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Subject: Why Puerto Rico is better than San Juan, and why Race for the Galaxy is better than San Juan rss

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Greg Jones
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The innovation of Puerto Rico (often imitated since) is the role-selection mechanic. Each player chooses a role, and all players will get a chance to take an action defined by that role, with the player who chose it getting some small privilege. It's one of the features that makes it a great game, although you can point to others like multiple paths to victory. Although San Juan has a very similar role-selection mechanic, it doesn't work as well, and I believe that's why most gamers consider Puerto Rico the better game.

What tends to happen in San Juan, at least with two players, is that throughout the mid-game, there is a fairly consistently repeating pattern of roles choices each round (or rather alternating every other round; the pattern is different depending who's Governor). With three or more players, there is more variety, if only because there is less abundance of "cash", and a player isn't always able to choose Builder, even if they would want to. Still the factors that influence your role choice are pretty simple. For the most part, take Builder or Prospector; if those aren't available take a role that works well with your buildings and not other players'.

The problem is that most of the tactical "bite" of role selection is missing from San Juan. There's less interaction. In Puerto Rico you must be especially careful of Craftsman, because at the wrong time it could mean another player gets to trade or ship their goods and you do not. In San Juan, one player trading does not preclude another player from doing so. Even Builder is tactical in Puerto Rico. Sometimes you need to take it to build a building before your opponent takes the last from the supply. In San Juan your supplies of buildings are individual.

In addition, the bonus doubloons mechanic in Puerto Rico would prevent overly repetitive role selection. Ignored roles would build up doubloons. It actually happens toward the end of games when cash is less significant, but in the early and mid-game, maximizing your profit while cleverly leaving doubloons to manipulate your opponents is an intricate game.

I actually like San Juan for what it is. There's something to be said for "autopilot" games. Depending on my mental energy level, I might prefer a game of San Juan. It's also interesting to play a really large number of games of San Juan over time and learn from experience. It's autopilot most of the time, but from time to time I fine-tune my "program". I make improvements through trial and error I doubt I could have discovered by analysis. That's easier to do when you can play 3 quick games in a row. But San Juan doesn't deliver in precisely the part of the game that makes Puerto Rico great.

What makes Race for the Galaxy an improvement over San Juan? You could point to the re-inclusion of a goods-to-VPs mechanic. The Race for the Galaxy mechanic is good but in a different way than the Puerto Rico one. The Race for the Galaxy mechanic is still less interactive than the Puerto Rico one, but it makes up for it by having complex relationships between the different colors of goods and the buildings.

But relevant to the comparison I've made between San Juan and Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy improves the role selection tactics over San Juan. Partly this is simply by increasing the pace of the game. With the possibility of building two buildings in a round, or encountering the alternate endgame condition, Race for the Galaxy tends to finish in fewer rounds. That means there's less midgame to get repetitive. The other factor is the simultaneous role selection, which introduces the challenge of trying to outguess your opponents. You need to not just consider what the effect of choosing each role is, but what the combined effect will be of each role with each role your opponents might choose or not choose.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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Thanks for the review. San Juan has a good role as an intro game for the role selection mechanic. The staff of my FLGS has had several good games of SJ since I introduced it to them a couple of months ago, before teaching them to play Puerto Rico yesterday. As a result, they had an easy time getting PR, and enjoyed our first game immensely, despite the screwage I was already giving them via the Captain action.

It is important to note that SJ is pretty much the predessesor of Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome, so comparisons between them are more akin to comparing a grandson to its grandparent. The fact that these games are all good is a testament to the sound design of such types of card games.
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Michael Stone
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Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy. ;)
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Steven Metzger
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I haven't read any of this thread, but isn't the answer just "shipping?"

EDIT: Now that I've read the thread, the answer is still just "shipping."
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Edwin Nealley
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stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy. ;)


Artwork is also a teeling point. The artwork for Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is quite-stunning on many cards, while San Juan seems almost deliberately crude- far moreso than Puerto Rico to my eye.

