San Marco: Rules

A challenging family game for 3 - 4 players from the age of 10.
• Authors: Alan R. Moon /Aaron Weissblum
• Illustration: A. Cimatoribus
• Design: Kinetic, Ravensburger
Ravensburger game no. 26240 3

    1 Game Board
100 Aristocrats (25 of each color)
    8 Prestige Stones (2 of each color)
  12 Bridges
  62 Action Cards:
        30 District Cards (5 each for Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, Marco, Dorsoduro, Castello),
          6 Bridge Cards,
        12 Transfer Cards,
        10 Doge Cards,
          4 Banishment Cards,
        28 Limit Cards: 8 worth 1, 10 worth 2, 10 worth 3
    1 Doge
    1 Die
    1 Marking Stone (orange)

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 transferals 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.

Using their tactical skills in sharing and playing the cards, the players attempt to win majorities in the six city districts, in order to gain as many prestige points as possible when scoring occurs. The player who has collected the most points after three passages wins the game.

The Game board shows the six districts of Venice, which are surrounded by Canal Grande and other canals. Each district is marked with two numbers representing its prestige values. When a district scores, the player who has the most aristocrats in that district receives prestige points equal to the higher number. The player with the second most aristocrats receives the lower number. All the others go empty-handed. The dice illustrated in the areas are only significant at the beginning when the aristocrats are being brought into action.

The prestige track runs along the game board's outer edge. This is where the players' prestige points are recorded. The roles of the players are shown in each round on the stone tablet, which is at the top on the right-hand side.

After each passage the marking stone gets moved on the sundial, which is situated on the bottom right hand corner of the board.
(Due to the technicalities of play, the game board is not an actual copy of a Venetian street map.)

The game for 4 people is explained on the following pages. You can find the adaptation of the game for 3 people at the end of these rules.

The game board is placed in the middle of the table. Each player chooses a color and receives:
• 25 aristocrats
•   2 prestige stones
•   1 bridge

All the players put one of their prestige stones on the "0" square of the prestige track. The other prestige stones are placed on the stone tablet in the top right hand corner of the board.

To begin with, the marking stone (orange) is placed on the number "1 " square of the sundial. This is moved forward one square after each passage.

The Doge, the die, and the remaining bridges are placed beside the game board.

The action and limit cards are sorted, shuffled well, and put face down in two separate decks beside the game board.

Each player throws the die 4 times in a row and with each throw, places 2 aristocrats into one district according to the result. For example, if a player throws a "6", then he places 2 aristocrats in the Castello district. If a player throws the same number four times in a row, he may reroll the fourth roll until he gets a different number. Each player keeps his remaining aristocrats in front of him as his reserve.

Beginning with the oldest player and proceeding clockwise each player puts his bridge onto the game board. The bridge should be placed so it links two adjacent districts. Each player puts an aristocrat in his color onto his bridge. This aristocrat denotes the bridge's ownership. No more than three bridges may link any two districts. The oldest player starts the game, and the starter changes after every round in a clockwise direction.

The game progresses through three passages. Each passage consists of a variable number of rounds. Players use the action and limit cards to fight for prestige points.

The player who begins each round casts the parts (he decides the roles each player will take during the round). Here one must differentiate between the players who share out the cards, (ie. a distributor) and those who decide to take a pile (i.e. a decision-maker).

A player who takes on the role of distributor draws action and limit cards and divides these into two offers; one for the decision-maker and one for himself. A player who takes on the role of the decision-maker, chooses one of these offers and plays these cards accordingly. The distributor then plays with the remaining cards.

Specific procedures:

The starter places his prestige stone on the upper left-hand side of the stone tablet. In so doing, he becomes the first distributor. Then he takes his fellow players' prestige stones, mixes them randomly in his lap, and draws them out one at a time.

He puts the first stone he draws on the square beneath his own stone. This player will be the first decision-maker for this round.

Then he draws the other two stones from his lap, one at a time, and places them on the free spaces on the right-hand side, beginning at the top. The players of these colors, become the second distributor and the second decision-maker respectively.

