San Marco Card Game
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Venice is in its heydey. In the Council of Ten, the old established families are fighting for power, influence and the office of doge (head of state of Venice 697-1797). By using spies and traitors cleverly, they try to win votes in the different districts of the city--only with the districts' support can one become the most powerful man in Venice.
Rules are simple and straightforward. It takes a few minutes to get started but after one game you'll have the rules mastered.
My wife and I have played this game almost nightly since buying it. It is a very good game, and usually takes no more than half an hour. But beware! You'll probably end up playing two or three times in a row at least!
By far this game's best feature is that it is hard for the game to be a blowout --- often times both players will be on the verge of winning and only because of turn order will one player win out over the other. There are enough elements of luck within the game mechanics to keep the game close. My wife is a definite non-gamer but this game has been extremely enjoyable for both of us. It is definately more 'non-gamer-friendly' than other two-player card games like Hera&Zeus or Odin's Ravens.
If you are looking for a card game that is easy to learn, has great replay value, and is an excellent 'middle-ground' between you and your non-gamer friend, look no further than Canal Grande.
Canal Grande is a superb little two player game. You get a deck which at first glance seems rather dull and boring. But don't be deceived! While certainly not a lengthy, super complex game, Canal Grande does offer quick gameplay, enough depth to make every game interesting and close, and no game is the same.
The heart of the game is one player drawing time and action cards and making them up into two 'offers'. Then the opposing player chooses the cards in one of the offers, plays out those cards (sometimes as simple as adding them to theur hand, other times having a Doge call for a vote, stealing cards from the other player, or getting more cards from the action deck).
You are trying to get control of one card from each district, there are 6, or 4 cards from one district. This short review really does not do justice to this clever game, but suffice it to say, there's more to it than meets the eye!
While the game may appear pricey at first, I guarantee that if you play any of the Kosmos 2 plaer games, you will enjoy this game. ( I own lots of them myself) I am very glad I picked up a copy from Funagain- almost as an afterthought with some other games. It has been played about 15 times in two weeks, with the wife and friends. All have enjoyed it.
Well done game, lots of replayability, easy to learn and get going, plays quick, 5 stars, all deserved.
I have not played San marco so I cannot compare the two. Canal Grande itself plays pretty well because the rules are pretty simple once you understand it, and it's small enough to bring it when you are not near your big box games. The instruction on this game is a bit confusing when first reading it, but once you get through that, rest is pretty easy. I suppose if you played san marco, rules should be somewhat familiar. Art on the cards are kinda fuzzy like, not exactly great to look at, but it's bearable. For a card game it's not bad.
Fans of Moon and Weissblum's San Marco will love this two-player adaptation. Vie to control Venice by winning one card from each of six districts, or four cards from one district. Start with four District cards. Each turn, draw five Action cards and three Number cards; divide these into two stacks. Your opponent chooses one, and you take the other. Use them in turn order.
Take District and Gondola cards into hand. Spy and Traitor cards let you draw two, and steal one opponent's, respectively. Doge cards initiate a battle in a district chosen by the Doge player. Whoever discards most of that district's cards wins one of the cards. Playing a Gondola card allows you to add cards from another district.
A round ends when one player's Number cards equal or exceed 10, whereupon the other player begins the next round. The only easy choice when it comes to this game is to go out and buy it.
San Marco cruised to the SGS Game of the Year on the strength of its "you divide, I choose" mechanic. Just as Moon's Freight Train became Reibach and Co, now San Marco has become Canal Grande. The card game keeps the basic mechanics from San Marco intact, but the game does not feel much like San Marco and will not replace the board game for most people. It is a very solid two-player game, but likely would be more of a hit if it were never compared to the high standard of its parent.
The six Venice districts all appear in card forms, with familiar artwork but colors too similar when in the hand. The Limit Cards from San Marco are also used in a similar fashion, but unlike territory domination as in the board game the goal this time is to collect at least one card from each district or get four cards of a single district. Bridges become Gondola Cards, Spies and Traitors show their faces, but the Doge again triggers the scoring.
Each round, five action cards and three limit cards are split by one player, with the other choosing as in the original game. District cards go into your hand; Spies and Traitors help modify the hand size by letting you draw two cards from the deck or take a card from your opponent. The choosing player takes their set of cards and acts first. With a Doge, the player forces a vote in a particular district by playing at least one card from that district. This becomes an Attacke-like battle where each player must play more cards to stay in, otherwise fold. The winner of the battle keeps one of the cards from the declared district but loses the rest of their played cards, while the loser gets most of their cards back. This is good balancing and makes staying in a vote worthwhile even if you may not win.
The Gondola cards make the voting more interesting. While at least one card of the chosen district must be played, gondolas can then be brought in to bring reserves from other districts. So, like the color-change card in Taj Mahal, a Castillo Card, Gondola, plus two Dorsodoro Cards will equal three votes for Castillo. The limit cards accumulate as in San Marco, and the round ends once a single player has at least 10 points. This usually happens after about four splits. With no banishments available, the lower point total gets a bonus of three action cards, which can be significant.
Canal Grande is a game mostly about card management. Burning too many cards in a voting can be Pyrrhic, and choosing the right district to vote in has meaningful consequences based on what each player needs. The gondolas are a blessing but not without some vice, since they create the ability to burn other district cards that may be needed soon afterwards. The Spies are very powerful, since the two cards can be decisive when cards are the constraining factor in all votes. The Traitors don't bring new resources into the battle but change the balance. Having both Spies and Traitors in the mix to split can be tricky, as giving both to one player can really upset things. It is tough to recover from a big card imbalance. You basically have to forego several votes in order to save your cards, but this also does not deplete your opponent fast enough. Comparing again to Taj Mahal, an early mistake on a vote can carry through the entire game.
As a two-player game, Canal Grande plays fast and is highly interactive, but it really would be better if it were not San Marco: Das Kartenspiel since it forces a comparison to the board game which is, frankly, much better. It does not capture the mood nor the tension of the original, and while you can play with four players using two decks I can see little reason to do so except possibly for traveling. San Marco fans should definitely get this pint-sized offspring, but lining it up with games like Babel or Kahuna makes for a more favorable comparison.