The fact is that the iconography in RftG is quite comprehensible with a little honest effort, since the icons are designed to get the game past language dependency issues. Race for the Galaxy is well worth the effort to acheive a basic understanding of the card symbols (which admittedly takes most a couple to a few plays), so that one can begin to understand and admire the greater depth of play in RftG.

Personally, theme-wise I was immediately drawn to RftG over San Juan; while I own both games, I consider RftG indispensible while San Juan I am much more likely to let go at some point.

If I recommended San Juan, it would be as a baby step into deeper versions of the game; Tom Lehmann's additional genesis of ideas really make RftG a better game to me, with much more 'replayability' than San Juan has.
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ackmondual
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SJ has gotten stale enough that I really MUST play it with the exp (The New Buildings + The Events). On the plus side, I don't feel guilty pushing its exp on newbies since SJ with the exp is sill easier to teach than base game RftG.

I actually feel that way too about rftG... Just base game isn't quite what it used to be. Would like st least 1 exp... 2nd or 3rd ideally. Still prefer base game RftG over base game SJ.

As for PR, not into it anymore (will play at most about 1 game evey 4 months ). There is just too minimal luck (Hacienda the only rel thing as u get to preview the new batch of of plantations at least). Due to this reason, I prefer to play with exps just for the sake of variety. Alternatively, I will play base game PR if its that $100 anniversary edition. It really is nice, and hope that RftG can get to that point someday
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Captain Spaulding
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herendil66 wrote:
stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy.


Artwork is also a teeling point. The artwork for Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is quite-stunning on many cards, while San Juan seems almost deliberately crude- far moreso than Puerto Rico to my eye.



The iconography for RFTG is what makes that game impossible to pick up if you've left it for any length of time. Every time my wife and came back to RFTG we wound up just playing San Juan instead of relearning RFTG. I traded it long ago and never looked back. San Juan remains a classic, even though we'd both probably play PR first if we had the time.

Also, like everything else, the artwork is totally subjective; I HATE the RFTG artwork; to me it seems like it was done by a child. It all seems unfinished, and ugly, whereas the San Juan artwork is tasteful and well illustrated. Seriously, I love Science Fiction, but I'd be embarrassed to introduce RFTG to new players, based on the artwork alone.
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Greg Jones
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metzgerism wrote:
I haven't read any of this thread, but isn't the answer just "shipping?"

EDIT: Now that I've read the thread, the answer is still just "shipping."


Well, trading too. The fact that in both of those there is limited space for all players.

And a couple other things, but I already mentioned them.
 
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ackmondual
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Mr_Bickman wrote:
herendil66 wrote:
stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy.


Artwork is also a teeling point. The artwork for Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is quite-stunning on many cards, while San Juan seems almost deliberately crude- far moreso than Puerto Rico to my eye.



The iconography for RFTG is what makes that game impossible to pick up if you've left it for any length of time. Every time my wife and came back to RFTG we wound up just playing San Juan instead of relearning RFTG. I traded it long ago and never looked back. San Juan remains a classic, even though we'd both probably play PR first if we had the time.

Also, like everything else, the artwork is totally subjective; I HATE the RFTG artwork; to me it seems like it was done by a child. It all seems unfinished, and ugly, whereas the San Juan artwork is tasteful and well illustrated. Seriously, I love Science Fiction, but I'd be embarrassed to introduce RFTG to new players, based on the artwork alone.


Irony worth mentioning is that PR doesn't even have art. Well... it has 1 or 2 pieces of drawing. To some, that's worse than bad art
 
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Scrumpy Jack
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morningstar wrote:
The innovation of Puerto Rico (often imitated since) is the role-selection mechanic.


Pardon the pedantry, but I believe Citadels predates Puerto Rico for the inclusion of role-selection as a core mechanic.
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Werner Bär
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SJack wrote:
morningstar wrote:
The innovation of Puerto Rico (often imitated since) is the role-selection mechanic.

