Sagrada is a board game that we have had for quite some time and, while it’s not one that we play obsessively, it does get pulled out surprisingly frequently.

As a skilled artisan, you will use cleverness and careful planning to craft a stained glass window masterpiece in the Sagrada Familia.

Players will take turns drafting glass pieces, represented by dice; carefully choosing where to place each one in their window. Windows have unique color and shade requirements, and similar dice may never be adjacent so placing each die is more challenging than the last. Fortunately, you’ll have just the right tools to help you through. Gain prestige by adapting to the preferences of your fickle admirers, and of course, by adding your own artistic flair while completing your glass masterpiece in

The game involves drawing dice from a limited pool of dice and placing these on their window, obeying the colour and value restrictions on their window card. After ten rounds the game is over and players add up points based on their public and private objectives. The player with the most points is the winner.

This is the sort of deceptively simple game that I really enjoy. The rules really are as simple as the above paragraph suggests, but deciding where to place your dice becomes increasingly challenging as the game progresses. The more dice you have on your window, the more difficult it is to find a place to put the next die that still conforms to the placement rules. So you have to start thinking ahead if you want to avoid leaving gaps.

The game includes rules for playing on your own. I haven’t tried this but I can see the appeal as the game really is a puzzle to be solved.

There isn’t a huge amount of depth to Sagrada, but it is quick to set up, fun to play and surprisingly satisfying. The game moves quickly and still manages to confront the players with interesting decisions and the simplicity of the rules means that anyone can very easily join in.

Nine Men’s Morris

Many years ago, I picked up a “Classic Games Compendium”, a collection of boards and pieces needed to play a whole stack of classic, or traditional, board games. It also came with a pack of cards, because you can never have too many playing cards.

One game from this collection that has seen a lot of play over the past few weeks is Nine Men’s Morris. This is a game whose origins are lost so far back in the mists of time that no-one is quite sure where or when it first emerged, and it’s one that remains surprisingly playable.

Each player has nine pieces and the aim of the game is to form ‘mills’ a horizontal or vertical line of three men. When you form a mill, you can take one of your opponent’s pieces. When you reduce your opponent to two pieces, you have won the game.

It’s played in two parts. First, the players take turns to place their pieces and, once all of the pieces are placed, the players take turns in moving them.

It’s always tempting to try and form mills in the first (piece placing) part of the game but this, I think, is a mistake. When a player does this they tend to find all their pieces bunched up together and unable to move. It is far better to place pieces in order to achieve maximum flexibility later in the game.

Nine Men’s Morris is a solved game (pdf), for which the optimal strategy has been calculated and perfect play from both players will always result in a draw.

We are far from perfect.