Wargame Wednesday: Standard Combat Series

Hello everyone!

I’m back with another Wargame Wednesday, and this one ties in with my last post on VASSAL.

I mentioned in that post that certain games don’t lend themselves to playing via email well, because there might be a decision point in the middle of a turn that would require you to stop, have your opponent decide what they were going to do before you could take your turn.

There are certain games that are IGOUGO, which means I take my turn then you take yours.  These usually tend to lend themselves to play by email (PBEM) because there may not be tons of decision points where a quick back and forth is needed.  I mentioned in my last post Day of Days as my last 5 x 1 game, so today I want to talk about a great entry level wargame series (of which Day of Days belongs to) called the Standard Combat Series (SCS).

A wargame series normally is a variety of games that all fall under one ruleset, so instead of learning a ton of different rules, you learn the main rules, and then learn any game specific rules that the specific game in the series has.

SCS was originally published by “The Gamers” but is now published by MultiMan Publishing (MMP) who is really well known in the wargaming community.  Originally designed by Dean Essig, SCS is a great series for people who may be interested in getting to know more about traditional hex and counter wargames.  Many games in the system have a low counter density (which means there are few playing pieces on the map) and the rules are considered light (7 pages in the series rules, plus whatever game specific rules you are playing).

Essig writes in the designer notes of the series rules:

This series was designed for two reasons. First, it was meant to offset our other series which, by an order of magnitude, are much more complicated than the SCS. Second, it was designed to be a basic ‒ read FUN ‒ game which can be played at times when the others seem like too much of a good thing. These games are made for the “break out the beer and pretzels, and here we go” type of evening. While none of our games are designed with the beginner as their raison d’être, the SCS was designed as something the beginner would be able to handle ‒ as opposed to being devoured by.

So this series, while it might be difficult for a new wargamer, is not impossible to grasp and could be played in an evening (depending on scope of the game and scenario).

There are tons of games available in the SCS catalog, ranging from WWI to WWII to Modern Day.  The system rules adapt fairly well to various time periods (or so I’ve been told, I’m still waiting to play my first entry in the series, although I am very familiar with it and it comes highly recommended).

I am planning on playing Bastogne (World War II, Battle of the Bulge) with a friend, and starting in the coming days. I spent some time today outlining the rules and getting a grasp on the system, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played as a stepping stone and then onward to the monsters (very large games) in the series, including Day of Days.

If you are interested in the Standard Combat Series, you can find more information here:

http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Products/tabid/58/CategoryID/12/Default.aspx

http://www.gamersarchive.net/scs.htm

Latest SCS Rules

If you are a wargamer, what game(s) did you start with?  If not, but interested, are there any games you are interested in? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Session Report: Star Trek: Ascendancy

Hey all!

Last weekend, my friend Eric Carter brought Star Trek: Ascendancy over for him, Ryan, and I to play.  It was a blast, but Eric wanted to type up his thoughts.  Consider this a guest session report/review!  Ryan and I will be back to writing later in the week.

My name is Eric Carter. I’ve played games with Ryan and Drew and many other amiable Midwesterners for nearly a decade. As an expert introvert, board gaming has given me an avenue to connect with other people. Of all the gifts the hobby has given me, that one is the most treasured.

I managed to find a great deal on this game at a store closure sale, and knowing that there is an expansion out there that allows me to play it solo, it was a no-brainer. I found the two available player expansions at another store that was selling them at a deep discount, then started a search for the dice and playmats, but decided I needed to see if this game would get played enough before spending more money on it.

One thing we’ve been trying to do more often is schedule game days where we decide ahead of time what will be played. This gives us the opportunity to devote more time to games that take longer to play or that have rules that take longer to teach. ST:A is perfect for such an occasion, and this past Saturday we got it to the table.

