How To Play San Juan Board Game


San Juan is a card game for two to four players that was designed in 1962 by Andreas Seyfarth. It is based on the popular Puerto Rican city of the same name and can be highly strategic as each player attempts to build an efficient trading empire. The game combines aspects of strategy, resources management, deck building and economic simulation in a way that will test your analytical abilities while also providing an exciting and enjoyable experience. Each player seeks to achieve prosperity by constructing buildings and collecting resources while interacting with other players on the market.

In San Juan, players compete over limited resources, such as timber goods, quarried goods, and orchard products. Players may then use these resources to construct buildings that generate coins or victory points which they can use to purchase additional cards or buildings. Additionally, bonuses are given depending on what combinations of buildings are purchased and how many new construction projects are initiated this round. Things like harbors, factories and even universities can greatly contribute to bolstering a player’s wealth during the game but must be balanced with bazaars that help generate more frequent income when money gets tight! If done perfectly you can come out ahead against your opponents who struggle with balancing their wealth development versus their expansion efforts!

Components Overview

San Juan is a board game for two to four players where each player takes on the role of a colonial governor of the city. The aim of the game is to achieve economic supremacy by constructing buildings and producing resources.

The game components consist of a deck of 120 cards, representing different buildings and producing raw materials; coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50; player’s choice tokens; and an illustrated board depicting the island map divided into seven districts.

Each card in the deck has its own coloured symbol: brown for raw material producing buildings such as quarries or farms, grey for production buildings like sawmills or workshops and blue for public buildings such as barracks or universities. 4-4 special building cards are also included which can only be constructed once all other cards have been used. Many cards also give players additional privileges such as victory points when played.

At the start of each turn, players draw five cards from the deck then choose either coins or privileges if they can afford them with their coins (5 coins equal one privilege point). Privilege points allow them to build more cheaply while coins are used to construct building cards revealed during play.

Players take turns placing down their chosen building card on an empty space on their district map. To create a legal construction configuration, structures need to be placed adjacent to at least one other card previously played on the same district. The winner is the one who accumulates most victory points by constructing buildings that produce resources either through trading or consumption (public works).


The San Juan board game can be enjoyed by 2 to 4 players. Before starting the game, all players must randomly select a role card to determine their job throughout the game. The four roles are: Construction, Trade, Production, and Prospector. Once each player has their assigned role card they can begin to prepare for the game.

To set up the game all players should shuffle the deck of cards and place them face down in a stack in the middle of the table or play area. Then deal each player one building (brown) card and five plantation (green) cards at random from the riser deck; each player should keep these face down in front of them as part of their reserve pile/hand. Any remaining brown/green cards from each pile should be placed face up on either side of it to form buildable stacks. Every player will also start with 2 Doubloons which are kept secret from other players and are used as coins throughout the game play. The remaining governor (purple) cards will then be placed face up off to one side in a row to create a ‘shop’ that is available for everyone use during gameplay. Finally, it’s best practice to place an empty Governor bonus (square tiles with a bonus number on them) off to one side so that they can be easily accessed when needed later on in the game!

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The main objective of the San Juan board game is for each player to accumulate victory points (VPs) by building various city structures such as plantations, factories and trading posts. To do this, players use a hand of cards that correspond to different buildings. Each card can be used to build a building or activate an action depending on the kind of card it is. By strategically placing their cards, players attempt to collect victory points while at the same time, hinder their opponents from doing so. The game ends when all available construction slots have been filled, then each player’s cumulative victory points are calculated to determine the winner.

Players start out with seven basic cards and two trade tokens which can be used to purchase additional cards throughout the game as well as extra trade token bonuses. There are three main phases in the game: production phase, role phase and construction phase. During the production phase, players setup resources in order to generate income later on during the gameís other phases. During the role phase, players select roles from a pool which provides access to different bonuses and abilities when activated. Finally, in the construction phase players place cards purchased or supplied from resources in order to build up their city structures for victory points earning potential. The ultimate goal is for each player to play strategically and earn more VP than their opponents in order to win the game!

Playing the Game

Step 1: Set Up the Game
Shuffle the production cards, place them face up in a stack, and lay out seven of them (starting with Production Level 2) on the board. Place the three supply cards below it, as well as the five commodity trade cards. Place tokens on all victory point spaces.

