Our family board gaming has taken a twist away from some of the much loved vintage games lately, and on to some of the more modern games that appear to be finding their way on to the high street via various book and game shops. After seeing a video describing gameplay on YouTube Azul quickly jumped to the top of my want list, mainly due to the tactile nature of the game.
Azul – Aim of the Game
The main aim of the game Azul is to tile a wall in pretty Portuguese style coloured tiles – which in this game are just that; incredibly tactile physical tiles which feel lovely to touch and play with. The way in which you tile your wall dictates your score and at the end of the game the player with the highest score wins.
Azul – How to Play
Azul works for 2 to 4 players and each player has their own double sided playing board and a scoring marker. On one side of the board there is a wall template to follow, whilst the other side has a blank wall for you to tile. At the top of each playing board is a scoring track and each player keeps track of their own score will a small black scoring cube. All players start on zero.
All the Azul tiles are kept in a lovely cloth bag and there are additionally a total of nice circular card discs which represent the factories and a first player tile.
The number of players dictates the number of factories in the game and it should be twice the number of players plus one. So in a two player game you have five factories and in a four player game all nine factories. The required number of factories are placed in the middle of the playing table in a circle and the player who is going first takes the first player tile and then draws from the bag four tiles for each of the factories in play.
Once the factories are set up the first player can choose one factory from which they want to select tiles. In one go they can only take tiles from one factory, and they can only take tiles of one colour at a time. All remaining tiles in a factory are then placed in the space in the centre of the factories. Once they’ve taken their first tiles the first player also places the first player tile in the middle of the factories, alongside the additional tiles.
Once a player has taken tiles they then place them on the area to the left of their playing board where it looks a bit like a ladder wall. Tiles can only be placed on one row of this at a time and at the end of a round only completed lines on this section will allow tiles to be placed on the final wall. For the top row of the wall you only need one tile, but the bottom row requires you to have all five tiles in place by the end of the round.
Players then continue in turn to draw tiles from the factories, or if they prefer, they can take tiles from the space in the middle of the factories. The first player to draw from the middle is also forced to take the first player tile. This means that they go first in the next round, but this tile also has to go on the Factory Floor on their playing board. At all times players must only take tiles of one colour and they must take all tiles of that one colour in that location.
In addition to the first player tile mentioned above, if, after drawing tiles you have any tiles that you can not place on the left hand side of the board then these fall to the “factory floor” where they are rendered useless and deduct from your score at the end of the round. The factory floor is depicted by the space at the bottom of your playing board. This might happen if you take more tiles than you need to complete a row, or if you are forced to take a colour that you can not accommodate in your final wall design. Each row and column of your wall can only contain one tile of each design and colour.
End of the round and scoring
No more tiles left denotes the end of the round and this is the point at which players can start tiling their wall. It is only possible to move a tile over to your wall if you have completed the whole corresponding row on the left hand side of your playing board. This means that you’re much more likely to complete the top row of your wall (which only requires one tile) than the bottom one (which requires five). Starting with the top row you move one tile over if you can and you score then one by one. Each tile moved over is one point but if it is horizontally or vertically adjacent to any other tiles then you also score an additional point for those tiles as well. It therefore pays to try to tile your wall in a specific order if the tiles allow.
If you have moved a tile over to your wall all remaining tiles in that row go back in the box. If you do not have a complete row you leave the tiles in place on the left hand side of your board and they carry over to the next round.
Players with tiles on the factory floor also have to deduct from their score accordingly and these tiles also go back in the box with the exception of the first player tile.
Once all scoring in the first round is complete play continues, starting with which ever player has the first player tile. Play continues in this way until one player has completed tiling a horizontal row on their wall. At the soonest this will be after five rounds as it is only possibly to lay one tile in each round and the row is five tiles wide. If you have exhausted all the tiles in the bag then the tiles that have been returned to the box are moved to the bag.
End of the game and final scoring
After the scoring in the final round players carry out the end of game scoring, adding on to their original scores. At this stage each horizontal line adds an additional 2 points. A vertical line adds 7 points and if a player has managed to use all five of one colour tile on their wall then it is an additional 10 points.
Azul hints and tips
When you start playing Azul and use the pre-planned side of the playing board it can just be a case of trying to add whatever tiles you can and not really thinking about the order in which you are collecting colours or laying them on your board. Once you get familiar with the game mechanics players start to plan ahead and look at which colour tiles could gain them the most points at the scoring stage of the game and how they might be able to get vertical lines or even all tiles of one colour to help bag extra points at the end of the game.
Azul is not played in isolation though and the best players are also keeping an eye on what goes on around the rest of the table. Is it possible for you to pick up something that forces another player to take a colour that will end up on their factory floor? As each game progresses players’ choices become more limited in terms of what they can place on their wall and it is possible to sabotage another player’s game.
Counting tiles can also help, especially in a two player game when you might only go through all the tiles once if the game is completed in five rounds. There are 20 tiles of each colour in the game and if at the end of round four you can see that 18 of one colour have already been pulled from the bag there’s no point trying to fill your bottom line with that colour in the fifth round as there simply won’t be enough tiles.
Azul – what we think
As soon as it was out of the box Azul became an instant hit in our house. The two player game can take less than 30 minutes making it perfect for us to fit in between tea time and the youngest’s bath. We’ve even trained her up so she can help us with drawing the tiles from the bag and placing them on the factories at the start of each round. A perfect way for her to practice counting to four and also her fine motor skills too.
The older two kids (9 and 11) really enjoy the game too and it’s a great way for me to have some one on one time with each of them whilst the other is having a shower or doing some homework.
Azul Expansions and other versions
There are many different expansions and other versions of Azul on the market now that I’ve got my eye on. We treated ourselves to Summer Pavilion when we had some Amazon vouchers to spend and I’ll pop up a separate post soon on how we found that. Whilst it has some of the same mechanics as the original game it’s also quite different. It’s worth noting that Summer Pavilion is a stand alone game not requiring the original Azul to play it.
Another standalone version is Azul Stained Glass of Sintra which looks like a bit of a mix between the original Azul game and Sagrada which is also seeing a lot of regular play in our house at the moment.
When it comes to pure expansion versions, I’m yet to try the Crystal Mosaic Expansion which requires the original Azul game, or the Glazed Pavilion Expansion for the Summer Pavilion version of the game. If money were no object then they’d definitely both be on my shelves.
I’m also really keen to get my hands on the Queen’s Garden which is the newest standalone version of the game. Friends who have already played it tell me it’s well worth buying so I’m hoping to try it out for myself one day soon.
I purchased all versions of Azul that we currently own with my own money and have received nothing in exchange for this post. Links in this post connect to Amazon and are affiliate links. Any purchases that you make through these links cost you no more than if you had arrived on Amazon’s site independently, but I receive a small commission from any purchases you make. I am incredibly grateful for any purchases you do make. Thank you.