San Juan Strategy

Over the holidays I had the opportunity to play Puerto Rico for the first time. I loved the gameplay, and the economic elements. After that, I looked for it in digital version and found San Juan. A card game based on the Puerto Rico board game. The elements are very similar and fun to play.

The game is complex, and takes a lot of planning and some luck to win, but it is a lot of fun. The digital version takes between 20-30 minutes to complete.

Here is the strategy.

  1. Build something good on your first or second turn: (don’t waste the first build)
  2. Build either a Library, or a Smithy as soon as possible
  3. Take the Councilor role in early turns to get a Guild Hall
  4. After building the Library and/or Smithy, take the build action often, and if not, take the Prospector
  5. Always build something when possible in later turns, focusing on Production Buildings
  6. Play the Guild Hall in one of the 8-10 spots
  7. End the game quickly after that


Build something good on your first turn:

In the first round, everyone starts out with some cards, so you may be tempted to build something when the build role is drawn. If you don’t have something good, just wait until the next round. At that point, the other players won’t be able to build anything, and it gives you a few more cards to get something good. I like to play the Library, Smithy, a Coffee Roaster, or a Silver Smelter.

Build the Library and/or Smithy

You want to give yourself an advantage that will last throughout the game. This strategy focusses on winning big with the Guild Hall, so the inexpensive Smithy will help you get production cards out, or the more expensive Library will always give you an advantage on your turn. If you can get both of them out early, it is even better.


Get and keep the Guild Hall

The Guild Hall is the linchpin to this strategy. You can win without it, but it will be very difficult. This card is very powerful, so the other players will also be looking to grab it. Give yourself an advantage by taking the Councilor card. This will get you through a lot of cards very quickly to get what you want, especially if you already played the library.

Once you have the Guild Hall, don’t play it yet. You need to get cards out that will help you throughout the game, not just at the end.

I like to hold onto the Guild Hall until your 8th slot, or as soon after that as you can play it.


Build Often

When you have the chance, take the build role. If you have the Library and/or Smithy out, you can very cheaply play production cards. This will further increase your chance for cards, and give you tons of points. If you can’t Build, take the Prospector role. With the Library, the prospector gives you two free cards and doesn’t help anyone else out.

In addition to taking the build card, it is helpful to have some cheap cards in your hand to build anytime someone takes the build card. This is a tricky part of the game to balance, but if you don’t build every time you have an option to build, you can end up with tons of open spaces at the end of the game, I like the indigo cards because they are free to build with the Smithy, and are worth 3 points with the Guild hall.

End Game

If you are building as much as possible, you will end the game at 12 buildings and will have filled the most of your spaces with production cards, thus gaining tons of points

This strategy requires a few key cards, and you won’t always get them. You can adapt the strategy as needed, but if you don’t get the Guild Hall, you may be better off building victory point cards towards the end.

Below is a picture of an almost perfect game that I had. This won’t always happen, but I have been able to get pretty close a few times. Just play it the best you can with what you have.



Good luck! And let me know how it goes.

Here is some more background on San Juan from BoardGameGeek:

San Juan is a card game based on Puerto Rico. The deck of 110 cards consists of production buildings (indigo, sugar, tobacco, coffee, and silver) and “violet” buildings that grant special powers or extra victory points. Cards from the hand can be either built or used as money to build something else; cards from the deck are used to represent goods produced by the production buildings, in which case they are left face-down. A seven-card hand limit is enforced once per round.

In each round (or governorship), each player in turn selects from one of the available roles, triggering an event that usually affects all players, such as producing goods or constructing buildings. The person who picks the role gets a privilege, such as producing more goods or building more cheaply.

Though similar in concept to Puerto Rico, the game has many different mechanisms. In particular, the game includes no colonists and no shipping of goods; goods production and trading are normally limited to one card per phase, and trades cannot be blocked. Victory points are gained exclusively by building, and the game ends as soon as one player has put up twelve buildings.”


Here is the strategy.


Greenfield: a Supply Chain Strategy Game

I like to have projects that work on different parts of my brain. That way, when one part of my brain is tired, I can work on something else that strengthens another part of my brain.

I’m finally ready to reveal one of my more recent projects. I suggested to my manager a few months back an idea to develop a board game to teach Supply Chain strategic thinking. That project has since come to fruition.

With a small budget and a percentage of time from an artist and a graphic designer, we developed a board game that meets the following criteria.