Step 2: Assign First Player
Deal each player one Builder card and have them roll a die to see who goes first.

Step 3: Construction Phase
Each players takes turns constructing buildings from their hand of cards and placing them onto their tableau (their play area). When a building has been placed, they gain production points accordingly if resources are available or can be purchased. The limit to the number of buildings that can be built during this phase is set by the highest production level in play at that time.

Step 4: Supply Phase
During this phase, players gain resources such as corn, tobacco, indigo, sugar, and coffee by buying them with coins or producing goods with buildings raised during the construction phase before. At this stage players must also draw new supply and victory point cards while also discarding any used production or supply cards.

Step 5: Production & Trade Phase
Using their resources from earlier in play players now produce goods shown on their buildings and collect points for doing so. Players now use goods collected to exchange for commodities showing on the trade wheel using trade agreements made beforehand with other players or taking goods from another player instead of from themselves to gain bonus points if relevant rules are met.

Step 6: Victory Point Collection & Cleanup Phase
Finally it is time for a clean-up of all remaining used cards & tokens on the board for when future rounds may begin. Players then collect any victory point markers showing matching commodities produced during this round & tally up their respective scores leading into final reckoning!


San Juan is a classic board game that has been around for decades. It is deceptively simple, yet offers plenty of strategy and replayability for hours of fun and competitiveness. Players build up their respective cities by constructing buildings from all seven categories – Den, Library, Mine, University, Harbor, Indigo Plantation, Laboratory. The objective of the game is to be the first player to build twelve buildings ” earning points in the process ” or to have the most points by the end of the round.

As San Juan can be adapted to fit different players’ needs and wants, several variations exist you can use to spice things up when you play:

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1) Simple: This version slows down the game pacing significantly and reduces interactions between players as a result. Only five buildings are allowed per turn as opposed to six making it an ideal way to teach new players how the game works while avoiding longer rounds.

2) Solo Variant: This variation allows those who prefer playing alone to enjoy a challenging single-player experience. The rules remain mostly unchanged with some adjustments made so that playing against yourself feels more like its regular variant.

3) Regio Variation:For this version of San Juan three versions are combined (Hacienda vs Quarry plus Builder vs Producer) which adds an extra layer of complexity not found in standard play-throughs. Players alternate between building insulating walls and collecting resources respectively instead of just constructing bulidings from multiple categories.

4) 2 Players Versus Option: If you have two skilled players at hand this variation can really heat up the competition as both take on each other directly due to differing objectives and gameplay styles based on action selection (multiple action selection vs single action selection). As a result an ultra-intense atmosphere ensues leading them towards inevitable victory or failure at all cost!


Strategy 1: Master the basics. Knowing how to play the core game and understanding each card’s effects is essential for winning the game. Develop a good understanding of how cards interact with one another and when it would be advantageous to build certain buildings.

Strategy 2: Manage your resources effectively. Review your available resources and utilize those that will create the most benefit for you in terms of victory points at the end of the game. Getting resources from factories may seem costly, but it can provide a lot of points if used wisely.

Strategy 3: Buy buildings strategically. Consider what other players already have built or what potential building plans they could make before deciding on a purchase. Your buying decisions should not only be based on what building you need to achieve victory, but also include an analysis of what buildings your opponents can construct to outshine you in terms of rewards.

Strategy 4: Focus on earning money first, then using it wisely second. Money (known as doubloons in San Juan) is essential for buying new buildings, so gather as much money as possible first and then use it to buy other expensive cards or buildings that others cannot afford yet, giving you more advantage over them if they do gain it by the end of the game.

Strategy 5: Embrace public works projects (VP tokens). VP Tokens are powerful allies since they grant extra bonus points at the endgame of San Juan and often securing those can decide who wins or not. Thus embracing them instead of shying away from them could help propel yourself ahead in victory point standings by a large margin!​


Playing San Juan is a great way to spend an afternoon with your friends. The game pieces are easy to manipulate and the basic rules of play make it a great way to exercise your strategy building skills. The main objective is to build the most impressive city on the island, gaining victory points as you go along. As you play, you use cards to produce resources, construct different buildings and earn bonus points. When all the buildings have been constructed and all card decks have been exhausted, it is time for scoring. The player with highest score wins! Playing San Juan can be great fun and provides absorbing entertainment; so grab some friends and give it a try today!

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