The game consists of players exploring the galaxy from their home planets from equidistant points of the play area. Players can send their ships out to discover worlds and exploit (nicely or not so nicely) the civilizations found thereon, or finding virgin worlds and setting up colonies to gather the resources necessary to build more ships, research various advancements, or build up their level of culture. Culture tokens are traded for Ascendancy tokens, and the higher a player’s Ascendancy level the more Fleets they can build, the more Starbases they can have, and they reach 5 Ascendancy they win the game. They could also win the game by controlling 3 home planets, and controlling one’s home planet is necessary for either win condition.

After reviewing the components and rules we got busy boldly going. Ryan took the Federation, Drew the Klingons, and I took on the role of the Romulans. Board gamers are very familiar with Player Powers, and Star Trek: Ascendancy utilizes its theme tremendously well by providing the players with a Federation that has a Prime Directive restriction (preventing them from invading planets or colonizing pre-warp civilizations,) but also giving them a boost for exploration. The Klingons are restricted from retreating from a space battle, but also get a boost from defeating enemies in those battles. The Romulans will not quickly accept an opponent’s peace offering (Trade Agreement), but can get a boost from researching their advancements. Those advancement decks for all of our factions added more thematic abilities throughout the game.

During the Federation’s first voyage, Ryan ran into the Space Amoeba (from Star Trek: The Original Series – The Immunity Syndrome) that wiped out half his fleet. The Romulans discovered a couple of worlds that had a low maximum number of space lanes that could connect to them, so I decided use them to build up a wall, a separation… a type of Neutral Zone, I guess you could say, to help keep Romulus safe from the Klingons, who were discovering highly versatile worlds right next door to Kronos. My warbirds would be safe if the Klingons couldn’t get to them, right? While this idea allowed me to build up my forces in relative safety, it proved to be problematic later on.

Drew’s Klingon Empire was built on book-learning. He had quickly established or took over enough laboratories to invest his research tokens into half a dozen projects at once while Ryan and I struggled to gather enough of those research tokens to build up our shields to prevent us from losing ships to the hazardous planets and phenomena we were encountering. He also had three cultural nodes in play within 3 or 4 turns and had gotten his third, then fourth, Ascendancy token before the second hour of play was over.

Seeing Drew’s imminent victory, the Romulans reached out to the Federation to join forces to attempt to forestall it as long as possible. Honestly, the was no hope that either Ryan or I could eke out a win, but so far we had zero space battles and we felt the need to explore more of what this game had to offer. There was one avenue available to us – the Klingons could not claim victory if they did not control their home planet, even if they had reached the goal of five Ascendancy tokens. Here’s where the Neutral Zone, which had served me so well up to this point, became my biggest weakness. I had finally established a connection with Drew’s area of the galaxy, but Romulus and my starbases were a minimum of seven sectors away. I managed to maneuver an existing fleet to Kronos while Drew’s forces were elsewhere, and they wiped the Klingons off the planet while they were busy reading their copies of Stephen Kahless’s A Brief History of Time.

The Klingons quickly returned and calmly discussed their disagreement with the Romulans through the use of superior firepower. But thanks to the order of operations in the game Drew was unable to reestablish control of Kronos in that turn, preventing his fifth Ascendancy token from doing him any good. The Federation had a similar gap between its area of the map, but one of the border planets had the capacity for another connection, so Ryan was able to explore his way over to Drew’s fleet, hoping to keep the Klingons from becoming the dominant faction in the galaxy. But the Federation are essentially a peaceful, exploratory bunch and so their fleets do not have the same ship capacity as the other two factions in the game. Having six ships to Drew’s dozen, Ryan could not prevail, and once Drew was able to send down one of his Klingons to pitch a tent and raise the Klingon flag, the game was done.

Gale Force Nine, the game’s publisher, has a solid gaming experience in Star Trek: Ascendancy. The game took nearly three hours from start to finish, and if we had not turtled in our own areas of the galaxy for so long and we had started interacting quicker, the game would probably have lasted another two.