  1. Fun to play
  2. Simulates reality (OK, so it isn’t perfect, but it gets the idea across.)
  3. Teaches people how to think about supply chain strategy
  4. Looks great

It is not quite finished, but I think we have accomplished just that.

Tim Kamarul is the artist for the box and the Distribution Center Tokens. I’m really happy with the colors and especially like the truck.

Jimbo Raleigh designed the board and the cards and did an excellent job dealing with my frequent requests to tweak one thing or another.



Stay tuned, I’ll continue to post updates as things move along.


Footnote: a Greenfield in a supply chain is when you need to build a new Distribution Center, and you can put it anywhere you want. It is a green field.

Onirim Strategy

Have you ever had a bad dream that you can’t wake up from? For me, it is always me trying to run, but not being able to move. I have found that my arms still work in these dreams, so I am able to drag myself along to try to escape. This cooperative game is based on that kind of dream.

In Onirim, you are trapped inside a dream and have to figure out how to escape by finding keys, doors, and matching locations to unlock enough doors to escape. The game is very fun to play, but it is also very hard to win. The deck is stacked against you. Additionally, you are going to have to shuffle those cards a lot, so if your shuffling technique is 52 card pickup, this is not the game for you. (Fortunately, they just released an app version of the game that shuffles for you.)

Here is my strategy, but you will still lose 50% of the time, roughly.

  1. Discard your keys to gain information and kill the nightmares
  2. Target all the same color so you can safely discard the remainder
  3. If a Nighmare card appears, do the following if possible.
    1. Use a key
    2. Lose 5 cards if you have a set or moon cards in your hand
    3. Discard your hand if you don’t need the cards there.
  4. Calculate the remaining cards so that you don’t discard something necessary

Discarding Keys

The game allows you to do a few things with keys.

  1. If you have a key in your hand and draw a door, you automatically unlock it
  2. If you draw a Nightmare, you can kill it with a key in your hand
  3. You can discard a key to rearrange the top five cards of the deck and discard one.

I like to use the key to rearrange the top cards because you usually will remove a Nightmare card, and you can arrange the cards to get exactly what you need in the order that you need them. Additionally, if you draw cards you don’t want, but there is a door, you can put that first in line to give you a chance to reshuffle to get what you need.

There are a few caveats to this.

  1. Don’t discard a key if it is the only way left to open that color of door
  2. Don’t discard a key if you already know what the next draws are, wait until you actually need it
  3. Don’t discard the key for the color you are focussing on.

Target a Color

In your initial draw, you will have more of one color. Start with this one and try to open all the doors of that color. If you do, it gives you significant leverage for the rest of the game in discarding those colors of cards. There are more Red and Blue cards than Green and Brown, so consider going for Red or Blue because you have better chances. (That being said, don’t discard your Green and Brown, or you won’t be able to complete the in the end.)

The caveat to this is that you don’t want to completely ignore the other colors. Take advantage of whatever appears to maximize your chance of winning.

Nightmare Appearance

Almost always kill a nightmare with a key if you have one, unless it is your only chance to open a door. If you don’t have a key, you have to decide which is worse. If you have the cards you need to open a door, and especially if you have moon cards, you are better off discarding from the top of the deck. If you don’t need the cards in your hand, discard them instead.

Calculate Winning Needs

There are 16 red, 15 blue, 14 green and 13 brown cards. Each set of cards only has 4 moons, so don’t discard them if you can help it. If you know you have already used or discarded all the moons, you know you can’t discard the keys for that color. Often, you will know that the game cannot be won before you get to the end of the deck.

Have fun, I hope your dreams come true.

What other strategies have worked for you?

Pandemic Strategy (Guest Blog)

I’ve invited my brother-in-law Joseph Erickson to post his thoughts around Pandemic strategy. Cooperative board games are great to play with kids because you can lead them along. One of the best is Pandemic. Joseph discusses it below, but I want to add that one of the keys to cooperative games is to let people play. Don’t dominate the game on your own, allow everyone to participate, even if it means a sub-optimal move. You can give suggestions, but if you are the game controller, people will leave with a bad taste in their mouth. Now to Joseph.


Do you always seem to win at board games? Or perhaps you feel you are consistently on the losing side when you play? Maybe board games often result in fighting. If you’ve had any of these issues, then I would recommend playing a cooperative board game. Your friends become your teammates and your foe becomes the game itself. High on the list of great cooperative games is Pandemic.

