Ender Wiggins
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When I first started getting into euro games early in 2005, one of the first games I bought was San Juan. Some seven years, I'm still playing it. In fact, with the help of some expansion cards, I'm enjoying it more than ever! It says a lot about a game if it can have that kind of enduring value, but the reality is that San Juan has continued to be a house favourite, and while other games have come and gone, there's something about this one that continues to make it rewarding.

First released in 2004, its initial positive reception was undoubtedly enhanced by the fact that it was standing on the shoulders of the euro giant Puerto Rico. As a card game based on the BGG #1 at the time, there was never going to be any doubt that there was a ready market willing to lap up a card game version of what was arguably the most popular strategy game of the day. Of course, San Juan had to live up to the hype, and it did. Even though it's a much lighter game than Puerto Rico, the role selection mechanic made a smooth transition to a card game, and using cards as currency, goods, and as buildings proved to be a streamlined system that worked well. Sacrificing some of depth of its much-loved big brother came with the advantage of quick game-play, especially with two players, and it's no surprise that even today San Juan occupies the #9 position in the BGG chart of the top-ranked games from 2004.

In this review I'll share some of the things I like about San Juan, and then particularly focus on how some of the new expansion cards help give the game a new lease of life, and extend the mileage of this clever card game even further.



How do you play San Juan?

San Juan has been out since 2004, so most people probably already know the basics of how to play, so I'll keep this part brief. Players use a shared deck of 110 cards, which feature a variety of buildings on them, each of which gives you special abilities and earns you points. Game-play is determined by Puerto Rico's role-selection mechanic, where a player chooses from one of five available roles (Builder, Producer, Trader, Councillor, Prospector). On a player's turn, he chooses a role and carries it out (getting a small bonus for choosing it), and then the other players carry out the same role in turn order.

You can construct buildings by playing them from your hand, and paying their cost by discarding the appropriate number of other cards from your hand. In addition to buildings that will reduce your building costs (e.g. Quarry, Smithy), or generally make your economic engine more efficient in a variety of ways, there are also production buildings which let you produce goods (using the Producer role), which you can then sell to draw cards (using the Trader role). The game ends when a player has built 12 buildings, at which point the player with the highest score wins!


A 31 point tie in a two player game

What's good about San Juan?

There's a lot to like about San Juan. It captures the essence of Puerto Rico, but boils it down to a shorter playing time and with a lighter feel, by removing elements such as colonists and a separate currency, and adding cards and the aesthetic beauty of Franz Vohwinkel's artwork.

The fact that it's a card game means that there is an element of luck of the draw, but this forces you to make constant decisions about which cards to build, and which ones you can discard as payment costs. There are times where you may feel screwed by the cards you get, but for the most part there's a lot of different strategies that are open to you, and the fact that you're dependent on the cards you draw forces you to adjust your strategy based on the cards you get - and this keeps the game fresh and different every time, yet without removing the importance of tactical and strategic choices.

While hand management is particularly important, it needs to be combined with clever use of role selection (especially in timing your production and trading), as well as trying to string together a series of buildings that will magnify their usefulness. The role-selection mechanic also means that you need to keep a close eye on what your opponents are doing, because you don't want to choose roles that will benefit them more than you. This results in a healthy degree of interaction that is rewarding without being nasty or directly confrontational.

Puerto Rico is arguably at its best with four players, but San Juan has the advantage of being especially good with just 2 or 3 players, and the two player game is particularly satisfying. Admittedly, the 2 player variant for Puerto Rico is a good one, but the reality is that many gamers will simply find San Juan to be a better option, because there's less set-up and it plays more quickly. A game can be over in as quickly as 30-45 minutes, and what it offers in this time frame is a considerable amount of enjoyment, certainly more than a typical filler card game. While it doesn't match the intensity of its board game ancestor, San Juan should be evaluated as an independent package, and as such it's a streamlined game that provides fast and addictive gameplay, avoids complexity, and has a high degree of replayability.


Go on, be a Hero!

Why might you not like San Juan?

