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What first draws you into Azul is its eye-catching aesthetic and theme. Each player is a Portuguese tile maker in the 16th century, challenged by King Manuel I to embellish the walls of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain with beautiful Moorish decorative tiles called azulejos (hence the name Azul, “blue” in Spanish). The beautiful tiles are delightfully chunky and tactile, invoking a satisfying feeling as you pick them up and place them on your board. The simple yet elegant contrast of the blue player boards against the bright tiles creates a stunning tableau.
So How Do You Actually Play Azul?
Azul is a game for 2-4 players aged 8 and up, and takes 30-45 minutes to complete. Players take turns drafting tiles from the center of the table to decorate their player board. Tiles are arranged into groups based on color, with more tiles added each round. When drafting, you take all tiles of one color, moving them onto your player board. You must place each tile onto a horizontal row – if that row is full, the remaining tiles go onto the next row down. Any tiles that don’t fit get placed in your floor line, which will lose you points at the end of the round.
The key is to strategically draft tiles in a way that both fills up your wall and avoids getting stuck with useless tiles. After all players have drafted their tiles, points are scored based on how many tiles of each color the player collected. The player with the most tiles of that color scores points equal to the number collected. All other players with at least one tile of that color score one point. Any tiles left in your floor line deduct points. The game ends when one player places their last tile, and the player with the most points wins!
What Makes Azul So Addictive?
There are several elements of Azul that come together to make it so fun and addictive:
Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
Azul is one of those rare games that is very simple to learn and play, yet offers a lot of strategic depth. The rules are straightforward, so games are quick to start even for new players. But as the game progresses, you realize there are many paths to points, and choosing how to draft tiles is anything but simple. There’s a satisfying feeling as your strategic thinking improves over multiple plays.
Quick and Engaging Gameplay
A game of Azul lasts just 30-45 minutes, with players taking turns drafting tiles from a central pool. The quick, snappy pace keeps everyone engaged without any downtime. Since the pool of tiles constantly shifts, no two games play out the same. Azul works beautifully as a weeknight game or warm up before a longer board game night.
Easy to Play Solo
The simplicity of Azul makes it a wonderful solitaire game as well. You can either aim to beat your own high score, or use the official solo mode where you race against a virtual opponent. Either way, Azul offers a fun brain workout when you have time for a quick solo game session.
The vibrant colors and tactile feel of the thick tiles are a joy to handle, placing Azul high on the visual appeal scale. Moving the tiles from the central pool onto your board is immensely satisfying. The high quality components make the game a pleasure to play and bring the theme to life.
Despite offering strategic depth, Azul manages to have very straightforward scoring. Tiles placed on your board score points at game end, while unused tiles on your floor deduct points. This elegant scoring system avoids complicated calculations, keeping the game moving swiftly.
The popularity of Azul has led publisher Plan B Games to release several standalone sequels. Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and Azul: Summer Pavilion offer new twists and strategies while keeping the core drafting mechanism. This expands Azul’s replay value, giving you more game to explore and master after you’ve played the original.
Azul Strategy Tips for New Players
If you’re new to Azul, here are some tips to boost your strategic skills:
- In early rounds, focus on completing full rows on your board to score points. Leave your floor line empty if possible.
- Pay attention to the tiles others draft – this affects what’s available to you. Be flexible in case your desired tiles get snatched up.
- Drafting all tiles of one color is great. But sometimes it’s better to take fewer tiles of different colors to fill in gaps.
- Don’t neglect lower rows! Leaving these incomplete will cost you points.
- Near the game end, be careful about filling your floor line. The penalty can outweigh the benefit of drafting those tiles.
- When placing tiles, work from the outer columns in. This gives you more flexibility should you run out of room mid-round.
With practice, you’ll get better at drafting tiles and sensing when to pivot your strategy, keeping everyone on their toes. That’s part of the fun!
Gameplay of A Sample Turn in Azul
Let’s walk through an example round to see Azul gameplay in action. On your turn, you survey the central table with tiles arranged by color. Your goal is to draft tiles to fill in gaps on your board, working from the outside in.
