Sagrada Review – Stained Glass the Board Game
Of all the board game themes out there on the market, building stained glass windows does not seem like a particularly exciting one. We are used to games that have strange themes as board gamers – Ticket to Ride is a widely acclaimed game that is about building rail tracks from place to place. Azul is a tile placement game about literal ceramic tiles and yet it has won more awards than I can count this year. Even the likes of Sushi Go is only about sushi. If you want to be a gamer in this day and age, you have to accept that some board game themes just aren’t sexy.
You also have to accept, and even admit, that the driest themes can make for the best games. Such is the case with Sagrada.
Sagrada is one of those games that really makes an impression. When I first wanted to buy Sagrada it was extremely expensive on Amazon, costing around three times what it usually should cost. Luckily, at the UK Games Expo this year I managed to find a copy for £30, plus an additional 20% off, making it £24 and an insane bargain. Now we’ve played it numerous times with 2, 3, and 4 players, so it is about time to give it a review.
What is Sagrada?
Sagrada is, at its very core, a novel game. In the game, the players each play the parts of master stained glass window craftsmen, looking to create the ultimate window in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. To do this they are looking for the best shades, the best colours, and the best positions for each of the pieces of glass.
How Is Sagrada Played?
Sagrada is, at its very core, a dice drafting game that takes place over ten rounds. The goal is to score as many points as possible. It is a game for 1-4 players.
At the start of the game the players each take a stained glass window frame and are dealt two Window Pattern cards. The cards are double sided, and show the patterns needed for each window. These patterns are comprised of numbers, colours, and blanks. Each card has a difficulty rating in Favour Tokens (a physical commodity in the game as well as denoting difficulty), and the players pick one side, before returning the other Pattern card to the box. They will then slide it into their frame forming the map of dice they need to get in the game.
Whatever side you choose, whatever the difficulty of the window, you get the difficulty number in Favour Tokens. If the window is a difficulty five window then you will get 5 Favour Tokens at the start of the game.
One of the really clever things about Sagrada is that end game criteria are always the same (ten rounds), but the scoring system changes. Instead of having fixed goals, three goals are dealt out at the start of the game. These could be to get points for every pairing of 1 or 2 you have in your window. It could be you get points for each consecutive diagonal. It could be you get uber points for each set of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 you have. You get the idea.
Each player will also be given a super secret Private Objective card. These denote one of the five colours in the game, and at the end of the game you will get points equal to the numbers on all those dice of that denoted colour added together.
Three tools will also be placed out on the table. These allow you to manipulate dice, such as rerolling, or moving dice you have placed. You pay for these in Favour Tokens. It costs one if you are the first person to use the tool, or two if you are not the first. These get placed on the tool.
Okay, so the game is played really simply. Each round a number of dice will be drafted and rolled out of a big bag-o-dice. These will be rolled and represent the different coloured pieces of glass you have to work with. The number of dice rolled equals the number of players times two, plus one additional dice. This means it is 5 dice in a 2 player game. It is 7 dice in a 3 player game. It is 9 dice in a 4 player game.
The first player will choose a die and place it. Then, in clockwise order, the players will each choose a die. When it gets to the last player, it will then go counter clockwise, so the final player chooses two in a row and each player draws two dice overall each round.
As dice are drafted they are placed (and tools can be paid for if needed) and need to adhere to any placement restrictions. So they need to be on one of the following:
- Either on a square of their colour.
- Or on a number square with their number.
- Or on a blank square.
And they cannot:
- Be placed on the wrong colour.
- Be placed on the wrong number.
- Be placed somewhere where they are not either diagonally or orthogonal adjacent to a previous dice. In other words, dice must be touching another dice in any direction. The first dice must be placed on an edge space.
- Be placed next to their own number in an orthogonal direction.
- Be placed next to their own colour in an orthogonal direction.
In other words, a red 6 could not be placed left, right, above, or below another red dice or another 6 if it means the two dice will be touching. They can, however, be placed diagonally.
If a placement is noticed to be illegal, dice are removed from that player’s board until the board is legal again.
Just as a quick note about the dice; the colour is obviously the colour, but the numbers represent the shades – so a red 1 would be a light red, and a red 6 is a dark red. Neat eh?
Once everyone has drawn and placed two dice, there should be one left over, and that gets placed as the round tracker.
Round ten, the round tracker gets flipped and the game is scored. It’s that easy.
Quality and Components of Sagrada
I don’t usually do a separate section of the components of board games these days, however, I think Sagrada is an exception. This game is good looking. The dice are high quality, and the cards are good, but those frames are delightful. They really exude what the game is about, and that makes it more immersive than it may have previously been. It is beautiful, and the components are fitting for the game.
I also love how the Window Pattern cards slide into the frames, and the dice then slot into place. This stops them moving at a later date and makes what could have been a fiddly game really smooth.
What’s It Like Playing Sagrada?
I’m starting to really fall in love with these games that are like collaborative puzzles. Sagrada is, like Hive for instance, one of those games. Buying Sagrada there was a real risk, in my mind at least, that this game would be dry and dull. I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s true, and I am kind of ashamed that I did judge the game by photographs.
No. Sagrada is not a dry game. It is actually tense and tricky, and filled with difficult decisions. It is a game that requires the player to balance their window as they go along, where they are hoping and praying that the rest of the players don’t take the dice they want before they get the chance to fill a difficult square. There is a lot of oddly aesthetic strategy and that is really refreshing.
My favourite way of describing it actually comes from all.aboard.games on my Instagram photo of Sagrada when they described it as “Social Soduku”. It’s true. It is a maths puzzle as much as it is a puzzle about dice and colours. It includes a lot of probability and working numbers out.
Sagrada plays beautifully and it is an incredibly refreshing game. It is so simple that the rules fit on two sides of A4, and yet it is so beautiful to play. So much thought has been put into the game, and it really shows. It is obvious that the designers really love it as a passion project. That love comes through.
Sounding slightly less cheesy, Sagrada is a relatively quick game. Our longest game has been an hour, and our shortest 30 minutes. It is compact, making it a great light filler game.
That being said, Sagrada is probably not the kind of game you can make an entire evening out of. The theme does come through, but it may not be enough to keep people engaged for an entire evening. That being said, playing one or two games in a row is a treat. It works really well in short bursts.
TLDR; Sagrada Review Conclusion
Reviews always come down to one question – “would you recommend the game?”
Well, for this review dear reader, I would like throw another question out there. Does Sagrada live up to the hype?
The answer to both of those questions is a resounding: Yes.
We always enjoy breaking Sagrada out onto the gaming table. We’ve only had it around a month and a half now and it is already one of our most played games of this year. I really enjoy it and, if you are reading this or have ready any of my other reviews, and you agree with me on those, then you may also enjoy Sagrada.
Sagrada lives in that happy place with games. It is has a low entry level. It is colourful. It is interesting. It is as strategic as you want it to be. That makes it an incredibly easy game to recommend.
So, what do you think? What are your thoughts of Sagrada? Is this the kind of game that would interest you, or would is the theme not to your liking? Let me know in the comments below.