Santorini board game review – will you be the king of the castle?
Zeus is fed up with the kids around his feet and throws them outta the temple to go play outside. Kicking around earth and causing general mayhem gets a little boring until they come across a single small island. Here the population has only one option, to build up.
The various Gods decide to help the hapless residents to build whilst competing to see who can build the tallest building. First one to build three stories and get their worker to the top wins! Yes, this is Sanotorini and here is my board game review.
Santorini is a 2-4 player board game that is best played as 2 players. Your character moves around the board levels of buildings. If you manage to build three levels and climb up to the top you win. Be wary of your opponent though, if they cap the building with a dome your victory will be foiled. Sounds simple, well let’s take a look at this delightfully simple and enjoyable strategy game.
What is Santorini about?
Santorini is a strategic 3D tower building game republished via Kickstarter in 2016 by Roxley Games. It was created over 30 years ago by Dr. Gordon (Gord) Hamilton and during that time it has been refined and improved. Santorini is a beautifully simple game that is very easy to play yet difficult to win against a skilled opponent.
As it is simple it makes it ideal for the younger board gamer and challenging enough to play as adults.
The story line is that the little island of Santorini’s workers are busy building their towers and along come some gods i.e. you. Rather than destroying the island the Gods decide to help the workers to build these towers whilst duelling each other for prowess. The first Gods worker to stand on the third level wins. Each God brings a Power to the game which really helps to make each game different and give their worker the edge.
An example of God Powers is Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, who will help the citizen move an additional time as long as it is not back to the position they were just in. Another example is Atlas, Titan Shouldering the Heavens, who will allow your citizen to build a dome on any level.
How well is Santorini made?
The game is built on a fantastic 3D raised board to give it height. So as you build up your towers this gives it more height and is aesthetically pleasing. The components are well made and look great.
The Santorini game comes with the following components:
- 1 x Ocean board
- 1 x Cliff pedestal
- 1 x Island board
- 6 x workers in three different colors
- 14 x Level 3 blocks
- 18 x Level 2 blocks
- 18 x Domes
- 22 x Level 1 blocks
- 30 x God Power cards
The game looks great and is solidly built, so should last just fine. You could sleeve the cards as protection if you were planning on having sticky fingers whilst playing.
The little plastic characters are detailed and sturdy and nice to handle and move around the board. The graphic design is nice with the different God caricatures on each of the cards looking great. Each God Power is represented by illustrations on the card which are clear and quite comical, like the Pan illustration of a two high tower and an arrow indicating the worker jumping off the build (without a parachute!).
How do I play Santorini?
This is one of the easiest games to learn so lets take a run through of how to play.
Preparing to play
First you need to build your board by placing the cliff base narrow side down onto the sea board. Then place the game board on top of the sea cliff.
Now the youngest player places their workers onto the game board where they want. Each of the other players then place theirs too. You are now ready to play.
Playing the game
First let’s talk about the basic mechanics and ignore the God Powers for now.
This is probably one of the easiest Game Turns I have written about.
It has two steps:
Choosing 1 of your workers you can move them 1 adjacent unoccupied square in any direction. This can be up 1 level or down any number.
You can now build using one block and place it anywhere adjacent to your current location.
If the square they choose to build on has:
- No blocks or board level, then they lay a level 1 block.
- A level 1 block then they add a level 2.
- A level 2 block then they add a level 3.
- A level 3 block then they add a dome which prevents anyone from winning by moving onto this tower.
The objective of the game is to build a tower to level 3 with a staircase of a level 2 and level 1 adjacent so that you can walk up onto the level 3 tower. Achieve this and you have won the game.
To prevent your opponents from winning you can place a dome on any level 3 tower that you are adjacent to foiling their master plan.
That is the basic game, simple but with a clever opponent not as easy as it seems.
So, now we have the basic game play down we can take a look at the God Powers. In the base game these come as 30 God Power Cards. Each card has a power that will help the player achieve their goal.
Here are a few examples of God Powers:
This God Power card will allow you to move your worker one additional space (that is not back to its original position). This doesn’t sound much but if you are on a Level 1 block potentially you could move to Level 3 in one move to win the game.
Holding this God Power will allow you to build an additional block on top of the one you have just built. Note that this cannot be a Dome. Domes are not blocks.
As long as your worker does not move up it can build a block before it moves and then an additional block after.
So that is it, easy as pie.
Is Santorini worth buying?
This really depends on your family’s makeup. This is not one for the family board game night as it just doesn’t scale above 2 well. If that is what you are looking for then perhaps take a look at Ticket to Ride Europe or a game that starts of as two player but can be expanded to include more players like Gunslinger Vs Samurai – Dice Throne: Season Two.
Whilst the game states it is a 2-4 player game, the Board Game Geek community consider it to be a 2-3 player so this might not be the best game for 4 players. However, three players are OK and it would be a great game to play if there are occasions where only two players are battling head to head.
It could still be versatile in that you can play it with your children during the day and then have a head to head with the other half once they are in bed. If your family are looking for a great 2 player game then this is definitely a good option. May the best God win!