Game Review – Santorini

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What do youthful versions of gods do for fun? They compete against each other to see who’s the best at guiding civilians at constructing a city in the Aegean Sea, of course! The young gods had so much fun doing this, they decided to turn it into a competitive game. The name of this game is Santorini, and just as swiftly as the city was built up, it was smashed by Ares for a new set of gods to compete against each other. Can inspire your workers to build smarter and quicker than anyone else?

Designer: Dr. Gord Hamilton
Artist: Lina Cossette, David Forest
Publisher: Roxley Games
Genre: Abstract, Grid Movement, Variable Player Powers
Players: 2-4
Play Time: 10-20 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 15

Buy it on Amazon (via He Said, She Said Games)

Skip ahead to find out:
Game Overview
Game Play
What He Said
What She Said
Our Pros and Cons
The Verdict

Game Overview

img_2929In Santorini, players each become a Greek God as they aid the island’s citizens in building their city. Both help in building the city, but only the god who claims the highest spot in the city is declared the winner. Each god is given a team of two workers to represent them in the construction of the city. Workers will be given special abilities by their god to aid them in building the city quicker, such as the strength to construct multiple building in one turn, enhancing endurance to move across the city quicker, or even the ability to strike down opposing workers. Can you outwit your fellow gods as you guide one of your workers to be the first to reach the highest point in Santorini?

Game Play

img_2922In Santorini, players get a team of two workers that can be placed anywhere on the map at the beginning of the game. On a player’s turn, they can move one of their workers to any adjacent space and then must build a level of a tower on any adjacent space (including diagonally). There are some restrictions to a worker’s movement:

  • Cannot move into a space that has another worker on it
  • Cannot move up more than one level in a single movement
  • Can move down any number of levels in a single movement

The restrictions for the build step are:

  • Every building must go in sequential order (1->2->3->dome)
  • Workers can construct a building level on any unoccupied adjacent space
  • If a tower has a dome, it is considered a complete tower

Players will continue these steps until a worker is able to move up to the third level of a tower. The game will also end if a player is unable to move and build on their turn. The first player to move one of their workers to the top of a level three tower is the winner!

img_2908Gods Variant
It’s recommended to play a game or two without any God Powers to gain an understanding of how the game works. God Powers will modify the game rules for each player, depending on which god they get. There are two levels of gods in the game – simple and advanced. The simple gods tweak the rules a little bit and are a good starting spot when playing the first couple of times. The advanced gods change the game quite a bit, and like the name suggests, are probably better suited for someone who has played the game a few times. In a two player game, all gods can be played, but there are certain match ups that are “banned” due to how their powers can counteract each other. These banned match ups are all indicated in the rule book and on the god cards as well.

Three & Four Player games
Santorini can be played with three or four players with the one exception being that only gods with the three or four player icon on them can be used in the game. The four player game plays a little differently with players pairing off in teams and each player having their own individual god. Players are only allowed to use their own god power and the team with the first worker to move onto a level three building wins.

img_2935Golden Fleece & Heroes
The Golden Fleece expansion, that comes with the Kickstarter version of the game, adds another variant, new gods, and “Hero” cards to the mix. In the golden fleece variant, the starting player will place the golden fleece statue on any space on the board. There will then only be one god card (with the golden fleece icon) placed off to the side of the board. During the game, if players have a worker next to the golden fleece statue, they have access to the god power. If they stray too far away from the statue with both of their workers, they’ll lose the assistance of that god power.

Lastly, hero cards are a new type of card that cannot be used with the golden fleece variant and can be chosen in place of a god during a god variant game. The main difference between a god card and a hero card is that a hero card can only be used once per game. It’s because of this limitation that the game recommends that both players select hero cards when adding them to the game.

He Said

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Ever since first seeing Disney’s Hercules as a kid, I developed an interest in Greek mythology. The animated representation of the gods is so cool with each of them having their own distinct appearance that prominently displays what realm they rule over.

In the game Santorini, there are a plethora of gods, goddesses, titans, and muses that are beautifully animated onto their cards. The art style reminds me of baby Hercules from the movie. I was pretty excited about the theme of the game and being able to see how Santorini thematically matched abilities to gods. A game with Greek mythology theme that can be taught in a couple minutes and can be played with anyone – who could say no to that?

Zero to Hero
Santorini 
reminds me of checkers, simple while also having a lot of depth. It also gives that feeling of achievement as you watch your plan unfold perfectly – the grin on your face grows as your opponent falls right into the trap you set up that will lead to their defeat. These plans usually involved trapping one of Mandee’s workers in a corner with level two towers. This is probably the best way to win because workers can cover so much space with one movement and a build action. Alternatively, when you focus too much on your plan, you may not notice your opponent ascending towers on the other side of the map. I’ve been in both positions in the games we’ve played, and can remember the key moments of the game where I made the wrong move. Whether winning or losing, I always want to play just one more game so I can try out a new god or a different strategy.

img_2922Another thing that promotes trying new strategies is how quickly the game plays. With a game lasting about 10-15 minutes you can try out various strategies, and can quickly move onto a new game if your strategy fails. After every game, I’d be ready to start another game with new gods or the same gods if either one us got crushed and wanted redemption. It’s a surprisingly addicting and enjoyable game that makes you want to come back for more after playing five, ten, or even fifteen games in a row.

It’s also pretty fun to change up the way the gods are chosen for the next game. The way we did it was by drawing a new god card for each player and allowing the loser of the previous game to get the first pick between the two.

We’ve have only played the game as a two player game, which is the recommended player count and haven’t gotten a chance to try it out as a three or four player game yet. The variants look pretty interesting and could add more chaos and cool combinations of god power effects. (We did end up playing a couple four player games and they were pretty fun.  With two powers to work with and compete against, it makes you think more about what you should do each turn. Planning out your turns to take advantage of both of your powers and create combos adds a fun element to the game. I do feel like the game plays best as a two-player game, but I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to play the four player version.)

