At a Glance: Santorini proves that a simple abstract game can still look amazing and not get stuck in the rut of predictable outcomes.
Santorini was originally self-published in 2004 by designer Gordon Hamilton as a stark white abstract game. Then in 2016 it finally got a widespread release and a great facelift, and now it is one of the most highly acclaimed games out there. The game accommodates 4 players but it is best with 2, as most traditional abstract strategy games are. Players start with 2 builders placed on a 5×5 grid board. Rules are very simple. On your turn, you first must Move one of your builders onto an adjacent space. Then you must Build with the builder you just moved. When you Build, you take a tower piece and place it on an adjacent space. There are 4 levels of the tower: 3 white levels, and a blue dome. The object is to get one of your builders to the 3rd level of a tower and you win. However if the tower is capped off by a blue dome, you cannot move your builder on it. You may only move up one level at a time. However, you can move down any number of levels. You can build on any level of a space you are adjacent to. For example, if you are on the ground, you may still place a blue dome on top of a 3rd level next to you. So, let’s stop right there. That’s all there is to the basic game, and it is excellent if that’s the only mode you ever played. There is a whole other dimension to the game that you may add with the God cards. Each God Card gives a special ability and these are drawn at the beginning of the game. It could be a cool ability like building an additional block on your turn, or it could even introduce a new Win Condition that means you might also win if there are 5 complete towers on the board.
With just the basic game, it becomes apparent that there is a lot of depth here. It is like one of those minute-to-learn, lifetime-to-master games. At first, you think, “I only have to make it to a top level?” Seems easy, right? Not so much. The relatively small grid and the ability to cap off a tower you’re adjacent to means you may have to do some blocking and force some strategic tic-tac-toe like conundrums on your opponent that they cannot stop. Once you introduce the God powers, this game is elevated to something really elite.
The pieces are AWESOME. It would be functional if it was just discs or tokens, but they went above and beyond with production and the 3D representation. It also comes with a plastic base to put the board on, which raises it like an island. Because…why not? This is my favorite game in the abstract strategy genre.
Check it out: https://amzn.to/2ShVRHQ