When will the gods stop meddling in the lives of man? Not anytime soon if the new game Santorini has anything to say about it. This game and its adorable, part chibi/part Disney (Chibney?) art style has already been funded three times over on Kickstarter, but there is still a chance for you to join the fun and get the game on launch day. Here’s their video setting up the game and its deceptive simplicity:
The rules seem pretty straightforward, but the strategy is anything but. On a given turn, you move one of your builder pawns one space then build a single building level in an adjacent space. That’s it. The first player who can move any of his or her pawns up to the third level is the winner. It seems simple, it even seems too easy, until you play it. Check out this video of a full playthrough, which lasts about 15 minutes. In the last half, both characters appear to be one turn away from winning every turn. Roxley Game Laboratory has a few of these playthrough videos that really drive home how a game with basically two moves can still be deeply challenging and replayable.
You really could play this with a series of well made generic pieces but Roxley has outdone itself with the production design. The faux island base with the charming Greek style building pieces and builder pawns (in “Chibney” style) is all top notch. It also looks a lot like the real life Santorini Islands which is pretty cool. That’s one of the smart moves here, as the displayability of the adorable board means you could just leave this game basically set up and play it casually when you have about 15 minutes. Any given combination of god characters and play styles will make for a fun, nail biting game that you can dive into while you’re waiting for the rest of your players to arrive for your regular big box game night.
THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY
This game features a ton of highly thematic but asymmetric god or hero characters to play. There are already over 30 to choose from and their unique individual abilities are a subtle nod to their legendary powers or heroic deeds.
Medusa turns an opponent’s builders into blocks. Hermes’ builders can move any number of blocks without climbing. If Athena has one of her pawns climb up a level, then her opponent can’t this round. Plus they look adorable. Yes, even Medusa. The list of gods and heroes continues to expand as the campaign hits stretch goals (several were unlocked as this article was being written) so the options continue to grow. Each of the playable characters has broad effects on the game, because even something as simple as Artemis’s ability to move twice before building can really change the strategy of yourself and your opponent. Lets unpack a few of the more interesting ones:
Atlas can place a dome at any level. Domes normally are placed on the 3rd level of structures and builders can’t stand on them, so they essentially take a space out of play. Atlas can force an opponent to work at his tempo because he locks off areas of the board or can react to a possible win by “dome-ing” a key space to prevent a builder from accessing the 3rd level. It wouldn’t be easy, but an Atlas player could simply build a wall of Domes across one section of the board and keep the other builders out, they’d have just as much chance of building up to the 3rd level as their opposing player but the limited space could be used to an advantage. The drawback is that Atlas himself can’t win standing on a dome so every turn he spends on denial is one he’s not winning the game.
Ares can remove a block or dome from next to his builder that didn’t move. Considering adding blocks is not just the way to win but also the only offensive or defensive actions most players have, this can be devastating. Having watched half a dozen playthroughs, the most common way to prevent an early victory is to dome the 3rd level of the tower your opponent is planning to jump up to for the win. Ares can simply undo this, but only at the end of his turn, leaving a chance for his opponent to get in and dome the space again or take another action to complicate things. Ares also has to have both his builders close together, something easy to prevent by forcing him to react to your win attempts early in the game. Of course Medusa could just turn Ares’ builder into bricks or a Hera player could move her builders away from where Ares’ set up his power base, as her ability says you can only win when you’re adjacent to her figures. All the currently available gods are listed on the Kickstarter page and it makes for a good read.
WILL YOU BE THE FIRST TO REACH THE TOP?
Santorini seems like a great edition to any gaming shelf. It’s simple to learn, fun to play, and even if you don’t get around to playing often, the board can be a great conversation starter. Plus who doesn’t want to take the role of capricious Greek gods trying to one-up each other?
Even though the game has been funded, you can still back the project and get yourself a copy of the game at launch day. So will you be tossing in your money and taking on the role of the architecturally inclined gods? Let us know the comments and while you’re there, tell us which of their Chibney gods you find most adorable… Right now our favorite is Hades. Just look at that little Cerberus. D’awww.
Images Courtesy of Kickstarter / Roxley Games
Santonini Island Image Courtesy Wikipedia (User Leonard G.)