Pardon the pedantry, but I believe Citadels predates Puerto Rico for the inclusion of role-selection as a core mechanic.

And Citadels copied the role selection from Verräter (and acknowledges it in the rules).

morningstar wrote:
[...] all players will get a chance to take an action defined by that role, with the player who chose it getting some small privilege.

This is the part that's new in Puerto Rico role selection (but not copied that often, i think)
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Spencer C
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Honestly, it's like you people aren't even playing the same game as me.

Sure, PR is a better game than SJ (at least, a more complicated game), but I've met very few card games that could approach a full wooden-bits euro game for complexity of play. If that's the measure you hold your card games too, you're going to be consistently disappointed.

The notion, however, that RftG (especially vanilla) has more interactivity than SJ is absurd. You also seem to have SJ all backwards -- San Juan shines with 2 players, and is merely passable with 3 or 4. The problem I seem to encounter on these forums a lot is that people get into groupthink ruts in San Juan. I'm happy to admit that I, too, fell victim to the same problem at first. After maybe 10 f2f games of SJ, I just wasn't convinced there was anything more to the game. But I went on BSW and played against some good SJ players and got trounced. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience, I discovered that the depth of the game hadn't plateaued, instead my play of the game had. I've since played the game many times, enough so that it's likely my most played game of all time, and I'm still learning new things.

This game has a lot going on, it's just not always so obvious. The role selection provides a ton of interaction between players, and the comparatively small deck size means that where and when you discard a card can be crucially important.
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Liz Burton
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Mr_Bickman wrote:
stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy.


The iconography for RFTG is what makes that game impossible to pick up if you've left it for any length of time. Every time my wife and came back to RFTG we wound up just playing San Juan instead of relearning RFTG. I traded it long ago and never looked back. San Juan remains a classic, even though we'd both probably play PR first if we had the time.



I hate to join the iconography argument, but my husband and I often go 2-3 months without playing and we don't forget any of the icons. I think RFTG would be unbelievably unplayable without those fantastic icons.

I mean, they're so clear and simple, especially if we're just talking about the base set without expansions.


And on a different note...

freddieyu wrote:
It is important to note that SJ is pretty much the predessesor of Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome, so comparisons between them are more akin to comparing a grandson to its grandparent. The fact that these games are all good is a testament to the sound design of such types of card games.


Weren't SJ and RFTG actually designed at the same time, both as potential card game versions of PR?
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Pablo Schulman
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manutd03 wrote:
Mr_Bickman wrote:
stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy.


The iconography for RFTG is what makes that game impossible to pick up if you've left it for any length of time. Every time my wife and came back to RFTG we wound up just playing San Juan instead of relearning RFTG. I traded it long ago and never looked back. San Juan remains a classic, even though we'd both probably play PR first if we had the time.



I hate to join the iconography argument, but my husband and I often go 2-3 months without playing and we don't forget any of the icons. I think RFTG would be unbelievably unplayable without those fantastic icons.

I mean, they're so clear and simple, especially if we're just talking about the base set without expansions.


And on a different note...

freddieyu wrote:
It is important to note that SJ is pretty much the predessesor of Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome, so comparisons between them are more akin to comparing a grandson to its grandparent. The fact that these games are all good is a testament to the sound design of such types of card games.


Weren't SJ and RFTG actually designed at the same time, both as potential card game versions of PR?


They are parallel designs indeed, but San Juan still predates RFtG. Some ideas of RFtG were incorporated in the final San Juan and vice-versa. The great advantage of Race is the fact that it wasn't limited by Puerto Rico: since the design wasn't going to be used they had freedom to add more cards, changed the role selection mechanism to simultaneous and could change the theme to something more appealing.
 
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ackmondual
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Werbaer wrote:
SJack wrote:
morningstar wrote:
The innovation of Puerto Rico (often imitated since) is the role-selection mechanic.

