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Subject: El Grande Lite for Three rss

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Jeremy Yoder
United States
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All I can is, "What an incredibly clever little game... for 3 players."

If you're familar with El Grande, then you can appreciate my review description of "El Grande Lite." Like El Grande, San Marco has area control with various scoring for 1st and 2nd throughout the game over various districts. Then at the end, there is a general scoring of all districts. There are only 6 regions, and only 5 unique actions. You only have 25 cubes (aristocrats) that can make it on the board, and chances are very good you won't get nearly all of them on.

Now I'll say right up front that I sincerely enjoyed "El Grande"... or at least, the one game I was able to play. But since then, I've had no luck getting the same players to try it again. For one, El Grande can be overwhelming for the more casual gamer (which I mainly play with) and it takes longer to play (which is harder for me and others as we mostly have young familes).

Now enter San Marco: Not a lot of rules so it's easier to teach and play, not as "Euro-y" as other Euros since there is direct conflict throughout the game, and a shorter time length. And all with great, meaningful decisions. So when I say it's "El Grande Lite", that's a great thing for me, given my gaming circle and phase of life.




Mechanics

I won't go into great detail, but the gist of the game is simply this: Everyone starts with some cubes (aristocrats) in the various 6 districts. One player draws 6 actions cards, and 4 limit cards. Actions cards are good, whereas limit cards (with a value of 1-3) are bad. (I won't go into why, but trust me on this). The player then divides the 10 cards up into 3 piles in whatever way he wants. Then the 2nd player picks 1 of the 3 piles and does those actions. After that, the 3rd players picks 1 of the 2 piles remaining and does those actions. After that, the 1st player takes the remaining pile and does those actions. Each player keeps the bad limit cards in front of him, at least for a time, until each of the 3 passages ends.

Rinse and repeat multiple times until the game ends.

What does all that mean? It means the best actions (good) are paired with high limit cards (bad), while lesser desirable actions (not so good) are paired with low limit cards (not so bad). So what happens, is the two different types of cards are equalizers of each other. This creates very interesting choices for the player dividing the cards, as well as for the players who choose afterwards. Because not only do you all have to take into account the current board layout and player order, but the guy dividing the cards knows that he will be stuck with the last pile, so he doesn't want any of them to be terrible.

Now this is an very simplified summary of game play, especially since I'm not going into detail about the limit cards and types of actions, because it's not imperative for this review. All you really need to know is this "divide cards, let others choose, then the divider uses the leftovers" is the crux of the game. Because it's this very clever mechanic, which as soon as my 2 friends realized it, were very eager to try, regardless of what the limit cards and actions were that I later taught them.

Dividing the cards and letting others choose which pile to execute is the game.




Final Thoughts

The main reason I have to believe San Marco is out of print is because it really shines with 3. (I've not played with 4, but the BGG poll has 44% not recommending it, so take for what it's worth.) It's also mainly for gamers, and while it's a very gratifying experience, after 1 to 1.5 hours of some mild brain-burning, you're not likely to want to play it right away, though you'll definitely want to another day.

I've played other area control games, and this one hit a sweet spot for me and the other 2 guys I played with. That because it's not hard to learn, but every choice has ripples, from dividing the cards, to choosing them, to the order players take their actions, and the order players take their turns.

If this sounds like a nice fit for you, then I recommend tracking down a copy of San Marco on ebay like I did. It won't be the game you always pull out, but when you're looking for a clever, somewhat brain-burning Euro with more player interaction than a lot of Euros (and you have exactly 3 players... maybe 4...) then it should be a winner.


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Deb Wentworth
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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Gorgeous photography - really captures the beauty of the components.

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Geoffrey Ulman
United States
Reston
Virginia
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This is one that I've wanted to own / play more since I first tried it.

As a former Magic: The Gathering player, it always reminds me of Fact or Fiction: http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiver....
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Lacombe
Louisiana
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Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
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JYoder wrote:
clever, somewhat brain-burning, more player interaction


That's what Euro used to mean. *longing sigh*
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Judit Szepessy
Canada
London
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Thanks for the excellent review. One of my favourite games is El Grande and I am glad to discover another similar game out there. How long does a 3 player San Marco last?
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Jeremy Yoder
United States
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Our first took about 90 minutes, but that included learning the game and a couple of distractions. So I'd guess an hour with 3 who know what they're doing, though it ultimately depends on how much AP each player has.

Not sure it it helps, but with 3 players, the whole "divide cards, pick piles, and execute them" mechanic occurs about 10-12 times in a game.
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BJ
United States
Eau Claire
Wisconsin
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You are full of poisonous refuse and insane foolishness.
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I had not supposed or expected your arrogant spirit to seek such a ridiculous and childish reason for lying; you should have better reasons.
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This is currently my favorite 3 player game. I absolutely love the decision making of separating and choosing the card piles. It's a brilliantly simple mechanic often resulting in an agonizing decision.
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Victor Watrous
United States
Fort Wayne
Indiana
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Everything between now and the next game is just killing time. Matchstickman. True, so very true.
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Nice review. Keep in mind that the limit cards do not have to be paired with the action cards. This was pointed out to me last night by one of my game buddies as he put a district card by itself and other cards together in the offering.

This is a good 4-player game, but truly an excellent 3-player game.thumbsup
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Geert Vinaskov
Belgium
Rijkevorsel
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judoka wrote:
Thanks for the excellent review. One of my favourite games is El Grande and I am glad to discover another similar game out there. How long does a 3 player San Marco last?
I've played it with different players and it lasts 45 - 90 minutes. Not more and not less. This includes playing with my AP-prone friend.

But other's experiences may differ.
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