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Subject: Santorini: A Thematic Abstract Game rss

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Zhang Zewen
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About myself

My regular gaming partner is my wife. Due to work commitment, we enjoy games that are easy to learn, yet possess strategic/tactical depth. We also adore games that provide the option of being unique characters with various game changing mechanics. One of our all time favorite game is Summoner Wars. This also happens to be my first review on BGG.

What the game is about?

Santorini is an abstract game that is played between 2 to 4 players. The game was originally released in 2004 without the current "gods" or "heroes" cards. Each player controls 2 workers, moving around and constructing buildings on a 5x5 grid in an alternating manner. The first to land on top of a 3 storey building wins the game. Each match can last from 10 to 30 minutes, and averages about 20 minutes.

The recent kickstarter (KS) project added optional modification to the game rules, and aesthetically improved on the gaming components. Players can now choose to take on the identities of Greek "gods" or "heroes", each having unique abilities that augment the standard rules of movement/construction/win condition. The KS version also comes with an expansion, the Golden Fleece, which significantly changes the game.

My thoughts

Both of us absolutely love the game.

Since purchasing KS Santorini for the last 1 week, we have averaged at least 6 matches per night. We have tried the base game without the gods, and also tried out the "simple" and "advance" gods.

The rules, as described online, can literally be explained in 30 seconds. The god rules are usually one-liner that slightly alters the game mechanics. For example, some gods allow the workers to take an extra movement, or to build an extra level. However, these may have very drastic changes to how the game plays out. Very rarely did we have to source online (youtube or BGG) for clarification of the abilities of certain gods. Even when it happens, the response from BGG is quick and adequate.

Game play is very tactical. The base game in my opinion, is fun enough as players tries to outmaneuver/out-build each other. Adding the gods introduce an additional layer of variety in game play and strategic depth. In addition to second guessing what your opponents is trying to do, one has to also take into account the possible interactions between the different gods. It may also evolve into a game of deduction and bluffs, as players may try to outwit each other by making moves that only serve to threaten or to distract.

We are beginning to device our own methods in choosing which gods to use, while waiting for the official tournament system from Roxley.

We have not yet tried the expansion, which has more gods and a new way to play the game using the fleece.

Any cons?

At this moment there are discussions regarding the balance of gods. Rather than stating it as a con, I would say imbalance often exists inherently in a game that has asymmetrical roles. To my understanding, the designers have done their very best in testing, and have explicitly stated in the rules certain match-ups that should be banned. Sure the game is not perfect, but from my limited game play it feels to be one of the most balanced that I have seen.

Straight out of the box, the game offers more than enough value for what we paid for. It has been some time since my wife and I have gamed so much in such a short duration. The rules are simple, the game play is elegant, and the depth is rewarding. There is something strangely satisfying during end game when we look at what we have built over the match. Rather than feeling exhausted, we find ourselves often opting for 1 more match over sleep.

Conclusion

Despite being an abstract game, the theme does not feel "pasted" on at all. I believe this is partially contributed by the visual appeal from the components in addition to the god design. When I play as "Minotaur", I do get a thematic feel when I "force" my opponent's worker out of the way.

While many of us enjoy board gaming, not many of us have the luxury of time. Santorini fulfills our gaming needs in almost every manner, and we highly recommend it.
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Paul Saxberg
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Hey, thanks for the great review! And so glad you and your wife enjoy it!
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Michael Frost

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What is interesting is that it is a bit like the even older game Torres. And shares some things with a later game Casa Grande. Both of which involve building 3 dimensional buildings. Torres has the cards with special abilities. Both are fun games.
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Rick Scholes
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Some similarities with Torres yes. But Santorini is much quicker and much prettier. The tactics are lighter and more fun, as are the components. [Torres has "heavy" gray towers that do not taper.]

Santorini verges on being addictive. Though take that with a grain of salt as 18XX games are addictive for me.
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Paul Saxberg
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
What is interesting is that it is a bit like the even older game Torres. And shares some things with a later game Casa Grande. Both of which involve building 3 dimensional buildings. Torres has the cards with special abilities. Both are fun games.


Many people have made the comparison to Torres, and I actually used Torres pieces to help demo Santorini before we got production copies

Though Santorini was originally designed about a decade earlier than Torres, just for the record. cool
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Chris Laudermilk
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Haven't we already done the Torres argument in another thread?
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Paul Saxberg
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claudermilk wrote:
Haven't we already done the Torres argument in another thread?


I'm sure it will come up again. It's inevitable that the games will continue to be compared. It's all good - it's not like players are only allowed to ever own or like one of the two!
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Matt Fikes
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I've been keeping an eye on where Santorini falls in the ratings since I got it, and it's been climbing steadily. Right now it's actually one spot below Torres at #12 in the Abstracts category.
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