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Pan – Santorini [Game Changer]

Santorini is a beautiful game. Based on the real life isle of Santorini, players take the roles of gods guiding workers to build the famous blue domes and Aegean structures of the town. To do so they get two actions in a turn, each taking place in a 5×5 grid.

Santorini Review
A mid-game shot.

First, you (as the player) must move one of your workers by one space. This can be on the same level in any direction, in any of the 8 available spaces surrounding a player, or it can be up one level on an adjacent building. You cannot jump up two levels, but you can jump down any number of levels.

Secondly, you have to build one level. This can be on any adjacent building to the worker you just moved, so long as it makes sense in regards to the building placement. If building on the board, you are building the ground floor. If building on the ground floor, you are building the second floor. If building on the second floor you are (yes, you guessed it) building the third floor, and if you are building on the third floor…NO…no dear reader. You are not building the fourth floor. You are building the dome.

The goal of any player in Santorini, is to appease the gods by getting a worker standing on the third floor of any building. Naturally, this can be stopped by the other player building a dome on top of that story, from any neighbouring space, no matter the elevation.

Now, Santorini can be a pretty tricky game at the best of times. Don’t let the cartoon style fool you, because it can be incredibly brutal. That being said, there is an additional complication – and that is in the form of the gods.

Gods grant the player, in Santorini, a singular unique ability for them that game. That ability can usually (although not always) be used on the player’s turn, and they range in variety. There are 10 basic gods, recommended for starter players, and these vary massively. To give examples:

  • Apollo, God of Music – On your move, your worker may move into an opponent worker’s space by forcing their worker to the space you just vacated.
  • Atlas, Titan Shouldering the Heavens – When you build, your worker has the option to build a dome at any level.
  • Prometheus, Titan Benefactor of Mankind – On your turn, if your worker does not move up, it may build both before and after moving.

As you can see, the god powers are pretty powerful. There are, as well as the basic 10 gods, 45 other gods – but today we are going to ignore all but one. Today we are going to talk about Pan.

Pan in Santorini

Pan in Santorini

Now, I have to admit, before we continue, that I am not a huge fan of Pan in Santorini. If I am being fair, I have to admit that all of the gods in Santorini are game changers (and in due course, if we continue this series, I am sure more than one will make it in). That being said, if you ask me, Pan changes the game the most – out of the gods I have played.

So, what does Pan do? Well, to quote his explanation in the rule book:

Pan – God of the Wild

Win Condition: You also win if your worker moves down two or more levels.

Santorini Rule Book, Page 2

Yes, Pan is the only god out of the basic 10 to have a variable win condition. Pan is also one of the only four gods in the game to introduce a variable win condition – the other three being Eros, Chronus, and Moerae.

How Pan Changes Santorini

Pan changes the game so much because he is considered a basic god. Being considered basic means he will probably be played more, in the long run, than the other gods because he is recommended as one to start with.

What Pan’s ability actually does though is brutal, and his ability can warp the game into a crazy game of cat and mouse. Playing as Pan means you get to win if you either get to the third story of any building (ie. the standard win condition) or if you get to the second, and last long enough to jump off it on the next round into an empty space.

The brutality of Pan may not seem completely clear at first. I mean, what isn’t there to like? That sounds awesome for the Pan player.

Well, yes dear reader, Pan is awesome for the player who is playing Pan. That being said, it’s not the player who is playing Pan that we are worried about.

Instead, by Pan being in play, it can be really hard on the other player. Now, don’t get me wrong, Pan can act as a great leveller in Santorini, there to introduce new players by playing as the satyr, or give more experienced players a harder challenge to face. That being said, if he just gets added in at random he can be a very difficult opponent to face.

Rather than the match being level, games with Pan can appear lopsided. The other player needs to constant be watching what Pan is up to, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out how to climb up and stop Pan from climbing two levels higher than any structure around him.

What this does is make Pan an incredibly difficult opponent to face, doubling the number of win conditions for one player, whilst ensuring one player almost always (consistently) plays defensively to stop the other winning.

Ideas to Combat Pan

Of course, there are strategies that can be put in place to combat Pan, and if you want a challenging game then playing against Pan can be really fun (in the same way playing Dark Souls can be fun). He is hard to beat, and that makes means Pan can make Santorini difficult.

That being said, by flanking the Pan player, and constantly building around him/her, it is possible to corner them and ensure they don’t have two stories to jump off. This forces them to play using the standard win condition, and can help put the ball in your court.

If it were possible to choose a god to play against Pan then the dome building ability of Atlas can mean the Pan player can’t jump, and that could prove really valuable.

That being said, no matter what god you have, it is imperative to use the god’s ability to your advantage. When playing as Pan, you are effectively playing the game with an additional win condition but no other ability to help you move or build. By leveraging other gods’ abilities (using Apollo to switch places with, or Prometheus to keep building around, the other player for instance) it is possible to beat Pan.

It is definitely not easy though. Pan makes for a difficult opponent, and is one of Santorini’s many game changers.

This article was written as part of our “Game Changers” series in which we take a closer look in detail at specific cards or components of games. If you would like us to cover any aspects in particular or if you want to share your views on Santorini, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

Other Game Changers:
Recover the Magister’s Orb – Lords of Waterdeep

Other Santorini Articles
Santorini Review


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