The game is a heavy time investment, so it’ll likely not see casual play and we all have enough games that we want to get to the table that it probably won’t get scheduled again for some time. If I do invest in more of the promised player expansions (Vulcans and Andorians) and additional components available (the play mat, the additional dice and ships available for each faction), I will likely try to run this game at local gaming conventions. It’s definitely a game that not only elicits memories from the various Star Trek series, it also inspires fond memories through the situations you and your opponents create together.

Andrew’s Note: Eric not only is a friend of mine, he also is a Board Game Artist who has done work for games such as Dominion, Eminent Domain, Fleet, and many more.   In addition to board game art, he also sells board game themed t-shirts, glassware, stickers, and more at https://www.cafepress.com/meeplehut.

My Half Year in Review

I am writing this and realizing the year is half over, which means that by now I should have played about 25 games from our “What should we play deck” as well as be about halfway done with my 10 x 10 and 5 x 1 Challenges.

The What Should We Play Deck has been a lot of fun.  We have been able to play some new games (and find some new gems) but also revisit games that we haven’t played in a while, for whatever reason.  I always seem to be looking for the new hot thing without realizing how many great games I have sitting on the shelf; case in point, I got out D-Day at Omaha Beach and played a few turns, and I forgot how tense and enjoyable this game is.  I know that this feeling isn’t unique to me, as many gamers probably feel this way, but having this deck guiding what we play instead of me staring at my collection and picking something I’ve played a lot has been really enjoyable.  My wife and I sort of picked “togetherness” as our word for the year, something to strive for, and this has definitely helped with that.  We don’t sit in front of the TV near as much or on our computers; we get our daughter to bed then play a game at least once a week.  I’m excited to keep this going for the rest of the year (and beyond).

I attended BGG.Spring this year and it was tons of fun as well.  I realized I never did a write up, but I played tons of classic games (or at least classic to me) that I don’t own or don’t get the chance to play very often.  I even went out of my comfort zone to ask complete strangers if I could join them in a game.  I want to try to attend a convention a year (or every 2) but I also want to try out a wargame convention as well.  It’s a different clientele than the BGG.cons (at times) so I think it would be another step out of my comfort zone.

My biggest surprise game to me this half year was: Space Base.  This is a dice rolling game that, to me, Is a better Machi Koro.  I haven’t played it a ton, but once I was introduced to it I had to get a copy.

My biggest disappointment game to me this half year was: The Mind.  I know it was up for one of the Spiel awards, but to me, this isn’t a game so much as an activity.  I don’t know.  I liked it more than I thought I would once I finally played it, but don’t want to play it again.

My biggest deep cut (game that I’ve had forever and finally played again) this half year was D-Day Dice.  I had not played it much due to the Kickstarter drama surrounding it, but I finally got over that and once we played it I forgot how much I really enjoy it.

My biggest Finally game (that game that’s sat on my shelf forever and I finally got to play) is a tie between The Colonists and Star Wars Rebellion.  Two very different games (Heavy, thinky Euro and Ameritrash goodness) but these hit just about everything I want in those respective categories, so I’m glad I’ve played them both, and hopefully will play them more frequently.

Most Memorable Gaming Moment So Far: Playing the six map version of Memoir ’44  D-Day landings at BGG.con.  I was really nervous about getting this together, but we ended up having a great time and it’s something I would consider doing every year.  It was organized chaos, and I definitely learned some lessons for if we do it again.

2018 has been a great year for gaming so far, and I’m really excited to see what I get played in the coming months.

Wargame Wednesday: VASSAL

Image Credit: http://www.vassalengine.org

I’m going to try something out, starting this week.  On every other Wednesday (I think) I’m going to do a feature called “Wargame Wednesdays”.  I’ve talked about my love for wargames in the past, and how wargames are pretty much responsible to getting me into board gaming at large.  So I’ll stick with what I know.

I have an addiction, which is monster wargames.  I don’t think there’s a set definition other than you know it when you see it, but I consider a monster wargame a game that takes up a lot of space (so multiple maps) and a lot of counters.  The scale doesn’t matter, as I have heard or own some that look at the grand strategic scale (so, country to country and dealing with armies) to much smaller levels, such as examining the first 10 days of D-Day (so a very zoomed in look at the Cotentin peninsula).

