Review: Santiago de Cuba – cigars and rum

Santiago de Cuba - packaging

Trade is blooming in Cuba. And they are especially trading rum, but customers in the world are also interested in cigars and tobacco from this island. One boat after another is heading to the Gulf to catch valuable cargo of Cuban products and carry it to mouths of people around the world.

Pablo rejoices, because today is his lucky day. When he arrived with his car to the port, completely unannounced small yacht just arrived and some wealthy businessman was on it. And he immediately bought his collection of four pallets of Cuban cigars. He profitably sold more, than he can earn at another time in two months of hard work. Now he can celebrate with my family.. If you try too hard, you can succeed even in a competitive environment on the island of Cuba. That’s sure..

You can check your business skills in board game published by , which was introduced to players in . The game is a successor of a great board game Cuba (review in Czech) and also author is the same – . Illustration were drawn by well-known and popular .

Santiago de Cuba - game is ready

The game hides in a much smaller box, but from first moment is obvious, that it is the successor to the original Cuba game. It has similar artwork on the cover, with a side of a title car from the other title. Mr. Menzel has done a masterful job again and not only on the cover picture, which shows us a couple on bike.

The box is oriented in height and there is a folded game board inside. But its small and is folded only in half. It displays the seaside town and its harbor. Boats will just sail in and make demands, which should be completed by you – enterprising inhabitants of Cuba.

Then, of course, cardboard components await and are trapped in a sheet. Here you will discover twelve pieces of buildings, nine Cuban merchants and sixty victory point tokens in different values. There are also tiny round tokens of property in player colors and also coins representing the currency in pesos ranging in values from one to five.

Santiago de Cuba - game is ready

But that’s not all, because you will have also tiny cardboard little screens. You get a front side with a picture of the car in different colors and two side board, which are simple inserted into the prepared notch. By now you are ready to hide your property from greedy eyes of your opponents.

Raw materials are represented by six-sided colored wooden tokens – white for sugar cane, lemons are orange, green is tobacco, rum has red color and cigars are black. All tokens are here in packs of eight, just as brown cubes representing wood. One token reaches beyond this color scheme – its blue and is used for noting market price.

Wooden figurines are also for players. They will represent you in person and will be used to visit buildings in town. But you will go round town in the same car with your opponents. And even this little piece is also made of wood.

Santiago de Cuba - game is ready

Along with the rules, there are five six-sided dice. Each has a different color and shade corresponds to one of the products in the demand. Their numbers are ranging from zero to three, in case of orange to four.

Now we can get down to town, taste Cuban products and finally make sales. Players can break down all colored segments, which correspond to their selected color – pawn, three tiny tokens of ownership and of course a screen. At the beginning, they all get the same conditions – three pesos, two victory points and three cubes of raw materials – one sugar cane, one lemon and one tobacco. All other cubes go into common stock.

We can do now nothing else, than prepare a game plan. First, you domesticate it with nine vendors along the road. These cards with rounded upside should be distributed randomly, as well as twelve buildings belonging into square positions further inside town. By placing them randomly, you create groups of three houses – by color. This color correspons also to one of the vendors on the road. You can think of it as a secret passage to those buildings, because you can always use them only from there.

Santiago de Cuba - game in progress

Car starts its movement in port, while ship token will not sail anywhere for now, but instead you put it on first field of the seven available. They represent number of ships, that has to be loaded before final evaluation and end your game occurs. But this is still far away now, because first you have to take blue hex token and place it on the lowest field with number, representing two victory points for each cube of raw materials sold.

To start the game, it is important to determine starting player, who will have a very important duty, which can decide everything for few future turns. He rolls all dice to determine demands of the first ship in port. On those dice, there are various numbers from zero to threes and this player can take four of those five and locate them to loading area at the harbor. According to colors of the dice, you now know, which cubes ship requires, while number rolled determines amount.

Players will now embark on a journey with one common car, and take turns to move it around the city in an effort to get your hands on as much of these materials as possible. Whenever you have turn, you first move a car piece one square farther clockwise in front of some reseller. In addition, you have a chance to move further, but for each step, you pay one peso. With this, you can skip any position on the board and jump to another.

Santiago de Cuba - game in progress

Player can now take advantage of the ability of this man, whether is he named Miguel, Jose or Alonso. They provide you usually with a modest gain of some raw materials, finance or victory points. In return, vendors do not give anything at all, it seems enough, that you stopped at his booth. But now comes the time for a rose colored symbol, which points to three buildings randomly spread in the beginning of the match.

You can now visit exactly one of them with your figure and let it lie there until the next round. However, you must choose a location, where is none of your rivals, while you may not stay in the same place, where you were in the last round. This means, that from time to time, your choice may be quite limited, but you have chosen a vendor of this color yourself, so you can not complain. You knew in advance, what will you get.

Visiting these buildings will usually allow for greater gains, which are often related to victory points or exchange of raw materials. There are also some tactical options allowing you for example to reset one raw materials dice on the ship to zero or even temporarily close one vendor stand. Stopped car gets nothing from there, until he reopens again.

