Gem-Boree: A Sapphiro Review

by Corey Whelen
9 October 2019

2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 6+

Sapphiro by MindWare makes an impression the minute you pull it out of the box. A glittering rainbow of multicoloured gems grace the gameboard and your objective becomes clear almost immediately. You want these gems. You NEED them. Specifically, you need one gem of each colour, and you don’t want the other players to get them. It’s a good, simple premise for an abstract game, and the rules are just as easy to parse. It’s easy to start playing Sapphiro, but it can be difficult to stop!

The glorious potential of an unplayed board…

Sapphiro is a relatively simple strategy game; it plays like an update on the classic “dots and lines” game that’s been played on so many restaurant napkins. Like any good abstract strategy game, the challenge level comes from how well your opponents play, and clever competitors will leave you with fewer options, meaning your plans need to become more complicated and multi-faceted to remain competitive, since your opponent’s will have every opportunity to disrupt your plans. That said, as the board fills up and spots become harder to come by, any tile you play may just inadvertently help your opponents with their plans.

On their turn, a player will always have six diamond-shaped tiles in front of them to choose from. Tiles will have a combination of colours on them, dictating where they can be played. Each potential spot to place a tile is between two coloured gems. Each of the colours point in a different direction, meaning the tile, when placed, needs to point to both of the appropriate coloured gems. If you can completely encircle a gem with the matching tiles, you get to take that gem. If you can manage to do this six times, with six different-colour gems, AND you can do it first, you win the game!

Sapphiro gems beat out Thanos
Thanos, eat your heart out!

Despite the heavy competitive elements, Sapphiro’s gameplay is surprisingly relaxed. Turns consist of putting down a single tile, and your choices are usually apparent. Planning is simple thanks to the colour-coded board, and even the most overly analytical of players will find the low pressure turns of Sapphiro fly by. Sometimes it feels more like building a beautiful puzzle together than it does playing a competitive board game!

Sapphiro is a casual strategy game. You’ll never have to consult the rules while playing, it’s rare to have long waits between turns, and it’s not very competitive. It’s a strange thing to say, but presentation is where this game really shines (heh). The board is assembled from 4 beautifully-crafted interlocking wooden pieces, the tiles have predetermined slots they fit into, and the tiny plastic gems are immediately enticing. Perhaps the most fun I had with Sapphiro was just looking around the board for places to play- the swirling colours and intricate patterns make it easy to get lost in the board.

Sapphiro tiles layout by MindWare
One of life's most underrated pleasures- a glittering sea of plastic gems.

Sapphiro is a very pretty game that can be learned in seconds and mastered over the course of a game. It has a nice blend of strategy and luck, and it rewards observant players. The pieces are lovely, the board is enrapturing, and the game is light enough for several replays during a casual gaming afternoon. All things considered, Sapphiro isn’t the most stressful or thought-provoking game, but it looks beautiful, it plays easy, and it’s sure to delight anyone looking to relax, forget about the world, and slip into some mindless gem-matching action.

*Disclaimer: Made by MindWare Games and distributed by Outset in Canada