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July 15, 2017 / Jett

Santorini Review

Santorini is a gorgeous game. The main board sits atop a stand that makes it look like its a raised island. Each worker figure is detailed. Most impressive are the building blocks, which form intricate buildings with clearly defined windows and stairs.

But high production values does not a good game make. Is this a game worthy of its beautiful components and somewhat steep price point?

This is an abstract strategy game in which players will try and get one of their two worker figures to the top of a third story building before their opponent. At the start of the game, the board will lay empty, save for two of each side’s workers. From there, players will take turns raising buildings, climbing buildings, and/or capping them with domed roofs to prevent the other from taking the plateau.

Learning how to play the game takes place in a matter of seconds. Once you get into it though, things quickly pick up. The sensation of trying to build and scale the tower feels a lot like a slightly more advanced Connect 4. It was cool to weight out all of the options available to you, as there are usually a number of different ways to approach a situation. Despite one’s best efforts, eventually someone is going to create the perfect line and take the win.

To spice things up, the game comes with dozens of unique player powers. For a game that is relatively simple at its core, these powers do a great job of extending the game’s life. For example, one of the powers I enjoyed using was one that allowed me to build domes anywhere I wanted. Besides being able to cap buildings early, I eventually used this power to box one of my opponent’s workers in, leading to a win.

This is pretty much the perfect execution of this gameplay concept if you’re willing to overlook two things. One, this is a game mainly designed for two players. It does say 3-4 on the box, but this game was really designed with two in mind. Didn’t get a chance to play it at those higher counts, but I would imagine it being too messy.

My other concern is with the game’s price point. Based on the quality of the components in the box and the plethora of power cards that come with it, I see why it’s an expensive package. That said, it’s personally a tough pill to swallow for a game that’s primarily meant for two players and one that is very simple at its core.

If you can overlook those two concerns, Santorini is a treat. Abstract strategy games are rarely presented with this level of polish with simple yet deep gameplay to match. Should a lower-fidelity version of this game be released at a more reasonable price point, I’d grab this in a heartbeat.

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