San Juan certainly does have some critics, although they are easily in the minority, but here are some of the reasons why not everyone likes the game:

1. Most naysayers simply find San Juan inferior to its boardgame parent Puerto Rico. I suppose if you have the time and the players to play Puerto Rico, by all means do so. Personally I don't really think it's fair to compare the two directly, because San Juan occupies a slightly different niche, and its excellence for 2-3 players combined with a shorter time frame is a real strength. Others prefer the complexity of 2007's Race for the Galaxy, which certainly owes a large debt to San Juan, and is a heavier and more complex card game that serious gamers will unsurprisingly find more appealing as a way of scratching their gamer itch. These objections really come down to a preference for deeper games.

2. Another complaint that's often voiced is in relation to the element of the luck-of-the-draw, but again this is largely a result of comparing the game with Puerto Rico rather than comparing it with other card games - although I'll concede that particularly in a four player game your chances of success can be hampered by an inability to get the 6-cost building you need.

3. A final criticism that you'll come across is that San Juan feels like multi-player solitaire and there's not enough interaction. This objection tends to be overstated, because while the game does lack direct confrontation, in makes up for that in the subtle interaction that results from the role selection mechanic.

In short, the main criticism voiced against San Juan comes in the form of the complaint that it's a light-weight strategy card game, a criticism that in some ways is a compliment, because this is exactly what San Juan is trying to be. It's not trying to compete with its bigger brother, but occupies its own niche, and does a jolly good job of doing so - and little wonder it's in the Top 10 games from 2004!


An impressive score of 45 points

How replayable is San Juan?

Several elements of the game mechanics enhance the replayability of San Juan:

1. The role selection mechanic. It's possible to build a production strategy revolving around producing and trading goods, or trying to generate points using other roles. The role selection mechanic is at the heart of the game, and what you can do will often depend on the choices of other players. This gives every game a different feel, and is a result of the subtle interaction produced by having five different roles to choose from.

2. The building types. The buildings themselves offer unique abilities, and certain buildings will work particularly well in tandem, or in combination with particular roles. Will you go for a production strategy (using buildings like the Smith, Aqueduct), or for a violet building strategy? Will you opt to score big with monuments, or try to get bonus points with the help of the Guild Hall, City Hall, or Palace? There's a variety of combinations and possibilities to explore, and this gives lots of opportunity for playing differently each time.

3. The card draw. Even if you want to try the same strategy twice, you simply won't be able to because your options are going to be dictated by the luck-of-the-draw. Hardcore gamers who want a minimum of randomness in their games won't care for this, but in the case of San Juan it's a strength because it prevents games from being scripted, and forces you to make the most of the cards in your hand.

Together, the varied roles and varied buildings, combined with the choices of other players and the luck-of-the draw (both of which are unpredictable), all ensure that the game won't quickly feel worn out or the same. As a result, you'll find many reports from folks who have played the game 30 times, 50 times, or even as many as 100 times and 150 times, and are still discovering new ways to win, and enjoying the game just as much as they did when they first learned it.


Builder role = cheaper buildings!

Where do you get the San Juan expansion?

In 2009, Alea released a Treasure Chest containing expansions for several games, including San Juan. Unfortunately this means that the expansion cards are not readily available separately, but only as part of Alea's Treasure Chest, which comes with a whole swag of other expansions, like Puerto Rico, Notre Dame, In the Year of the Dragon, Witch's Brew, Louis XIV, and Princes of Florence (which is part of the reason why I posted this review for San Juan, and not the Treasure Chest). Plenty of gamers have bought the Treasure Chest in order to get just a couple of these expansions and are willing to sell off the others separately - the only problem is that the San Juan expansion is often the reason they bought the Treasure Chest in the first place! If you're fortunate, you might find someone selling the San Juan expansion cards separately, but it's in quite high demand, so your best bet might just be to buy the entire Treasure Chest. You can always offload some of the other expansions for GeekGold or cash, or in trades.


The Alea Treasure Chest

What's included in the San Juan expansion?

Actually there are two mini-expansions that are included, both of which consist of new cards to add to the game:
● new events
● new buildings
Each of these can be added separately to the base game, or both at the same time.

As well as the new cards, you get a small rulesheet which explains the unique ability of each of the new buildings and the new events. You can download the full English rules for the Treasure Chest here, but this review should tell you most things you need to know about the expansion cards for the game.


The complete San Juan expansion from the Treasure Chest

What are the new Events?

