First Impression: Sagrada

Tonight we pulled out Sagrada — a game that we picked up after our pleasant experience with Azul. Sagrada is a similar game in that you are picking (drafting) things and placing them on a grid. Both games are also based on historical elements: Azul is based on Portuguese wall tiles, and Sagrada is inspired by famous stained glass windows in Spain from the church of the same name.

Sagrada is different (more complex) in that the items you’re drafting are dice with different colors and numbers. How does it look? How does it play? After two games I’m now ready to at least write up my first impressions. A first impression post is written after only a few plays. A full-fledged review will come after longer experience with the game.

I think the similarities to Azul are both obvious and superficial. 🙂 Both games involve drawing things from a bag and putting them on the table, selecting from the choices available, and placing them on a pattern. Azul has five different tiles and that’s it. Sagrada has five different colors of dice that you have to roll before you place. That means instead of five potential choices you have 30 (each color with a range of values from one to six). Even if you see a red die come out of the bag, there’s still a chance it turns out that it won’t fit in your current pattern!

Azul uses a continuous drafting pattern. The first player draws his or her tiles, and the choice passes to the next player in a clockwise direction. Play continues until all of the tiles are selected. With Sagrada play reverses half way through the round. The first player selects their die, followed by the second and proceeding to the last player. At that point the last player takes a second turn and play proceeds in reverse order back to the first player! In a two player game (which we played tonight) it made for some interesting strategic choices, knowing that the second player got two picks in a row was sometimes a significant advantage. When play returns back to the first player they always have a choice; there are always at least two dice available. The last orphan die is used to keep track of how many rounds have been played.

But the complexities don’t stop there. Sagrada offers you tools that you can use to rework your choices. Some tools allow you to ignore certain restrictions of your design. Other tools allow you to re-roll dice, move dice, or even swap one die for one that is currently being used as a round marker. Azul doesn’t have a feature like this.

Finally, Sagrada has multiple objectives. With Azul the object is to complete rows (two points), columns (7 points), or color sets (ten points each!). Points are also scored as you build your tile pattern. In Sagrada everyone has a secret goal (special points for using dice of a specific color) and shares three public goals. Since the private goal cards are all distinct, you’re not going to be directly competing with another player in that area. And with the public goals being shared, it’s not a race to see who can finish one first. (My wife kept thinking it was like Roll For It! where the first person to finish a goal captures it and a new goal is placed. Hmm. That could actually be an interesting variation.) In one of our games tonight we had a public goal that awarded extra points for every column that did not have a repeat color, and another that awarded bonus points for columns without a repeat value! It made placing dice an interesting challenge at times!

Tools are not an infinite resource. Each tool requires favor tokens (one to start, two for each subsequent use) to activate. Each player gets a number of favor tokens based on the difficulty level of their chosen pattern. Unused favor tokens score points at the end, and unfilled window slots are a penalty.

First Impression
I love dice games, and I like abstract games, so I expected to like this game and I did. My wife tends to like games that don’t require a lot of deep strategy (one of her favorites is Elder Sign aka “Cthulhu Yahtzee”) and she enjoyed the game as well. This game will definitely hit our table again, and I’ll most likely be picking up the expansion to allow for larger game groups.

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