The two main obstacles to playing monster games is size and time.  I know that I own a few games that are considered monsters, and the time it would take to play them and the space it would take to leave them set up in between turns means I will never likely get them played.

Or will I?

I’d like to introduce you all to a program called VASSAL.  VASSAL is an open source, free program that can be downloaded at www.vassalengine.org.  VASSAL allows you to download modules (all types of board games, but I’ve mainly used it for wargames) that can be played live with another player (usually using a voice chat program like Skype or Discord) or that can be played via email by transferring a log file that keeps track of your turns/moves, then the other player loads that log file and continues the game.

There are a few caveats to using VASSAL, though.

  • In most cases, the module won’t enforce the rules for you. This isn’t a wholly automated computer game implementation of the game.  Some modules do contain automated features but that depends on who designed it.
  • Speaking of who designed it, some modules are fully supported by the game publisher and some aren’t. Some will omit vital information (such as combat charts or other things of that nature) so that you must own the game to play it.
  • On game ownership: The rule of thumb is that one of the two players should own the game in order to play it.  Some publishers only make the modules available on their websites, others are available from the website itself.  Either way, please please please stick to this rule.  Support the publishers who keep this hobby alive.

I haven’t used VASSAL much, but my main wargaming friend and I are planning on starting up a game of Day of Days, which is the last game I need to play to complete my 5 x 1 challenge for the year.  I’m looking forward to exploring VASSAL more if this is successful, as well as maybe sharing session reports and screenshots from our games.

Have any of you tried VASSAL before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Champions of Midgard

One thing that my wife and I wanted to do this year was revisit some older ‘classic’ games that we really used to enjoy, but that have sort have been relegated to the corner of the game shelf as the new hotness arrives.  Sometimes, though, I find a game that revisits mechanics of these classics, and it can even replace the feelings I have for those classic games.  Champions of Midgard is one of those games.

Champions of Midgard is a worker placement/die rolling game designed by Ole Steiness and published by Grey Fox Games.  I would describe it best as a mix between Lords of Waterdeep and Stone Age, because the primary mechanic is worker placement, but there is also die rolling to determine if you defeat monsters or hunt successfully.

In Champions of Midgard, players are trying to vie for the Jarlship by recruiting 3 different types of adventurers and gathering resources that they can use to purchase or lease ships so that they can adventure to battle monsters.  Players can earn glory, but if they aren’t mindful to deal with the trolls that are rampaging outside the village then the villagers get angry with them and give them blame.  If no player defeats a troll each turn, they all take blame, which leads to increasing negative points at the end of the game.  If a player defeats the troll, then they get to give one blame to another player.  To fight monsters, you roll the adventurer dice you’ve assigned to the monster and have to roll enough symbols to meet the defense value of the monster.  You can also roll shields which block some of the damage you would have to take; for each damage you take, you lose a die.

The monsters you fight all have a different color, so there is an element of set collecting to this game as well.  You might try to fight a stronger monster because it’s the last color you need to complete your set (which means more end game victory points).  Each player also has a secret objective they are trying to complete (and a way to gain more throughout the game).

I really, really enjoyed my play of this game, and it’s one I’ve been itching to get to the table since.  It plays quick, is pretty simple to teach and pick up, and there is enough replayability that it would be pretty tough to play the same game twice.  The artwork is awesome and I do feel like it fits the theme really well.

I like the combination of mechanics in this game.  While I like Waterdeep, it can get a little bit samey to me (also because we played it a lot when it first came out) and I really like the dice mechanic in Stone Age.  By combining these two things, Champions is a fun game that provides some tense moments and some really meaningful decisions.

10 x 10 Update! New Contributor!! New Content!!!

Hey all!