There are six Event cards, which are simply shuffled into the regular deck. Whenever a player draws one of these into his hand, he immediately plays it face up on the table along with the other roles, and draws another card to replace it. These Events effectively become another role for players to choose in addition to the Builder, Producer etc. If they are ever chosen they are then discarded back into the deck.

Here's a list of all the events, four of which have positive effects (green colour), while two have negative effects (red colour):

Governor visit: select a role that was already used that round
General amnesty: each player can exchange cards from his hand with the supply
Free build: each player can build a building that costs up to 4 for free
Debt relief: each player draws 3 cards
Earthquake: each player must destroy one of his buildings
Taxes: each other player must discard a card from his hand


Six different events

How do the new Events change the game?

Even if you go through the entire deck, you won't necessarily see all the events, because if they're placed on production buildings as goods they won't enter the game immediately. So usually a single pass through the deck will see four or five of them being added to the available roles to choose from. The down-side of the events is that most of them benefit all players equally - the exception being the Governor visit (which lets you choose an already used role again, thus entitling you that role's bonus), and Taxes (which forces other players only to discard a card). And that's exactly the problem: in most cases you're looking to choose a role that will give you some benefit that other players don't get, and so it usually makes sense to choose something other than the available event.

Having said that, they are somewhat situational, and there can be situations where you can find a way to make them useful. For example, even though Earthquake affects yourself as well, there might be situations where it's useful to destroy an opponent's 11th building and thus delaying the game end. And if your hand is practically empty and your opponent is already at his hand limit, Debt Relief might be a good choice as the last role selected in a round, because your opponent will only have to discard cards anyway. But in reality, we played several games where the roles just sat there the entire game after they came up, and never got chosen.

This seems to be a common experience with the events, and it hardly seems worthwhile to incorporate them into the game for the little they get used. The Events could have been better had each of them given the person selecting the event a small bonus of some kind. As it is, they're worth including if you like the occasional flexibility, especially in a four player game, but overall the Events are hardly to be considered a must-have.


Using some of the Event expansion cards in a game of San Juan

What are the new Buildings?

What you get for this part of the expansion is 31 cards (26 violet buildings + 5 production buildings) and a single Cathedral tile. The real appeal of the expansion lies in these new buildings, and there are ten different ones altogether. An complete set of production building cards is also included, otherwise the percentage of violet buildings in the deck would be too high; although even so the addition of the expansion cards does mean that the chances of drawing a production building are slightly lower, and it's worth keeping in mind when playing the game. The new building and production cards are mixed into the deck, with the exception of the one and only but expensive Cathedral (7) building, which is actually a cardboard tile rather than a card, and is placed face-up on the table, and is available for any player to build at any time they wish.

Here's a list of all the new buildings, arranged in order of cost:

3x Office (cost 1): Lets you discard up to 2 cards during the governor phase and draw new ones
3x Guard room (cost 1): Changes the hand limit of players without a Guard room to 6 cards
3x Caritas (cost 2): Lets you draw a card if you're the player with the least number of buildings after the Builder phase



3x Park (cost 3): If you have a Crane, you can build over your Park and reduce the cost of the new building by up to 6
3x Customs office (cost 3): Gets you a good during the Councillor phase which you can sell during the Trader phase to earn 2 cards
3x Bank (cost 4): Once during the game in the Governor phase, you can place under it as many cards from your hand as you wish for 1VP each at game end



3x Harbor (cost 4): Each Trader phase lets you place under it one good you've just sold for 1VP each at game end
3x Goldsmith (cost 5): lets you draw and reveal a card during the Prospector phase, and add it to your hand if it is a building nobody has yet built
2x Residence (cost 6): Gives you bonus points at game end for each set of 3 different buildings with the same building costs that you have (4VP for the first set, 3VP for the second, etc)



1x Cathedral (cost 7): Gives you bonus points at game end for each 6-cost building built by other players (4VP for the first, 3VP for the second, etc)



How do the new Buildings change the game?

