Sagrada Review - Box Feature

Sagrada Review (2022): Dice, Stained Glass and Puzzles

Play Time: 30-45 Min / Players: 1-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 14+ we think 8+ / Publisher: Floodgate Games / Designer: Adrian Adamescu, Daryl Andrews

Sagrada Ratings and Summary

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Kids Rating
Teen Rating
Parent Rating

Summary

Kids rating from our daughters (7 &10).
Teen rating from our son (14).

Sagrada is a game that ratchets up the tension as play progresses and rewards forward planning. It’s challenging, fun and keeps you on your toes throughout. If you like solving evolving puzzles Sagrada is likely to appeal.

3.5

Pros

  • Nice sense of progression and building tension as the game develops
  • Simple rule set that’s easy to teach
  • Challenging decisions and depth thanks to multiple constraints to consider
  • The tools add some nice options to get you out of a bind
  • Components look great, especially the colourful dice.

Cons

  • Solo games are overly difficult even on easy mode and this may put people off playing solo.

Big thanks to BoardGameRentals.co.nz for providing a copy of this game for review. As always, we provide our own unbiased perspectives on games we review.


What You Will Find in Our Sagrada Review


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I love a challenging game, especially when it isn’t over burdened with complex rules. Sagrada from Floodgate Games and designers Adrian Adamescu and Daryl Andrews is an example of a game which is accessible but always feels challenging. It’s a bit deceptive really, it looks pretty, it involves simple dice-drafting, and the rule book is quite slim, but at times it feels like I am thinking so hard that smoke is coming out of my ears. Some may find it frustrating, but it’s a challenge that keeps drawing me in for one more game.

How to Play Sagrada

Have you ever started a project totally underestimating how long it would take and never really finishing it? Maybe some renovations or a deck that never quite gets finished? Sagrada is based on a famous example of that, the construction of the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Spain which has been ongoing for over 130 years. Get your ‘A’ game ready, they want you to give construction a boost by trying your hand at creating a masterpiece stained-glass window. It’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain so there is a bit of pressure here to get it right.

Objective

The goal in Sagrada is simple, create patterns according to scoring objectives that earn points. The glazier with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Set Up 

Sagrada Review - Game in Play
In Sagrada each player will be trying to accumulate the most points by completing public and private scoring objectives.

First things first, dump all of the pretty, glittering colourful dice onto the table. Then sit back and watch for the next 10 or so minutes as your kids play with the dice and create towers. With that out the way you can now get started setting up. Quickly distract your kids, grab all the dice and shove them in the bag out of sight.

Each player will get a random private objective card, a window frame player board, a score marker and two double-sided window pattern cards. Now comes the tricky part, you will each have to choose one of the four available window patterns. The harder patterns will grant you more Favor Tokens (these give you access to helpful tools) but are more challenging to work with. Once you have picked your window pattern, get the relevant number of Favor Tokens and slide your window pattern card into your frame.

Next you will place the round track near the centre of the table, there will only be 10 rounds played. Shuffle and place 3 Tool Cards in the centre of the table, these give you a one-off benefit at the cost of Favor Tokens. You will also shuffle and place 3 Public Objective cards, these determine which dice patterns will score points during the game and are available to all players. Now you’re ready to try your hand at making a beautiful stained-glass work of art.

Turns

By this point you are probably relieved that the rule book is only 4 pages long. As I mentioned you won’t struggle with the rules here, but beware this meagre set of rules is more than enough to have you second and triple guessing some of your choices.

Each round consists of the starting player randomly drawing dice equal to two per player plus one extra. These colourful little cubes are then rolled to determine your choices for the round.

Each turn you can select a dice to draft and place and/or use one of those handy tools for the cost of Favor Tokens. Play then progresses to the next player who does the same. When the last player’s turn comes round, they get to pick twice. A sort of compensation for picking last. The turn order then reverses. By the end of the round each player would have had the opportunity to choose and place two dice in total. The last remaining die is added to the round track to show how many turns remain.

Sagrada Review - Player Boards
Each player will select a Window Pattern to insert in their Window Frame. The patterns will add additional placement restrictions. The more challenging patterns will grant more Favor Tokens.