It has been a little while; I’ve been getting tons of gaming in (Thanks, BGG.Spring) and have come to realize a few things about my 10 x 10 list:

There were some games that were unattainable.  I probably could have forced people to play them with me but that wouldn’t have been much fun.  So, I did what any cheating sane person would do and I tweaked my list.

I added Ganz schon clever, which is a roll and write game I played at BGG.Spring and absolutely loved as well as D-Day Dice, which my wife and I played tonight for the first time in about 4 years (It had left a bitter taste in my mouth due to some further Kickstarter issues from the publisher [and that’s putting it lightly]).  I have a much better chance to play games I enjoy instead of trying to fit longer games into our busy gaming schedule.

Speaking of busy gaming schedule, you probably have noticed that I don’t post very consistently.  Between a toddler, work, and actually playing games, sometimes it’s hard to write.  So I am enlisting the help of a friend, Ryan Olson.  Ryan is going to join me in writing here at Sword Board and Pen.  He has a different viewpoint on gaming than I do, so I think you’ll get a wider approach to content.  Look for an introductory post from him in the coming days.

We are also going to try to stick to a Wednesday/Friday posting schedule.  So you’ll get reviews, personal posts, month in review posts, as well as some special things we want to try out, just to give our thoughts on gaming.

If you’ve stuck with me for this long, thanks! I think you are going to enjoy what we have planned.  And if you are new here, welcome! I hope you stay a while.

BGG.Spring Recap

It’s been quite a while!! I have been pretty busy with new projects (and new deadlines) at work, but I was super excited to get to spend 4 days gaming in Dallas with a few friends of mine at BGG.Spring convention this year! It was my first BGG.Spring convention, and my second BGG con overall, and I had a great time.  I got to play some games I have been dying to play, got introduced to some new ones, and came home with a ton of new things to play as well.  I also ate some really great BBQ which is also one thing I always look forward to on these trips.

Instead of giving you a play by play of every single game played (because there were some nights where we just played party games, which while fun I don’t think make for very compelling reading), I figure I will talk about the games I played which I really enjoyed as well as some of the games I picked up I’m excited to play.  So first, games I played which I really enjoyed:

 Ganz schön clever (or Clever, as we call it)
This is a pretty simple roll and write game, and for me it was the game of the Con.  I really like the mechanics in it and it plays quick enough that even if you play suboptimally, you aren’t stuck for too long.  Lots of choices to make and if you play your dice right you can set up combos which become really powerful at the end of the game.  I added this to my 10 x 10 list, replacing Viticulture because while I love that game there is no way that we will get it played 10 times this year.

The Colonists
I had been dying to get this one to the table as I’ve owned it for a couple years but never played it, and it didn’t disappoint.  It’s a heavier game that is rules light but the choices you get expand exponentially with each turn, meaning there is a lot to take in and do.  We played 2 out of 4 eras, and I definitely want to commit to playing a 4 era game some day.  Maybe next year to kick off the Con.  This was also on my 5 x 1 list, so it was nice to make some progress on that.

Memoir ’44: The D-Day Landings
Whoa buddy.  This was the whole enchilada.  I’ve posted about my love for Memoir before, but this really took the cake.  We had 8-10 players who played for a good 3.5-4 hours on 6 maps spanning the D-Day landings.  I feel as in this case a picture would help, so here you go.

IMG_20180526_003807_287

Everyone had a good time and we even had a few people who were learning the game for the first time.  This is definitely an experience to behold and I’m glad I set it up and transported all my Memoir stuff down there.

Mystic Vale
This is a unique deckbuilder where you are actually layering clear cards on top of one another to morph your cards into something different. I picked this up for my birthday back in February this year but didn’t have a chance to play.  Luckily my friend Chris also had wanted to try it again so we played through a game. It’s a mechanic that you see a lot of presented in a new way, and I can’t wait to explore it more.

Roads and Boats
This is a game about logistics.  There is no way around it.  It’s meaty, thinky, and a wrong play early in the game can totally screw you over in the late game (which is what happened to me).  I love playing this one about once a year, and it too was on my 5 x 1 list, so I’m glad I got to help teach it to a new player.