The new buildings really open up a range of different possibilities. Here are some brief thoughts on each of the buildings:

● The Office is cheap to build, and offers the tremendous benefit of being able to cycle your cards, discarding poor ones in the hope that you'll draw better ones, and if it appears early in the game it can really help you out.
● The Guard room can really annoy other players by enforcing a hand limit of 6 cards, making it harder for them to manage their hand from round to round, and being able to hurt other players in this subtle way injects a new layer of indirect interaction into the game.
● The Caritas is less useful, since it's only going to help you if you're behind, and doesn't give a big bonus, but there are some situations you might find it handy, and having an extra 2-cost card to choose from can be useful if you're looking to maximize benefits of the Residence late in the game.
● The Park requires the Crane, but if you can get this combo, it can make it easy to build a 6-cost building, or better yet the 7-cost Cathedral.
● The Customs Office adds an interesting twist to the Councillor phase, making it even more attractive to choose this role, and providing another way to get goods aside from production buildings, and a fairly nice bonus when trading as well.
● The Bank is like a single-use Chapel, but can be quite lucrative if you set up your hand right towards the end of a round, and I've seen it being used as a 10VP grab!
● The Harbor makes a production strategy even more viable, because you effectively get an extra VP each time you trade, which can generate 10VP over the course of a game quite easily!
● The Goldsmith isn't a cheap build, and its benefit isn't all that great, but it does some extra VPs in itself, and perhaps it's included primarily to make it easier to build a set of 5-cost buildings for the Residence.
● The Residence is a wonderful addition, because it means that now there's an additional 6-cost building that can generate bonus points, and encouraging players to make sets of similar cost-buildings adds to the game a completely new consideration for building choices.
● The Cathedral helps reduces some of the luck-of-the-draw in which players suffer for not drawing any 6-cost buildings - now you can turn the 6-cost buildings that your opponents are building into VPs for yourself!


The power of an early Harbour at work

What do I think about the San Juan expansion?

Bumpy landing in an English world: Let's get the negatives out of the way first, and it's about the component quality. The transition from the original German to English hasn't exactly been smooth, because the text on the building cards features some shocking English. Fortunately the meaning of the intended effects isn't obscure, and the accompanying English rule-sheet is excellent, but you'd think that they'd have taken the trouble to have a native English speaker look over the cards before producing it in English - some of the obvious errors are laughable! Another small production glitch is that the card backs don't exactly match the card backs of the original game. The differences are distinct enough to be able to identify the new cards relatively easily just by looking at the reverse side. While this can be a convenient way of finding the expansion cards if ever you decide to remove them from the base game (which you probably won't), it would have been better that they all had an expansion symbol of some kind on the front of the cards. While none of this really matters too much in terms of game-play, it is a minor weakness that should be mentioned.

Events that aren't eventful: I've already addressed in more detail the fact that the Events have a minimal impact on game-play, and this is largely because they don't give bonuses to the person choosing the event but benefit all players equally. Perhaps this was done deliberately so as to prevent them having too great an effect on the game, but the end result is that most of the events they lack any real appeal for choosing them in most situations. They're perhaps best used in a four player game, to give the player who is last in turn order a few more options. But overall San Juan isn't any worse without them, but it's not really a whole lot better with them either. You won't find too many people getting all excited about the new events, and you can well do without them.

More buildings, more fun: The addition of the new buildings, however, more than makes up for any amount of lukewarm feelings about the events, and really this expansion is worthwhile because of the buildings alone. These really open up new possibilities for exploring different strategies, and having a larger pool of different buildings to choose from means that you're not as likely to draw your old favourites, and ensures that games will vary even more from one play to the next. But not only is the sheer number of combinations enhanced, but the new buildings also give you additional things to think about, such as the Chapel-like bonuses offered by the Bank and Harbor, which can help generate scores considerably higher than you'll see in the base game. Being able to cycle your hand with an Office, cripple your opponents' hands with a Guard Room, strengthen the Councillor phase with a Customs Office, or turning your slow building progress into an advantage with a Caritas - all these are very new paths to explore and enjoy. One particularly nice element is how some of the buildings strengthen some of the less appreciated roles, like the Prospector (with the Goldsmith) and the Councillor (with the Customs Office), and when they're in play they'll force players to reevaluate the usefulness of these roles. Having a larger pool of buildings also softens the rare complaint that some buildings in the base game were overpowered (e.g. Library, Guild Hall), and if anything has made the game even more balanced. As such, the new Buildings don't at all have the feeling of "more of the same", but give a very real sense that there's new territory to explore within the game landscape, and as such they make the game feel fresh, as well as making its already strong case for replayability even stronger.

