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Azul Game Review

Azul Game Review

Azul Game Review

For our following review, we will shift gears and review the 2 – 4 player game Azul from Plan B Games. Although Azul has been out for a while, we thought we should review in light of some new upcoming releases from Asmodee in the Azul line of games. If you want details on how this game plays, then check out our Game Overview next week. If you want to know what we think of this game, keep reading below.

The Game – Azul

In the game Azul, you play mosaic artists trying to build the best wall from the ceramic tiles you have in your collection. In reality, you need to score the most points by laying tiles down on your board.

Game Components

  • 4 player boards – each player has their board for the game,
  • 9 factory discs – these are a bit flimsy. The discs are markers for placing the tiles, but it would have been nice if the material was the same cardboard as the player boards.
  • Plastic mosaic tiles – For the most part, these look ok. However, two tile types, red and blue, are just solid tiles with no design, whereas the rest have a lovely pattern. We understand that some tiles would be plain in reality, but in a game, for me, the plain tiles don’t quite look as good as those with designs.
  • 1 cloth bag to draw tiles from – The bag was nice, actually. I loved the fact it was screen printed with the Azul logo.

Game Setup

The game setup is rapid and easy. You need to give each player a player board and layout the mosaic discs in a circle in the middle of the board. Then lay out a different number of discs, depending on the number of players. These represent the tile factories. Then you put all the tiles (except the 1st player tile) into the cloth bag and mix them up.
Finally, randomly draw four tiles for each factory disc from the cloth bag, and now you are ready to play.

It really couldn’t be easier, and we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to set up. Indeed a nice change from the component-heavy games we’ve been playing lately.

 

Game Play

Azul is a deceptively simple-looking game when you first start. We initially looked at it, and we were not that impressed, but it did win us over once we got the hang of it.

The strategy comes mostly in trying not to complete the end goal too quickly. The game ends when the first player completes a horizontal row on the player’s board wall. The trick we found is that by not completing that too quickly, you can gain way more points by laying down vertical columns and linking your tiles to adjacent tiles.

The game takes place over rounds, and each round has three stages. The first stage is to take tiles. On your turn, you can either take tiles from a factory disc, where you must take all tiles of the same color. Those tiles you don’t take; get moved to the center. The players, on their turn, can grab tiles from any disc or the center, but they must take all the tiles of the same color. This situation often creates times when you take more tiles than you need, hurting your score.

The players then place those tiles in one of the five rows on the left side of their board. These are called pattern lines. They are trying to fill up these rows, and Players can place only a single color tile in any row at one time. If they have too many tiles for the row they are filling up, the remainder gets placed in spaces along the bottom called the floor line. This floor line represents the tiles falling on the floor. They cause the players to lose points at the end of the round.

One note: If you are the first player, you take the 1st player tile. When that player goes first, they place the tile in the center. Whoever picks up tiles from the center first must also take the single-player tile. This player must place that tile in the floor line of the board into the first space, which results in a minus one score.

At first, we tried to actively avoid being the first person to grab tiles from the center. We realized that you might lose a point by taking the tile, but you have the pick of everything in the center so far, which made completing pattern lines a lot easier. We liked how this made us choose between losing a point but gaining more points later.

Once all tiles are removed from the factories and the center, the game shifts to the next stage, Wall placement and scoring. Starting at the top of the pattern lines, each player looks for each complete row. They move the rightmost tile onto the wall into the matching colored space for each complete row. (Note: The above picture shows the flip side to the board with no colored markers on the wall!) If there are no tiles adjacent to it, it then scores 1 point.
If there are tiles next to it, they get one point for each tile horizontally and vertically connected to directly. You can even double count the tile you just placed if you have both horizontal and vertical tiles adjacent to it. This game mechanic is fantastic as you can create some potent combos to score points!
Tiles placed on the floor line are from the round score. These tiles can cause you to go backward in scoring, so be careful when you pick up tiles. The strategy is about which color tiles to pick up and when to pick those up.
The final stage of the game is “clean up.” Remove any tiles in a pattern line where you moved a tile to the wall. Incomplete pattern lines stay on the board for the next round. Also, remove the floor line as well. The game suggests you put these in the box lid as they don’t go back into the bag until all tiles in the bag are on the table. Finally, the player with the first player tile lays out four tiles from the bag on each factory discs, and the next round begins.

The game ends at the end of the round after a player completes a complete horizontal line. Each horizontal row is not worth very much (only 2 points). However, each vertical column is worth 7 points, and if a player manages to get five tiles of the same color on the wall, they get a whopping 10 points. We quickly realized that we didn’t want to become the first player to finish our horizontal row. The longer we could drag out the game, the more points we could score.

Overall Impressions

One of the things we like about this game is how easy it was to pick up. If you’ve read any of our previous reviews, we gravitate towards games with tons of rules and are intense. Azul is the exact opposite, and that’s fine with us. It’s a great game to pick off the shelf whenever you want to play a game but don’t want to spend hours playing or even setting it up.

The combination of picking tiles and placing them on your board at first seems a bit trivial and easy. Still, as you play, you start to see that some thought needs to go into placing the tiles. Like “Do I pick up that tile because I know my opponents need it?” or “I don’t want to be the last one stuck having to pick up four tiles of the same color when I can only use one.” These are the challenging questions we faced while we played.

Our only major complaint is that when scoring points, it would be nice to score on the diagonal. We know we can add that as our own variant, but it would be nice to have an official rule. Not a major complaint. Just a thought.

Azul is an excellent game for a game night, not too challenging and easy to learn. So grab a glass of Vinho Verde or Madeira Wine and put on some relaxing music. We played some Spanish guitar (even though this game is Portuguese!), which helped set the mood.

Suppose the sound of Azul is something you’d be interested in. In that case, we have it in our store along with the forthcoming Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, which releases this Friday. Grab your copy today!

What we love

  • Azul is straightforward to pick up and play
  • The strategy of which tiles to pick up and how to layout the wall
  • Great game for those nights where you don’t want a heavy game to play.

What could be better

  • The plastic tiles are a bit underwhelming, but would like to see a bit more detail in the plain red and blue tiles.
  • I wish tiles scored points on the diagonal too. That would add to the strategy of the game.