Review: Sagrada

Players:  1-4
Ages:  13+
Time to play:  30-45 minutes

Sagrada is described as a "dice drafting and windows crafting" game and was designed by Daryl Andrews and Adrian Ademescu.  It was released in 2017 by Floodgate games.  The object of the game is to construct a stained glass window using brightly coloured dice.  Each player has to contend with various placement rules and of course the other players who may take the dice required from the communal dice drafting pool.  Skill tokens can also be acquired and spent by each player to enable them to use special tools which can help players meet their objectives.

It's not very often that you come across a game with such a unique and iconic design, and one which jumps out at you from the shelf when you look at it, but Sagrada is one of those games. The box art is really something.  So vibrant and full of colour, you get drawn towards it like a moth to a flame, and when you open the box every component is of the same high quality from the player boards, to the cards, to the 90 (yes 90!) dice included inside along with their lovely drawstring bag.

Now, the rules of Sagrada are very simple.  Each player starts the game with a stained glass window, a private objective card (to be revealed at the end of the game) and a choice of 4 window patterns of various difficulties (printed on two randomly dealt window pattern cards).  Each player selects the window pattern of their choice and slots it into the stained glass window.  The objective for each of the players is to fill this window with dice, but they must make sure that they stick to a few rules regarding the placement.

For example, the first die placed must start on the edge (or corner) of the window and any extra dice placed must be always touch one of the dice already placed.  This can be vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

Any dice that are placed must match the restrictions of the window pattern (so a square which is blue may only contain a blue die and a square which contains a "6" may only contain a die which has a 6 on the face).

Finally, no die may be placed horizontally or vertically adjacent to a die of the same colour or the same value. So you couldn't place two green dice or two dice showing a 5 side by side for example.

In the centre of the playing area is a track for keeping count of the rounds and 6 cards, three of these are public objective cards which are useful because this an extra way that players can get points.  Each card has some kind of objective such as matching colour patterns or dice number (known as shade) combinations.

In addition to the public objective cards are tool cards, and these are extremely useful as they allow you to play fast and loose with the rules of the game.  These cards could enable you to swap or re-roll dice or place them on your board in a way that normally wouldn't be allowed.  But these tools to come at a cost as every time you use a tool card, you'll need to pay a price in favour tokens.  Favour tokens? you ask.  Well these are simply glass beads that are given to each player according to how difficult their window pattern is.  A low difficulty pattern will be easier to complete, but may only give you 3 tokens, but a much harder pattern might give you 6. 

So, the game plays like this:

In each turn a player draws a certain number of dice from the bag at random and rolls them to create "the pool".  The number of the dice is different depending on how many people are playing but it's two dice per player plus an extra one overall, so in a four player game, 9 are used per turn.  The face values of the dice can't be changed.

Each player on their turn can pick up a single die from the pool to place on their board and optionally spend favour tokens to use a tool card.  After the first player has taken and placed their die, play continues to the next player and the next and so on... but when the final player finishes their turn, play now goes in reverse with the last player going first (so this final player is effectively taking two turns in a row).  This round finishes when the starting player takes his die, leaving only one left in the pool.  This final die is then placed on the round track and the next round begins with the player to the left.

The game continues like this until all 10 rounds are completed, and when this happens, the round track is turned over to reveal a scoring track.  Players total up their scores according to how many public objectives have been met.  They will also gain points for any unused favour tokens and lose points for any unfilled slots on their windows.  The players will also get extra points for completing their private objective cards.

Now Sagrada is very engaging to play, you get a great feeling of satisfaction as you work towards completing your window board.  However, it's easy to get consumed working out your own little puzzle in front of you and not paying attention to the other players.  Because of this, player interaction can be light at times, especially in the early stages of the game when it's easy to fill your window.  However, as the game progresses, and the combinations of compatible dice diminish for your board, the opportunity arises for the more shrewd players to take advantage of this and block other players.  This makes the game a little more interesting especially if you're playing a two player game.

The public objective cards and tool cards are great, they add extra replay value and can also help mitigate the randomness of the dice rolls, but personally I'd like to have seen more of them.  Often you 'll play one game and reshuffle the decks to find that the next game has one, two or even three cards the same as the previous game.  This makes the game feel like there's less replay value than there actually is.

There also seems to be no real advantage (to me at least) in picking one of the higher difficulty window cards.  As all players will earn the majority of their points from the public objective cards in the middle of the board, the lower the difficulty of the window card means it is easier to complete the public objectives, which in the grand scheme of things seem to be worth a lot more points than left over favour tokens.

But these points aside, there's no denying that Sagrada is really fun to play, especially for two players as the smaller number of dice in play and the complexity of only two boards to keep track of means that you can make some serious tactical decisions when it comes to taking dice.

In a four player game however, you need to make decisions which benefit you more, rather than taking down your opponents.  The larger number of dice in play and extra people with access to the dice pool means your actions will have less impact.  But this does make the 4 player great for beginner gamers as they can just get on with completing their widow without too much hassle from everyone else.

Overall, I really enjoy playing Sagrada, and so does everyone I introduce it to.  It's beautiful to look at, engaging to play and really fun.  I just wish there was just a little more of it that's all....

you can pick up a copy of Sagrada here.


Popular posts from this blog

Review: Tikal: Super Meeple Edition

Review: Perudo

Review: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! 30th Anniversary Edition