That was the easy part…the next part is what makes this game feel like an uphill battle that only gets more challenging with each turn. Your first dice must be placed at the outside edge of your window frame and each subsequent dice must be placed adjacent to an existing die, either diagonally or orthogonally (above, below, left or right). If that sounds simple there are a number of other restrictions you must respect. Dice cannot be placed next to each other if they are of the same colour or shade (the number of the dice is referred to as a shade here). If all of that weren’t enough your selected Window Pattern card has additional restrictions:

  • Coloured squares can only have a die placed that matches the colour on that square
  • Numbered squares can only have a die placed that matches the number shade on that square
  • Mercifully any blank spaces have no further restrictions.

Just consider that for a minute, there’s a lot that can restrict your legal choices and at times you can glaze yourself into a bind that you can’t easily get out of. My son has had his fair share of frustration because of this. ‘Dad, I just realised I placed this blue 5 next to a square that needs a 5, how did I miss that? This game is brutal.’ It may seem silly, but it can be easy to do given how much you need to consider.

When you are really stuck you can take advantage of one of the Tools available that help you break the rules as a one off. They will cost you one of your precious Favor Tokens if you are the first to use a Tool,  subsequent players must pay two Favor Tokens to use that same Tool. Timing these for maximum benefit vs cost can be a hard decision, you simply don’t know what predicament the dice will create in future rounds. Those dice can lead to elation one round and despair the next.

Sagrada Review - Tool Cards
Tool cards can be used for the cost of Favor Tokens. Each tool can help you break the placement rules a little and get you out of a jam.

Once you have battled your way through 10 rounds and created your work of art, it’s time to count up points and determine the winner.

Solo Mode

For those that like to be taken down a peg or two without an audience there is a solo mode. Be warned it is very, very challenging. The solo mode is played in the same way but with a few important differences:

  • You can choose between 1-5 Tool cards, the more you choose the easier it is. Even at the easiest level it is brutally unforgiving
  • There are two private and two public objectives randomly selected. At the end of the game, you can choose one private objective to score from as well as both public objectives
  • There are no Favor tokens, Tool cards are used by placing an appropriately coloured die on them. This has the added benefit of reducing the number of dice that go to the round track, therefore reducing your target score
  • You have a pool of 4 dice to choose from each round. 2 dice can be placed in your frame and any leftovers are placed on the round track. The sum total of all numbers on the dice in the round track by the end of 10 rounds is the target score you have to beat. They add up fast. You win if your score exceeds the target score.

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Gameplay Experience  

Sagrada’s simple rule set makes it easy to learn and the first few rounds feel as though you have an abundance of good choices. It’s all pretty low key, but gradually as the rounds progress you start to find it a little harder to decide where to place your dice. The more dice you place the more you can restrict your options in future turns. It you don’t plan ahead it can feel like you are slowly sinking into a trap of your own making.

‘How did I do this to myself? I can only place a yellow 6 in that spot…I have a few rounds left, it could come up. Do I spend a Favor Token now? What if I need it later and really don’t have any options?’ It’s frustrating when you see your errors in hindsight but were blissfully ignorant earlier in the game. Sagrada is a brutal lesson in planning ahead.

Important decisions are made even before the game starts. Picking a Window Pattern offers trade-offs. Your reward for picking a harder Window Pattern is more Favor Tokens, but it also forces more constraints on you. Being able to experiment with the different difficulty levels of the Window Patterns is another interesting aspect of the game.

Those Favor Tokens can be crucial. Judging exactly the right time to use them to activate a Tool requires careful consideration. This is the part that younger kids may find challenging. My 7-year-old can confidently grasp all elements of the game but still struggles with the Tool cards and when to use them. I find I have to remind her they are available and also what they can do.

If you enjoy puzzles and like a challenge you are likely to find Sagrada is right up your alley. My oldest daughter caught on very quickly. As my son and I tried to teach her how it all worked we suddenly realised mid game that the student had become the master and she was confidently placing dice that somehow all worked to gain her a huge haul of points. As she smiled satisfied at the end of the game, she announced that she thought she got the hang of it and didn’t need any help for the next game.

