King Manuel I of Portugal has been inspired by the Moorish tiles of the Alhambra palace in Spain and has decided to decorate the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora in a similar fashion. In Azul players are artists tasked with laying the tiles for the palace, competing to complete patterns and to see who’s been the most efficient with the materials provided.
In Azul, each player gets their own board to track their score, store their tiles, complete patterns, and track wasted materials. Several circular Market Boards are placed in the center of the table depending on the number of players. The game contains tiles of 5 different varieties stored in a bag and 4 random tiles are drawn for each Market Board on the table. There’s also a 1st Player Tile given to whoever starts the first round.
Each round players take turns taking identical tiles from the Market Boards or the center of the table. Each other color tile not taken from a Market Board is moved to the center of the table. Chosen tiles are then placed on one of 5 tracks on the Player Board ranging from 1 to 5 spaces. There are rules on how colors can be placed. No staging row can contain the same color as another, and they can’t contain the same color as one already scored for that row. Also, if more tiles are taken than can fit in a staging row the overflow are moved to the Floor Track to score negative points at the end of the game. It’s important to note that the first person to take tiles from the center of the table takes the 1st Player Tile to their Floor and will go first next round. The current round ends when all the available tiles have been taken.
After a round is over players score their completed staging rows by moving 1 tile over to its corresponding color on the pattern grid and moving the rest of the tiles from used in that staging row to the box lid. Tiles score more points of other tiles are adjacent to them. Any tiles from uncompleted staging rows are placed in the box lid and any tiles on the Floor score negative points. The Market Boards are then refilled and the game continues until one person has completed a full row of tiles on the pattern grid. If at any point the bag of tiles runs out it’s refilled with the tiles placed in the box lid earlier in the game.
Final scoring in Azul is similar to round-end scoring, except bonuses are given for completed rows, columns, and sets of color tiles.
For the full rules of play, download the rulebook here.
- Box 👍
- Rules 👍
- Score Cubes 👍
- Player Boards 👍
- Market Boards 👍
(👍 = Good, 👎 = Bad, ⭐ = Exceptional)
I can’t talk about Azul without first mentioning how absolutely visually stunning the game is. The whole game from the box to the tiles is a treat for the eyes with its varied colors and patterns. The tiles themselves are the most amazing part of the game. They’re bright and have a wonderful tactile feel making them a joy to play with. The actual game is extreamly easy to learn, family friendly, and provides a multitude of interesting choices over the course of play. It also feels fairly different, requiring different methods of play, with different amounts of players. Two-player games are shorter but much harder to get tiles into the larger staging rows. Fewer tiles also seem to end up on the Floor. 4 player games provide the most options with more opportunities to fill every staging row, but the possibility to have a devastating amount of tiles on the Floor makes for tense games.
Overall I’d say Azul is a fantastic game for the casual gamer and it may very well become the new gateway game I use when introducing new gamers to the hobby.
A copy of Azul was purchased for this review.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.