I played my first games of Canal Grande last weekend and here’s a quick review based on those games. First of all, I should say I’m not familiar with San Marco, so I’m not biased either way in that regard.
For a start, the cards are very ugly. The backs are hideous and the pictures are very fuzzy and unclear. Could’ve been much better! The rulebook is ok (at least when compared with, say, Vom Kap Bis Kairo), but the game seems awful lot more complicated than it is.
Basically it’s “I divide, you choose” all the time. As I have a brother two years younger than I am, this mechanic is very familiar to me from my childhood. It causes some kind of learning curve, as it’s quite hard to know what’s good and what’s not in the beginning, but after few games one should be able to do some tactical manoeuvring in the division.
After the cards are divided, the chooser takes the pile he or she wants and does what the cards say. District cards and gondolas are taken to hand, number cards are placed on table and other actions carried out. Traitors allow one to steal one card from one’s opponent, spies give one extra cards from the deck and doges start votes.
These votes are what counts. When voting starts, the challenger (the player who played the doge) plays a district card, choosing where the vote takes place. Now the defender can play cards. The defender has to play at least one similar district card. Cards for other districts can be used with the gondolas. Players take turns playing cards until both sides are done. The winner takes the original district card and loses all other cards used. Loser discards the first card played and all gondolas used, but keeps the rest.
Then the divider takes his or her actions. After that, if neither player has acquired ten points, the roles are reversed and new turn starts. If ten points has been reached, then the player who has less points takes three extra cards from the deck. The player with more points is also the next divider. Number cards are then discarded and the decks shuffled anew.
The game is over when a player has either at least one card for each of the six districts or four cards from one district. Latter is a good goal, if you happen to have all five cards for one district…
I played few games and enjoyed the game, at least somewhat. Votes were usually won by single card, which opponent couldn’t match, which is somewhat boring. But sometimes doges wouldn’t appear for a turn or two, and the players were able to gather a larger pile of cards, leading to a bit more exciting votes. If that’s desired more, perhaps removing one or two doges could be possible. I wouldn’t remove any traitors, though — they are your only hope, if your opponent has all five cards from a district. If he or she doesn’t lose any of them, the game is practically over as they can play them one by one and win for sure. Of course, that’ll take some time as they can only have one vote over that district each turn.
I hadn’t a chance to try out the four player partnership game. I assume it’s a bit more interesting. Right now, my rating for Canal Grande is about seven. Nice and interesting at least for a while, but nothing spectacular. Pretty much what you’d expect from an Adlung game, I suppose?