Clash of the Titansimg_2933

While the base game is pretty good, it could get kind of stale after a handful of plays. But this is where the 30 gods cards (45 total with the Golden Fleece expansion) come into play which takes the game to the next level. This adds a ton of replayability to the game with a possible 435 (base game) or 990(with expansion) unique match-ups. After playing sixteen games with different gods each time, we found that most of the match ups were pretty balanced between different gods. There were some games that were one-sided, but I’d attribute to not being familiar with how to deal with each god’s power.

A good example of this was a game where I was playing as Medusa, which gives me the ability to eliminate an opponent’s worker if a certain requirement was met. This game ended quickly since Mandee wasn’t able to come up with a strategy to deal with Medusa’s power because she was afraid of losing a worker. The occasional lopsided game might occur like this, but it is fun to trying to figure out a winning strategy against a specific god. Overall, I felt like every god has a thematic unique game changing ability. Some powers may feel stronger than others, but a majority of our games felt well balanced. I really enjoy games with variable player powers and the god cards check that box off with authority.

On a Pedestal img_2925

One of the coolest things about Santorini  is to see a completed game with all the different towers scattered across the board. The game board is a raised three-piece platform that represents the island of Santorini pretty well. The structures were designed to look similar to the buildings that are on the island. That’s some pretty good production value, and it’s what you’re paying for with this game because the game is easily recreated using cheaper components, but they are what makes it worth buying.

Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed the artwork in this game from the god cards to the neat storybook that comes with the game giving the backstory of why the gods are building up this island in the first place. I could probably just sit and look through the god cards for fun because the artwork is so nice.

img_2905Final Thoughts
Santorini surprised me with how addictive it was to play and how much variety the game provides. It’s bright colorful artwork and the simplicity of the game makes it very accessible for all ages and levels of experience. The components quality in this game is fantastic and is a real treat as the board slowly gets populated with towers.

You may get the occasional game where one god feels overpowered, but it’s fun to try to figure out a winning strategy against that god. With this being the first game we’ve played in 2017, it really sets the bar high for the rest of the year. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for a fast-paced simple game with a lot of interesting decisions to make.

She Said

I’ve always loved mythology, especially Greek mythology. And the game Santorini perfectly blends this theme into a fantastic game. It’s almost deceptively simple: it consists of only two actions – move and build. But it requires enough strategy to keep heavier gamers entertained, and it’s simple enough that a young child can play it and keep up. And it plays super fast – the longest game we played was about 20 minutes, and that was mostly because our 8-month-old daughter kept distracting us.

It’s all Greek to me
As I said before, the theme in this game is fantastic. A variety of Greek Gods, Goddesses, Muses, and Monsters are young teenagers battling it out to make it to the top of the tower. Although they are all referred to as “God Powers,” despite only a portion of them being actual Gods, the powers often perfectly match up with the referenced character.
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For example, Zeus is able to build a tower underneath himself. Medusa is able to build a tower on top of her opponent, killing them in the process. Gaea is able to provide more workers to move around the board. There are a few where it maybe doesn’t make as much sense with their role in mythology, but for the most part, it’s a pretty close match. Something that I think is quite impressive and really adds to the appeal of the game.

The only thing that I think detracts from the theme is that it doesn’t necessarily make sense that someone can build a dome from the ground level. To me that seems to go against the theme, but I know why it was added as a game mechanic. It’d be almost impossible to play the game if you had to build while on the next lowest level.

We’re All Friends Here
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In addition to helping create a great overall theme, the God Powers also allow for an incredible amount of replayability. We have the Golden Fleece expansion, which provides us with over 40 different options and each one completely changes the way you play the game.

It’s very obvious that some are very overpowered compared to others, but I think that’s bound to happen in a game with variable player powers. For example, when we played a game with Medusa vs. Ares, Calvin had the Medusa power which allows him to build up on top of me and kill my character. I spent my time just avoiding getting too close to him and he won even faster than normal.

There is also another variant you can play with the Golden Fleece, where there is only one God Power shared between players, and it can only be used when you have a worker near it. This variant is not something I’m a huge fan of, I prefer the regular variant because it adds more interest.

Paint Me Like One of Your Greek Girls
img_2916I love the artwork in this game. The young version of these Greek Mythological figures is adorable, and also incredibly accurate. The artist in this game very clearly did their homework. Some may say it looks a little too cartoony, but I think it works perfectly for this game. It’s intended to be a family game, and one that could even be played in schools.

In addition to the cards, the actual board itself is super cool. It is an elevated board, and the structures are added as you go. Once you’re done with the game, just seeing all the buildings built up is pretty cool. And it looks a lot like what modern Greece looks like, and maybe even ancient Greece, I suppose.

Final Thoughts
Santorini is a fantastic game. It’s super simple, quick, and easy to play. It’s great for families, or people who are into heavier strategy games. It’s a bit like solving a puzzle. It also plays well with two players, making it a great game for me and Calvin.

In addition, the theme and artwork is right up my alley, and it all adds to an incredible amount of replayability. Overall, I would highly recommend this game to anyone looking to delve into the world of variable player powers, or someone who really just likes to play fun games.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to learn
  • Great artwork
  • Great theme
  • Replayability with the number of combinations from the God Powers
  • Fantastic components
  • Very enjoyable two player game

Cons:

  • Some of the match ups are imbalanced
  • Some god powers can be a bit stronger than others

The Verdict

He gives this game out 9.5 Domes out of 10.

She gives this game out 9 Golden Fleeces of 10.

Board Game Geek Page

Preorder it Here

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