The two distributors each take 5 action and 3 limit cards. Both distributors then secretly divide these eight cards into two offers. Each offer must always contain at least one card. When he has finished dividing the cards, the distributor should place the two offers face down on the table. Both of the offers could contain 4 cards each, or they could be divided into 5 and 3, or 6 and 2, or even into 7 and 1 card offers.

Hint: The limit cards negatively influence the value of the action cards. The illustration below shows two offers. At first glance, one of the offers seems very attractive but this offer carries very high limit points, while the other relatively unattractive looking offer carries only a single limit point.

The starter (i.e. the first distributor) turns both of his offers face up. Now it's the first decision-maker's turn. He looks at both of the offers and chooses one of them. He places the limit cards in front of himself and resolves the action cards in whichever order he wishes. His turn is then over.

After that, it is the starter's (i.e. the first distributor) turn. He claims the leftover cards, places the limit cards in front of himself and resolves the action cards in whichever order he wishes. Then the second distributor and the second decision-maker proceed in the same way.

All of the played action cards get put beside the game board and become the discard pile. The limit cards stay face up in front of the players until the passage is complete. The role of the starter gets passed on, in a clockwise direction, at the beginning of every new round.


A player may take an aristocrat from his reserve and place it on the game board by playing a district card. The player has two possibilities in carrying out this action, either: a) he puts the aristocrat in the district which is portrayed on the card, or b) he puts it in the district which is portrayed on the card and then crosses over one of his own bridges, into a neighbouring district (he may only move across one bridge during this action, not more).
Example: Ben has finked Castello with San Marco using one of his own bridges. Using a 'Castello' district card enables him to install his aristocrat either in Castello or in San Marco.

A player can take another bridge from the common supply and place it on the board, by playing a bridge card. He joins any two districts, (remembering that not more than 3 bridges from different players are allowed between two districts!) and puts one of his aristocrats onto the bridge to denote his ownership. If all 12 bridges are already in place on the game board, he may take over another player's bridge, in its current position, or he may transfer it elsewhere. In both cases he replaces someone else's aristocrat with his own. The exchanged aristocrat is returned to its owner.

A player can remove an opposing aristocrat from whichever district he chooses, replacing it with one of his own aristocrats by playing a transfer card. The transferred aristocrat is returned to its owner.

A player can remove aristocrats from a district by playing a banishment card. He first names the district from which he would like to banish aristocrats. Subsequently, he throws the die and removes the number of aristocrats equal to the result. These aristocrats are returned to their respective owners.
Warning: If the resulting number of dots on the die are more than the number of opposing aristocrats, then (provided that they are available), the player's own aristocrats must also be banished from the district.
Example: Anna decides to use her banishment card and chooses to banish the San Marco district. ?here, Ben, Christopher and herself f have each installed two aristocrats. Anna throws a "five" and now, as we!! as the four opposing aristocrats, has to banish one of her own out of San Marco.

Playing a Doge card causes scoring to occur in one district. The first time a Doge card is played, the player must place the Doge in any district on the board. This district is immediately scored (See "Scoring. The scoring players' prestige stones are moved along the prestige track.

For all subsequent Doge cards, use the following procedure. The player who plays the Doge card decides whether to score the district in which the Doge is currently located, or another district. If he decides on another district, then the Doge can only reach this chosen district by crossing one or more bridges. Crossing over one's own bridges is free of charge. If a player moves the Doge across bridges belonging to other players, he must pay one prestige point to the player who owns the bridge for each such bridge he uses.

If the district in which the Doge is standing is not linked up to any other district by a bridge, then a player can give up two prestige points and put the Doge in a directly neighbouring district. From this position, it is possible for the Doge to be moved over further bridges.

Playing multiple Doge cards enables a player to score the same district repeatedly or to score different districts.

