I was writing about Cuba on the Finnish Board Game Society forums after my latest experience with the game and I think my friend Tommy hit the nail on the head on what I don’t like about the game.
It’s the lack of snowballing. Valerie Putnam wrote about Snowballs and Princess Brides on Boardgame News and here’s the essential quote about snowball games:
Players start the game with minimal resources and must use what they have to build more. Slowly your meager beginnings, through careful effort, gain enough momentum to become self-sustaining. It’s like a snowball that is finally solid enough to grow bigger just by pushing it down a powdery slope. The winner is typically the player who accomplishes this most efficiently.
In a way, Cuba feels like an economic game in the vein of Puerto Rico et cetera, but what you’re able to do on turn six isn’t much better than what you can do on turn two or three. Sure, you get more buildings, but the buildings are all the same, there’s no “get small building, use it to get more stuff, buy a bigger building that’s more powerful than the small building” effect.
And that, I think, is the biggest problem with Cuba. I don’t get the sense of achieving something, it’s all the same during the whole game.
Of course, the sense of achievement doesn’t have to mean snowballing. Well, I think one can classify Age of Steam as a snowball game even though it isn’t quite like the Puerto Rico family, but still: you start with minimal resources and build more. Building track produces income, which gives more options and so on… And in addition to the growing capabilities and satisfaction of actually making money, there’s the sense of achievement from building track and watching the networks grow, making larger runs and so on.