We love Santorini! It combines everything you need for a great adult versus child game: It’s simple to grasp, can be relatively quick to play and has hundreds of variations to try (435 to be exact!). Of this year’s Christmas haul (and there are some strong contendors) N voted Santorini his favourite. At its core it’s a simple game of outmanouvering your opponent to reach the top of a building first. But on Santorini, you can all be Greek Gods, each with individual special powers that might help you build faster or smash things, or push opponents off.
How it plays:
The island of Santorini is set on a board of 5×5 squares. Each player has two “worker” pieces who go about building towers with the intention of being the first to stand on a tower 3 blocks high. There are two actions per turn that must be taken: first, move one of your workers into an adjoining space, this can include going up one level or down as many as you want. Second, build a block on an adjoining space unoccupied by a worker. This can include building a dome onto the third level of a building, effectively stopping anyone standing on it. If for some reason you can’t complete both of these tasks (move and build) you lose.
This simplicity makes it very easy to pick up and play straight away, N even taught his Grandma though a quick game one afternoon. But its simplicity hides a very tactical game that requires thinking through possibilities in order to plan ahead or block your opponent. This becomes even more engaging when you take on the role of Greek Gods. There are 30 Gods to choose from, each with a slightly different power. Zeus, (N’s favourite) allows your worker to build under itself, therby forcing itself up a level. While Apollo allows you to move your worker into an adjoining space occupied by an opponent worker forcing them to swap places with you. With so many Gods to choose from, I make it 435 possible permutations of game play, which require subtly different strategies. Some of the best matches we’ve had are between Gods with a complementary offensive and defensive power. For example Pan (wins if his worker moves down two levels) versus Demeter (can build twice in one go as long as it’s not on the same space). However, some God Powers can be really frustrating to play against, for example Atlas can build a dome at any level effectively blocking opponent’s building aspirations.
The game is best as a head to head two player, but it can accommodate up to four. In a four player game you’re basically playing in two teams with each player having their own God power but sharing the workers. With three players you get two workers each, which is much better, but it’s a little more chaotic as you try to keep an eye on two different opponents’ strategies and God powers. Although three player is fun, Santorini really is a two player game.
What we love about this game:
I love this game! It’s simple to set up and play and can be totally engrossing as you try to outmanoeuvre your opponent. Moreover, N can often get the drop on me, whether it’s by tactic or luck I’m not always sure, but it means we’re pretty evenly matched as long we’re careful to pick complimentary Gods. I can also see great longevity in the game because there are so many Gods to explore and discover how to successfully use.
The components are well made and I love that the board is itself an island. The artwork on the cards is also super cute. As a bonus, Santorini is also a great way to get N interested in the Greek Gods and opens up a whole world of myths and legends to read about.
I really recommend this game for anyone looking for a great strategic two player family game. The box suggests age 8+ but I think most kids aged 7 would be fine, particularly if they enjoy games that require a bit of thought. N (currently 6) grasped it easily, only a few of the more complex God cards remain a little too challenging but as there’s so many to choose from we’ve started with the most straightforward ones.