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Subject: My thoughts on each of the buildings in San Juan rss

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Sean Franco
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I brief piece I wrote up on each building. This is entirely biased by my experience, and I look forward to seeing people's responses.

I've divided everything up by cost.

==1 dollar
Indigo Plant
1 VP
A very weak sell, but it has two positive boosts: it's cheap as all hell, and it provides a one-to-one ration of cost to victory points. This makes it the only production building which does so and still has a function. Very economically wise.

Smithy
1 VP
For one dollar, you get a whole lot here. After building just one production building, you get your money back, and then it's all profit. Again, one-to-one ratio of cost to victory points. A killer combo with the Guild Hall.

Gold Mine
1 VP
A popular choice, but one with minimal advantages. While it does give you a shot at not wasting someone else's Prospector round, it's not a great shot. However, and with all 1 dollar buildings, there is cost to victory points ratio...

Archive
1 VP
A very simple building, which is profoundly useful... in the right situation. It's handy if you have a library or prefectre, and there's that constant cost to victory points ratio.

==2 dollars
Sugar Mill
1 VP
The goods don't sell that much better than indigo, and you're paying double for the same victory points. Skip it, unless you have a Smithy and you picked Builder.

Poor House
1 VP
Ideally the only point in the game which you have a low card draw is the beginning, when you're setting up whatever system your city needs. This would be the only occasion which this card is overwhelmingly useful, and that makes it not as useful for the bulk of the game. Also, a common motif for the 1 dollar cards was their great cost to victory points ratio; with the 2 dollar cards, the ratio sucks. Skip this card.

Trading Post
1 VP
Unless you love taking Producer every turn (which you shouldn't), or you have an Aqueduct, skip this card.

Crane
1 VP
This seems like a rarely-used card. The only time it's benifical to build over something is if you have eleven city spots full, and you want to get more VP without ending the game. If you're in this situation and you have a crane, good for you. In general though, look at the cost to victory points ratio.

Black Market
1 VP
This card seems like it'd be useful with lots of Indigo plants, and maybe an Aqueduct. It's hard to tell if it ever actually saves you cards or money. Much like a real black market probably. Skip it.

Market Stand
1 VP
This is a really useful card if you have a Trading Post, which is a really useful card if you have an Aqueduct. This combines to a cost of 7 dollars. To make a Market Stand break even, you need to trade at least four times, and you've still blown a wad of cash on three buildings that try to make you limit your role choices. I'm mean, it's fun watching your little machine work and trade like a pro on other people's turns, but it won't win you games.

Well
1 VP
If you wind up with an Aqueduct, lots of money, and nothing else useful to build, you might as well build a Well. Unlike the Trading Post or Market Stand, it can pay for itself rather quickly. Probably the best 2 dollar card, which isn't saying much.

==3 dollars
Tobaco Storage
2 VP
Tobaco is something which sells reasonably well, but, more importantly, it provides the same VP as coffee for a dollar cheaper.

Tower
2 VP
Much like the Archive, the Tower is something very useful in the right situation, mainly if you're trading like a mother and can't spend your money fast enough. Keeping with the lessons we learned with cost to victory points ratio of 1 and 2 dollar buildings, this (and all 3 dollar buldings) falls in line with the 1 dollar buildings: economically wise.

Aqueduct
2 VP
The weak link of the 3 dollar buildings, the Aqueduct does something pretty cool, but not always useful. It makes a neat part of the Trading Post/Market Stand/Well machine, but we've learned how un-cost-productive that is...

Carpenter
2 VP
A great card, as it rewards you for something you plan to do anyways. Build three times afterwards, and you're set for profit. Easy as that.

Prefectre
2 VP
Probably the best small building in the game. It basically turns the Counciller into reliable income, except, unlike trading, you get free reign in what cards you get. And it works when other people pick Counciller. (Anything which give you stuff one your turn can't be all bad.) Apart from a Smithy or a production building, the best first building to build.

Chapel
2 VP
A solid building, which require some moderation as you can be very tempted to turn a card into a VP every turn. This is not a bad thing by any means (see our multiple references to cost to victory points ratio), but it can distract some very much needed cash if you don't have a good system running. Still, it's nice to be able to just take the Guild Hall, other big buildings, and monuments out of the game by sticking them under the Chapel...

