Interview with Canadian designer Daryl Andrews, on his co-designed game Sagrada. For 2-4 players, Sagrada is a dice drafting game, where players are building stained glass windows of the famous Sagrada Família church is Barcelona.
Sagrada is on Kickstarter right now and is already funded.
Daryl, it has been a while since our last interview. What are some games that are hitting your table lately?
Daryl: I have been enjoying some great games this summer. I was lucky enough to attend both Origins & Gen Con so I got a few great new games. My wife & I have been enjoying the new Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails. Also we have enjoyed playing Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft designed by Diego Ibanez. Plus lots and lots of prototypes! Still looking for a group to play SeaFall with.
You have a new co-designed game that is currently on Kickstarter, called Sagrada. Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game it is and give us an overview on how it is played?
Daryl: My pleasure! The main thing you got to understand is each player is responsible to make the most beautiful stained glass window for the Sagrada Familia (a beautiful church in Barcelona).
The window crafting is done via dice drafting, where each die represents a piece of glass in colour and the pip value shows what shade. At the beginning of each game, during setup, randomly select 3 public objective cards (many included for lots of replayability). These cards will help determine which person has created the most beautiful window. Cards judge a variety of things including: rows or color variety, lots of light shades (low pip values), diagonal lines of color, etc. Additionally, each player has a secret objective. At the end of the game, players compare their windows using the objectives on display (plus private) to determine the best window. I have heard some people say its like a fun interactive sudoku puzzle – but you still have player interaction due to the drafting of dice and the helpers.
What’s the story behind the game’s creation and how did the theme of stained glass window making come about?
Daryl: Adrian & I have many designed games in a variety of stages. Adrian had recently showed me an idea of his, based on the 5 color theorem. At the time we knew we had an idea for a mechanic – but not a game. Then I went to Europe with my wife for a few weeks. While on the trip I spent two weeks in Spain. One of the first things I did in Barcelona was visit the Sagrada Familia. It’s an incredible structure. The Cathedral is beautiful and inspiring and undone (started in 1882 and still only about 70% complete). The original architect, Gaudi, had not only an amazing blueprint for the creation of this temple, but Gaudi also intentionally left spaces for future architects to breathe their own artistic expressions into the Basilica. This really influenced our idea of giving players some instructions, but creative liberty. Ultimately, giving players interesting decisions.
Did any games influence you when you were creating Sagrada?
Daryl: The most obvious influence on the game is Blueprints. As I was one of the original playtesters, and good friend of Yves Tourigny, I have also been a big fan of his board & card game designs. Unlike Blueprints, where players are using dice like building blocks to create the shape of buildings, we use dice as the flat glass pieces within a window frame. We think Sagrada is more puzzle-like and less about pushing your luck for awards. We hope people would want both games in their personal collections.
One of the things that stands out is there is a lot of variability in the game, different public and private goals, only a few tool cards are used in each game, and everyone even gets their own unique board (and there are quite a few of them at that). Why did you go the route that everyone gets a different board layout over the same board layout, what do you think this adds to the gameplay?
Great question! Adrian & I like to design games where players have lots of variability in the box. We want to give players good value. Also, it is easy for players to house rule playing the same layout, or play with specific favorite tools. However, if we didn’t design and provide the variety – we would be afraid players would only play the game a few times and be done with it. Instead the asymmetrical starting place, the random tools, and the variety of goals makes every game experience unique. Additionally, players can adjust difficulty levels by giving experienced players the “harder” windows and giving others “easier” windows. We hope this game becomes a game people can turn to on a regular basis and be confident the will have a positive play experience.
One of the important aspects of the game is players cannot place the same color or number orthogonally next to each other – this of course is what causes the tension in the game. Was this always the case with the game or did it come out of development?
Daryl: This is a crucial aspect to the design, and something that Adrian had originally presented to me as the premise for a game. What you’re describing is really a version of the “five color theorem.” Adrian & I often like to look at equations or theories and try to adapt them to games. The five color theorem is a result from graph theory, that given a plane separated into regions (example – think a country map of the different postal code regions), the regions may be colored using no more than five colors in such a way that no two adjacent regions receive the same color. After some experimenting together, we realized we could layer the pips into the decision making process too.
