The colours bring the game to life, yet despite the use of so many shades nothing is ever garish, instead we have subtlety and gentle hues that only add another layer to the overall cosiness that lives within the game.
What’s it all About?
Ah, the competitive, artistic world of stained glass window creation, that secretive hidden world as yet untapped by the likes of Sky Sports Box Office is brought to colourful, shimmering life in Sagrada. Artisans in stained glass compete to create the most wondrous and magical colour burst of glass that ever did fill the hole in a wall.
But, does Sagrada deliver beauty and inspiration, or, does it leave players dreams shattered upon the floor like, well…you know? Let us take a look…
Ooooh, where to begin? You see, Sagrada is a little bit special. It is a game that has multiple moments of stupendous, thoughtful fun peppered throughout every play. However, let me start with the thing that really grabbed me about the game, the element that truly left me smiling within a landscape of smiley things. And that element is the warm, gentle nature that resides in every game. Sagrada is truly a lovely little creation. It’s weird really but when playing, a strange, unexpected air of utter calm descends over the gathered players like the warmest most snuggly of blankets has been draped across the room, wrapping all present in its delicate cosy confines. I could happily wile away hour upon hour in its company, letting the troubles of the day drift away like campfire smoke, as a zen like state of pleasant, mellow, bliss is ushered in.
In terms of the actual physical action of playing Sagrada, I can happily report that all is very well indeed in the stained glass window industry. The game is wonderfully balanced between streamlined simplicity and delicious strategy, and equally manages to find a point within competition where players leave happy to have played, rather than disappointed to have lost. In terms of sweet spots, Sagrada has hit it dead on. The basic game is built around strategically drafting dice of many colours to place them into your stained glass creation, and finding ways to build enough points to be hailed far and wide as the artisan’s artisan (or something like that). There are little tactical decisions to be made during the draft, such as each player having a certain colour dice set that will be worth more points come game’s end, and there are certain rules to adhere to, such as no die of the same colour or total can be adjacent to one another. These elements mean players have to often plan ahead in their crafting, and also sees players scuppered by other’s choices during the draft. What shines like the sun through a, well, you know, is the utter pleasure of playing. Everything just works in Sagrada. The draft is a tense affair, the strategy is constant throughout dice placement, the gradual building of the windows looks beautiful upon the table, and the desire to replay immediately after finishing is strong.
Let me quickly scamper back to the looks of Sagrada. Here we have a game that really catches the eye. As the window art grows so too does my own love for how great the game is in reality. The colours bring the game to life, yet despite the use of so many shades nothing is ever garish, instead we have subtlety and gentle hues that only add another layer to the overall cosiness that lives within the game.
Another strong selling point in my opinion is something I often praise in my reviews, the sweet, and noble art of simplicity. Sagrada is another gem that finds the middle ground between strategy, depth, and simple fast play. Once players get to grips with the easily explained rules, rounds begin to flow along like a country village stream bubbling along at a steady pace, under a cloudless blue sky and the sound of birdsong. Sorry about that, it’s just Sagrada puts me into this mellow mind space. It’s the gaming equivalent of the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. Games of Sagrada never outstay their welcome and are thoroughly pleasant whilst they last. A typical four-player game might last 30 to 40 minutes, but because you find yourself so engrossed in the tactical thinking, or marvelling at your creation, it really feels a lot quicker.
During a game every player chooses a difficulty level of window to attempt to build. Being brave and going for the more difficult creations allows players to start with extra ‘favour’ tokens that can be spent during the game to utilise tool cards that sit in the centre of the playing area. These cards offer little bonuses and extra moves during play, but do come at a cost. For myself it was nice to see larger rewards for the bold of heart, and the tool cards do come in very handy at times and are essential when you glaze yourself into a corner.
Finally I want to talk components and some very nice touches. Each player gets to choose one of four potential windows to create and each window brings a varying level of complexity, then the chosen window card is slipped inside the larger individual player board to create a really nice foundation from which to begin laying dice and creating beauty. It looks great and, whilst not unique, the sliding of the card into place is a brilliant touch that comes to life under the imminent flurry of multicoloured dice. The dice (90 in total) are delicately coloured rather than being loud and brash, the favour tokens are cool little solid gems of goodness, and everything is contained in logoed drawstring bags. The whole package is genuinely superb, and thankfully it has the game to back it.
What’s Not So Good?
This is a little more tricky. The problem I have is that I haven’t yet had a bad experience with Sagrada, and neither have the players I’ve shared it with. At present this is still a game I will happily agree to play whenever it is mentioned.
I suppose there might be a time somewhere in the future that I become bored of gameplay that could perhaps be considered a bit samey with each outing. I mean how much variety can be delivered by creating a stained glass window? Yet, I still end up completely engrossed in its delights.
Damn, this ‘not so good’ section is taking a turn for the ‘what’s good?’ again.
I imagine some players will find the game a bit too light…there I found something. Being abstract in nature requires players to already be open to such ways of playing. Sagrada doesn’t tell stories, nor does it crave adventure, or challenge players to adapt to ever more challenging scenarios and circumstances. Personally, I don’t think it has to, however, others may indeed find this a shortcoming for the game and will subsequently will see it gathering more shelf dust than it deserves.
Also, the little secret tasks are all simply about collecting more dice of a certain colour and scoring the numbers on those dice at the end of the game, and, with a modicum of attention paid to opponents it can become glaringly obvious which colour they are chasing. It doesn’t make a huge difference however as you’ll likely be focused on chasing your own special dice, but it would have been welcome to see a little variety in secret mission ideas.
Where’s the Appeal?
Sagrada, in my opinion, is a game with wide reaching appeal. It holds enough strategy to prove engaging for multiple plays, but it is simple enough that it can be played rulebook free in a couple of rounds. It is a competitive affair, but one that never allows the competition to get in the way of the fun. The game can be played to finish in somewhere between half and hour to 45 minutes so is a good fit for the game night schedule, and, it is also a superb game to introduce new players to and highlight just how charming and engaging modern board games can be.
One for the Kids?
I have no hesitation in recommending a little stained glass addition to your family game night. I played Sagrada with ages from eight to seventeen and it went down a treat. The basics are very simple to follow, the drafting is always fun, and the strategy is never over complicated. The game has become a real favourite in our house with it’s gentle theme and mellow competitive challenge and in my opinion can be played, and should be played, by one and all.
Sagrada is a true shining light in an already bright board gaming landscape. It is engaging, addictive and deeply enjoyable, bringing simple gameplay skipping into town hand in hand with damned good fun. It finds a very happy medium between strategic play and lucky rolls that elevates every play to lovely heights of loveliness. Oh, and it’s wonderfully cosy. Like, truly deeply mellow cosy. The sort that paints a big daft dreamy smile on your chops and turns your eyes into a glazed pool of colour. It’s a marshmallow in game form, that’s what it is! Right, I’m off for a lie down.
Designer – Adrian Adamescu, Daryl Andrews
Players – 1 to 4
Playtime – 30 to 45 minutes