This review is done using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
Azul made by Plan B Games
Game Design by Michael Kiesling
Art Direction by Philippe Guérin
I always enjoy my trips back home to Indiana. I often get the opportunity to do a lot of board gaming with my cousin and his friends. The best part is visiting with my family, but another caveat is trying stuff I would normally overlook. This time around I was completely entranced by a colorful little game and I think you will be as well. Let’s take a look at Azul!
What is Azul?
Azul is a board game for 2-4 players, in which each player takes up the role of an artist embellishing the walls of the royal palace. Players attempt to pick up groups of colors in the hopes of creating a gorgeous work of art while filling columns and rows and making full utilization of certain colors. As each player is a competing artist, however, a subtle strategy of keeping track of your opponents is necessary. Every tile you place counts as victory points, but grabbing too many of one tile can lead to victory point loss as the extra tiles “fall to the floor”.
Playing the Game
Each player gets a game board and a small wooden black cube for tracking victory points. Colorful coasters are placed in between the players. The number you will use depends on the number of players. 5 packs of 20 differently colored tiles are dumped into cloth labeled bag. Shuffle the bag around and place 4 random tiles on each coaster. The first player tile goes right in the middle of the coasters. All this is done in 3-5 minutes depending on how many hands are there to help. You are now ready to play!
Play begins by choosing a first player. The game suggests the last person that has visited Portugal but at my table, we chose by the youngest first. Players will choose tiles of one color type on their turn from either a coaster or the center. Any tiles not chosen from a coaster are pushed to the center beside the 1st player tile. A player also has the option of choosing from the center as well, but the first to do so also picks up the first player tile, which they will slot in the first space at the bottom of the player board. The player takes any tiles chosen and slots them in one of 5 empty rows (pattern lines). Players try to fill rows in the pattern lines so they can later transfer that color tile over to the wall. The goal is to create rows and columns on the wall to gain maximum victory points.
Scoring is pretty simple and fast. Once all the tiles are gone, players will transfer 1 tile of a completed row on the pattern lines to the wall. A tile by itself counts as 1 victory point. However, if a tile is adjacent to other tiles, it scores 1 point for every tile next to it in a row and in a column. You count each tile horizontally scoring the placed tile itself. Repeat counting every tile including the one placed for vertically adjacent tiles. You track victory points using the small black wooden block on the player’s board.
Ending the Game
Every round ends when all the current tiles are gone. The coasters will be refilled from the blue bag until the bag is completely empty. The extra tiles the players remove when they are scoring go to the lid of the box. Once the blue bag is empty the tiles inside the lid of the box are placed inside the blue bag. Play will continue until one player achieves one horizontal line of 5 different color tiles complete on their wall. Endgame scoring rewards 2 points for every complete row, 7 points for each complete column, and 10 points for having all of one color tile. The player with the most victory points is the winner!
My thoughts on the game
Azul is an excellent thought provoking game. Its abstract style is both aesthetically pleasing and its style is classic in the vein of games like othello or chinese checkers. Most importantly, it allows for a peaceful competitive game that promotes the use of quiet strategy, usually reserved for games such as chess. The rules are easy to learn and can be taught with very little effort. Setup takes no time at all and clean up is just as fast. This makes Azul the perfect warm up game, or in between longer games candidate for your game table. Replay value is extremely high and the game offers a more abstract alternate game style to add extra replay value. Consider picking up Azul today!