When I think of possible outcomes for Pandemic, one “blonde” joke comes to mind. There was a redhead, a brunette, and a blonde on an island. They decided they would take their chances and swim the 50 miles back to the mainland. The redhead swam 20 miles and couldn’t go any farther and drowned. The brunette swam 30 miles, but met the same fate. The blonde swam 49 miles and decided she was too tired, so she swam all the way back to the island. Pandemic can be just like this. Either you will die trying to win, or you will spend a lot of energy “swimming” but forget what the actual goal is.

Pandemic is about saving the world. There are 4 different diseases that are spreading each turn. Your job is to find the cures before time runs out. There are many ways to find the cures, but there are also many ways where the board game beats you.

This brings me to the first key to the game – remember what it takes to win. Every time someone has a turn it is a good idea to ask, “Is this helping us get a cure?” Four cures is all you have to do to beat the game. There can still be many disease pieces on the game board.  You can have several outbreaks. While it is important to keep tabs on the many ways you can lose to the board game, focusing on getting the cures give you the best chance to win.

The next key is to maximize. This game is a good lesson in basic economics because every turn has trade-offs. You can choose to remove disease pieces or trade city cards or move to another city. While most of the time doing anything is helpful, there is usually a better choice to stay on track for the win. As often as possible use all 4 moves that you are given. Perhaps remove a disease piece before moving the three times to your intended city.

Another key to Pandemic is to understand and utilize all special powers. Each player will be given a role card that has a particular power. Use this power often. It is a valuable advantage. There are also event cards. Don’t forget about these after they’ve been drawn. These cards have kept me alive or made a big difference in winning many times. All these powers are there to give you an advantage because the game can be pretty impossible without them.

The final key or strategy for Pandemic is communication. This is a cooperative game, so work together. Ask each other for ideas and openly discuss what should be done every turn. Not only will this bring out the best ideas, but it will also make the game more fun.

Lord of the Rings: Confrontation Strategy

This is my all-time favorite two-player game. The complexities of strategy along with the simplicity of play make it accessible but extremely satisfying.

My brother and I had been playing this game one night many years ago. It was the day before he left on a two-year mission for our church. He ended up sneaking in a win at the last part of the game. At that point, it was pretty late, so we went to bed. I kept playing the game over and over in my mind, and an hour or two later, I went to his room and tried to get him to play one more time. He refused flat out!

This gave me the opportunity to think about how to beat him for two years. When he did finally return, we had our fated rematch and I came out victorious! My family still reminds me about this every time the game comes out.

The game itself has the fellowship of the ring fighting to get Frodo into Mordor while facing hordes of overpowered servants of the dark lord Sauron. You move pieces around like Stratego on a grid and face off in battles. It is quick to learn, and each game can be completed in 15 minutes.



The strategy for LOTR: Confrontation is very complex. There isn’t one great thing to do because once your opponent knows your strategy, it is completely obsolete. Refer to my post on what to do when people know your strategy for tips on other games, but in this game, you can’t have one set strategy. What you can do is know the strengths and weaknesses of each character and take advantage of them as much as possible.

I will lay out the strategies for each character on each side, and then talk about general strategies.


The Fellowship

Unit Good For/Against Bad Against
Gandolf Sarumon
Cave Troll
Flying Nazgul
Black Rider
Orcs (Watch out for Orcs when trying to bring out Gandolf the White)
Boromir 5 point characters Warg
Legolas Flying Nazgul All others
Gimli Orcs All others
Aragorn Sarumon Level 5 Units
Merry Witch-King All others
Pippin Scouting only Warg
Sam Staying with Frodo With Frodo, no one
Frodo No One! Run away! Everyone!

Your goal early on should be to kill as many of Sauron’s minions as possible while preparing a path for Frodo to sneak through.

Gandolf is your main killer. He has an advantage over almost everyone, but don’t get tricked into sacrificing him to the Orcs. Use Pippin to test for weaknesses and attack characters with less than 5 with Gandolf. Eventually, you will end up getting killed by a 5 character, but then prepare to come back as Gandolf the white.


Sauron’s Minions

Unit Good For/Against Bad Against
Balrog Protecting the tunnel
All Characters (but Boromir)
Noble Sacrifice
Shelob All Characters (but Boromir) Warg
Witch-King All Characters (but Boromir and Merry) All others
Flying Nazgul Scouting
Black Rider Scouting
Saruman Rushing past Gandolf and killing all weak characters Gandolf
Orcs Gandolf Gimli
Warg Pippin
All others
Cave Troll One free kill Gandolf

Sauron has a distinct military advantage, but the fellowship can whittle away at your army until you can’t stop Frodo. If you can sneak past Gandolf, Saruman can do some excellent damage to the Fellowship. Use your 5 characters and sacrifice yourself to Gandolf. Guard the Gandolf the White space to ensure he doesn’t return.

