I played a couple games of San Juan at Tandem tonight. I had heard a tip on how the Crane, a building I’ve dismissed in the past, could be used to good effect, so when I got one in my initial draw I figured I give it a try; and it worked out very well, cruising me to an easy victory. I love it when stuff like that happens, a previously unexplored approach to a game is a smashing success (this last happened in Goa, when I won by running up the money track). San Juan has been running behind in the poll, which surprises me a little bit – I like San Juan a lot, and while Goa and Fifth Avenue might be a bit ahead for me just on my basic preference for more substantial games, I think the 2nd place it got in the DSP isn’t too far off. Saint Petersburg is a game in the same weight class that made a larger first impression (not being quite as derivative a game), but it has recently really hit a wall when it became increasingly clear just how unbalancing a first-turn Judge or Mistress of Ceremonies is. San Juan, on the other hand, has had a lot of endurance. It’s short, it’s fun, it’s got turn angst, but it’s chaotic so it both rewards flexibility (I like that kind of game) and isn’t the undertaking that Goa and Puerto Rico can be, which is good sometimes.
The second game I was again dealt a great starting hand if I wanted to play my game centered around the Crane again. But I wanted to try something different this time, so I did, and didn’t win (I was in second, but only by a point, on a Guild Hall/Production Buildings approach). Maybe I should listen when I say it’s important to stay flexible.
Last was a quick game of Carcassone: Hunters and Gatherers with 3. The game is a little slow, but it’s a workmanlike and solid game with some interesting stuff. A little too long, but fun for a light game.
I think we got all this in, plus a game of Can’t Stop, while the other guys were playing Giganten. My impression from the whining going on was that it was not very well received. One player commented that he could leave his copy in the shrinkwrap now. My impression of the game when I played it was not that poor; I enjoyed it for a few games, but it crashed really, really hard after that. After playing for the 5th time, I never wanted to see the bloody thing again. Not sure what makes a game that is interesting the first time or two crash quite so hard without being broken or horribly unbalanced (neither of which was the case with Giganten); maybe it was just inexperience with eurogames in general.