Statue
3 VP
A monument, and all monuments have perfect cost to victory points ratios. However, if you had to pick between a Statue and any other 3 dollar card, almost any other 3 dollar card would be better.

==4 dollars
Coffee Roaster
2 VP
As mentioned back in Tobaco, not a great building. You do get more money, but that's not worth it in the long run. The best thing about a Coffee Roaster is that you can build it if you have it in your opening hand and you draw Builder on the first turn.

Quarry
2 VP
A waste of a card. After spending a valuable 4 dollars, you have to build 4 more times to break even. You might have a chance to use this card well, but odds are your original capital could be better spent.

Market Hall
2 VP
All in all, not a bad card. What it has going against it is cost. Situations can exist where the Market Hall is used very well (like if you never build another production building beyond your starter Indigo), and you do trade for lots of cards, but the cost to victory points ratio just isn't that good, and your money might be better spent.

Victory Column
4 VP
The best 4 dollar card. Why? Cost to victory points ratio, baby.

==5 dollars
Silver Smelter
3 VP
Obviously, the best money maker in the game. As far as cost to victory points ratio, not to shabby either. A solid pick.

Library
3 VP
The Library seems like an awesome card when you read it, but you don't really get that much use out of it, side from Prospector and Builder. What it does for the toher roles is nice, but you don't get to use as much or as well. Not a solid card.

Hero
5 VP
Like the Victory Column, sweet cost to victory points ratio. Definitely.

==6 dollars
Triumphal Arch
? VP
A solid card, but only if you have two monuments built. (This raises the cost to victory points ratio to one-to-one).

Guild Hall
? VP
The most sorely overpowered card in the game. The best card in the game. Amazing. Remember, it's far more profitable to build Indigo, Tobaco, and Silver with the Guild Hall.

City Hall
? VP
A solid building, if your city looks a little purple. As far as cost to victory points ratio goes, remember it raises 2 and 3 dollar building to one-to-one, and 1 dollar buildings to one-to-two. (Somehow, 4 and 5 dollar buildings just aren't as good still...) Remember to use with those monuments and that Palace!!

Palace
? VP
A great card to use in conjuction with another big building, but only overwhelmingly useful if you're in second place, or you are in first and second is close behind.
 
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Donald Wilbur III
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I'm afraid I have to disagree with some of your analysis.

Gold Mine vs. Archive:
The Archive is probably the biggest waste of a card you can buy. What does it do exactly? In the best case, it improves the quality of your SECOND best card. As often as not it improves only the quality of your THIRD or even FOURTH best card. This is irrelevant. Those cards (even the second best one) are, in most cases, going to be used as cash to buy your best card.

The Gold Mine, on the other hand, gives you a card about 1 in 4 prospector phases. Since prospector is used nearly every turn and since a game lasts about 15 turns that comes to 3-4 card if you get it early. Not only that, but the cards you get are high quality cards. It's more of a gamble than the Smithy, but it's usually a good investment.

By and large I agree that the 2 point cards aren't great. But the Poor House is a good early build. You will be building almost every turn and in most cases you won't have many extra cards. That probably adds up to 4-5 extra cards in a game and most of them will be early, when you really need them.

The Market Stand and Crane are both lame, avoid them in all but the most contrived circumstances. But Black Market, Well, and to a lesser extent Trading Post are all very useful with the caveat that you should never buy more than one of them, and you really need the Aqueduct to get the greatest benefit from them. Don't try for the big combo, just get one little one and you'll see some real bonus. Well is probably the best of the three since it gives you a bonus during the inevitable Producer Phase. Black Market turns that otherwise useless Indigo Plant into extra income during the builder phase. Trading Post is less reliable than the Well, but can give more income.

I'll have to tackle the 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s tomorrow. I need to get some sleep!
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Billy McBoatface
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Yeah, I can't see how the archive can be called good. I've never seen it be useful. The gold mine can be fun though.

Also, the library is great, especially in 2 and 3 player games. Then in 1/3 of all phases you get a bonus! Plus it's worth 3 VPs.