Limit cards
are penalty cards. They limit the players' capacity for activity. If a player's offer includes limit cards then he must display these openly in front of himself for all to see. They remain in front of him until the end of the passage. If at the end of a round a player has 10 or more limit points, then the passage is over for him. (See below - "THE END OF A PASSAGE")

The two numbers printed in each district show how many prestige points may be won by the first and second place players. The player who has the most aristocrats in the district being scored receives prestige points equal to the higher number. The second most strongly represented player scores the lower number of points. If several players are tied for the most aristocrats in a district, each of these players receives the lower number of points, and no player receives the higher number.
Examples of an evaluation in the San Marco district:
1. Anna has placed four, Ben three and Christopher one aristocrat in San Marco. Anna, therefore scares eight points; Ben coming second scores six points; and Christopher has to go without.
2. Anna and Ben have both placed two aristocrats in San Marco and Christopher, only one. Anna and Ben each score six points. Christopher has to go without.
3. Anna has placed five aristocrats in San Marco. Ben and Christopher are represented there by three aristocrats each. Anna scores eight points, but Ben and Christopher have to go without.

A passage is drawing to a close as soon as one or more players reach or exceed 10 limit points. During the round when a player acquires 10 or more limit points, the player always completes his turn by playing his action cards. After he completes his turn, the passage is over for him.

* If after this round 2 players still haven't received 10 limit points, then they play exactly one more round according to the usual rules, even though in this case there is only one distributor and one decision-maker. Following this, the passage is over regardless of the rest of the players' number of limit points.

* If 3 players still haven't received 10 limit points, then these also play exactly one more round according to the rules for 3 players (see below). After that, the passage is over regardless of the rest of the players' number of limit points.

A passage is immediately over when three, or possibly all the players, reach or exceed 10 limit points.

Now, it's time to evaluate all of the players' limit points. There are bonus points for anyone who has fewer than 10 limit points. These can be calculated by subtracting one's own limit points from the highest number of limit points.

As well as this, whoever has the least number of limit points is allowed to perform an extra "banishment" action (no card is required, but the action is performed as if the player played the card). If several players all have the fewest limit points, then none of them are allowed to perform this extra banishment action.

Example: 21 t the end of a round, Anna has 3 limit points, Ben has 6, Christopher has 10 and Diana has 12. The passage is therefore over for Christopher and Diana. Anna and Ben can carry on for another round after which, their passage also comes to an end Now Anna owns 6 limit points and Ben, 9. Anna gets 6 prestige points, (12-6=6) and is also allowed to perform an extra banishment action. Ben also stayed under 10 limit points and is therefore awarded 3 prestige points (12-9=3). With this, the passage is over.

The next passage starts just like before, with the starter the player to the left of the previous starting player. The discarded action cards get reshuffled with the deck. In the same way, the players' limit cards get shuffled with the limit card pile. The marking stone on the sundial is advanced one space.

After the third passage is completed including the banishment action, the game draws to a close with a final scoring of every district, regardless of whether the Doge is present or not. Whoever has the most prestige points has won. In the case of a draw, the winner is whoever has employed the most aristocrats in San Marco.

Note: Every time aristocrats get removed from the game board, they are then returned to their owners. Doing this means that they are again at the players' disposal. If despite this a player finds himself in the situation of being without aristocrats in his own reserve, then he may use his own cards to transfer his aristocrats on the game board.

The rules for three players are the same as those for four players, with the exception of the following:

At the beginning of the game, every player receives two bridges instead of just one. These are put into position one after another and marked with the players' aristocrats.

The starter is the sole distributor. He puts his prestige stone onto the square on the top, left hand corner of the stone tablet. One by one, he takes both of the other hidden stones, and places them onto the two lower spaces. The player in the lowest space is the second decision-maker and the player above him is the first decision-maker.

The starter takes 6 action and 4 limit cards (instead of 5 action and 3 limit cards). He divides these into 3 offers. In this instance as well, every offer has to be made up of at least one card. In the case of one player dropping out, the other two carry on playing with the normal rules, and the starter divides 5 action and 3 limit cards into two offers.

The distributor makes his three offers, laying them openly in front of himself. The first decision-maker begins by having his turn, followed by the second decision-maker, and concluding with the distributor.


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