Sagrada, released back in 2017 by Floodgate Games, is an abstract pattern building board game which utilizes dice. Designed by Adrian Adamescu and Daryl Andrews, the game sees 1 – 4 players normally spend around 20 – 35 minutes constructing stained glass windows. With dice to draft, of many colours, it is all about achieving patterns to become the best artisan. However, is Sagrada a game with too much of a familiar feeling? Let’s find out!
At the start of the game each player gets a player board, 1 of the 5 private objective cards and 2 window pattern cards. Once decided on one of the window cards it is slide into a player board, with the other returned to the box. Each window pattern card is rated in difficulty between 3 to 6, with the number of favour tokens earnt equalling the difficulty you decide to take. Finally, if not done already the dice are all tipped into the bag, 3 public objectives and 3 tools are unveiled.
Starting with the last person to be to a cathedral, or randomly, the starting player draws from the bag and rolls a number of dice – the amount equal to double the player count plus 1. On a turn players can either take an action, both available actions or pass. The first action is to select a dice from the available pool. Players can take any of the available dice with the only limitation it must be instantly added to their player board – thus must meet placement requirements.
For the first dice it must be on one of the window edges. From here on the player can only place adjacent to previously placed dice, either orthogonal or diagonally. Every dice placed must follow any space requirements. A red space for example requires a red dice of any value, a 2 pip space requires a dice of any colour but a value of 2, while a blank space has no requirements of its own. On top of space requirements, two dice of the same colour or pip value cannot touch orthogonally (ignoring diagonally) on the player board. This requires some pre-planning so you don’t block off sections of you board or have to pass on too many turns.
The other available action is to use a tool. By spending their favour tokens players can use one of the three tools. If it is an unused tool it’ll only cost 1 token, with future uses by any player costing 2. With 12 tools included there is a decent range of the abilities that can be present. These range from altering the pip value of a rolled die, swapping a drafted die with a round marker die or even moving an already placed die whilst ignoring a placement requirement.
Play continues to the next player, though it is not continuously clockwise. Using a forward and reverse turn order with three players turn order would be A – B – C – C – B – A. This has seemingly thrown some new players expecting play to move around the table, and it can be helpful to use a random token to indicate whom the first player is from round to round. The game is played for 10 rounds, with two dice potentially taken by each player each round. This leaves an undrafted die left over to be placed onto the round tracker. If at any point you cannot place any of the dice onto your board you are forced to pass, unless you can use a tool to avoid this.
At the end of the tenth round it is time for players to score points, with a score tracker on the reverse side of the round tracker board. Using the provided player tokens to track points, or coloured dice matching private objective colours, players first score for their private objectives. Each of these are one of the 5 colours of dice, with players summing up the values on the colour dice their private objective card denotes. Next players score each of the public objectives as many times as possible. These range from pairs of 1 and 2 value dice or having a row with no repeat valued dice, through to columns with four different colours. Players score a bonus point for each favour token then have not spent on tools and lose a point per hole in their stained glass window. Once all of these factors have been calculated the winner is whomever has the most points. Ties are split by private objective points, followed by remaining favour tokens and lastly by reverse player order of the final round – so there is never a tied victory.
One of the most notable features of Sagrada is the simplicity of individual turns. While tools add a touch of complexity, on the vast majority of turns (a minimum of 14 out of 20 turns) players will simply be choosing one die from the draft pool and adding it to their player board following placement requirements. This allows gamers to instantly understand the game and get their teeth into the puzzle side of the game.
The “ideal” player count will be very dependant on the group, due to the puzzle side of things. Overthinking, in an attempt to trigger every scoring opportunity, can creep in from even mild analysis paralysis prone players. If this occurs the flow of Sagrada can falter. If it does, the times between turns in a 4 player game become long enough for your mind to wander, and then when it is back to you you’ve not only forgotten what die you were after, also it has probably been taken. At 2 player turns naturally come back around faster and games can last only 15 minutes if speeding through, with very little downtime thanks to there being much less choice in the draft pool.
When to take specific numbers or colours is completely up to players, as long as they are available in the draft pool. This side of Sagrada is where some mild player interaction can be instilled into the game, rather than the game being a head down solo player experience. When you can see what an opponent needs or wants, on your turn you are fully entitled to take it. Whilst still only slightly cutthroat, as often trying to do this can backfire, it is most present at 2 players when it is easier to pay attention to the other player’s board.
Component wise it is hard not to be drawn in by the plethora of coloured dice, with a total of 90 dice included, which are kept in a decent cloth bag. They add a real vibrancy to the title that is reminiscent of the cathedral, Sagrada Familia, that the game is loosely based. The glass tokens for favour are a nice addition, which in many games would have been merely cardboard. Still, these aren’t exactly faultless with the odd airbubble – something annoying to some but not noticed by others. The best component design element is the way stained glass windows cards slide into the player boards. Not only does this allow for different patterns to be used each game but also they combine to make an indented player board. On top of this, the inclusion of a variety of cards for scoring and windows means no two games have to be the same.
Sagrada is often compared to Azul, more so now the Azul sequel is available – which also features a stained glass theme. While players are drawing from a middle pool and placing what are coloured pieces to fill a stained glass window this is where the similarities end. The usage of dice, with both number and colour requirements, creates a puzzle aspect that is not present in Azul. This is a different type of puzzle from Azul, about where to place individual dice not how to fit as many on as possible in one go. While the colourful dice and player board design draws from the theme this is pretty much where the connection to the theme ends, though the game doesn’t try to shy away from the abstract strategy puzzle gameplay that many will love. For the puzzle nature of the game, probably more for a 2 -3 player head count, there is enough room on my gaming shelf for Sagrada to proudly sit on.
[Editor’s Note: Sagrada was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £35.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]