Enlarge /. Sagrada on steam.
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Sagrada is one of the best dice game games on the market. It makes excellent use of the inherent randomness of cubes and yet offers numerous opportunities for strategic thinking and long-term planning. It's also a visually appealing game that is easy to learn, but the more depth you play the more you play it – especially by getting players to think about how early decisions can limit their options later. And it's about building stained glass windows. Wonderful.
Today there is a digital version of Sagrada by Dire Wolf Digital, maker of several of the best digital board game customizations on the market (including the 2019 Raiders of the North Sea and Yellow & Yangtze, both on my list of the best 2019 board game apps ).
The Sagrada base game allows two to four players to collect dice, which are then placed on their individual 4×5 grids. Some rooms show certain colors or cube values (but not both) that you have to adjust to place something there. The game lasts ten rounds. In each round, the starting player rolls two dice per player plus one more. Then the players choose dice in a snake design (with three players, the players move in the order 1-2-3 and then 3-2 -1) and place them on their boards.
However, there are limits. The first cube you place must be somewhere on one of the 12 side tiles. All cubes after that must be placed orthogonally or diagonally next to a cube that you have already placed. You cannot place two cubes of the same color or value side by side, and you have to match everything that has already been printed on your screen.
There are also three tools available in each game, each of which costs one or two favor tokens (in which case you can probably use them a maximum of three times). With the tools, you can do something that would otherwise violate the rules – for example, moving an already placed cube, ignoring a color limit on your screen, or flipping a cube to the opposite face value.
Each player is given a private goal at the start of the game, in which points are awarded that correspond to the sum of the face values of all the dice placed in a specific color. Then all players achieve the game's three public goals, which reward you for avoiding repeated colors or values in rows or columns or how many pairs of dice you have with certain values (1-2, 3-4 or 5-6)) or how often you place cubes of the same color diagonally next to each other. You lose one point for each empty space on your grid.
The app brings all the important information on one screen so that you can see it at a glance. Instead of text, symbols appear that represent the various endgame bonuses and the three tools available in this game. You can view text descriptions on Steam by hovering over each item. At this point you will receive the full text from the card in the physical game. Once you've played a few times, the icons for the goals are easy to grasp at a glance. (The symbols for the tools are somewhat arcane. In general, even after several games, I couldn't remember what these symbols meant.)
The app offers local pass-and-play, local games against AI opponents and asynchronous online games. The AI opponents are fair and come in three levels, with the middle players being “light” and the hard AI players good but inconsistent and sometimes missing the opportunity to use tools or throw dice late in the game that add an extra Could achieve goal. Playing online was sparse during the early access tests, but the app itself works fine. It offers options for private and public games as well as notifications when it's your turn.
Sagrada itself is very color-oriented and makes the app visually appealing with its cute but functional animations. (The app also offers a color-blind mode, in which each color has a unique pattern.) By far the most useful feature is the way the app tells you when and where you have a legal game, although the crucial decision really is which is space will be the most beneficial without restricting future cube placement.
Almost all of the board game apps from Dire Wolf were excellent – the only ones that are not important to me are the ones that I don't like the underlying game. Sagrada is another hit, perhaps the company's best so far, because the game itself was so good.