The next player takes 5 red tiles. 1 fills their row, the other 4 go to their floor. Play continues until all players have drafted their tiles.
With drafting complete, tiles are moved to refill the central table, and points are scored for completed rows. You scored 3 points for your completed blue row.
You decide to take the blue tiles. There are 4 blue tiles remaining, so you take all 4 tiles, placing them on the far left row on your board. The first 3 tiles fill up that row, but the 4th tile has no room, so it goes onto your floor line.
Finally, all players lose 1 point per tile left on their floor line. You lose 1 point for your extra blue tile there. The round ends, and play continues with drafting for the next round.
This example shows how on your turn, you must make strategic choices about which color tiles to take, aiming to complete rows while minimizing floor penalties. As the central pool changes, you react and shift tactics accordingly. That’s the engaging core of Azul gameplay in a nutshell!
Azul Review: Our Final Verdict
Here is our final take on this visually stunning abstract game:
- Abstract theme may not appeal to some
- Too much player interaction for true zen gameplay
- Multiple versions get expensive
Azul deserves its Game of the Year award and rave reviews. The tactile joy of drafting colorful tiles coupled with quick but strategic gameplay makes Azul an ideal weeknight game or game night opener. It plays beautifully across a wide range of player counts including solo. Azul is easy to teach new gamers but offers plenty of long-term replay value. Just beware – the visually stunning components may have you seeing colorful tiles even after you’ve stopped playing!
Final Thoughts on Azul: A Board Game That Will Steal Your Heart
Azul beautifully merges simplicity and depth for an immensely addictive gaming experience. It’s competitive, but just interactive enough to avoid feeling solitary. The next round leaves you thinking “just one more” as you plan the perfect tile combinations.
With its elegant design, smart mechanics, and pure fun factor, Azul deserves a place in every game collection. It’s one of those rare titles people constantly clamor to play again and again. Just be ready to dream in technicolor tiles after you experience Azul’s gameplay magic!
Q: What is Azul?
A: Azul is a board game that challenges players to embellish the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora with beautiful ceramic tiles.
Q: How does the gameplay of Azul work?
A: In Azul, players take turns drafting colorful tiles from a shared supply and placing them on their individual game boards. The objective is to strategically place the tiles in order to score the most points.
Q: What is the Summer Pavilion in Azul?
A: The Summer Pavilion is an expansion to the original Azul game that introduces new mechanics and components. It adds complexity and variety to the gameplay.
Q: What is the Stained Glass of Sintra in Azul?
A: The Stained Glass of Sintra is another expansion to the original Azul game. It features a different artwork and introduces new challenges and strategies.
Q: How does the end of the game work in Azul?
A: The end of the game in Azul is triggered when all the tiles have been taken from the center factory. Players then proceed to score their points and determine the winner.
Q: Are there other versions of Azul available?
A: Yes, besides the original Azul game, there are two other versions: Azul: Summer Pavilion and Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra. Each version offers a unique gameplay experience.
Q: What are the Azul series of games?
A: The Azul series includes the original Azul game, as well as its expansions, such as Azul: Summer Pavilion and Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra. These games are all part of the same series but offer different gameplay variations.
Q: How do players score points in Azul?
A: Players score points in Azul by strategically placing their tiles on their game boards. Points are awarded based on the patterns and combinations formed on the board.
Q: Can you explain more about the tiles in Azul?
A: The tiles in Azul are beautiful ceramic tiles that come in different colors and patterns. Players must carefully select and place these tiles on their game boards to maximize their points.
Q: What is the significance of the player marker in Azul?
A: The player marker in Azul is used to keep track of the current active player. It indicates whose turn it is and helps ensure a fair and organized gameplay.
So have you played Azul?
What makes this tile drafting game so memorable for you? Let us know in the comments! And if Azul has you ready for more board gaming obsession, check out our top 10 list of must-have board games for your collection!
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