Those vital 6-cost buildings: Experienced players of San Juan will know that one of the secrets to getting big scores lies in constructing a couple of 6-cost buildings near the game end. And if you don't have them in your hand, you'll be trying to find a way to dig through the deck to acquire one, such as using the Councillor or perhaps lucrative trading. In the original game, your options for getting these 6 buildings were somewhat limited, because there are only four different ones in the game, one of which is only worthwhile if you have monuments. Particularly in a four player game, your best laid plans could come to naught if you didn't draw these key buildings. The expansion improves on this by adding the Residence as another 6 building, and the Cathedral as a way to earn points from other players who might have the 6 buildings that you don't. This really helps make the game more satisfying, evens out some of the bumps occasionally experienced with the original game, and gives more long term objectives to work with. The Residence gives a new criteria for deciding what to build (since you're trying to make sets of cards with matching building costs), and this also helps shape long term strategies.

Looking for treasure: I'm not a huge fan of Alea's sales model in which they bundle multiple expansions together as they did in their Treasure Chest; Ystari did something similar with their Ystari Box. But like it or not, right now that's almost the only way to get your hands on the San Juan expansion. So if you want this treasure of an expansion it might take some looking for, but fortunately you will find the effort worthwhile!

In the final analysis, the San Juan expansion really makes a good game even better, and while the Event cards are a bit hit or miss, the new Building cards are a fantastic addition to the game. This is the kind of expansion that you'll want to add to the game permanently, and while the original game isn't too quickly going to feel played out with the original cards alone, those who are looking to give the game a new lease of life will find that the new Buildings accomplish that more than adequately.


A player using several of the expansion buildings

What do others think about the San Juan expansion?

The new buildings

Comments on the expansion cards for San Juan are extremely favourable, and although there are some lukewarm reactions to the Event cards, people just love the new Building cards:

"Great. New buildings & events both shake up the game." - Steve Kearon
"Fantastic San Juan expansion." - Greg Williams
"VERY nice ... the game was kind of stale now but these make things interesting again." - snoozefest
"The San Juan and Notre Dame cards are must-haves -- the kind of expansions you never play the base game without." - Sam Angrove
"Adds more variability to the game, which is much needed." - Touko Tahkokallio
"The new buildings are well designed, alleviating some (perceived) weaknesses and strengths of the original cards. Highly recommended." - Stephan Valkyser
"I really like what most of the new buildings do for the game." - FrozenHoHos
"I really love the San Juan expansions. One of the best parts of San Juan expansion is it opens up focusing on all the different role tiles." - J Chav
"The San Juan expansion really breathes new life into the so-so game." - kungfro
"New Buildings: Very cool buildings which enable new strategies. Events: Some of them are kinda weak, but anyway a cool addition to the game. Especially the Earth Quake gives new possibilities in that you can lengthen the game." - Grzegorz Kobiela
"Rating of 9 for the new buildings for San Juan: definitely improve the base game." - Christoph Heinzl
"The new buildings are a cheap & easy way to add some more fun to the game. The events are definitely a mixed bag." - Chris Farrell
"Good expansion; I see no reason not to keep this in the game." - Scott Firestone IV
"The San Juan expansion is very good." - Mikko Saari
"These buildings really open up a lot of new strategies without increasing the game's complexity. This is exactly what I was looking for in the expansion." - Peter Hawthorne
"Nice addition and adds some new variety to a great game." - Michel Condoroussis




The Treasure Chest

Many consider the excellence of the San Juan expansion cards reason alone to get the Alea Treasure Chest, as is evident from the following:

"The San Juan expansions are worth the box alone." - Mik Svellov
"I only use the San Juan cards. These cards makes San Juan even better, and are worth the price of the expansion alone." - Lars Wagner Hansen
"Worth every penny even if [San Juan and Puerto Rico] are the only 2 games I ever use it for. San Juan has rocked with the new cards. They have become integral to my San Juan experience." - Ben Vögel
"Rating [9] based on San Juan expansions alone so far. Worth the price just for those for me. Very nice." - Mike Adams
"The San Juan expansion is arguably the best of the bunch. The extra buildings in particular really add a lot to the game." - Jamie Pollock
"I like the San Juan building cards quite a lot which was the main reason I got the box." - Bradley Hays


There's a pretty clear consensus that the San Juan expansion is one of the very best in the Alea Treasure chest, and that the building cards in particular make an excellent addition to the original base game.

