Can’t travel to the beach right now? Bring the beach experience to your table with Santa Monica by AEG.
If there’s anything I could use right now, it’s a trip to the beach. Getting sunburned even though I put on SPF 180, spending too much on tacky junk from gift shops, and getting my butt whupped at beach volleyball, all sounds great. But, as a sensible person, that’s not in the cards right now. Fortunately, AEG has provided a method of escapism.
Santa Monica is a competitive tableau-building game with a city building theme. The goal of each player is to score the most victory points at the end of the game. Points are scored in a variety of ways, but primarily through proper placement of city features, although there are many other effects as well. The game ends once a player has placed their 14th city feature.
AEG was rad enough to send me a copy to review so I was able to sit down and play it and really get a feel for the game. Each player starts with a special feature (shown above) which gives the player some direction to start. Each starting feature scores victory points (sand castle icon) in different ways. Each player also starts with a VIP or two. Throughout the game, players will be able to move their VIPs around the beach, scoring points based on which locations they visit.
On each player’s turn, they’ll have the option to gain a new city feature. They choose one of the feature cards in the bottom row and add it to their city in the one of 2 rows: boardwalk or beach. Each feature card has a number of …. well, features which can aid in scoring points. Location Tags (Business, Tourist spot, Sports, Nature, etc…) are used for adjacency bonuses, which some cards require for points. Another feature is the Activity Circle. By moving tourists and locals into these circles, the player will score the noted number of points. Finally, some features score points for “chains” of the same Location Tag.
Throughout the game, players will gain Sand Dollars, which are primarily used for Sand Dollar actions. These Sand Dollar actions are different each game and provide players an alternative option to simply drawing a card from the Feature Display.
Once either player has placed their 14th feature, all other players get one final turn then the game end and moves onto scoring.
Whichever player scores the most points wins!
If AEG is good at one thing (and they’re good at many things), it would be games which are easy to pick up but have a lot of nuance. Santa Monica is really straight forward, although I’ll admit it did seem like a lot at first, once I sat down and took a turn, I realized it was way easer to pick up than it seemed at first.
What I especially like about Santa Monica is the amount of feature cards (78), scoring cards (3) and sand dollar cards (4 double sided). Each combination of these offers a brand new game each time. Plus, games like this really allow multiple strategies towards victory. During my game, I picked up a statue card which was worth a lot if I could surround it properly. It took some doing, but I did it and it got me a whopping 8 points! But wasn’t enough to nab me the victory.
Santa Monica is quick to setup, teach and play. If you’re a fan of city building games, but looking for something on the lighter side, pick up Santa Monica.
Santa Monica – $39.99 – Available Now
In Santa Monica, you are trying to create the most appealing neighborhood in southern California. Will you choose to create a calm, quiet beach focused on nature, a bustling beach full of tourists, or something in-between to appeal to the locals?
Each turn, you draft a feature card from the display to build up either your beach or your street. These features work together to score you victory points. The player with the most points wins!
- 2 -4 Players
- 45 Minutes
- Ages 14+
Thanks for reading!