Author: Alan R. Moon /
Aaron Weissblum

Publisher: Ravensburger 2001

Awards: none



G@mebox author Marco Klasmayer writes about the game:


The background of this games is settled in the history of Venice in its heyday. A few aristocratic families rule the High Council with the Doge as their president. One more family will now be accepted onto the council. A mighty political battle begins. There are relentless attacks in the struggle for power in the separate quarters of Venice. Clever transferrals and momentous banishments are the order of the day. You will represent one of the families vying for election. You must use any and all means at your disposal to win the favor of the Doge. Gain the highest esteem and you will be the winner.


The goal of the game is to win majorities in the six districts of Venice (San Marco is an important quarter of Venice) by means of tactical action cards and hence collect as much prestige points as possible when the scoring occurs. The best score after three rounds wins and the appropriate family becomes a member of the High Council of Venice.

The start player of a round randomly determines the activity roles, which are two so called "distributors" and two "decision makers". In so doing, the start player becomes also the first "distributor". Each "distributor" draws 8 cards which he is allowed to look at. Both have to secretly divide these cards into two offers consisting of at least one card and pass them to the corresponding "decision makers". Each "decision maker" chooses one offer and performs the appropriate actions at his disposal. Then the "distributor" takes the remaining offer and plays the action cards.

There are six types of cards available:

  • District cards allow to place new aristocrates in order to gain control of this district.
  • With bridge cards you can build bridges between two districts of Venice and hence enables the owner of the bridge to move from one territory to the other (of course most streets of Venice are channels). If all 12 available bridges are occupied, this card allows to change ownership and position of an occupied bridge.
  • Transfer cards let one aristocrat change his loyalty, one opposing aristocrate will join your side.
  • Banishment cards force a distinct number of aristocrates (dice roll) in the same district to leave Venice.
  • Doge cards cause a scoring to occur in a district of choice. Each district has two values for prestige points, the higher value for the majority of aristocrates and the lower value for the second rank. The other players obtain no points.
  • Limit cards are penalty cards (with points from 1 to 3) and limit the player's capacity for activity. If one or more players have reached 10 or more limit points, the other players may play one more round and afterwards the current passage is over. Limit cards cannot be discarded or given to other players. They have to be placed face up in front of the player who has chosen the offer. So these limit cards make a card offer unattractive in contrast to the above mighty action cards.


San Marco has made the 7th rank at the "Deutscher Spielepreis" awards in 2001. By the way the successful duo of Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum was also honoured for "CAPITOL" (5th rank) and "DAS AMULETT" (10th rank) in the same year.

The rules are less complex but provide a lot of tactical elements. The most interesting point is, that the order of activity varies randomly and the actions to be performed in each round have to be carefully selected by the two "distributors". Of course each "distributor" follows his own interests, but the "decision maker" selects the cards and plays the turn before the "distributor". So the two "distributors" have to consider the opponent's tactic and weigth the two offers with limit cards in order to keep their own chances. On the other hand this scheme of card offering and choosing restricts the game to short range tactics. After one single round the balance of power in the districts has often changed dramatically. It is not advisible to follow a strategy e.g. concentrate on one special district to control and defend. This poses a disadvantage of San Marco, there is no real identification with the aristocratic families. There are no characteristics or special abilities and something like a "home base" does not exist. However, the best way to play this game is simply to realize his chances to score per turn. Nevertheless if you prefer "pure" tactical games you will likely enjoy San Marco.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany