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What is it about kings and building works? If board game designs are anything to go by, monarchs are never satisfied with their magnificent palaces and ornate gardens, they always want to commission further improvements. That, anyway, is the premise of Michael Kiesling's Sanssouci, named for the grand summer palace at Potsdam, near Berlin, built in the 18th Century by Prussia's Frederick the Great. Grand as Frederick the Great's palace was, it apparently wasn't great enough for Frederick's successor, his great-great-nephew Frederick William IV, so this game is themed around the improvements made to the gardens at Sanssouci.

In this game, players each have a deck of 18 cards from which they have two in hand. Each turn they play a card to take a tile from the central display and they place the tile on their individual garden board. Tiles go on the board in the row colour that corresponds to the position the tile was taken from on the central board. The player can then move one of their meeples along any path that can be traced on their board, provided that the meeple must end up in the same column in which it started. You score points whenever a meeple is moved in this way, and you score for completed rows and columns on your board. Players will also have objective cards that will score them extra points for having advanced the meeples in particular columns. You'll have these at the start of the game so they are likely to incentivise prioritising certain tiles over the 18 turns each player has over the course of the game.

The cards give players a surprising degree of choice over which tile to take, and the rules give you even greater flexibility when the spot has already been filled for the tile you take. It's going to be worthwhile filling columns and maybe rows, but with only 18 turns you won't be able to fill everything. There are also choices to be made about how far to move your meeple. You will obviously be tempted to move it as far as possible but if you only move it part of the way along the path and move it the rest of the way on the next turn, that will score you more points...

Sanssouci was originally published in 2013 by Ravensburger. This 2023 edition from Imperial Publishing and Fractal Juegos features art by Sergio Cháves and Andreas Rocha. The game is generally well produced but we weren't wholly convinced by the decision to make the designs unique for various of the tiles. There's no denying that this makes the completed boards look all the more attractive but for some of the tile designs it introduces some confusion over which column the tile belongs in. Don't let this put you off tho': Sanssouci is an accessible game that can be played and enjoyed just as much by those coming new to board games as by seasoned gamers looking for a light filler-length game.

And Sanssouci comes with two 'expansions' (ie: optional extra components and rules) in the box. You can play with overlays on players' garden boards that add bonus points and penalties for tile positions and you can incorporate the 'wild boar' expansion, which gives each player a pig meeple that provides a bonus point whenever a tile is placed that bumps it to a neighbouring square, with a three-point bonus if the boar has no orthogonal move available. Neither of these 'expansions' are game changers but they provide some minor variation to add to the game's further replayability.

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