Rainy Day Game's Card Game Review of San Juan:
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San Juan in Summary
The San Juan card game is the little brother of Puerto Rico, one of the most popular board games of the past couple of years. San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico, and players compete to build the most buildings in the city.
Being a card game, San Juan is a gentler version of the original. A lot of the game play is preserved, but in a friendlier version. And of course a card game will have a more random element than a board game.
However, San Juan does a great job of capturing the essence of Puerto Rico play. When you don’t have enough players or time for a full game of P.R., the San Juan card game will be a welcome addition to your game collection.
San Juan Gameplay
The San Juan card game borrows a lot of its game play from its older brother. The goal of the game is to receive the most victory points from the buildings you have built. Building costs doubloons, which come from selling goods produced in your factories.
On a game turn, each player takes one of 5 roles. These include the Prospector, Builder, Trader, Craftsman, and Mayor. As a role is chosen, every player at the table can perform the action of that role, but the player who actually selected the role gets a bonus. For example, when the Builder role is chosen, everyone is allowed to erect one building, but the player who chose the role gets a one-doubloon discount.
Each building you create has gives certain bonuses to your game play, so choosing which ones (and which combinations) to build will be a big part of your strategy. For example, the Quarry makes all buildings one doubloon cheaper, and the Carpenter gives you a bonus card draw whenever you build. They make a powerful pair.
The other major activity is the making and selling of goods. Players can build factories in the Builder’s phase. These come in 5 varieties: indigo, sugar, tobacco, coffee, and silver, each more expensive than the one before. When the Craftsman role is selected, each player can place one good (face down card) on one factory. The player who chose the role can place one good on two factories.
These goods are sold when a player chooses the Trader role. Each player can sell one good (any good, no restrictions) except the Trader themself, who can sell two. The current market value of each good is determined randomly by card draw, and the players may add that many cards to their hands.
Because San Juan treats a card both as a building AND as a doubloon, there can be hard decisions. For example, if you have 4 cards in your hand you can erect a building as long at it costs 3 doubloons or less. You will lay one card down as built, as discard the other 3 buildings as payment. But what if you have 2 buildings in your hand that your strategy calls for? You can bite the bullet on one of them, or you can choose Trader and try to earn some income and put off the decision to next turn.
But be careful! The game ends when at least one player finishes their 12th building, so don’t delay too long. At the end of that turn, players total up all the victory points from their buildings and declare one the master of the city of San Juan.
Who should buy San Juan?
Of course Puerto Rico fans will want to pick this up. It’s not as challenging as the board game, but the San Juan card game carries a lot of the flavour and fun of the original and its totally portable.
The San Juan card game is also a great choice for anyone who thinks Puerto Rico is a little too much game. San Juan will fit in a younger, less experienced gaming crowd. And for you gamers out there trying to develop your non-gamer friends, this is the ultimate stepping stone up to the big league challenge of the original.
The Manufacturer's Card Game Review of San Juan:
Puerto Rico’s golden age returns. Through you! Players travel now to the capital city of this beautiful island. Who will build the most important buildings? Players build palaces, poor houses, silver smelters, gold mines, and many others - each with its own special features. The cleverest player will build well and win!
As with the board game, players choose roles which can help all players, but the choosing player gets a special privilege with the role chosen. Players build buildings, produce and sell goods, and so on. The game is based on Puerto Rico, but different enough to give players new challenges and opportunities for fun and enjoyment.
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