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Subject: Santa Maria - unbiased review rss

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kos blaat
Netherlands
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So I finally got a chance to play SM. Actually playing is so very different from watching reviews online! It reminded me a lot of Goa, an older game.

This game IS SOOO GOOD!!

I got that warm fuzzy feeling I only get after playing a really good boardgame, such as Concordia, or Puerto Rico, or Power grid.
There is so much to think about, and you can play tetris, and go for ships, and move your tokens to get more tokens and everything flows and intertwines and well explodes in your head. It feels really good. There is almost no agression in the game, and not much to block directly, but indirectly there is plenty to take into account.
The special cards are well balanced, but you can make interesting combos. The order of things you do matters. You're constantly involved and making plans and everything is WOW.

Got a mail from Kristian of the company, shipping is from NL so not expensive, and can be bought from their website. The video reviews are raving, will have to wait for more reviews.

It is pointless to explain all the rules here, because video reviews attempt to do that and it's just too much. Suffice to say it is possible to ease players into SM, first explain about the white dice, how to get them and how much (max 3 per player) and how they can be manipulated (change 1 pip for 1 coin). After that, when they have the goods tell what they can buy (land, ship, coin). It saves everyone trying to wrap their head around someone explaining ALL the rules, that you will forget anyway - at least I do, if someone explains a boardgame like that, by reading aloud the manual and point at stuff, I forget 20% of that story, I need to actually grab stuff and move it to grok.
With some games that approach is impossible, for example Terraforming Mars, you need the full story first because your first actions will be drafting. Thankfully in SM you can do it piecemeal.

To clarify, when you place a die on a column, the die "travels" from the top cell to the bottom, but it stops after each occupied field and you score at that moment that what is depicted. If the cell shows a ship, you can fill that ship and score it. If it shows grain score 1 grain etc. It skips people (the game explainer called them ninja's, that's what they look like), and it stops travelling if the cells under it are uncultivated lands.

Getting goods to get ships gives you VP, getting land parts to place on your field (6x6) helps to get goods, and priest points and conquistador points. Getting ahead in conquistador track gives you points. Getting ahead in priest score track gives you extra dice.

If you make a combo so you can keep travelling your field and generate stuff, there is a lot you can do in your turn, but in the first rounds you start very simple.

Things that nobody did: pay 3 coin for getting a good (the dice were good enough but you could mitigate bad luck), sell a good for 1 coin.

A pity you can't play it solo, and there is a misprint on the 2-tile shapes, but these are never shown anyway, and the central board shows you need to pay 2 wood, so in practice it didn't bother us at all.

Some objective criteria I use for rating a board game are given below, your mileage may vary, we have a table of 50cm by 100cm.


* table space: it can be played with 5 players easily on our table

* shelf space: the box is non standard (square) but not bigger than PR box, smaller than Peloponnes. Can be shelved easily. the box could have been made smaller, the only thing keeping the game this size is the central board, that could have been folded in two to make the game smaller.

* balance: there are multiple paths to getting points, point system is hidden (players with good memory may have advantage), but everything we tried seemed to be nerfed enough and no clear winning strategy was found.

* setup (time required): 2 minutes. More than ideal, but you have to wiggle out the dice and mats and at least the 4 starting ships. While there are LOTS of pieces grain wood gem bag coin happiness they are not needed immediately.

* teachability: need to point out stuff on central board, but players can get explanation whenever they acquire enough stuff to do stuff; I'd say if you explain it right, you can immerse any new player. Which is good!

* tested: from our experience the game feels like it has been playtested 1000 times. And that feels really good.

* flow: meh, you don't get that elated feeling when everything goes well like in PG or PR, but instead your head gets filled with dopamine by just the amount of possibilities.

* scale: no experience how it plays other than with 3, but the rules seem to point out a gliding scale. There might become a shortage on blue dice in a 5-player game. * pair: it can be played with 2.

* randomness: you get 1 special power randomly at start. The ship cards are shuffled but their order is not very significant. The dice are random of course, and quite significant during 1/3 of the game they remain constant. The tiles you can get (2-square and 3-square) are different each game, not overly influential. The 3 goals are random, and very significant. In other words: every next game will feel fundamentally different.

* kingmaker: there is no direct kingmaker effect, it's every one for himself. There is no extermination.

* language independence: the game language is only icons, but the icons need some explanation in your favorite language, but it is nothing like LotR the LCG.

* story/arc: there is certainly an acceleration in this game, because the plantation you have will fill with more things that get hit by dice and score, and your turn will give you more actions, and more dice, which gives even more actions.

* downtime: if it's not your turn you plan ahead and while there is nothing you can actually do, there is enough to ponder upon.

As you can see SM scores highly on all the points I value. The only games I know that score higher are Powergrid and Puerto Rico.

- If you like euro's get this one.
- If you like pentominos and tetris get this one.
- If you don't like aggression or in-your-face, get this one.
- If you want to forget the miserable life you had, play this one.
- If you are even more OCD than us you might want to wait for a second edition, that fixes the invisible misprint, I'm pretty sure there will be loads and loads of this product, everyone loves it.

This game is a must play. And for me a must have. I want to show it to all my friends. And family. And colleagues. If you read my other reviews, I'm usually not that enthousiastic.

EDIT:
The designer actually reads posts on this forum, and is actively engaged and shows interest and listens, explains and elaborates; and I really appreciate that, it shows passion!

EDIT2:
- played yesterday 2 games with a new player each game, both times the rest suffered from the new player AP. In which case a warning is in place: don't play with new players that are AP prone.
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Stefan Schneider
Germany
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Love this game, preordered it for Spiel pickup even before knowing much about it.

Just wondering... Doesn't play solo? It does say: 1-4 players and there are solo rules in the rulebook

I also think the rules are really, really clear and easy to understand and explain in this game. And I would want to know the whole rules for sure before I start buying stuff without knowing what it does.

The rules are only a few pages with tons of examples, we did learn the game by reading out the rules and nobody had any problems. But you don't get grain if the ship shows grain, thats what you have to pay to get the ship.

Apart from that, I really have to agree with you. Fantastic game, works equally great solo, 2 player and 4 player.
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kos blaat
Netherlands
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ah i see, i didn't study the manual, it is 1-4. Why can't it be played with 5? I only see a problem with retiring, that could easily be fixed. But that is a question for the designer of the game.
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Eilif Svensson
Norway
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Thanks a lot for the nice review! Glad you enjoyed it
In order to play it with 5, you would need 3 more white dice, 3 more blue dice and one extra colony board (and maybe some extra resources). The main reason why it's not a 5 player game, is that the game might take too long, especially the first times you play.
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We are still avid Mangrovia fans, and have used it as a way to introduce modern board gaming to new players! As such, SM is an insta-buy for us!
 
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kos blaat
Netherlands
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Will you make an expansion, with 4 squared tiles? I can also see this get a legacy version..
 
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