Deep in the southern region of Spain lies a castle decorated in the most beautiful tiles you’ve ever seen. Conquistadors tell stories of the wondrous splendor they adored when they admired the walls of Alhambra Palace.
The Portuguese King, Manuel I rode on an expedition to this castle to take in the whispered marvels and decided he must have a castle as equally decorated for his own. The idea was born, and Evora Palace began construction.
Read our full Azul Board Game Review below.
Brief Overview of Azul
You are tasked as a tile-layer to embellish the prestigious walls of Evora Palace with astonishing azulejos (Spanish for tiles). Draft your masterpiece carefully by selecting colored tiles, and placing them according to your point grid to rack up points. Patterns and sets can cash in heftier rewards but plan efficiently to not waste supplies and lose points. Whoever has the most splendid tile artwork in Evora Palace is crowned the winner.
This game works best with two to four players, the more the merrier. You can expect to be laying wall-art for around 45 minutes, depending on your tiling skills and fast thinking. The age range is really open-ended, but any player with an eye for detail and generally over 8 years of age could claim the victory in Azul.
The game includes the following:
- 100 Resin tiles (20 of each color — Blue, Yellow, Red, Black, and White)
- 9 Factory displays
- 4 Player boards
- 4 Scoring markers
- 1 Starting player marker
- 1 Linen bag
- 1 Rulebook
We have no complaints about Azul in terms of quality. All the pieces are made of resin, sturdy, and beautifully painted in a Moorish style of art. The boards are thick and organized well, with set spaces for all in the box. The linen bag gives you queen-quality texture and makes clean-up/unpacking an organized procedure. In every aspect of the components comes stained glass art set for royalty, and packaging a king would kill for.
For the heavy-handed peeps in the bunch, the grid that’s implemented in the Crystal Mosaic version allows unshakeable tile placement.
How to Play Azul
Assemble 2 to 4 of your decor-savvy friends and get ready to eat your heart out, tile style. Here’s how to get started!
Every player gets dealt a player board depicting a colorful wall. All players use the same side so make sure none of your opponents have their boards flipped to the gray side.
Next, snag a scoring marker and place it to 0 on your score track.
Place the factory displays in the middle of the table. The number of displays you’re playing with depends on the number of players.
– For 2 Players, use 5.
– For 3 Players, use 7.
– For 4 Players, use 9.
Assemble all 100 of the tiles, or 20 of each color, in the bag. Stir them up and place 4 for every factory tile. Whoever visited Portugal last, goes first, and then the turns resume clockwise.
Azul is played in three phases in each round:
1st Phase: Factory Offer
In this phase, a player will either choose to take all tiles of one color from one factory display OR the middle of the table.
Add the tiles you picked to your player grid (the pyramid of tile spaces ranging from 1-5). Once you place a red tile in the third row- you must continue to place only red tiles in this row and any excess reds will spill over into your floor line. This can cause you to lose points if you’re not on top of your resource management skills- no one likes to waste materials!
2nd Phase: Wall Tiling
All together now! All players move their COMPLETED grid-lined tiles to their wall from the top (1) to bottom (5) by the right-most tile. The excess from the completed lines goes into the game box. The uncompleted tile pattern lines will stay on the grid for the next round. Make sure you’re scoring immediately!
Scoring is determined by the tiles surrounding your new placements. If there are no tiles in the touching vicinity of your newly placed tile, you only score 1 point. If there are tiles touching the new placement, whether vertically or horizontally, score 1 point for every touching tile.
Note: diagonally touching tiles do not reward points.
If you placed any tiles in the floor line during this round, subtract those points and cut your losses by tossing those Negative Nancys in the game box.
3rd Phase: Preparing the Next Round
The simplest phase: just restock the factory displays.
Azul is finished once someone completes one horizontal tile line in their walling grid. Just because you finish first, doesn’t mean victory is yours. Check the board for pattern bonuses and your score tracks to see who is the best tile-layer in Portugal.
Your First Game of Azul
Lucky for you, this game is pretty effortless to learn. Here are some extra tips for your clarification:
- During the Factory Offer phase, if a player is the first to take the tiles from the middle in this round, they must take the starting player marker and place it in the leftmost free space in their flooring line.
- Also during the F.O. phase, as the game progresses, you will not be allowed to place tiles of that color in the line that corresponds to your wall tile line. Plan according to resources.
- The Floor Line — Remember, all unused or surplus materials are discarded into the floor line. If all spaces in your floor line are occupied (you’ve probably been ambushed), you will take an insurmountable loss of points and move your excess tiles to the game box.
Versions & Expansions
Unfortunately for bigger groups looking to put their historically-accurate interior decorating skills to the test, Azul does not offer any expansions to increase player counts. The new versions add more visual elements, similar gameplay routines, and a consistently fun player experience.
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
In Sintra, your player grid changes periodically by strips. Some actions trigger players to adjust their grids, change their strategy, and adapt. A system of wilds and a trickster character exist to keep your decorating interesting. The jumbled-up playing mechanisms add a wrench to the usual prior planning players are used to in the original Azul, even adding a transparent window pane to make things blurry.
Azul: Summer Pavilion
Summer has returned to Portugal, and the king is calling on his humble tile layers to construct the walls of the royal family’s summer pavilion in a lavish fashion. Leave no stone unturned as you’ll only have six rounds this time around to build top-notch window art. The king has demanded his windows to be in a star pattern, and you’ll be paid (or rewarded points) by following suit.
Summer Pavillion: Glazed Pavillion Expansion
Azul: Crystal Mosaic
This expansion offers little to no changes from the original in terms of gameplay. Rather, you can snag a plastic overlay to keep your tiles laid in place and have a new aesthetically-pleasing board. Other than that, the original and the Crystal Mosaic have no noteworthy differences.
Azul: Queen’s Garden
Every king has a queen and every queen needs a garden, so get back to work! In this Azul version, you’re responsible for carefully curating the queen’s foliage by placing trees, lawn ornaments, and other floral and fauna. This board looks more similar to the Catan grid; not your typical window workspace.
Pros & Cons
If you’ve ever played Splendor, it can be comparable. The ability to multitask your tile collection while making mental notes of your opponent’s needs can win you the game.
- Great for any number of players up to 4.
- Diverse player levels, with no discernable lead.
- Excellent abstract strategy board game
There are more pros that you can take for yourself from this review, however, there’s no disputing the ultimate playability of Azul. It works as smoothly with 2 as it does at 4 players. Players can sabotage others if they scope out future tile plans.
- No set storyline or continued narration.
Some players prefer a game with a detailed storyline or some sort of narrative continuing it along. But, as every 9-5 goes, tiling doesn’t have much of a chapter-book appeal to it.
If you value quicker games, with medium levels of strategy — Azul is a good gamer pick. If you’re looking for something with intense story-telling, I would give it a miss and unpack your Dungeons & Dragons player’s handbooks.
Azul Review (TL;DR)
Azul: The Quick Breakdown looks like this…
Factory displays of tiles to choose from to your heart’s content while competing for colors with your opponents. Placing tiles in your grid is of utmost design importance, but don’t reuse colors — it’s tacky! Make sure you plan ahead so you don’t get caught shoving excess tiles in your floor line, and losing points on the sidelines.
It’s quick to learn, fast to master, and beautiful to play. The different versions allow you to enhance even the most spectacular of palaces with your newly-endowed tile-laying expertise. I love this game, and it’s amongst my favorites because I can play with anyone, anytime, in under an hour. Although “Azul” in Spanish means “blue”, you’ll be anything but when you play this game.
We hope you enjoyed our Azul review! Have you tried this beautiful abstract board game or any of its expansions? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
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