Recommendation

San Juan is and remains an outstanding card game. Since its release in 2004, it has arguably been surpassed by other strategy card games like Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome, both of which are heavily indebted to it, and take its core mechanics a step further by offering more complexity and meat for serious gamers. But these other games by no means make it obsolete, because San Juan offers a more accessible and slightly more casual experience, without coming at the cost of sacrificing the need for tactical and strategic decisions, and its appeal lies precisely in this accessibility. As such, some eight years after its initial release, it continues to hold up well even in the midst of strong field of card games which is becoming increasingly crowded. While some its success can be attributed to riding on the coat-tails of its esteemed predecessor Puerto Rico, the reality is that younger brother San Juan is an excellent card game in its own right, and has rightly been acknowledged as such.

The case for San Juan's excellence is only enhanced by the addition of the building cards from the expansion. While it is somewhat unfortunate that one of the only ways to obtain them is by means of the Alea Treasure Chest, they are certainly worth the effort to acquire, because they give players more options and possible strategies to explore. San Juan has always been a strong performer in our home, and the replay value and freshness offered by including the expansion cards has only served to ensure that it will continue to be played many times in years to come. I highly recommend the original game, and the expansion is certainly a must-have for any San Juan fan!



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Joel Eddy
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Re: A Pictorial Overview: Why I love San Juan. And why I love it even more with the new expansion cards!
Thanks for this. I have largely ignored this expansion, mostly due to the fact that I am so happy with SJ and have been playing it for (geez) 8 years.

I am also unhappy with the bundling of expansions.

But, thanks for the closer look at the buildings and events. I suspect that I will just play it without events, if I ever get around to grabbing this!
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Stasia Doster
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Very nice review of one of my favorite games. I do not know that I will ever pick up the Treasure Chest (although I may, not only for San Juan but also for The Princes of Florence expansion, since I love that game.) I appreciate you taking the time to explain the cards contained in the expansion.
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Rasmus Michaelsen
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Nice review. Especially liked your debate about when and how to use the new Events/Cards.

I have for some time considered if I should buy the Treashure Chest (I have four of the games), and think you have finally convinced me to buy.
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Sam
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Oooh, I got quoted in an Ender's Pictorial Overview! For the record, I think the events are pretty disposable, but the new buildings take the game from good to great by drastically increasing the number of viable ways to score.

After the first few games I only thought it was OK, but increased my rating after exploring it with the superb Android implementation, Condado.
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Greg Taylor
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My wife and I completely agree with Ender's review. San Juan + expansion buildings is a really fun, varied strategy game (we like it much better than the obtuse RftG).

I hope that they will give San Juan a similar treatment to Puerto Rico: Limited Anniversary Edition, and bundle the expansions in with the game in a reprint.

Whenever I recommend this game, I always note that the expansion is really needed to fill out the strategic options. It would be nice to be able to have them just buy one box and get it all.

* edit - we also play without the Events expansion.
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Dave James

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I'm not a fan of construction and supply games. But hey, if that's what floats your boat...more power to you.
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Liz Burton
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Great review, as usual!

Interesting take on the Events cards, though. I play mostly 2 player and we love the event cards and wouldn't play without them! Some strategy thoughts:

Free Build: Build 2 buildings in one round to force the game end

Taxes: Use when an opponent has one card they're clearly saving for a later build (great way to force a City Hall or Palace discard)

Earthquake: Discard your Indigo plant to build another violet building for City Hall bonus points (yes, this occurs frequently), or to make another set of 3 buildings with your Residence Hall, or to make your opponent choose between their Indigo plant or a higher-cost building

Debt Relief: Grab at the end of a round when your opponent has 6 or 7 cards, like you mentioned.

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Greg Taylor
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The largest Bank VP grab I've seen is 22 points, and second largest was 18 points.

Bank + Tower + and a really big Trader round can be a really dramatic Bank strategy.

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Kevin H.
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manutd03 wrote:
Great review, as usual!

