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Sagrada; A Beautiful Game Yet Not Without Flaws

Sagrada is pretty. Very pretty. And it's a pretty solid gateway game as well. But I eventually traded it away despite all of that.

Something I've harped upon pretty solidly in the past, is that I need to feel like I am making choices in every game I play. If a game has a lack of choice, and a lack of meaningful choice is effectively the same thing, then I lose interest in it after 1 or 2 plays. As pretty as Sagrada is, it falls into that category.

The basics of Sagrada are simple, the game lasts 10 rounds, in which players draft dice from a common pool to slot them into their windows following restrictions on the one hand, and scoring objectives on the other hand. Some dice can't go next to other dice, and even when they can, perhaps they shouldn't as it won't help your score or might make placement in a later round more difficult. After 10 rounds everyone scores based on 3 common scoring cards and their own private scoring objective.

My first problem with Sagrada is that past some basic strategies on how to optimally place dice, the game quickly turns into a very obvious choice every time. Realistically every set of dice selections have a quickly deduced optimal choice that will score you the most points. You can make some occasionally interesting choices by weighing up the risk value of taking a lower scoring die, knowing that red dice haven't been drawn much and are more likely to come out. Or weighing up which die your opponent is more likely to pick and thus making less obvious choices with the hope that odds/judgement calls will pay off. But past that, every choice comes down to math, and math that is usually pretty easy to work through. Thus after a handful of plays, I lost interest in going through the motions.

My second problem with Sagrada is the math mentioned above. I don't like games where every choice that actually matters come down to counting points. I want to make decisions that can't be decided by doing homework, choices that are about people and not numbers. Do I move into a battle in Blood Rage, do I pursue marketing or production in Food Chain Magnate, how will the board state evolve in Terraforming Mars. Not whether a blue die here is going to net 12 points, but a green die there is going to net 13. Make the people the most important part of the game.

Finally my third problem with Sagrada, is that Roll Player exists. While I have yet to decide whether Roll Player will stay in my collection, for the most part it does everything Sagrada does but better. The game is more exploratory so your math changes throughout the game rather than a fixed establish point from turn 1. The decisions have more costs attached to them, both in turn order sequencing and actual gold, making it a much less obvious choice when min maxing, plus because of turn order, you're always judging whether taking a better die will hurt you when depending on what other players might buy if they go earlier in turn order. While it still ends up feeling fairly procedural, it's much less so. It's basically playing Sagrada but with more theme, better choices, and less homework. And that made getting rid of Sagrada pretty easy.

For fairness sake, I will note that Sagrada has a shorter playtime and is much prettier, thereby making it a much better gateway game than Roll Player. Fortunately in my collection I have plenty of games that fill those slots just fine, and with that being Sagrada's saving grace, it wasn't enough to keep it on my shelf.

My next goal is to play the supposedly necessary expansion to Roll Player; Monsters and Minions. That will likely determine whether Roll Player stays in my collection or not...and I will of course write about it then.


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