San Juan (2014 Edition)
- Designer: Andreas Seyfarth
- Publisher: Ravensburger/Alea
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 45-60 min
- Times played: 1 with new version, probably >100 with first edition (released in 2004)
So, I came home one day last week and found two packages on my doorstep… Given that Essen is coming up, I was not surprised to find them filled with games… I had been given notice that La Isla was on the way, and this is one of my most anticipated games for Spiel ’14. (Preview/Review of that to come later this week!). When I opened the box from Ravensburger, I was surprised to find a second game in the box.
I had previously not heard anything about a re-release of San Juan, the card based followup to the classic Puerto Rico – but yet, here was a copy in my kitchen!
This was one of my favorite games when it came out – back in 2004, and my set is well loved. Actually, I think that I was on my second copy of the game as we had worn out my original set long ago. As I mentioned, the game is a followup to Puerto Rico, and it shares many of the themes and mechanics of the original game, yet it is different enough to stand alone on its own merits.
A short description of the game would be:
“A card game based on Puerto Rico. The pack of 110 cards consists of production buildings (indigo, sugar, tobacco, coffee, and silver) and “violet” buildings that grant special powers or extra victory points. Cards from the hand can be either built or used as money to build something else. Cards from the deck are used to represent goods produced by the production buildings, in which case they are left face-down. A seven-card hand limit is enforced once per round.
In each round or governorship, each player in turn selects from one of the available roles, triggering an event that usually affects all players, such as producing goods or building. The person who picks the role gets a privilege, such as producing more goods or building more cheaply.
Though similar in concept to Puerto Rico, the game has many different mechanics. In particular, there are no colonists and no shipping of goods; goods production and trading are normally limited to one card per phase; and trades cannot be blocked.
Victory points are gained exclusively by building, and the game ends as soon as one player has put up 12 buildings.”
There are numerous reviews of the original version – and I would point you to this list if you are not yet aware of the game: http://boardgamegeek.com/forum/6894/san-juan/reviews
The game did get a bit of new life in 2009 when the Alea Treasure Chest was released – this was a set of expansions for the whole Alea line to that point. Included in the Treasure Chest were two different expansions for San Juan. There were a set of new building cards as well as a set of 6 Event cards. Admittedly, the Event card expansion was not overly well received, but the new buildings seemed to loved by everyone who played San Juan.
I’m guessing that the folks at Ravensburger were aware of that sentiment as this new version does include the New Buildings from the Treasure Chest though the Event cards are nowhere to be found.
Wait – what’s that? There a new bonus building? Wait a minute! As soon as I saw that, I went down to the basement to get out the old version out to do a bit of comparison…
As you can see, the new box on the left is a bit bigger – and it has it’s own number (11) – so for you Alea completists, you may end up with two copies of the game on your shelf….
So – I looked through and didn’t see a new 6-point building – which is what I thought was referred to as the “new bonus building”. After a bit of collating, I did manage to figure out what the new card is:
Once I had that mystery figured out, it was time to break out the game again – this time, teaching one of my sons how to play. He had a pretty good time with it, and managed to figure out the role selection fairly quickly despite never having played Puerto Rico. I made a point of playing a Hut early in the game to see how it felt, and while it is a new card, it’s certainly not a game-breaker…
Overall, the new version of San Juan is well produced, and while it is not fully complete (missing the event cards) – it’s perfect for me, as I never really played with those Event cards anyways. The component quality is typical for Ravensburger, and frankly, it’s nice to have a new deck of San Juan cards that aren’t all sticky and hard to shuffle for many many plays in the past.
I do miss the slightly smaller box size as I’m a bit cramped in the gaming basement, but it’s still the fairly compact Alea/Ravensburger mid-size box (10.5″ x 7.5″ x 2″). If you didn’t already own it, I’d certainly recommend that you pick this up. Despite the fact that it’s a 10 year old game, it still plays well and has clearly held its own over that time period.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor