Tuesday, February 5, 2008

San Marco

It took until the final game of the evening at last Friday's games night to get to grips with a meaty strategy board game. That game was San Marco.

Unlike the previous games I've described from the evening, I'm not going to go into any great depth because I just can't do it justice. For more details about the game, I suggest as always to visit Board Game Geek.

San Marco is a game of area control. The board consists of six regions, including the titular San Marco, and the idea is to place little cubes of your colour in each region to score victory points. You only score victory points if you or another player places the Doge (a big red dude) in an area where you have the most or second most amount of cubes.

Each region awards different amounts of victory points for first and second, so placement is key. You can place bridges between regions to help with the placement of your cubes and to move the Doge around.

Placement of pieces and scoring points is heavily dependent upon what cards you get each turn. This is a very interesting mechanic. Each turn, the four players are randomly allocated into two pairs. Each pair has a "distributor" and a "decision maker". The distributor draws five "action" cards and three "limit" cards, and then splits these cards into two piles in whatever combination they like. The decision maker gets to look at the two piles and chooses the one they would like. The distributor is left with the other pile.

This lends a surprisingly challenging level of strategy to the game. if you're the distributor, you want to divide the cards so that regardless of which pile you are left with, it is going to be valuable to you.

The action cards are used to place cubes and brides on the board, to remove your opponents' pieces, or to move the Doge around to score victory points.

The limit cards have either 1, 2 or 3 written on them and are generally bad to collect. Once any player collects 10 or more limit points, the round is over. Anyone with fewer than 10 limit points gets to have one more turn (unless they are the only one left).

After three rounds, the game is over, and each of the six regions is visited once more by the Doge to reach a final score. Most victory points wins.

Both The Giggling One and I enjoyed this game, though I think she enjoyed it more as she finished a close second. I, on the other hand, was equal last.

We're both keen to give it another play. Like the other games on the night, one play just wasn't enough to get the most out of it. It's certainly not the deepest strategy game out there so it's not too hard to come to grips with. The interaction between the players is fun, and the paranoia even more so. Revenge is sweet.

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