Review – Sanssouci

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Designer Michael Kiesling

Artist Sergio Chaves, Andreas Rocha

Publisher Imperial Publishing

Category Tile-Laying

Length 30-45 minutes

Release Date 2013 (New version in 2023)

Player Count 2-4

Sanssouci is a game about designing a garden for a royal palace. From acclaimed designer Michael Kiesling, this 2-4 player game is a brisk, strategic stroll for the whole family.

Review

As a big fan of Michael Kiesling, I had always wanted to try Sanssouci, but I never had the chance to. When I saw that a reprint was coming (and that the reprint had significantly improved on the artwork of the original), I was thrilled.

In this game, 2-4 players compete to build the grandest palace garden. The game is played on individual player boards, along with a central market display, from which players purchase tiles. The goal of the game is to earn the most points.

On a player’s turn, they begin by playing an action card to take a tile from the central display. The card deck consists of:

  • Color-specific cards, which allow players to take a tile from a particular color slot (say, blue or yellow)
  • Tile specific cards, which allow players to take a certain tile if it is in the market, or any tile if it isn’t
  • Wild cards, which allow players to take any tile they like

Once the player has drafted a tile, they place it on the matching space of their board, in the row of the same color as the slot the tile came from. For example, if a player drafted a tree tile from a red slot, they would place the tile in the red row of their board, on the tree space.

If the designated space already has a tile on it, the player can instead flip their new tile over and place it on any empty space of the same row or column.

During setup, players also place noble figures atop each column of their board. After placing a tile, a player can move a noble along their grid—the goal in doing so is to move nobles as far down the columns as possible.

When moving a noble, the player can move it orthogonally along any garden features, but it must end up in the same column where it started. In other words, nobles can mosey around the garden from tile to tile, but have to end up in their own lane. Wherever a noble lands, the player earns the number of points shown on that row.

After doing this, the player adds a new tile to the market display and draws a new card to their hand.

Play continues like this until each player has used all of their cards. At that time, they score points for completed rows, columns, and for objective cards related to particular nobles. The player with the most points wins!


Sanssouci has a number of Michael Kiesling’s design hallmarks, such as individual grid boards, a central tile display, and scoring based on completed rows and columns. It fits his design aesthetic while managing to feel distinct from his other games. The drafting is not nearly as cutthroat as that of Azul, and there is no majority scoring like there is in Miyabi. As such, players focus almost exclusively on their own boards, without worrying about what their opponents are doing.

This makes Sanssouci very friendly to play. Folks who want tension and interaction won’t find them here, but this game instead delivers a laid-back, relaxing challenge, perfect for its theme. In terms of complexity, Sanssouci is on par with Azul and Miyabi—on the lighter end, and pretty easy to pick up, even for non-gamers.

At any given time, players have 2 cards to choose from, and a limited number of ways to place a tile/move a noble. The decisions in this game are meaningful and strategic, but they never feel overwhelming. Since there is so little interaction, I prefer Sanssouci as a 2-player game—at 4 players, the downtime can be a bit much, especially when playing with AP-prone players.

The production of Sanssouci is quite good, with striking art and pretty components. The use of symbology and color help things feel intuitive, and the rules are clear and concise.

Fans of light strategy games will definitely want to check this one out. Playing Sanssouci is relaxing, just like a stroll through an actual garden. I recommend this one to folks looking for a friendly game with a lovely theme and a low barrier to entry.

A review copy was provided by Imperial Publishing.

The Bottom Line

Sanssouci has a number of Michael Kiesling's design hallmarks, but it feels distinct from his other tile-drafting games. Recommended for folks who enjoy friendly games with lovely aesthetics.

 

7.5

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.