Date: 16th April 2004
Game played: Santiago ( AMIGO Spiel ) BGG Id: 8125

This week, I finally got Santiago to the table. I had been waiting for a chance to try it with 5 players but the opportunity hasn't arisen and I finally decided to go ahead with four of us. The idea of the game is to plant crops on a barren landscape and ensure they receive an adequate water supply so that they can be harvested at the end of the game for a decent profit. Each round, four crop tiles are available for planting and players bid (once round the table) for the right to choose first. There are five different crops and two different grades of crop: the higher quality allows the owner to place 2 markers on the tile; the lower allows placement of one marker. Once a tile has been acquired, it is added to an empty space on the landscape and markers are placed on it. There are two considerations for placement: having the tile next to crop tiles of the same type increases the size of that crop field and the potential payout at the end of the game; while being connected to the water supply stops your crops from dying (and dead crops pay nothing).

Once the crops have been planted, the player who bid least gets to extend the water supply in one direction by laying a water channel, making more spaces fertile. Before deciding where to build the water channel, each player can offer a bribe to have the channel built where they want. The channel builder then decides whether to accept a bribe or build somewhere else at a personal cost of one escudo more than the highest bribe. Once the channel has been built, any crop tiles not connected to the water supply dry up - they lose one marker per turn and any tile without a marker dies the next time it dries up. After all the available channels have been built (11 rounds), the crops are harvested and players receive profits. Each field pays out, to any player who has markers in that field, a number of escudos equal to the number of tiles making up that field multiplied by the number of markers the player has in the field. The person with the most escudos from field profits and cash in hand is the winner.

This was a tense and very enjoyable game. There are lots of things to consider: how much to bid for choosing tiles; whether to bid lowest to become the channel builder; where to place tiles when you are uncertain how the water system will develop; whether and how much to bribe the channel builder; whether to accept a bribe and help the person bribing or build the water channel elsewhere (foregoing the bribe and having to pay out yourself, but placing the channel somewhere to help yourself and/or hinder your opponents). I made one or two silly errors when bidding for tiles and this proved quite costly. Mark K built up a strong presence in the largest fields and Nige made lots of money by accepting bribes and bidding relatively low for the tiles. And it was the money in hand that turned out to be decisive, giving Nige a much-needed win.

Mark K
Mark G

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