Sagrada Review - Scoring Cards
There are a wide range of scoring objectives, but only three are used each game. The rewards vary according to their difficulty. Juggling different objectives and your board constraints is a constant challenge.

In fact, my wife and both daughters all seem to do great at this game, effortlessly deciding where to place their dice and racking up high point totals. It just clicks for them. On the other hand, my teen son struggles a bit with Sagrada. His biggest gripe is that the end game feels like it comes down to the luck of the dice. When you are down to the final few spaces in your Window Pattern and have only a few viable options the dice can be brutal, especially if you happen to be picking your dice last in the final round.

I personally find Sagrada to be more satisfying than frustrating. The thing that keeps drawing me back to Sagrada is the challenge. Sure, the dice will always play a role but you have meaningful choices here. If you give it a chance you will find there are ways to plan ahead a little and leave more favourable options open in the late game.

Is Sagrada a good solo game?

Sagrada can be played in 10-15 minutes solo and is quite a streamlined experience. Not a lot of fiddling or admin to do as there isn’t an AI opponent, your target score is determined as you play each round. So, it’s a low hassle experience for when you want a quick game.

There’s also an additional layer of strategy here that makes it more interesting. In solo mode the dice you leave behind matter as much as the dice you draft. There is a delicate balancing act between maximising the points on your board and minimising the target total. A difficult proposition even at the easiest level.

While I really enjoy the solo mode, I think it has one big drawback that could put a lot of people off. It is hard, very hard…I have heard people complain that it is near impossible to win. I have now started to get a few wins under my belt, but only with 4 or 5 Tool cards (the easiest levels). I love a challenge which is why I have probably persisted with it, but I think the ‘easy’ levels are still far too challenging and will frustrate a lot of people.

Components

Sagrada Review - Dice and Favor Tokens
So many beautiful, coloured dice!

There is something about handfuls of colourful dice that takes me to my happy place. Sagrada has 90 beautiful, glittery colourful dice in the box and that makes me smile. The rest of the components are nice enough and look to be of good quality. The player boards in particular are sturdy and thick with attractive colour schemes. The box insert also does a good job of keeping everything in its place.

Theme

Sagrada is at its core an abstract game. The theme supports the look and feel of the components but it really doesn’t feel like it is more than superficial. The end product doesn’t usually look like a work of art either, at best it will look like a clumsy amateur randomly connected stained glass pieces hoping for the best.

Final Thoughts

Sagrada is a simple game with loads of interesting and challenging decisions on offer. Yes, it’s unforgiving at times and you need to plan carefully, but I find myself drawn to it for exactly those reasons.

As far as the rest of the family is concerned my wife and two daughters really enjoy Sagrada. They found it simple to grasp and they enjoy puzzly, drafting games. My teen son finds it a little frustrating, particularly in the end game where a bad dice roll could leave you without viable options. Overall, Sagrada won 4 out of 5 of us over and that’s not bad at all.

Is Sagrada easy to learn?   The rules are very slim and once you get going it’s easy to understand. However, the game is very challenging and some may find it frustrating.

What will Sagrada teach my kids?  This game will help kids practice creating patterns according to the scoring cards and within the restrictions of their board. This means they have to adapt each round to the dice available and make the best of the options in front of them.

What age is appropriate for Sagrada?   We think 8+ is about right for Sagrada. Our 7-year-old can play but needs help/reminders about the Tool cards available and how they work.

Does Sagrada have good replay value?   The replay value here is in the challenge not in gameplay variation. The game feels similar each time you play but it’s the challenge that keeps you coming back for more.

Sagrada is often compared to another great drafting game called Azul. If you want to see a comprehensive comparison of both games check out our Azul vs Sagrada article

We hope you enjoyed our Sagrada review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page. You can also check out the Sagrada BGG page for more info.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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Other Games to Consider

Here are some other games to consider that involve drafting and tile placement:

  • Azul (Review)This is the original in the Azul series and is a super simple tile drafting and placement game. Although it’s very simple to learn it has incredible depth and strategy. Each round will involve drafting tiles from communal factories and attempting to make sets that can be used to make patterns in a wall area. Fantastic game but can be very cut throat.
  • Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (Review) – The second game in the Azul series is a little more complicated than the original and adds some additional layers. This time there is a glazier to consider that adds additional constraints and bonus points each round for completing patterns of certain colours. Another exceptional instalment in the Azul series.
  • Azul: Summer Pavilion (Review) – The third game in the Azul series is a little less cutthroat than the previous games. It now features a separate tile placement round and the ability to earn bonus tiles. We think this has a lot of depth but doesn’t add much in the way of additional complexity.
  • Cascadia (Review)– This is a very relaxing drafting and placement game. This time the theme is nature and wildlife related. Each player must draft and place combinations of habitats and wildlife to maximise points. There are multiple wildlife scoring cards which can be varied each game to keep things interesting. This one also has a great solo mode. There is not a lot of player interaction here but it is a fantastic game.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you play Sagrada solo?

Yes, you can play Sagrada solo. The game is very challenging, and some find that frustrating. However, it’s a quick 10-15 min game and has an interesting twist in that any dice left over from the drafting round contribute to the target score you are trying to beat.

What does Sagrada mean in English?

Sagrada is a Spanish word meaning “sacred”. 

What kind of game is Sagrada?

Dice-drafting and placement are the main elements of the game. Scoring is determined by public and private objectives that require certain patterns to be formed according to either dice colours or numbers on player boards.

What is the history of Sagrada Familia?

The Sagrada Familia is a large unfinished basilica in Barcelona, Spain. Construction began in 1882 and as at the time of writing has not been finished.

In solo mode how could I end up with no dice to place in the round track at the end of the round?

Two dice could be placed and two could be used for Tool cards leaving none left over for the round tracker. In this case you must find something else to place in that round marker to keep track of round progression.

In solo mode do I place 1 left over die in the round tracker or all left over dice?

All left over dice. There can be more than one die in each round tracker spot which still results in 10 rounds.

Do dice need to be adjacent to count as a set for scoring objectives?

Not if the card says ‘anywhere’ on it. For example, the card that states you get points for ‘Sets of 5 & 6 values anywhere’ counts for each set of these two numbers even if they are not next to each other.

The rule book suggests counting all of the first number of dice and all of the second number of dice and using the lower total to determine completed sets.

For example, if you have four dice showing the number 5 on them and 5 dice showing the number 6 on them, you would use the lower number to determine you have 5 sets that meet the scoring requirements.

Can I place my first dice on any window edge or just the four corner spots?

You can place your first die on any of the squares on the edge of the window board. That means top, bottom, left or right.

Can you draft a die that can’t be legally placed and then discard it?

No, the rules require you to draft a die and place it on an open window space or pass. If you pass this will leave an open spot on your board at the end of the game resulting in a 1-point penalty for each open square with no die present.

Strategy Tips

  • Do the hard parts as early as you can: It’s really tempting to fill in the ‘easy’ blank spaces on your board early in the game but that generally means you will have a far harder time at the end. The end game is where you need as many advantages as possible so having spaces left that don’t have number or colour restrictions near the end is a huge advantage. This means filling the spaces with restrictions as early as you can
  • Place your first die carefully: Your starting die placement determines where your future dice can go as they must be adjacent. Try to start in a spot that will give you a good range of options and not restrict you too much early in the game
  • Diagonal die placements have advantages: When placing die diagonally they can be the same colour or number as the die you have already placed, so there are fewer restrictions. The bigger advantage is that they tend to open more spaces that you can use in future turns. The quicker you can access large amounts of your board space, the more options you will have
  • Place high dice values for your private objective: Private objectives can net you a lot of points, usually far more than the public ones. If you see 5 or 6 value dice in the colour you’re after, they are an instant 5 or 6 points if you can place them. This is often more than completing a public objective for the placement of only a single die!
  • Take your time and plan ahead: Don’t rush your turn, think about what your die placement will mean in future turns. Here are some things to consider, will placing this die trap me later by making it harder to place dice next to it? Am I placing a coloured die next to a space where I must place the same colour die? Am I surrounding a space with multiple colours and numbers making it almost impossible to fill that space with a die that will not break the placement rules?
  • In Solo mode aim to use all your Tools: In solo mode every die used to activate a tool reduces your target point total. Aim to use all of the Tool cards available to reduce the number of points you need to win.
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