You want to kill enough characters that you can force Frodo to move towards you. Whenever you attack Frodo, you open yourself up to him sneaking through, so if you can trap his movements and require him to attack you, you can usually win.


This is a great game. I suggest you pick up a copy and play often.



King of Tokyo Strategy

This is a top 3 game for my 8-year-old girl. She loves taking a big handful of dice and shaking them out. She also loves the giant monsters and the powers you can gain.

Here is the strategy:

  1. Get in Tokyo early
  2. Collect energy in early turns
  3. Choose a winning strategy and focus on it
    1. Kill everyone
    2. Risky Tokyo points
    3. Extra turns
    4. Sneaky slow ramp up with a quick ending.

Get in Tokyo

Anytime throughout the game, when your points are higher than 7 or 8, you want to get into Tokyo. Early in the game, this is very useful because opponents have not acquired high attacking powers and they are often trying to get energy. You can usually get 5-7 free points before you have to make a retreat.

Depending on the other players’ upgrades, you want to exit Tokyo when your points drop below 4. Anything less than that can lead you to an early demise.


To win the game you really need to upgrade your skills. Collect energy in early turns to prepare you for the future. If you are getting the points from being in Tokyo, you can spend the rest of your dice trying to get energy.

Win Strategies

Choosing your winning strategy depends on the available cards to purchase. You really won’t know what you will be able to do until you see what is available.

Killing everyone

This is my favorite strategy because it ends before people know what hit them. Stay middle of the pack, attacking here and there and collecting energy and cards, but purchase the upgrades that give you extra attacks and multiple player attacks.

Once the game gets going and you have enough offensive upgrades, attack relentlessly against the players with the least life. The other advantage of the attacking strategy is that you will often get extra points by being in Tokyo, so if you need to back away from the attacking strategy, you could still win on points

Risky Tokyo points

Another strategy that can sometimes work is to try to stay in Tokyo as long as possible. You can squeeze just a few more points out of Tokyo and exit around 2 life points.

Collect upgrades that give you advantages in Tokyo: healing, extra attacks, defense, etc.

This strategy can pay off well but often leaves you vulnerable to the killing strategy.

Extra Turns

You can also win just by having a bunch of extra turns. Target the cards that give you extra turns for your roles. Play as normal, but take advantage of the extra turns to take the lead.

Sneaky Strike

All your strategies should employ some elements of the sneaky strike. If you get ahead in the game to0 quickly early on, the other players will collude to eliminate you. You need to be in the middle of the pack, slowly collecting points and upgrades until you are ready to make your move.

Collect a lot of energy and stay alive in the game. Purchase cards that will increase your chances of getting points later in the game. Cards that increase the value of your rolls, give you more dice to roll or change your roll scoring conditions are all great cards for the sneaky strike.

Then, when you feel you are close, buy up any victory point cards and hope for the right roles.

In all of these strategies, you need to keep the target off of your back by staying close to the pack, but preparing for the end.


What other strategies have you used?




Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Review

I got a text yesterday to see if I wanted to play a game last night. I was free at 9 PM, and I figured that I would be done by 10:30 or so. This was a gross underestimate. X-wing, it turns out, involves choosing ships, upgrades, and characters before the game even starts. This being my first time, and following my own Strategy For your Strategy blog, I had to read through a huge stack of cards to come up with a strategy as well as learn the rules.

We finally started the game around 10, and it lasted until a little after midnight. It may sound like I didn’t enjoy it, but the funny thing is, I loved all of it! A lot of the fun was figuring out what combination of cards will work together, and then try to implement the strategy while keeping track of what everyone else is trying to do.

In X-wing, you play the side of the Empire, the Rebellion, or the Scum (bounty hunters, etc). You choose ships and go through phases of movement and attacking. The ships move in the way regular ships should move, and if you don’t plan your flight path, you could find yourself crashing into an asteroid.

It has been awhile that I have had a hard time sleeping because my brain was trying to figure out the strategy for a game, but last night, I couldn’t stop. I love this game.

My only issue is the length of play. Now that I know the rules, I think it could be completed in an hour and a half with 20 minutes of prep, but this isn’t going to work for some people.

You can even modify the game to play with kids by removing the upgrade cards. It is fun to play and will teach them spatial reasoning skills and some planning and strategy. Additionally, the sweet space ships make the game awesome to play.