Space Base
This was a game I had never heard anything about but a new friend brought it to play the night before the convention actually started.  It reminds me of Machi Koro if you actually made meaningful decisions in Machi Koro; you roll dice, and depending on the roll and the cards you have, you get stuff.   The artwork was great and it was the perfect length for what it was.

And here are the games I picked up in various sales that I am super excited to play:

Bunny Kingdom
I actually played this on a recommendation from my friend who drove down with me, and it didn’t disappoint.  While it looks light, there are a lot of meaningful decisions to be made and the theme (and artwork, especially on the box) are a little silly.

V-Commandos
I bought this after hearing some really great things about it on BGG.  It’s a co-op game where you take a team of commandos on missions in WWII.  I think it will scratch the wargame-esque ameritrash itch if that is what I’m looking for.

Carrier
This is a super heavy, meaty game of WWII Pacific warfare from the 1990.  It’s long out of print, and so to find a copy that someone was willing to party with in reasonable condition was absolutely fantastic.  I am waiting for the right time to get this to the table when I can actually sit down and learn the rules.

Fire in the Lake
My second game in GMT COIN series (well, okay it’s actually like my third but this time I’m keeping it), this is a game about Vietnam, which is a subject I’m exploring more and more as I talk to my father (who served two tours there) about it.  I’m looking forward to trying this one out solo.

And there you have it.  A super fun time was had and I’m definitely glad I went and participated in the festivities.  Have you played any of these games? What were your thoughts.  Let me know in the comments below!

Review: Dice Forge

It’s been a while!! But I am glad to be back, writing.  I’ve had a rough adjustment period with some new medication I’ve been taking, but I’m back in the saddle and looking forward to writing.

With that being said, let’s get on to the review!!

It’s no surprise I love Dice Games.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I really like games that involve dice, especially when they are used in a non-standard way.

I recently saw a game on Instagram that was a “Dice Builder”.  I was immediately intrigued by it, so I did some research and dove in and picked up a copy.  That game is Dice Forge, designed by Régis Bonnessée and published by Asmodee as well as others.

In Dice Forge, players are heroes trying to impress the Gods.  On a players turn, they will roll their dice to gain resources, then they can either purchase faces that upgrade their current dice with more or better rewards or they can go on adventures where they spend resources to gain either one time or every turn abilities.  There are other rules that I won’t discuss, because this is the overall idea of it.

To upgrade your dice, you physically remove the die face you wish and snap the new die face onto it.   So when they say that this is a Dice Builder, they aren’t kidding…you really get to shape your dice to fit into the strategy you wish to follow.

I have already played this game 3 times, which for me is a pretty big statement. I really, really enjoy this game.  It’s a unique mechanic and the different faces that are present can give you a different way to go about planning your path to victory.  It is not a difficult game to pick up but trying to figure out on which dice to place a face provides a little more of a thinky opportunity, especially if you are terrible at probability and math like I am :D.

I would heartily recommend Dice Forge to just about anyone, unless you don’t like luck.  The main issue you can run into is that none of your cool new die faces aren’t being rolled, but it plays quick enough (at least to me) that it isn’t an issue.

This was an impulse purchase, and it’s probably been my best impulse purchase in a long time.  If you are into dice and deck builders, I definitely suggest you pick this one up.

What are some of your favorite “outside the box” games? Let me know in the comments below!

Radio Silence!!

Sorry for the Radio Silence, all.  Been dealing with a lot of project work at my regular job that has left me wiped, along with dealing with sickness in the family (nothing serious, but we’ve been passing around a cold between all of us, which makes us not want to do much other than curl up on the couch).  On top of that I’m starting a new med for my anxiety so while I adjust I am not sure how much I will be up for gaming.

I do think my next post will be another Top 10 List or Why I Play RPGs.  Hopefully I can get it up in the next week or so.

Until then, stay tuned!

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.