And for City Hall, saying "...if your city looks a little purplish," to me the way to use city hall is for planning from day 1 on it. If you have more than two production cards (your original indigo + 1 high-income card), then city hall is not for you. If you have 1 or 2 production cards, and the rest are effective purples, then city hall is great.
 
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Donald Wilbur III
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The 3s and 4s.

There are two kinds of efficiency going on in San Juan. First, there is cost/vp which you clearly understand. But there is also vp/card. You only get to build 11 cards so the ones you build had better be worth some points! This is where the 4 cost cards are better than what you estimate. A 4 cost card is worth 2 vp's. That's way better than an extra 1 cost card. Yes you had to pay 4 for it (maybe) but you got twice as many vp's out of the card slot.

Let's take a look at the 3s. The Tower is easily the least useful of the 3 cost cards. It's only useful if you're awash in income. If that's the case, you're probably better off building something more expensive (and more powerful).

The Chapel is a tricky card to use well. You need to get it about your 4th or 5th build for it to be much use. It combines well with a rapid building strategy. If you get it early or late tho, I wouldn't build it.

The Carpenter is a good alternative to the Poor House IF you're going purple. If you're playing Production/Guild Hall then it really doesn't make much sense. You need to buy it early if you're going to build it and it doesn't combine well with Poor House, so, in general, don't buy both.

The Aqueduct is a far better card than you give it credit. It's good all by itself. If you have it (and have a second production card: Tobacco, Coffee, or Silver) it gives you an advantage on the trader role. Not only that but it combines really well with the Well/Black Market/Trading Post. Again, don't try to put together a 3 or 4 card combination, but if you have the Aqueduct, building one of those three (especially the Well) can really give you a lot of extra cards. And as you pointed out: it's worth 2 vp's! The Aqueduct works well with a Producer/Guild Hall strategy or a purple strategy so it's very flexible.

The Statue is a great mid-to-late build for the same reason the other monuments are great: it's worth a lot of points. 3 for 3 is a good deal.

Tobacco is one of the best early builds. It nearly doubles your production/trading income and gives you 2 vp's. The only card that might be a better early build is the Prefecture. The Prefecture is probably the most powerful card in the game. It makes the Counciller worth while for you. It also pretty much makes the Archive completely useless. You should always buy the Prefecture (unless it's just too late), you should therefor NEVER build the Archive. Prefecture works well with any strategy you pick, but is critical for the success of a purple strategy.

The 4s are all fairly good situational builds. Coffee is not as good as Tobacco or Silver in general, but you don't always get to choose. Here's a common example: it's turn one, the first player took Prospector and it's your turn with Indigo, Coffee, Silver, and Crane. Indigo and Crane give you nothing and you can't afford Silver. So build the Coffee! It will give you slightly more income than Tobacco and it's still worth 2 vp's. If you're playing purple you won't need to build any more production buildings. If you're going Production/Guild Hall then you're off to a good start.

Market Hall is a good mid-game build for the purple player. It protects you during the trader phase and it gives you 2 pts. It's much better than a second production building which would force you to take Producer AND Trader to use. I consider this the weakest of the 4s, but it can be very useful in the right circumstances.

Quarry is extremely important for the purple strategy. It's crucial to build this mid-game. Combined with the Carpenter/Libraray it allows you to churn out big purple cards at an alarming rate. And it's worth 2 vp's! Don't underestimate the power of this card. It doesn't belong in a Production/Guild Hall strategy, but don't play purple without it.

It's interesting that you like the Carpenter better than the Quarry. While it costs 1 more, the Quarry is clearly superior. It allows you to build things you otherwise could not afford. This is the difference between a 2 cost building and a 3 cost building or maybe between 5 and 6. Carpenter is nice, Quarry is better. For purple, both are good, for Production/Guild Hall, don't waste your cards.

Victory Hall. 4 victory points. Need I say more?
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Donald Wilbur III
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The big boys.

Which one(s) you buy depends on your strategy. In any case, don't buy them too early and wipe out your hand.

The Library is the big card for the purple player. It's almost unbalanced in two player. (In two player, you should build this even if you're going Production/Guild Hall). It's much weaker in 4 player, but powerful enough that you really should build it if you're going purple. Not only does it give you an extra card in Builder or Prospector but it also gives you 3 vp's.

