Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de

Santa Monica


Josh Wood

Alderac Entertainment Group

No. of Players:



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

White sand, breaking waves, a few palm trees in the background and seagulls circling in the sky. The sun is shining and it is comfortable warm. On the beach promenade the tourists stroll around, look at the stores and enjoy the beach and the ocean. This is how I know the beach of Santa Monica from pictures and from movies. Unfortunately, I have never been there myself. At least, in my last vacation, I was at the Baltic Sea. Although I saw the one or other seagull there too, and the sun was shining all day long, it was not the same. You had to dress warmly, because the temperatures were not high enough for sunbathing in a swimsuit.

Fortunately, I can experience the feeling of being at the Californian beach now in the game Santa Monica by AEG. Josh Wood packed the ingredients for the famous beach promenade into a game box. So, the beach, promenade and ocean can be found on 78 feature cards. Tourists, locals and VIPs wait as wooden tokens to visit the bars, leisure facilities and the beach. Even a food truck with its owner is ready and waiting for costumers. What is still missing are 2-4 players, who combine the ingredients to create an attractive and appealing promenade and send the meeple to explore the site. All players start with a single Starting Feature Tile that has two sides, the beach and the street, as their starting point.

[Santa Monica]

Click on image to enlarge!

In Santa Monica, players take turns at picking new Feature Cards from a display to work it in into their ever-growing promenade. Those new cards are smaller than the starting card, and are either set on the beach or the street side. All cards show various leisure opportunities that reminds me strongly of being on vacation. The beach cards show mostly sport and game activities, the promenade cards focus more on relaxation and shopping. While the cards of the Front Row of the display can be chosen for free, you must pay Sand Dollards for taking cards of the Back Row. Step by step a promenade with beach and street sides is created. But of course, it is not enough to just lay out the card.

Each Feature Card contains several elements. During the Placement Action, the player receives, for example, Sand Dollars, meeple tokens or movement points to move meeple that are already on the cards. In addition to that, a card indicates scoring conditions for the end of the game. These refer, for example, to the location tags on the cards (there are points for chains of adjacent locations) or activity rings for meeple visitors on that card. So, it is not enough just to have meeple, you also have to send the right kind of meeple to the matching cards. But beware: meeple that do not reach their destiny, may even result in a loss of victory points. Last but not least, the VIPs play an important role, as they leave their footprints on their walk through the promenade and can also generate victory points at the end of the game by visiting the right locations.

[Santa Monica]

Click on image to enlarge!

So, when choosing a card from the display, players have to think carefully about the goals they want to achieve. If you're lucky, a matching card is in the Front Row and you can take it for free. However, it can sometimes be advisable to invest a few sand dollars to purchase a card from the Back Row. This purchase also gives the player an additional advantage. This includes, for example, moving the meeple tokens already placed or swapping cards already played (which is normally not possible). By replenishing the card display after each turn, players always have new options or the need to rethink their plans. However, the players cannot afford to take too much time. After the first player has placed the 14th Feature Tile, the game ends. By then, players should have thought through how to place their locals, tourists or VIPs on matching Activity Rings. After all, all unplaced people count minus points at the end of the game! Fortunately all players are allowed to move their meeple one more step before the final score. Since the locals know Santa Monica quite well, they are even allowed to move three more steps. Now it becomes apparent which player has build up the Santa Monica beach promenade most skilfully and can therefore collect the most victory points.

[Santa Monica]

Click on image to enlarge!

Santa Monica is a fast game. Every single move is easy to do. Select a card, integrate it into the promenade and perform the corresponding actions. However, as the promenade grows, selecting a card will get more and more difficult, especially if the free space in the promenade is getting narrow and the appropriate card for the necessary upgrade of a chain of locations is still not available. The players have to consider which cards really contribute to their victory points and which enhancements are still necessary. Since there are different Sand Dollar Actions and various Scoring Objectives for the final scoring, the game always plays a little bit differently. The large number of different feature cards goes one step further! The winning strategy in a game may be completely out of place in the next round. Still it is certainly helpful to have a strategy for developing the beach promenade. In the end, however, luck is also necessary when drawing the cards. Santa Monica let's you dream on holiday. The appealing graphics and beautifully designed game components make you feel like you're on a Californian beach where you can put the rainy weather out of your mind. Oh no, it's raining again... I quickly put on my swimming trunks, pick my sunglasses and set up a new game of Santa Monica. Don't forget the sun cream!

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