You have mentioned the five color theorem a few times. So did you guys always knew there was going to be five colors or did that come out of testing?
Daryl: The five colors became especially helpful when we layered in the pip rule. If you study the five color theorem, you will quickly discover the 4 color theorem. However, it took a computer to finally proof the 4 color theorem. We needed the 5 colors to give us the necessary play space where players can enjoy the tension, without their brains exploding.
Did you and Adrian ever toy with the idea of a clear/white die that acts as a wild color?
Daryl: Great minds think alike. We have played around with wild dice. We found it actually took away the essential tension of the game. We are still experimenting with ideas. Who knows, maybe a future mini expansion for the game? Only if it is done well and makes the game play better.
Floodgate Games is publishing the game, what has been your favorite part of working with them?
Daryl: Floodgate has been amazing to work with. Ben is fantastic at communication. He gives us sneak peeks and includes us in the development of the game. Also, he pulls together the best people to work with him. I’m so thankful Floodgate hired Peter Wocken to be the artist/illustrator for the game. He has done an amazing job not only making the game look amazing, but also he has done a great job with functionality. Making the game accessible and easy to learn.
When you were still prototyping Sagrada, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Daryl: The best feedback for the game, when it came to play testers, was to do with the tools (originally called “artist/helpers). Players regularly said it would be interesting if they had some reason to use the tools earlier, because most of the time players just saved them until the end. We tried a variety of different ways to address this. When we submitted the game to Floodgate we gave him a variety of options to address this and through Ben’s playtesting he found the best way to address it was making it cheaper to use a tool first (cost 1), while anyone who wanted to use that used tool, it would cost 2. Very thankful to playtesters for helping make the game better.
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Daryl: For me the game was very fun to gather play test feedback. I knew we had a game people would like when I noticed a trend at the end of each session. Almost every time I ran a play of Sagrada, at the end, players would pull out their cell phones and take a photo of the completed window they created and shared on social media.
What was the most challenging part of designing it?
Daryl: Honestly, the most challenging part of this game wasn’t the design, it was the pitching of the game. Every time I showed the game to a publisher they said they loved the game but due to the amount of dice, it would be too costly to make. It became a running joke for Adrian & I. Every time we received a rejection we would say, well we gained another customer, just still need to find a publisher.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing Sagrada?
Daryl: Adrian & I are really proud of the elegance of the game and the satisfaction players feel when they reach the end of the game. From placing the last die on the time track, to filling in your last space in your window, it has taught us to build games that have clear start, middle and ends. People crave structure, and if you can build a game with a clear story and timeline, players will appreciate the space and restrictions you give them.
What is one thing we haven’t covered today that you think fans of Sagrada would find interesting?
Daryl: I guess one random fact about this game, compared to most of my other designs: This game was almost strictly designed in Crossroads Board Game Cafe (Waterloo, ON). The game cafe is usually only open in evenings, but back when we designed Sagrada we would regularly be the only persons there for lunchtime design meetings. The owner of the cafe, Nik Katarya, would even spend time hanging out and play testing the games with us.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Sagrada?
Daryl: I’m really proud to be part of a game that is beautiful and accessible. I have found no matter the age, gender, or game experience of the player, Sagrada has been enjoyed by a wide variety of people. I hope to see pictures of beautiful diversity playing this game together. I realize the game isn’t for everyone, but I really hope it can be a game people can use to bring others to our beautiful hobby. Also, I’m hoping it’s the kind of game you can play with family, even if they don’t call themselves “gamers.”
If you had to describe Sagrada in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?
As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Daryl: Please consider supporting Sagrada on Kickstarter. We really appreciate you considering to purchase a copy. We need your help. However, if you don’t like to purchase through Kickstarter, then please consider buying Sagrada at your friendly local area game store. Additionally, can you help spread the word? If you buy a copy or not on KS, if you can share the game to your friends – sharing is a huge help. It only take a couple minutes to message your network of friends & family – letting them know about Sagrada “a game of dice drafting & window crafting.”
Thank you Daryl for taking some time out to speak with us on Sagrada.