Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Speaking of Hand Management...

as I was last time if you were paying attention, I’ve been playing San Juan with my husband lately. This is a perfect example of the tension and tough decisions that a hand management card game should offer. It has a large variety of buildings, each with their own ability to help you, combined with the need to discard some of those wonderful buildings as payment to build. This means that every time you play, you’re going to be faced with a unique challenge.

I find this game discloses the greedy nature in myself as I want to build almost all the buildings in my hand and am loathe to use any of them for building payment. This leaves my brain spinning in place in the early game while I bite my lip trying to say goodbye to a beloved building in favor of another building.

If you’ve played this game a lot, which I have not, you may have what you consider to be a perfect strategy, your perfect combination of buildings, but acquiring those cards isn’t a simple matter. This is also part of the fun of a good hand-management game since you inevitably must deal with whatever you are given and make your decisions accordingly.

In the last game I played, I was dealt good cards for mid-game play but they’re tough ones to build at the beginning—4, 5, and 6 card buildings. I had to pass on 2 consecutive building rounds, once because I had nothing I could build and the second time because it would have meant using every other card in my hand (and they were very nice cards which I had grown attached to J ). My formidable opponent, on the other hand, had 1 and 2 card buildings and I began to feel that I was in some serious trouble.

I finally made the sacrifice and said goodbye to a couple of my lovelies in order to build a tobacco production building but I was still 2 buildings behind. With the help of his buildings, I was never able to build when Richard couldn’t so stayed 2 buildings behind him the whole game. I thought I was doomed but in the end I won by one point.

This demonstrates another characteristic of a very good hand management game (or any game for that matter), the ability for anyone to win even if it looks like they’re behind. This is probably one of the biggest flaws in games like Monopoly and Risk, the inability to catch up and feel that you have a chance to win.

All of this brain-twisting goodness is wrapped up in a game that is simple to set up and teach, and plays in 45-60 minutes. If you’re looking for other good choices that fit into this niche that uses cards for more multiple purposes, try Oltremare or FrachtExpress (or its alternate version, Hellrail--Third Perdition).
To game, perchance to laugh.


1 comment:

Gerald McD said...

You do love card/hand management games, don't you?

I agree that they are fun. We play Bohnanza almost every week, and it is a real hand management and negotiation game. With wild bean trading, it is not unusual for several of us to have empty hands when our turn comes up, or to be able to plant two beans that fit perfectly in our established fields. Sometimes it requires "donating" a card to someone during your turn, and sometimes it involves trading two beans for one, but we have all learned to use those techniques and others to "manage" our hand, even with the restriction that you cannot rearrange the cards in your hand and must play them in order (unless you are trading them to someone else).

You recently introduced me to Memoir '44, another good card management game. Thanks for the recommendation!