White walls adorned with deep blue domes, decorating a Greek cliff side basking in the warm sun under a cloudless blue sky. Sounds like a somewhere created by a god.. right? Well, add a few more Gods and you’d be not far wrong!
Santorini is an abstract game that saw huge success on Kickstarter which was launched back in 2016, attracting over 7,000 backers and raising a staggering CA$ 700,524. The original Santorini game was created over 30 years ago by Dr Gordon Hamilton and since then has been re-developed to the game we have today.
The original game provided the player with a number of wooden components whereas in today’s game we have been spoilt with wonderfully detailed plastic components and card illustrated with some of the most beautiful and eye catching illustrations I have seen.
First Thoughts of Santorini
You may notice two different box types, one is the standard retail version and the other was the ‘White Cover’ which was available during the Kickstarter campaign. I personally prefer the standard cover, its colourful, bright and you can see from the onset this game is going to be fun.
When I brought this game home my daughter was instantly attracted to the game just from the artwork on the front. Now for the contents, this is what you can expect to find inside the standard retail version of the game:
- One Ocean board.
- One Island board.
- One Cliff pedestal.
- 22 blocks of level one.
- 18 Blocks of level two.
- 14 blocks of level three.
- 18 Blue domes
- Six workers, three males and three female in three different colours ( Tan, Blue and Grey) making three teams of two.
- 30 God/ Goddess cards.
- One rule book.
The components are fantastic. All the different levels of the buildings fit together perfectly with ease and have great detail. The worker miniatures are nice, full of character and I keep toying as to whether I might paint them or not. The detail is a bit soft on the edges but that’s not a major concern and kind of fits with the artwork.
The game board is made of a high-quality thick card stock and decorated with beautifully illustrated and colours images. The pedestal is made of a thick detailed plastic representing the cliffs and it really does give the impression.
Now for my personal favourite game component – the god cards. Each card is individual and depicts gods and goddesses from Greek mythology. Your bound to find all your favourite’s from Athena to Poseidon. Each god/goddess card has been illustrated with a portrait of the god and an illustration of the god’s power, these powers are explained in more detail within the rule book.
I love the artwork personally and it’s certainly struck a chord with my daughter who refers to each one as “Cute”! This may be the case and a couple of people I have played with found the characters to be childlike but they have been in the minority.
Setting Up & Playing Santorini
Santorini takes next to no time at all to set-up. Placing the cliff onto the ocean board and then placing the island board on the cliff takes very little effort. The cliff has shaped sections that slot into the boards, providing a snug fit resulting in no sliding around during play.
Shuffle the god and goddess cards and deal one to each player, but before you add the cards to the game I would have two or three games without them. I say this just so you get use to how the game plays but if you’re anything like me after the first practise run you’ll want to get stuck right in.
I prefer to deal the god cards at random, it’s more fun revealing who you have and I just couldn’t help myself, I had to announce each god or goddess in my Mortal combat voice with “build” replacing “fight!”
Next you take the male and female worker of the same colour, as does your opponent. Set your builders one at a time anywhere on the board and open the bags of levels. Determine who will place a builder first, you can obviously, flip a coin, roll a dice, see who looks like their character the most or any other first turn decider you see fit to use.
The rules are simple. Move one builder into any neighbouring space, construct a building level adjacent to the builder and the person who gets to the third level of any building wins, easy huh? NO! You can only move up one level at a time so you could not move from the ground onto level three, you can however drop down from any level building.
Don’t forget, while you are attempting to achieve this your opponent is trying to do the same. This is where the second builder helps a lot as you can use one to try and achieve the objective and the other as a blocker. To block an opponent you simply place a level onto of the level they wanted to step onto.
So, if I was on ground level and wanted to step onto level one, you could place a level two onto the level one and I couldn’t move there as I can only move up one level at a time. On my next go I would need to build a neighbouring level one and then hope to get on there without being stopped again.
When you introduce the god and goddess cards they really spice the game up a lot. The cards are split into simple and advanced and I do recommend starting with the simple cards first. Saying this, the game is so family friendly, not even the youngest player will struggle too much if helped to understand the power.
I notice the game says 2 -4 players, now this is achieved by having a 2v2 so each player on the same side controls one builder. As you get three teams in the game I’m guessing you could do the same with the third team and create a six player game. It’s not something I have tried yet but am sure it would work fine.
When I have a team game I like to introduce no conferring, its really good fun seeing if your team mate is thinking the same as you. More often then not they will do the complete opposite, often ending in eyes being rolled and bouts of laughter from other team, until the same happens to them of course!
Final Thoughts on Santorini
Santorini is one of my favourite Kickstarter-backed games, I have played the game 20+ times now with people of all ages and it has always pleased. Santorini is a perfect filler game and ideal for introducing new players to the hobby.
The high-quality components, beautifully drawn and colourful illustrations makes this game a feast for the eyes. The game really does only take minutes to learn but like some of the true classics like Draughts or Othello, it’s full of tactical depth.
I would consider myself a pretty experienced gamer in Board, card and Tabletop gaming and I have never found myself getting bored with Santorini. It’s perfect to play with non-gamers, children and family members.
My 16-year-old daughter prides herself on being unbeaten and likes nothing better than reminding me I’m meant to the be the gamer in the house as she moves her builder onto level three concreting her Santorini goddess like dominance over the household.