Tabletop Tuesday: Santorini

This week we travel to the antient Greek city known for its spectacular white buildings and blue domes. Santorini is a beautiful, abstract strategy game for 2 to 4 players with rounds lasting about 20 minutes.

At the start of the game players take turns placing a worker on the empty game board that consists of 25 squares (5×5). Both players start the game with two workers. In your turn you have to perform two actions:

  • Move a worker: A worker may move to any of the spaces directly adjacent to it, including diagonal. Players may ascend one level at a time, but may descend any number of levels. Players may never occupy the same space as a dome or another player piece.
  • Build: The worker who was moved may construct a building in any of the spaces directly adjacent to it, including diagonal. Note that the appropriate building piece must be used. First floor, second floor, third floor, and dome pieces.

Players keep on building with the goal of placing a worker onto the third floor of a tower and so becoming the winner. If you cannot move a worker or build during your turn, you lose the game.

Greek god powers

Santorini also contains 40 god cards. These are ideal when you have mastered the strategy of the basic game and want to add complexity. If you play a game with god cards, one player (the challenger) chooses 2 god cards that he places face up on the table. The opponent is the first to choose one of them, the challenger gets the remaining card and decides who starts.

A god card offers extra possibilities for its owner. With “Artemis” on your side you can, for example, move your worker an extra space. With the help of “Atlas” you can build a dome on every level, including on the ground.

With the use of the god cards and some additional rules, Santorini can also be played with 3 or 4 players (although it is substantially less fun). You play a game with 4 players in teams of 2. 

More than just Greek looks

Santorini features a stunning 3 dimensional board rising several inches off the table and chunky building blocks which allow players to construct the towering buildings from the city. It’s just a pity that due to its bulkiness, packing it in for a trip to the REAL Santorini is unlikely.

But the charm of Santorini is that the game, with very few and very simple rules, brings a lot of strategic depth, for young and old, for new and experienced players. There is actually no luck factor involved.

It feels a bit like a lighter form of chess or checkers, but with 3 dimensions: height, length and width. During the game you always try to plan a couple of moves ahead to get a worker onto a third floor as quickly as possible. But at the same time you also have to keep an eye on your opponents. You can block them by placing a dome on the third floor they were eyeing or enclosing opposition workers with towers and your own workers. 

The basic game itself is great fun, but the god cards ensure that every game is really different and there is always that extra challenge for the more experienced players.

Games, sports, music, series, reading. I think I have too many hobbies.

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