We played San Juan first and since its one we have played before we finished in about a half hour. I ended up winning but not by much. Flare used her typical "stinky pete" strategy which mainly focuses on her picking the prospector nearly every turn. Normally I wouldn't advise going this route but truth be told she won the first game of San Juan using this strategy, so what do I know. Wookie went invested heavily on the production plant side which was bringing him in a great deal of cards towards the end of the game. Had I not been able to end the game so quickly Wookie clearly would have won. I was able to eek out victory largely because I had an early silver mine on the table (the best of the 5 production buildings), a quarry, a library and a tower. The library and quarry allowed me to build two big 6 cost buildings for only 3 when I choose the builder. I think the library might be a little over-powered but its hard to say just yet.
The second game we played was Princes of Florence. This has been one I have been wanting to break out for awhile (I got it for Christmas and had yet to play it till last night). Since none of us had played the first couple rounds were a bit confusing as I was trying to explain the rules when I didn't have a great grasp of them myself. San Juan was certainly a lot simpler to play and understand than PoF.
In PoF each player gets there own board (similar to Puerto Rico). The idea is to generate the greatest amount of prestige points through completion of works. You need artisans, scholars and theologians to finish these works for you though. These professionals each thrive in certain environments. The more closely your home/palazzo matches the environment that they thrive in the greater the value of the work they produce. The gameplay is a mix of each player trying to improve their own palazzo while simultaneously trying to produce works. When a player produces a work they get an amount of money equal to the value of the work produced. At that time and only at that time they can receive Prestige Points (victory points) instead of actual cash for the value of the work. What this does is create an interesting decision point (do I get more cash to build more building and improvements on my property or take more PP which are what actually determine victory). The building of improvements and buildings on the property is also an interesting spatial relations challenge. This is a result of the buildings all being shaped like complicated Tetris blocks combined with rules not allowing buildings to be placed right next to each other and not allowing anything to move once its placed. The downside of this aspect of the game is that you can very easily screw yourself with poor building/improvement placement at the beginning of the game. The game is played for a total of 7 turns and each turn is broken into 2 phases. The first phase is the auction phase and this really the phase that keeps this game from becoming multiplayer solitaire. The second phase is the action phase where players build buildings, complete works, and look for new professionals. The game does a great job of giving you the feeling that you never have enough time or actions to do everything you want to do (so you have to make tough decisions).
I enjoyed the game as did Wookie but both of us agreed that it needs at least 4 players if not 5 to make it really interesting. With just 3 it was too easy for one player to get in the lead and basically never be caught. Flare hated the game mostly because of the spatial relations aspect of improving your palazzo (she admits to not being very good at those types of tasks). Overall though I feel this is very deep strategic game that has a great many balanced strategies that could all lead to victory. We played in about an hour and a half. With 5 people that all knew how to play you could complete a game in about that same time. However analysis paralysis is a possibility (I am especially guilty of this) so dont be shy in the player nudging ("Yo Ves, a turn completion sometime before Duke Nukem Forever shows up on store shelves would be nice!!").