Pardon the pedantry, but I believe Citadels predates Puerto Rico for the inclusion of role-selection as a core mechanic.

And Citadels copied the role selection from Verräter (and acknowledges it in the rules).
According to Hobby Games: The Best 100 Citadels is unique in where each player has a different chance to pick different roles. Unlike games like Cosmic Encounter where u have a race and are stuck with it for the rest of the game.
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Greg Jones
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UanarchyK wrote:
After maybe 10 f2f games of SJ, I just wasn't convinced there was anything more to the game. But I went on BSW and played against some good SJ players and got trounced. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience, I discovered that the depth of the game hadn't plateaued, instead my play of the game had. I've since played the game many times, enough so that it's likely my most played game of all time, and I'm still learning new things.


Quite so, and I said as much. I've played over 1000 games of San Juan on BSW, and I'm also still learning. I just don't do a lot of thinking during the game. I follow a pattern. The things I learn are new patterns, fine-tuning which pattern to use when.
 
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Anson Bischoff
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It all boils down to:

San Juan is a great introductory game of this style. It is BY FAR the easiest to teach, however, it also has the least depth and will become stale more quickly than the others (keeping in mind that Puerto Rico and Race are just about infinitely repayable)

Games until Fluent: 1
Games until Competitive: 2 - 5
Skill Plateau: 8 - 15

Puerto Rico is easy to jump into after San Juan as many of the rules are quite similar. It is an incredibly strong board game and brings a lot of depth to the table, but is also takes the longest to play (by a landslide). Puerto Rico also has the most "direct" interaction of the three.

Games until Fluent: 2-3
Games until Competitive: 5 - 7
Skill Plateau: 20 - 50+

Race for the Galaxy's one fault is that it can be difficult to learn. However, if the game ever gets the amount of play it deserves it is very easy to keep the icons fresh in your mind. Race is able to keep the playtime down to the length of San Juan, and also have the depth of Puerto Rico. Add to that a superior theme and vastly superior artwork, and Race is by and large the best of three in my opinion. It also adds a bluffing element which is non existent in the other games. While many people claim that Race has no interaction, expert players understand that it is this bluffing and outguessing your opponent that makes Race so incredibly awesome. However, this element is entirely non-existent among new players.

Games until Fluent: 3 - 7
Games until Competitive: 5 - 12
Skill Plateau: 30 - 250+


Essentially:

Easy of Play: San Juan > Puerto Rico > Race
Length (with short being better): San Juan = Race > Puerto Rico
Depth: Race = Puerto Rico > San Juan
Replay Value: Race > Puerto Rico > San Juan
Theme/ Art: Race > Puerto Rico > San Juan
Expandability (value): Race > Puerto Rico > San Juan

Overall: Race > Puerto Rico > San Juan
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Captain Spaulding
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Ah, subjectivity... The bluffing (guessing) part of Race is my least favorite thing about it. I think Race has by far the ugliest art, with San Juan's art being the best. And theme? Okay, you like space... I like using my historical imagination. I do agree that San Juan is the easiest to teach, but your comment about the amount of plays Race demands in order to remember the icons... I found there were too many other games I wanted to play in-between, so that whenever I came back to Race it was a big hassle to pull out all those rules and relearn it. I never found it compelling enough to go through the hassle. Also, San Juan and Puerto Rico both have iPad apps which is a plus for me.

K
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ackmondual
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Mr_Bickman wrote:
Also, San Juan and Puerto Rico both have iPad apps which is a plus for me.

K


There are digital implementations of RftG as well....

thread about that
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/438698/race-for-the-gala...

download the program here (for PC, although I hear you can get it to compile for Mac and Linux too)
http://keldon.net/rftg

Enhanced interface here
http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/7379896/rftg/index.html


Granted, an Ipad is more portable than a desktop/laptop PC, but many of us already have a modern day PC of sorts, so this program is free. Those without an Ipad (and no, won't work on Iphone) need to spend at least $300 (price for a decent used Ipad IIRC) just to play PR and SJ on there.
 
