Board Game Review: Santorini




Mechanincs: Grid movement, block placement

Players: 2-4

Duration: 20 minutes - 90 minutes depending on experience and how you play it



Theme: 2 (Most people consider this an abstract game)

Strategy: 10

Fun: 10

Learning Curve: 10

Pacing: 8


Comparable to:

Santorini is comparable to chess or Go, but on a three-dimensional board and only two pieces per player. Furthermore, the box comes with a set of cards that players may optionally use. The cards give each player a special ability for the duration of the game.



Each player controls two workers that can move on a 5x5 grid. Players take turns completing the following mandatory actions (in this order):

  1. Move one worker one space in any direction (including diagonally). Movement is also restricted by height: a worker can not move UP more than one level (but a worker can move down any number of levels). Furthermore, a worker cannot stand on a roof (blue dome). 
  2. Build one level. Every building has four levels: three floors and a roof. A player can build in any space adjacent to the worker that was just moved. A worker can also build at any level, regardless of the height disparity between the worker and the level being built.

There are a few ways to win. You can win by (1) forcing your opponent to losing by trapping him or her in such a way that his or her workers cannot complete the two required actions or (2) moving a worker onto the third floor.

That is the game. Experienced players can add in the character cards which provide exceptions to the rules. For instance, one card may enable a player to build with either worker (as opposed to only the one that was moved) or another card may enable to move a worker an unlimited number of spaces in any direction. There are dozens of character cards.

In three-player mode, three players play and their are six workers on the board.

In four player mode, the players form teams of two. Each member of the team controls one of the two workers. On a player's turn, he or she must move his or her designated worker. This version of the game requires careful planning and cooperation. 


This game is astonishing. The base game (no cards) is already unlike anything I've ever played and deeply strategic. Furthermore, the components are gorgeous. If the entire game was just the base game, I would already highly recommend it, but the designer went a step further by adding the cards and including a three- and four-player mode. Some of the cards even allow alternate victory conditions. Though the game is designed for two players, four-player with cards is my favorite. As you can probably imagine, the cards provide too much information to keep track of and it can be a riot trying to plan moves with your partner while considering the abilities of your opponents. We've had some good laughs over the four player games. For people who like more strategy, removing the cards and playing the base game is a serious battle of cunning. I'm floored by all the game offers and its replayability.