“ … Shall we play again?”
San Francisco is a city re-building game that is light and fun to play. It only takes two or three turns to understand the game mechanics. Once your friends get a hang of how to play they will want to explore the different paths to victory and try to maximise their score.
You take the role of an urban planner whose goal it is to ‘create the greatest redevelopment plan of the famous city in California’. You build over five districts with a maximum of five projects in each. You gain points for:
- The greatest speed.
- Using the most workmen.
- Building skyscrapers.
- Having the biggest cable car network.
This is an example of what a typical player board may look like towards the end of the game.
On your turn you can either add a new project card to the project board or take the projects under one section of the board. There are various bonuses to collect on the way but essentially this is a simple game with some lovely subtlety to every decision.
This is the project board (on the left) and the bonus board (on the right) set up as it might be in a 2-player game.
You can see three projects under each section of the board.
What I Enjoyed
The production quality is great, especially for a game that costs about £20. The little skyscrapers are cute; you feel a real sense of achievement when you build one. The cable cars are thematic and fun to use.
A winning score is usually about twelve points, so every point is important. The game feels very tight. One scoring counter that you collect is for two and a half points, and the half often makes a difference.
A game with two players typically takes thirty minutes. You can add fifteen minutes per additional player. San Francisco manages to develop a lovely tension towards the end of the game as players rush to complete their boards. You will often play twice in a row.
There is no real conflict in the game, apart from the possibility of someone taking the project that you have been waiting for. It is a friendly, calm game. You will find yourself discussing what you did, and did not, manage to build at the end of the game. Photos of completed boards are common.
Plays well at all player counts. In my opinion it is slightly more fun with three or four players because there is more jeopardy around the decisions of whether to add to the available projects or take those that are available.
What You May Not Enjoy
I have watched the review by “The Dice Tower”. They were uninspired by the game. There is a mechanic around contracts for projects which they found to be rather clunky. I disagree, and this aspect of the game does not hinder my enjoyment.
The game is only slightly more complex than ticket to ride. If you’re expecting a real brain-burner, this is not it. It is basically a family game.
Some people find the scoring and bonuses a bit fussy, but I think that the bonus board handles this very well.
What Else Might I Buy?
Parks: Similar in complexity and production value but costs twice as much.
Cascadia: Slightly less complex but more prone to analysis paralysis.
Ticket to ride: An all time classic but you probably have it already.
Abyss: Amazing art with great expansions available.
I would recommend San Francisco if you like quick family games with some depth. You will get a design that is awesome value; with 3-D pieces adding to the sense of construction. There is a big stack of project cards which gives the game good replay ability. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.