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Subject: San Marco vs China (was: Web of Power)? rss

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Ender Wiggins
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San Marco or China (was: Web of Power)?
Which would you choose, and why? I'm told that they are both similar in mechanics (area control/majority games), but how are they different?





Considerations I'm interested in hearing about include the ideal number of players, game-length, amount of theme, luck, confrontation, tension, interaction, and social elements.
 
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Jim Cote
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Note that both games have 2p variants. I have played the one for San Marco which is excellent (with my tweak). I haven't tried the one for China.
 
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Jim Cote
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ekted wrote:
Note that both games have 2p variants. I have played the one for San Marco which is excellent (with my tweak). I haven't tried the one for China.


You can try Web of Power on BSW to see if you like it.
 
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generalpf wrote:

San Marco is more complex and only works with 4, although with 3, it's fantastic.


I'm not sure what the intended meaning of this sentence is (could be a typo), but just to clarify for you- San Marco is widely regarded as best with 3 and substantially worse with 4. In other words, San Marco is a 3-player game.

I've never played China but supposedly Web of Power is extremely similar, and I have played that. Web of Power plays fine with all numbers of players from 3 to 5, but some people think that with 5 there is too little control.

I think that generally Web of Power lacks "control", in the sense that most of your decisions are obvious when it comes around to you and there is little room for planning ahead. It would be a decent game for non-gamers, but the scoring rules are just a tad bit too complex for a game that lacks depth the way this does. I traded Web of Power away over a year ago.

San Marco is a great game IMHO, but whether YOU like it or not depends on whether you like the "I split, you choose" mechanic. This mechanic fascinates me and this is one of the main reasons I love this game, because I don't know any other ones that feature that as their main idea.

The game itself is easier to explain and is simultaneously deeper than Web of Power, so to me it's a no brainer. However, it will take almost twice as long to play (about an hour and a half), and with SOME people the game really drags on as they agonize for too long over how to split a certain lot of cards. This is the most common complaint against San Marco, but I think it is something that depends in large part on the players. Analysis paralysis is a real pet peeve of mine in games yet I don't consider this game to suffer that problem. Maybe it is because all players are usually interested in the outcome of a player's splitting decision, so they don't doze off during the process. But that's just my experience.
 
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J C Lawrence
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EndersGame wrote:
San Marco or China (was: Web of Power)?
Which would you choose, and why?


My ratings for the set:

Web of Power: 7
China: 6
China - Grenzstreitigkeiten: 7.5
Web of Power plus der Vatikan expansion: 7.5
San Marco: 3


Yes, I don't like San Marco. I specifically don't like the divide/choose mechanism as culling the potential choices is extraordinarily difficult and time consuming (there are many many thousands of possible combinations and ordering of cards), while the selection of a particular division is relatively straight forward. The only times I've played San Marco have had each card division either taking between 5 and 10 minutes with a smaller pause for division selection, or the divider giving up and simply dividing the cards randomly. This usually results in San Marco games heading for close to 2.5-3 hours. The decisions aren't interesting enough and there's not enough game in there to be worth that.

Both games are area influence games. Both play with connectivity graphs among the areas, but San Marco also plays with connectivity pricing. While both are card driven, China is a really a card game with a board bolted on the side to help track and limit set collections and the board is mostly functional in San Marco (it could be represented as a pure card game, but would be clumsier than the pure card game representation of Web of Power/China).

San Marco is a relatively opaque game which relies on correct evaluation of division advantages -- one of the most common comments I've heard after games is I won or lost and I don't know why or how! Web of Power and China are relatively more obvious games which like most card games, rely on evaluation of card probability (basic card counting) and right left binding (track what the player to your left has in his hand and play against him). In Web of Power and China when players lose they know why, they know what they should have done, they know why they should have done that, and they'll usually know how to improve their game the next time around.

Due the multiplayer chaos, all three games are arguably best with 3 players. Certainly I won't play any of them with any other player count.
 
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Zopper Alf
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Edit: just an "yeah that" for the above comment!

Definitely go for China. I played all three games and let me just quote my own comment for San Marco:

Quote:
Updated rating: Really an annoying game - too much luck with 4 and too much downtime with 3 (and it pretends to be a brain-burner...)
Comes some years too late. Definitely a El Grande rip-off. It adds some nice elements to your standard majority game but has a lots of cons: The downtime is unbelievable - someone distributes the cards and all others can go out for a short walk, then one player each picks a stack while the other sill can enjoy their walk. It looks like you can calculate every plus and minus of moves but the card luck can screw everything and in the end you spent way too much time on single decision that just don't have an appropiate impact on the outcome. Play El Grande (faster, more interaction) or Manhatten (lighter, less downtime) instead!

p.s. components are great, really loved the game at first sight but the gameplay just doesn't hold up to it
 
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T. Rosen
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I think both are fantastic games, so you can't really go wrong with this choice. I happen to prefer San Marco a bit, but still enjoy China quite a bit. As you said they are both area control games, but they have a fair number of differences.

