Pushing my luck having playing Port Royal, I took my chance with Santo Domingo, a sister game to Port Royal. Designed by Stefan Risthaus and published by Pegasus Spiele, it’s a 20-30-minute simultaneous action selection game with artwork by Klemens Franz.
Moving north from Port Royal, Santo Domingo is set in the capital of the Dominican Republic. Unlike the set collection and press your luck of Port Royal, and more recently The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Santo Domingo is about having the best character card to play compared to your opponents.
Trading in the Caribbean
Acting as handlers of goods you are to appear as the best trader possible, this means predicting the market for captains, ships and other goods.
Each player has the same eight character cards and your aim is to be the first player to produce 30 ‘victory’. This can be achieved with straight up victory, via captain cards, or with another person, who sells goods that you had. Whilst this seems inefficient and the ratio unattractive, the ratio improves each time someone doesn’t trade goods. When they do, the ratio resets.
Cards are numbered and resolved in ascending order. Of the eight cards, if you play the same card as other players, you have to share the production. As you may expect, better cards, for example better characters for victory points, are later to play. This is important as the amount of victory ‘at’ Santo Domingo is finite, same for goods. Thus, if there are four ‘victory’ available, and someone plays a card taking three ‘victory’, a player playing a five victory card will only take one instead of the five. Instead, players could choose the lower card and end up sharing. Or, take goods.
The final types of cards are predicting what others will play, sailors and traders. If this is the case, depending what they play, you can earn victory or goods.
You can also earn goods by playing a card which takes cards back to your hand (cards played are out until you have played all eight otherwise). Thus, you can put down a card you couldn’t previously in a turn.
Every player has a victory marker track, unfortunately like some other games, there isn’t a space for the zero. You have to keep your marker at the edge, or near it. Pass 15 points and you flip over the card and you can move your counter from 16-30 as achieved.
Rounds of the game continue until someone crosses the 30 victory point marker. This triggers the final round and any remaining players left in the turn order can fulfil their orders. Any remaining goods are traded as three to one victory points. The victor in Santo Domingo will be the person with the most victory points.
The components are the cards and cubes (for the victory etc. marks) and as mentioned earlier, I love the art of Klemens Franz, however it’s a shame no “zero” marker space exists. No issues with the piece, there is also a two-piece board that you assemble for the cubes to move on.
Final Thoughts on Santo Domingo
I wasn’t overjoyed by a similar game, Citadels, but have grown to not mind it. I’m aware that there are two editions of Citadels, one large, one compact, but either way the smaller space Santo Domingo accommodates well for a mini-sided board game box having a board, unlike Citadels.
Collectors of Port Royal should add this to their collection with ease. Similarly, like Port Royal, those who like fast turns and outguessing opponents will also like Santo Domingo. There is a risk however that some players may begin memorising the cards that have been played.
We really liked the interaction, knowing you can disrupt, share or steal victory before they play a higher powered card. Whilst I didn’t think people were card counting, with only eight cards, it’s simple enough to recall at least some of the prior hand of the opponents and thus reconsider and potentially leverage what they can and cannot do to whatever character you might play. I’ve played Santo Domingo with lots of groups, its speed and simplicity has kept it re-playable and its size and portability (port – geddit?) and quick set-up ensures that this hits the table easily.