San Juan is the only game I have bought (and I bought it a while back) that I haven't played. I've read the rules a few times (to keep me up to date if I would ever play the game), but it never seemed to be the right gaming night since people generally wanted to play my other games instead of a 'simple' card game. So a few days ago I was able to get my soon-to-be-wife to play a game of San Juan with me. After a first game that lasted 45 minutes we were both heated up. This is a fun game. I had beaten her 40 to 37, largely because of my Palace which gave me 8 extra points. After a glorious victory dance and a walk in the park we decided to play just one more before we went to sleep (playing short games around breakfast or just before sleep has become a favorite past-time of ours - oh, how fund Ticket to Ride Nordic countries was around breakfast every day of our X-mas vacation).
We dealt two Indigo plants, shuffled the cards and the trading house tiles and started playing. She began (this time she was the governor). The game went smoothly and relatively quickly for a second game (30 minutes). She likes to focus on trading. Started by putting down a Trading post and threw out some production buildings. I like to focus more on purple buildings and started with the Library. The game went on and she was smashing me in the Trader phase. So I built me a Smithy and switched to production buildings. At that point I had all statues and the Triumphal arch. Now I was building my production buildings, producing silver and would finish by constructing the Guild Hall. At the same time I made the switch she started building purple buildings, well not buildings, monuments.
In the last round I was the governor. I needed one more card to afford my guild hall (considering double builder bonus using my library). Reluctantly, I chose the prospector. Quick cash. Next turn, she chose the builder and put constructed the Triumphal arch. Blast! I had to do something, best thing I had was the tower and I built it to get some points.
In the end my buildings were:
* Silver Smelter
* Coffee Roaster
* Chapel (+5)
* Triumphal Arch
My soon-to-be-wife's buildings were:
* Market Hall
* Tobacco Storage
* Trading Post
* Chapel (+2)
* Victory Column
* Sugar Mill
* Triumphal Arch
No Guild hall. I wasn't ready for the scoring but started collecting my points. All buildings... Me: 27 points, She: 25... Wait this looks good. Chapel points: I had 5 cards under the chapel, she only 2. Equal points to both of us for our "6" buildings: 8 points because we both had the Triumphal arch. Neither of us had a Palace and the scores ended 40 to 35 for me. Not as close as my 40-37 win for the first game but a lot more suspense.
With this game, San Juan made a place for itself as one of our breakfast games.