Game Night

I almost pulled out of my Liar’s Dice slump – after 3 players were eliminated, I was still in it and up 5 dice to 3 to 3 … but one screwed up bid around here, and it’s the slippery slope. I think I was the 4th player out.

Die Sieben Siegel has been growing on me with each outing, which has to be a good sign. I admit I rarely read other game pundit’s sites, because I find I don’t get a lot out of it, but I was curious to see what people had to say on this one. One comment that struck me was a reviewer who felt that DSS had more luck than standard Oh Hell! because of the difficulty of predicting tricks and colors. I really do not think this is true at all; I think DSS is a lot more skillful than Oh Hell! or Wimmuln (from Mu und Mehr) or Wizard, both because you’re dealing with so many more cards (15/hand) and because seeing all the seals on the table gives you a lot more insight into which plays might work and which to avoid. I like this one a lot, I just wish it went up to 6.

San Juan is, of course, the Puerto Rico card game and the first game from 2004 for which I held out significant optimism. Take Puerto Rico and remove the colonists, ships, and plantations, turn the buildings into a card deck, and you’ve about got it. All the familiar buildings from the basic game & expansion set (plus some new ones) are in the deck, which you can build when you draw them. The currency you build with is the cards themselves, so to play, say, a Sugar Mill, you will have to discard 2 other cards from your hand. The Sugar mill will then produce Sugar when the Producer role is taken, which can then be turned into more cards when the Trader role is taken. The new role (replacing the Mayor and Settler) is the Councillor, which always has me humming Handel’s Messiah to myself for some reason. Anyway, it lets everyone draw a bunch of cards from the deck, and select one to keep. The roles have the familiar action/privilege breakdown.

San Juan was pretty cool, and I quite enjoyed it. It’s short. It pretty simple. It’s interesting. It really is Puerto Rico boiled down, and while some of the depth has been lost in the process, some of Puerto Rico’s less desireable attributes are gone too. With less hosage and a bit more randomness, it’s not quite the brutal whine-fest Puerto Rico can be. It rewards flexibility more than Puerto Rico, which tended to be a rather ruthless short-term-optimization game. All in all, I was quite pleased, and look forward to playing again. I doubt it will get the same raw number of plays that Puerto Rico did, but it might have better longevity – Puerto Rico hasn’t come out ’round here in at least a year.

San Juan addendum: I don’t know if this is a new thing, but Rio Grande really seems to be losing it. There is yet another major error on the box cover of the game (this is not a card game “for” Puerto Rico). The rulebook has a couple errors, and generally feels like it was translated by Babelfish and lightly touched up by someone for whom English was not a primary language – there are several examples of expressions that are literal translations from the German, but that no English-speaker would ever actually use. I expect better, but I guess it’s the hazard of being a niche market.


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