Interesting take on the Events cards, though. I play mostly 2 player and we love the event cards and wouldn't play without them! Some strategy thoughts:

Free Build: Build 2 buildings in one round to force the game end




I don't have the rules in front of me, but I'm pretty sure this is specifically disallowed.
 
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Steve Duff
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dysjunct wrote:
manutd03 wrote:
Free Build: Build 2 buildings in one round to force the game end


I don't have the rules in front of me, but I'm pretty sure this is specifically disallowed.


Nope, it's allowed. The only note is that it doesn't end the game immediately, all the other players still get their free build from the event as well.
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Ender Wiggins
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manutd03 wrote:
Interesting take on the Events cards, though. I play mostly 2 player and we love the event cards and wouldn't play without them! Some strategy thoughts:

Free Build: Build 2 buildings in one round to force the game end

Taxes: Use when an opponent has one card they're clearly saving for a later build (great way to force a City Hall or Palace discard)

Earthquake: Discard your Indigo plant to build another violet building for City Hall bonus points (yes, this occurs frequently), or to make another set of 3 buildings with your Residence Hall, or to make your opponent choose between their Indigo plant or a higher-cost building

Debt Relief: Grab at the end of a round when your opponent has 6 or 7 cards, like you mentioned.

These are great observations on the potential of some of the Event cards, thank you for contributing that!

One of the nice things about the Events is that it doesn't hurt the game in any way to include them, because if you draw one you simply make it available as a new one-time role and immediately draw another card to your hand to replace it. As such, it's easy enough just to include them in the deck, and wait to discover opportunities like the ones mentioned here, hoping to find ways to exploit them. Well done!
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Len
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Excellent review, as usual!

I do disagree on one point, and I think it is a common complaint with SJ. SJ is not a very good 2p game. Specifically, it can be ok for 2p but replayability is not very good. This is because only three roles are selected per turn, which makes the use of production far inferior to building purple. This negates a huge part of the game.

With more players, especially four, production becomes viable as each turn some will have to select a production-assisting role. With more players SJ becomes a far more interesting as the rest of the game design comes into play.

After several plays, SJ with two players got stale when we realized this weakness in the game.
 
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Liz Burton
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LSMB wrote:
SJ is not a very good 2p game. Specifically, it can be ok for 2p but replayability is not very good. This is because only three roles are selected per turn, which makes the use of production far inferior to building purple. This negates a huge part of the game.

With more players, especially four, production becomes viable as each turn some will have to select a production-assisting role. With more players SJ becomes a far more interesting as the rest of the game design comes into play.


This is where the expansion helps A LOT. I agree that with 2p (sans expansion), you end up using Prospector/Builder/Councillor every turn, and never see Production or Trading.

With the new buildings, someone's likely to build the Customs Office, so then at least the Trader gets thrown back into the mix--and it makes one player think carefully about using the Councillor. The Harbor also gives players incentive to be the Trader (which sometimes requires the Producer as well).

Violet buildings are still a better way to go with 2 players, but at least the expansion helps.
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Rex Moore
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Good review, Ender. It was fairly shallow, though. I wish you had gone more in-depth.

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Len
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manutd03 wrote:
LSMB wrote:
SJ is not a very good 2p game. Specifically, it can be ok for 2p but replayability is not very good. This is because only three roles are selected per turn, which makes the use of production far inferior to building purple. This negates a huge part of the game.

With more players, especially four, production becomes viable as each turn some will have to select a production-assisting role. With more players SJ becomes a far more interesting as the rest of the game design comes into play.


This is where the expansion helps A LOT. I agree that with 2p (sans expansion), you end up using Prospector/Builder/Councillor every turn, and never see Production or Trading.

With the new buildings, someone's likely to build the Customs Office, so then at least the Trader gets thrown back into the mix--and it makes one player think carefully about using the Councillor. The Harbor also gives players incentive to be the Trader (which sometimes requires the Producer as well).

Violet buildings are still a better way to go with 2 players, but at least the expansion helps.


Good news....I'll have to get those cards and give it a try!
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The expansion buildings are fantastic, and I would say essential to the base game. Any one with the base game must get this expansion.

The events... well, the only thing I liked about them it a first turn Earthquake that destroys everyone's Indigo in a 4 player game.
 
