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Subject: San Juan - All You Need Is Cards rss

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Eric Dodd
New Zealand
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Limited Access - Wellycon XI - Back 5th June 2018
I've bought seven new Euros since last September, from For Sale to Power Grid. San Juan is the most recent, and the one that pushed me past the NZ$250 mark - so with NZ$20 off it only cost $27. Surely that's a bargain for Puerto Rico lite?

On a initial read through, the eleven page rule booklet wasn't entirely crystal clear. Later on, the rule layout and summary side bars made reference to unclear rules quick and easy. Inside the box you get: 110 cards, all showing either production or violet (status) buildings, one governor and five other role placards, 5 trading house tiles and the extremely handy scoring pad and pencil. Others have noted that the role placards and trading house tiles could also have been cards of the same size as the other 110 cards, and the box made smaller. The trading house tiles are an annoying shape, and initially may confuse as to which produce is worth which value (silver and sugar are almost the same colour - and which would you rather have in your coffee?) Had the tiles been full sized cards more details could have included on them, to be easier for first time players.

The cards are the key, because they are cunningly used three ways to keep the components down. In your hand cards are both money and potential buildings. When you place a new building, you pay the cost of the building either from your hand or from your produce stocks. These produce stocks are also cards, drawn from the deck in the production phase. Building, Producing and Trading are the three main roles that players pick each round - Councillor and Prospector allow you to draw extra cards. Choosing a role allows you special privileges, but other players also get a chance to build in every building phase, for example. This keeps everyone in the game at all times, and leads to a quick, captivating game.

Production buildings are rated in value from cheap indigo to expensive silver, and can store one produce which is then sold in the trading phase for a variable amount of cash (more cards!) Each violet building has either a special function, or is worth additional victory points. This keeps everyone in the game at all times, and leads to a quick, captivating game.

All the games I've played have been 2-player only. They've all moved very quickly, taking only 30 - 45 minutes. The game ends in the building phase when a player builds a twelfth building, I would guess that usually takes 15 turns in a two-player game. In the games I played with Peter we were trying to play the cards we had, while Emile was playing the game more like Magic: The Gathering, trying to burn through the deck to find the cards he wanted. Every game has been close, with a maximum of a 4 point gap. I tied one game with Emile, which he won by having most cards left in his hand.

The theme is pretty solid, even without those worrying colonists (or slaves). I'm just going off to push up my rating for this. If you like card games and construction games at all, this is a great one to try.

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