captain you get an extra point with your first shipment.
The regular Puerto Rico game has components that are honestly pretty boring. In 2002 they were fine, but they aren't cutting it now. However, I'm lucky enough to own the 10th Anniversary game which I just found out is currently going for $179 on Amazon (I only payed a 1/3 of that price). The components in this edition are very very good, with metal coins, extremely thick cardboard, art on the buildings, and even simple explanations on the building which really helps new players. The components in the regular edition are functional. The components in the 10th Anniversary Edition are not only functional, but are more functional that the regular edition and looks way better.
This has been discussed over and over by people much smarter than me. However, because it has, you know that there is a lot of strategy in this game. The only luck in the game is what types of plantations come out. Other than that, this game is pure strategy. Everything you do and what order you do it in effects later turns for both you and all the players. This is one of those heavy hitters on the strategy categories.
I love this. This is a game I bought in 2005, one of the first few games I'd purchased once I got back into gaming, and it has been an absolute staple in my collection since. I like it enough that we've purchased the anniversary edition and actually own two copies of the game. I've taught this game to many players and have even successfully used it as a gateway game with some people, though I don't recommend doing that. It is still my Top 10 games of all time, you've read about it on this blog plenty, this is a great game.
Serious Board Gamers - If you haven't played this, you owe it to yourself. You may not even be an Euro game fan, but this game needs to be one that you've played in order to call yourself a serious board gamer.
Too Serious Board Gamers - Don't play this with me at least. This game does have such player interaction that a new player can accidentally and even unknowingly ruin a good players game. Don't get all serious about it and upset. It is a game.
Families of 3, 4, or 5 - If you have kids 12 years old or older and you have multiples of them, even up to 3, then I think this is a great game for you. Sometimes playing a new game each family game night isn't the best thing and this game rewards multiple plays. It also plays very well with 3, 4, or 5 players.