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Steve Wagner
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I'm one of the few people that like San Juan over Race for the Galaxy, although I prefer Glory to Rome to them both.
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SVan wrote:
I'm one of the few people that like San Juan over Race for the Galaxy, although I prefer Glory to Rome to them both.


I prefer San Juan over RftG too! That makes 2 of us. But I've not played GtR yet.
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Ben Holle
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Great review!

San Juan is probably my favorite and most played 2-player game. Very tactical. The Buildings exansion is a must but I recommend not using the Events expansion.

EndersGame wrote:
One of the nice things about the Events is that it doesn't hurt the game in any way to include them...


I disagree with this. They hurt the game because so much strategy is built around leeching off the roles and leaving your opponent(s) with no great options. The Events give them an out and take away from the tightness of the game.
 
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Greg Taylor
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ketigid wrote:
SVan wrote:
I'm one of the few people that like San Juan over Race for the Galaxy, although I prefer Glory to Rome to them both.


I prefer San Juan over RftG too! That makes 2 of us. But I've not played GtR yet.


+1 San Juan over RftG

Glory to Rome is great, but definitely heavier than San Juan.
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Kenny VenOsdel
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I think the biggest bonus of San Juan is that it primes people for learning Race for the Galaxy and that is the main reason I picked it up. The rules aren't identical to RftG, but a lot of the concepts are similar and SJ is by far the easier game to teach. It worked for my wife and now RftG is her favorite game overall!

Quote:
Events that aren't eventful: I've already addressed in more detail the fact that the Events have a minimal impact on game-play, and this is largely because they don't give bonuses to the person choosing the event but benefit all players equally. Perhaps this was done deliberately so as to prevent them having too great an effect on the game, but the end result is that most of the events they lack any real appeal for choosing them in most situations. They're perhaps best used in a four player game, to give the player who is last in turn order a few more options. But overall San Juan isn't any worse without them, but it's not really a whole lot better with them either. You won't find too many people getting all excited about the new events, and you can well do without them.


I haven't used the events yet but I would probably adjust the rules a bit to make them more eventful.

Quote:
Governor visit: select a role that was already used that round
Taxes: each other player must discard a card from his hand


These two I would say you add them to your hand, do not draw an extra card. You may play them at anytime. For taxes you could also add that you play it instead of choosing a role and you may pick up one of the cards that the other players discarded from the taxes.


Quote:
General amnesty: each player can exchange cards from his hand with the supply
Free build: each player can build a building that costs up to 4 for free
Debt relief: each player draws 3 cards
Earthquake: each player must destroy one of his buildings


These I would just make instant effects. If a player draws it they immediately play it to the table, draw a card to replace it, and then resolve its effect.

This simple adjustment would make the events more "eventful" and would guarantee that they don't just sit on the table doing nothing! Of course if you like the idea of them staying as a role effect you could always just say that whoever chooses the event can also draw one card (except with Governor and Taxes). Then there is some incentive to take them.
 
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Andy Daglish
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Quote:
softens the rare complaint that some buildings in the base game were overpowered (e.g. Library, Guild Hall)


You can't win without Guild Hall. The Java implementation nearly always wins [in a four-player with one human], and it always do so with Guild Hall. So does the rare human victory over the program. Thus the card doesn't work, as two points is too many.
 
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aforandy wrote:
You can't win without Guild Hall. The Java implementation nearly always wins [in a four-player with one human], and it always do so with Guild Hall. So does the rare human victory over the program. Thus the card doesn't work, as two points is too many.


I think you need to work on improving your game. I play the Java version too and consistently win with the violet strategy.
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Steve Duff
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kvenosdel wrote:
I haven't used the events yet but I would probably adjust the rules a bit to make them more eventful.

These two I would say you add them to your hand, do not draw an extra card. You may play them at anytime.

These I would just make instant effects. If a player draws it they immediately play it to the table, draw a card to replace it, and then resolve its effect.


Those changes just make the events a total luckfest. It's entirely random who benefits or loses due to an event.

With the rules as written, it's entirely strategic decisions by the players when events trigger. You can look around the table, and see that your best move is to choose an event instead of a role because of the precise conditions right that second. Player X has buildings full of goods, so he won't want to destroy one, or Y has a hand full of cards and won't be able to keep any extras he draws, etc.
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