The Silver Smelter is the thing for Production. It can really churn out the cards and it's worth 3. If you can afford to wait a few turns, it's good for your second production card in purple too. Also worth 3 vp's.

Hero: 5 vp's. That's nearly as good as a second 6 cost building in most cases. In general Monuments are great for any strategy late in the game. Don't buy them too early tho.

Triumphal Arch works well if you have two or three Monuments. It's a big build for the purple player (who might only have to pay 3 or 4 for it). It rarely makes sense for the Production player.

The big building for purple is City Hall. If you get it, it will generate 9 or 10 points. Combine that with any of the other three big buildings and that will be a ton of points.

The big building for Production is Guild Hall. It will probably be worth 12-14 points. Great if you can get it. If you're playing purple you might build it just to prevent the other players from getting it.

The Palace is the killer second big building for any strategy. If you have lots of Monuments it might be worth more than a Guild Hall to you.
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chris carleton
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I like the crane. It has helped me squeak in a vicotry in two player games by some careful rebuilding.
 
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Donald Wilbur III
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The crane can work, it's just VERY situational. I've used it with the fast building strategy to switch to a winning purple or GH strategy but in most cases almost anything (except maybe Archive) is better. (And Archive is okay - not good, but okay - for a speed build strategy too).
 
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Paul King
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I think that you underrate the Black Market. Provided you have the production to use with it - and, ideally, an Aqueduct - it can be quite effective. Here are some of the advantages:

It lets you save cards in your hand, by selling cheap goods instead Or build something you couldn't otherwise afford.

Cards on your Production buildings don't count towards your hand limit.

You can sell goods in the Builder phase you can clear off your production buildings and then Produce again, when nobody else has free spaces. Just one such move can pay for the cost of the building.
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Paul Burkhard
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Yeah, put me in the Black Market fan category. It is a cheap building and gives you full value for your Indigo, even without having to take the Trader. Two indigo, an Aqueduct and a Black market give you an almost guaranteed 2 dollars off per building most turns. Plus, in the late rounds, you can even jettison a more expensive crop, if needed, to buy that last expensive building that you otherwise might not be able to afford.
 
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Warren Forrest
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logopolys wrote:

Indigo Plant
1 VP
A very weak sell, but it has two positive boosts: it's cheap as all hell, and it provides a one-to-one ration of cost to victory points.

I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you fail Math class.

An Indigo Plant costs 2 cards, not 1. You must play the card itself, plus one additional card. So for playing 2 cards, you get 1 point, meaning the ratio is 1:2, not 1:1.

You might need to go back and re-evaluate your entire analysis, because it seems like you've made the same mistake for most of the buildings. Like, for example, your statement that "all monuments have perfect cost to victory points ratio", which they don't...
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S J
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I will start off by saying that I have played this game primarly as a four player game, rare occasions I have played three player and I think only once as a two player game. So my whole point of view is from a four player standpoint.

gilesclone wrote:

The big building for Production is Guild Hall. It will probably be worth 12-14 points.


That is a weak guild hall. It is possible to get 22 points out of the Guild Hall, but usually it draws "only" in the 16-20 point range. Compared to the city hall getting you at most 11 points, and really you will need more production buildings than your starting indigo plant to keep up, so realistically 8-10 points. Yes, a combo of the Arch, the City Hall, and/or Palace is cabable of beating a Guild Hall. But in the four player game the odds of drawing the right combo is very low, much lower than drawing the Guild Hall itself.

In my experience in four player games all of the purple cards are really valued lower than the production ones. Buying a purple card is something you do if you know or suspect other players already have the guild halls, or if you have no other choice and need to build something.

