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SAN FRANCISCO

EXCERPTS FROM THE FALL 2000 GA REPORT

 

FROM “K-BAN’S KORNER”:

 

SAN FRANCISCO (Amigo Spiele; about $30)

 

San Francisco, designed by Andreas Wetter and Thorsten Loepmann, has very nice bits – board, wooden rods and markers, square city and option bidding chits as well as influence, action and bid cards… The pasted on theme is San Francisco in 1906 after the great earthquake, in need and rebuilding and investment. This is accomplished through bidding with influence, options and banknotes, mechanisms we’ve seen in other games but that fit together surprisingly well here.

The board is a 5×7 grid onto which five city tiles of six main varieties are placed (plus the town hall, bank and three parks. Parks are surrounded with 12 white neutral rods that can’t be moved in the course of the game. Investment is symbolized by a player’s color coded investment rods and the idea is to place your investment rods around the city tiles to try to earn a “majority” and claim that building’s prestige points.SF

The buildings (tract homes & villas, ballparks & marketplaces, factories and offices) are worth 4, 5 and 6 prestige points respectively with the bank and city hall being worth 10 prestige points each. As soon as you have sufficient investment rods around a city square (so that no one can have as many as you do around that particular square’s perimeter) you can flip over the square to signify renovation and claim the resulting prestige points…

Players begin the game with 10 influence cards, numbered 0-9 in their color, and $580,000 in banknotes. The start player (an honor that rotates clockwise) reveals a card from the bid deck and, based on the icons depicted, announces the number of investors who can place their rods on the board, where they can place them, and what types of buildings can be renovated there. An interesting wrinkle is that if the start player doesn’t like the top card in the bid deck, he can discard it but then must play the next card from the deck. This allows a player who is low in either influence or banknotes to cause a bid card to be skipped if it suits his purposes.

Bids can be resolved from among three methods. Influence bids are a Hols der Geire/Raj affair with identical bids cancelling out. Players start the game with 30 blue influence points. Each player secretly chooses a card from among his deck of influence cards. Winning untied bidders get to place an investment rod of their color and pay with influence points…

Money bids…[utilize] banknotes. The start player makes a bid by displaying one or more banknotes and announcing the total bid. Each subsequent player, in clockwise order, either raises the bid or drops out until only one bidder remains. The catch is that there are banknotes ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 but exchanging for smaller notes and change is NOT allowed.

The third process… [is]… options… You turn over one of three chits showing the tract homes & villas, ball parks & marketplaces, or factories & offices, all selected in pairs. If unopposed, you can build for the smallest banknote you have. If opposed, you have a sealed bid, risking 1-5 banknotes and revealing simultaneously. All winners from options bidding pay banknotes to the bank; losing bids are returned to their owners.

Each turn, when there has been one or more successful bids, an action card is flipped and carried out. Action cards can either trigger a bidding round… or they can cause bonus rounds where everyone can regain four influence points or up to $100,000 in banknotes… and can result in additional investments, movement of investments already on the board and replacement of other player’s investments. The action cards are also the game’s timing mechanism. Each action card played covers up a year from 1907 to 1918…When 1918 is covered and played, the game ends. The player with the most prestige points wins.

San Francisco is very busy with much simultaneous play and little downtime. It accommodates three to five players but plays best with four. Playing time averages just over an hour. There is an element of bluff that appeals to some and confounds others. The mechanisms mesh nicely and reward sound resource management which is crucial…. My only major gripe…is the production on the city tiles. Their backs are all done in a muted sepia tone that makes it very difficult to distinguish the six types of building groups…

San Francisco is a game that is light enough for family play but challenging enough for veteran players. Recommended. ——————————————– Steve Kurzban


 

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