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Caleb
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San Juan for iOS works just fine on my iPhone.
 
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ackmondual
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cannoneer wrote:
San Juan for iOS works just fine on my iPhone.
Yeah, forgot that SJ is also Iphone. However, it's sorta moot, as there's a version of SJ done in Java for PC, and plenty of free versions of PR for PC. Getting an Ipad for just a few board games can be too costly.

There's also Condado for Android, which includes the full SJ expansion.
 
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Anson Bischoff
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Race can be played on boardgamearena.com, and games only last 5-10 minutes. This is a great way to learn the symbols and basic strategy.

Honestly, when me and my wife are addicted to it we play it A LOT. However, we still sometimes go several months without playing it, and all of the symbols are still entirely second nature to us.

Yes, San Juan is simpler. But IMHO Race is superior in just about every other way. San Juan is still great fun though. I've been playing it on my wife's android along with Tigris and Euphrates. It's a good game to have in such a fast format.

She hates letting me use her phone.
I need an iphone.
Well, I need money.
If only I didn't spend all my money on games I could use some to buy an iphone and that way I could buy more games!

Also, there exists another somewhat simpler, very much wilder step up from San Juan.
GLORY TO ROME

If the symbols in Race are too much, give this one a whirl.
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Scott O'Brien
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Mr_Bickman wrote:
herendil66 wrote:
stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy.


Artwork is also a teeling point. The artwork for Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is quite-stunning on many cards, while San Juan seems almost deliberately crude- far moreso than Puerto Rico to my eye.



The iconography for RFTG is what makes that game impossible to pick up if you've left it for any length of time. Every time my wife and came back to RFTG we wound up just playing San Juan instead of relearning RFTG. I traded it long ago and never looked back. San Juan remains a classic, even though we'd both probably play PR first if we had the time.

Also, like everything else, the artwork is totally subjective; I HATE the RFTG artwork; to me it seems like it was done by a child. It all seems unfinished, and ugly, whereas the San Juan artwork is tasteful and well illustrated. Seriously, I love Science Fiction, but I'd be embarrassed to introduce RFTG to new players, based on the artwork alone.


The icongraphy also keeps guests (non-regulars) in the group from immediately picking up the game and playing effectively. they have to focus on learning what each picture means, where as once you learn the mechanics, SJ cards are self explanitory by the english text on the card.
 
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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I'm a pretty smart fellow, and I just completely hate the Race for the Galaxy design.
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ackmondual
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sao123 wrote:
Mr_Bickman wrote:
herendil66 wrote:
stoneart69 wrote:
Except for the fact that because of the iconography, San Juan is better than Race for the Galaxy.


Artwork is also a teeling point. The artwork for Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is quite-stunning on many cards, while San Juan seems almost deliberately crude- far moreso than Puerto Rico to my eye.



The iconography for RFTG is what makes that game impossible to pick up if you've left it for any length of time. Every time my wife and came back to RFTG we wound up just playing San Juan instead of relearning RFTG. I traded it long ago and never looked back. San Juan remains a classic, even though we'd both probably play PR first if we had the time.

Also, like everything else, the artwork is totally subjective; I HATE the RFTG artwork; to me it seems like it was done by a child. It all seems unfinished, and ugly, whereas the San Juan artwork is tasteful and well illustrated. Seriously, I love Science Fiction, but I'd be embarrassed to introduce RFTG to new players, based on the artwork alone.


The icongraphy also keeps guests (non-regulars) in the group from immediately picking up the game and playing effectively. they have to focus on learning what each picture means, where as once you learn the mechanics, SJ cards are self explanitory by the english text on the card.
RftG really shouldn't be one of those games you should play only once every 4 to 12 months. Too much to have to re-invest every time you play.
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