The mindset is like this: I know that at least two and maybe all three of the other players will go solid all production buildings and avoid purple unless forced. Odds are at least one maybe two of them is going to get 18 or 20 points from a guild hall. I can either try to go opposite of them and try to get a city hall, AND palace, AND arch AND monuments to try "keep up" with those 18-20 points, OR I could play the same game and build nothing but production myself and hunt for that guild hall myself via counseling. Going all production buildings is not a "lock" to win for sure. Certainly the "purple" player(s) could get the guild halls themselves and prevent the other players from getting them. But more often than not it will win, especially is three people on the table are doing that. Why would three players at the table do that? Because the odds of getting that guild hall is better than getting multiple purple big buildings and the right monuments and if you do get a guild hall and had been going all production from the start you have a very good chance of winning. The guild hall just drives the whole game. Even if you are going purple you have to council every chance you get to try and get it before the other players do. If you do get it, you have to either build it, chapel it, or sit on it the whole game, you don't dare discard it.

I understand this is a thread about valuing each building. But IMO at least with four player games that the guild hall really scews all that. You can look at the points per cost of each individual building, but simply the player with 9-11 production buildings and a guild hall probably wins. We probably value the sugar mill (the least desirable production plant) over the library more often than not. The sugar mill move you one step closer to having 9-11 production buildings at the end vs the library only being useful *if* you can pick either prospector or builder, and you are competing with three other players for those roles.

My group has played around 50 games face to face. Some of us also play occasionally on BSW. In the Gen Con tournament this year, I went all production building in round 1 counciled till got the Guild Hall, probably had 10 production buildings and easily won with a dominate score. Round 2 I again went all production buildings, again got a guild hall but lost by two point. The winner also got a guild hall and had a lot of production buildings, but also got a palace and library and got to 12 buildings faster than me. I still came close, but the fact that I only got maybe ?9? or so buildings out total vs his 12 got me. I still probably had 7 or 8 production buildings (14-16 points) but it just barely was not able to overcome the fact that he also had a guild hall and a palace.
 
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Bryce Johnson
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S J:

I have played mostly 2- and 3-player games, so it certain seems reasonable that you're right--someone in the 4 can find a guild hall, maybe even with a smithy, and rack up some serious scores. I think the difference is that with 4-player, since four roles get picked every round, production is more likely to occur, so production cards are more likely to pay off. In 2-player, if you play an early quarry (and if you're lucky, either a carpenter or poor house as well), you can often get a sustained income simply by forcing your opponent to do all the producing and trading (giving you minimum 1 per cycle, maybe 2 or 3 if you've had a chance to build something bigger), while you are prospecting and building at every opportunity. If you get to 12 and your opponent only gets to 9, now their guildhall--if they find one--is worth maximum 16 plus all the cheap production buildings...maybe about 28-30 points total, certainly beatable with a different large purple building (or two). Sure, you can still get beaten badly if they establish some silver and get 4-6 cards every time they produce/trade, but a winning guild hall strategy is hardly a foregone conclusion.
(Here "they" is a third-person singular--sorry.)

I know I've seen a 4-player game where purple buildings won, but I haven't played enough to comment on how rare it is.
-----
Also,
1) count me in the "archive is terrible, gold mine is better especially in 4P"

2) Quarry vs. carpenter: yes, the quarry costs one more, but when you build something with the carpenter, you have to *have* one more card to build it since you don't get the discount immediately. So you might as well have spent that card in the first place, especially if it wasn't one you wanted to keep.

Further, suppose I have a quarry, 5 cards in my hand, and I want to build a 4-cost purple building--it costs me three, so I get to *choose* which of my 4 cards I want to keep, leaving me one left over. Same scenario with a carpenter instead: I now have to pay my whole hand, and even though I still end up with 1 card, now it's random card from the deck as opposed to one I picked. The cost is the same, but I have a greater choice of cards. I think this makes the quarry rather better.

3) I've gotten crushed by a black market/aqueduct/bunch of indigo strategy before but have never been able to pull it off myself.

I am way too rambly today.
-Bryce
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howl hollow howl
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Y'all keep underrating the Market Hall, I keep winning. Works for me...

As for Quarry vs. Carpenter, after the first Carpenter card, you have that extra card from the previous build that will protect the card you want to keep. Quarry is most useful when you can do back-to-back builds with cheap buildings and possibly force your opponent to lose cards if Trader is then chosen later in the round. Carpenter is generally better as I want to churn thru more cards looking for 6's. I usually prefer Carpenter unless I have a Prefecture. I prefer Market Hall to both.
 
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