Review: Azul

Ooooooooh boy.  I had been waiting for this game for quite some time after I saw a playthrough on Heavy Cardboard’s YouTube Channel.  Unfortunately it was quite hard to find, as it was extremely popular.

Luckily for me, I noticed that it was to be back in stock at Miniature Market, so I quickly jumped over to their corner of the internet, and managed to snag a preorder.  It shipped super quick, and since Samantha and I’s game of the week was “Play a New Game” we fired it up with some friends last Friday.

Azul is a tile placement game from Plan B Games/Next Move Games.  You are creating a wall inspired by azulejos that can be found across the southern Iberia peninsula.  While the theme is nice, to me it’s not vital to the gameplay (although it did make the game more appealing to Samantha).

On your turn you can take 1 color (from 5) of tiles from either a factory space or from the center of the board.  You then have to place those tiles on a row (containing 1-5 spaces) on your player board.  When you fill up a row, 1 tile goes over to your wall and you score points based upon how many existing tiles it touches.  The game is over when someone fills up a row on their wall.  The catch is that if you take more of one color than you can fit on a row, the excess falls to the floor, causing you to lose points.  There is also end game scoring for the number of rows, columns, and complete sets of colors you have on your wall.

This is a great game.  It’s thinky, but not so much that I don’t feel like I can play it after a day of heavy programming at work.  It has enough player interaction for us in that you can really screw up someone’s turn/plans if you stick them with enough tiles (at one point during our 1st game I lost 10 points [I think] because I didn’t have anywhere to put them) but if you play completely harsh you will likely won’t win.

The components are fantastic.  The player boards are chipboard along with the factory discs, but where the components really shine are the tiles.  They aren’t glass, but they feel like a heavier plastic.  I am not sure if it’s bakelite, but they are nice to touch and hold while you are thinking about where to play, and there isn’t a seam in them.  Additionally, the patterns for the tiles are printed on seamlessly, so I’m not too concerned about it wearing off anytime soon.  You also get a nice drawstring bag to keep all the tiles in.

For replayability, there is also a back side to the player board that is just a blank grid (the front side has specific tiles printed on each space in the wall). This is a much more thinky and ‘need to be more aware of what I’m doing’ way to play the game.  We haven’t tried it yet, but I am sure we will some day.

For me, Azul is a great gateway game for people interested in more puzzle type games.  The rules are not hard to pick up on, but to learn how to play the game optimally will take a few more plays, and can change due to how the tiles are distributed.  I really think there is a place for Azul in anyone’s collection, so if you can find a copy for a reasonable price, I’d recommend you grab it!

I actually enjoyed it enough that it displaced one of my 10 x 10 games that we hadn’t started playing yet, so I’m looking forward to playing it more.

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