Santiago de Cuba - tiles

After players have completed the circuit and stands outside the harbor, then player, whose turn is now, can decide, whether he wants to supply the ship this time or completely skip the port. However, regardless of whether you supply ship with goods or not, it is waiting and thanks to that, price of VP per material rises for the next delivery round. This, however, also reduces the captain’s patience with your work. If the value marker reaches the checkered flag, ship departs, regardless of whether it is full or not. This opens some interesting choices.

But the most important situation occurs, when you really stop with your car in the port. Then has the acting player chance to deliver goods as first, and then gradually all the others can do the same with what is left of the demand. And, of course, you can sell only those cubes from your supply, which ship really requires. Every player gets as many victory points for each supplied piece, how much is the current value of goods according to a value marker raising every round.

For each ship, which sails away, you move also boat counter at the bottom of the board. Once seventh ship set sail with cargo, the game immediately ends and players must find out, who is the winner. Everyone can then convert their remaining goods to victory points – every three cubes get you one victory point. Then you count and know, who rules in Santiago.

Santiago de Cuba - game in progress

Santiago de Cuba is an excellent, balanced and really fun strategy game. The game is surprisingly simple and contains no complex rules. Players have only two activities during their turn, but they have always have enough options to choose from in both of them.

The hardest part is deciding, where to move your car. This affects not only your current income, but also selection of the building, which you be visited with your pawn, for this and future turn. And not to mention, that in addition to victory points profits, players must monitor and collect the right materials for actual ship.While their property is hidden behind a screen, shopping is public, so with a bit of concentration, you can have an idea, which needs is what player trying to satisfy on this ship.

The entire game runs very well. Price increases with each circuit a car makes and you can even cause the ship to depart half empty. Whole match fits inside an hour easily. The game is suitable for beginners with no problems, but there is a wide range of its challenge also for more advanced players. Every player finds his thing here, if he likes euro games.

Santiago de Cuba - tiles

You must pay attention to colors, which bind one reseller with three buildings. This is the crucial point in strategy in this game, because you can really profit on some good choices here. Yet a big impact on your decision making is hidden beyond those five restless dice. And also the choice, which can be made always by one player – he chooses four dice out of five colors. Every detail has an impact here and there is no luck, except of rolling dice for those vessels.

In comparation to more complex Cuba, we can say, that this is a lite version. Its principles are obviously quite different, although its still about ships in the harbor, which want to stock up goods. Path to victory is completely different , yet a player might get even better feeling from Santiago, even than excellent Cuba.

Processing is excellent. Illustrated by an experienced author, components are clear, while the are also nice to look at. We have perhaps only one small complaint regarding screens, which may be a little small, but usually they hide everything. Only when you assemble them and punch out of cardboard, you have to be careful, because the legs are very thin and easy to break.

Santiago de Cuba - board detail

Santiago de Cuba is a really great strategy game. It has smaller dimensions, that those big advanced board games, yet they easily withstand in their competition. It brings a nice combination of strategic options and choices, that take you back to Cuba. A place full of cigars and rum.

DesignerMichael Rieneck
ArtistMichael Menzel, Hans-Georg Schneider
Publishereggertspiele, Eagle-Gryphon Games, Filosofia Éditions, Hobby World, Kaissa Chess & Games, Lacerta, Ludonova, MYBG Co., Ltd., Pegasus Spiele, Piatnik
Year Published2011
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4+ players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(138 voters)
Playing Time75
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(27 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(32 voters)
MechanicCommodity Speculation, Dice Rolling, Memory, Modular Board, Pick-up and Deliver, Resource to Move, Track Movement, Worker Placement
ExpansionSantiago de Cuba: El taxi, Santiago de Cuba: La manifestación, Santiago de Cuba: La revolución, Santiago de Cuba: La siesta
FamilyCities: Santiago (Cuba), Country: Cuba, Digital Implementations: Yucata, Series: Cuba (Eggertspiele)
Primary NameSantiago de Cuba
Alternate NamesΣαντιάγκο, Κούβα, Сантьяго де Куба, Сантьяго-де-Куба, 古巴:聖地牙哥 Santiago de Cuba

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Santiago de Cuba – cigars and rum
Final word
Santiago de Cuba is an excellent and yet quite simple tactical euro game. Players are travelling together by one car around the city, trying to get as much goods for them as possible, so they can later sell it with profit to a ship waiting in harbor. Demands of captain are set by roll of dice and active player can decide, which four of five dice will be used. Precisely one car and three buildings hidden behind each stop (seller) are source of difficult choices, which are waiting for you every turn. Supplying of ship will guarantee you longed-for victory points. Every car movement is important, so you are paying closely even, when its not your turn. You have to constantly plan and shift your intensions based on events. Simple commercial game with difficult choices. Something, that can hardly exist. But let’s make an exception this time. Santiago de Cuba is a perfect pick for demanding or relaxation play.
Reader Rating0 Votes
demands set by dice
players are moving with one common car
each businessman is connected to several buildings
lots of tactical options
simple gameplay
excellent processing
you can easily break thin legs on player screens
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