Ideal number of players: I think the ideal number of players for both games is actually 3. San Marco is best with 3, as people have said, because everyone is working with the same pool of cards, so it reduces the luck considerably, but San Marco works decently with 4 still in my opinion, there's just more luck. China is also best with 3 because there is less chaos as less happens between turns, but is pretty good with 4, and so great with 5, in my opinion.

Game-length: Neither is particularly long, but China is definitely shorter. China can be as short as 40 minutes or so, whereas San Marco is more like a 90 minute game.

Theme: I dunno, that's hard to say. I never really understand how people judge whether a theme is pasted-on or not, so I'm not really qualified to say much about this. Neither is "dripping with theme," whatever that means, but neither is totally abstract.

Luck: I think China has more luck, although it's not an overwhelming amount of luck. San Marco has pretty much no luck when you're playing with 3 players because everyone is working with the same set of cards, whereas China depends on what cards are available to choose to refill your hand after each turn, and if there's a pair available that's much better, so being unlucky and having a hand of all single cards can hurt.

Confrontation: San Marco has a bit more confrontation, although neither is super confrontational and neither is totally solitaire. San Marco allows you to kick out other players pieces with Banishment or Transfer which can be kind of mean or "take-that." Pieces can't be moved in China, so the confrontation only involves blocking someone else or taking the spot they wanted to go.

Tension/Interaction/Social: Hmmm, I dunno. I think San Marco has more tension, interaction, and better social elements, but that all may be biased by the fact that I simply enjoy the game more. I still think China is a great game and worth owning though.

Hope that helps, at least a little
 
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Marc Kob
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I had Web of Power and gave it away. San Marco is easily one of my favorite 3 player games.

San Marco's "I divide you choose" card mechanism is great fun. The mental gymnastics of trying to divide the cards up in a way, where other people think the sets they are taking are better than the one you actually hope they leave is a neuron buzz for me every time.

Web of Power came highly recommended. We had it before San Marco. Played it a few times, with moderate enjoyment. But when we were trying to shrink the collection to fit the available shelf space, everybody in the family said Web of Power could go, and no one's ever missed it.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Thommy8 wrote:
I think China has more luck, although it's not an overwhelming amount of luck.


I consider the luck element in China once past the first turn to be quite small. With relatively rare exception you'll know exactly what cards each player has in their hands, you'll know what the player to your left wants to draw, and you'll know the probabilities of drawing what you (or he) wants are if you draw blind. This goes for pairs as well: you can play so that you form a pair with what is left in your hand, as well as plan the random draw first and then make your second (or third) draw choice in reaction to that. You should VERY rarely to never be stuck without a pair. The much more common and concerning case (ie angstful and difficult) is when when your single card necessarily has to be from an already compleated area. This is the point at which luck most heavily enters the game and the point at which card counting is most valuable.

Quote:
I still think China is a great game and worth owning though.


I own and play all three of Web of Power, China and China - Grenzstreitigkeiten. All three regularly see table time with me and with other tables/players/groups locally (my copy and other's). I haven't seen San Marco hit a table for almsot two years.
 
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Ryan McLelland
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I own China and San Marco, I have played Web of Power.

San Marco and China are both great. I am in the China is better than Web of Power camp.

With 3 San Marco is awesome.
With 3 China is awesome. (probably a toss up on these two)
With 4 China is great.
With 4 San Marco is painful.
With 5 China is mediocre.
With 5 San Marco isn't even an option.

If you plan on playing with 3, either is great. With 4 go China. With 5... pick something all together different.
 
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Ryan McLelland
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We also see almost no down time with San Marco. With 3 players, the game goes by in about 30-45 minutes and flows really well. I can imagine in taking longer or having a ton of down time, I have played it 10-15 times with various groups and never seen that. Though, I never play with 4 people because the game just doesn't work well with 4.
 
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David Tracy
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Hmm, I like both games and they are different enough to justify owning both of them. Ok, that isn't very helpful.

San Marco is a more unique game simply because of the divide and offer mechanic. Also, it's a very good looking game. It shouldn't have too much downtime really. I guess someone could think forever on what to offer, but they are just being too darn slow in that case.

Web of Power / China is a neat mix between area majority and connecting routes, but it is also a little dry and isn't very dynamic. It's good though, don't get me wrong, and it plays quickly.

So, yeah, get both.
 
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Steve Bernhardt
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China and San Marco are both fun. Probably equally I think. There is possibly more opportunity to find China players because I believe San Marco is out of print.

San Marco is a 30-40 min game... I can't see it lasting 3 hours as a previous poster mentioned.
 
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