You've got to admit, when a game looks good it's a key selling point. Whether it's stunning artwork, beautiful components, catchy imagery, or stunning table presence, people love aesthetics. Which is probably why puzzle and pattern based games are so popular with people who don't often board game. And that's no criticism, the more we attract into the hobby, the better the community becomes! Axio Rota by Pegasus Spiele is a pattern building game, but one with a twist! It's for 2-4 players and can play in a speedy 25 minutes!
How It Handles
Axio Rota is a game of placement, and timing. (Not about the rotation of people doing jobs on an axis, as the name suggests.) There's no quick win or obvious spot to choose here, as your tile picks are always blind. Were you able to see everything ahead, you could probably plan two, three, maybe even four turns ahead for what points you need to pick up on. But that would also take away from the game's biggest staple - the surprise. We found you can't plan for anything in the game, as everyone's turn is as much a shock to them as it is to you. Where the superior players shine is with their tactical prowess and ability to read a board...
Slapping Down Tiles
Because all tile picks are blind, you can't plan how your current tile will impact the next. Now, to some, that may seem a little backwards. You lack any scope for plans and can never prepare a game plan. But Axio Rota doesn't work when you plan. At all. Thinking two turns ahead is impossible as everyone's tile is a shock to them. It may be a pattern placing, tile laying game, but it has more to do with taking advantage of a great situation than ensuring you can nail four points.
Where Axio Rota shines is in its ability to let players balance their points out. Its entire premise is oriented around ensuring your scores aren't miles apart. As we said, focussing all your efforts on one colour is a worthless endeavour! Your lowest score is what counts, and it's there where you'll be judged. If anything, it's the scoring criteria that dictate every element of the game. You may have scope to score four in Blue and Purple, but if you've neglected Red, that's what you'll want. Tie in a need to hold opposers back and it may change your placement's focus entirely.
There's a lot to consider in a short period of time, as you have to account for everyone else's placements. And, in honesty, there's heavy risk of over analysis. But it comes with the territory of a pattern game, and we found the game's length reflected the player count well.
Axio Rota is, at its heart, a tile laying game. Every turn will have you laying tiles down in order to score on different colours. The more colours you match, the higher your score. However, you will only do as well as your lowest score... To start, all players take 12 random tiles, five different colour cubes and a score sheet. Four tiles are then placed in the centre of the table with any blanks facing inwards to form a circle. The remaining tiles in the game are then put aside as a supply for later use. Players then take turns to place tiles and score them accordingly.
When placing a tile in Axio Rota, players score points in the specific colour connecting to existing tiles. They score one point for each colour on the corners, respectively. Should they place a blank, they can choose an existing colour to score on in the connecting cluster. Corners that are not connected to another tile don't score. What's interesting here is the benefit of obtaining 12 points. As soon as any score cube hits 12, a player can say Axio and get a tile to place from the supply immediately. They also gain the scoring of the placed tile.
The game ends when players have either used all their tiles or scored 12 on all five colours. Should all tiles be placed, whoever has the highest low score is the winner. For example, if player A's lowest score is four, and player B's lowest score is seven, player B would win. No other scores are counted except to resolve a tie.
Big Brain Moment
Despite the lack of scope for forward planning, there are some wonderful moments of genius in Axio Rota. You can manipulate the board to a degree based on your own placement and the creation of tempting obscurities. (We found that 9/10 times, the board becomes a square unless you did something crazy!) Through this madness of placement, you can open areas up and score on more than two or three corners. It risks a lack of points initially, but can pay off in the long run!
The real seller here is the benefit to racing to 12. Now I know the scoring screams "Don't do that. That's silly! No. Stop it," but it's hard to ignore. When you hit 12 with any colour, you claim an Axio. This enables you to take a tile from the supply and place it immediately. There're two outcomes here. Outcome one, you rush through one colour to 12 and get a second tile. Straight forward. Or outcome two, you meticulously balance all your scores and trigger Axio after Axio to claim an inevitable and glorious victory! Both tactics are viable, but one’s easier than the other. It depends on convenience and patience, but I prefer to rush the one and claim an extra - simply for fear of missing out on them.
Let's Do It Again!
Axio Rota is a filler game, through and through. It's on the table, it's played, it's off the table. No fuss, no silly business. You'll crack through the game in no time and be onto whatever else it is you're wanting to do. However, it's also incredibly addictive. For a little game with very little craziness or unexpected twists or turns, it's hard to get off the table! When it's not a filler, it's still more than viable as a choice of game to play... I can't say that it's a game you'll be knocked down and stunned by. It's more of one you'll enjoy playing whilst having a cup of tea, or with family/friends whilst chatting.
There's not an awful lot of intensity to it, and its feel is very relaxed. You'll concentrate and have focus, but you won't be desperate to claw victory from defeat and claim a triumphant win. It's not that sort of game! Definitely a smaller one for journeys, and a great way to fill a 30 minute lull.
Axio Rota is what a filler game should be. Short, sharp, keeps you on your toes and fun. It won't be breaking new ground in terms of gameplay beyond its unique scoring, but will definitely be a game you'll take with you when you're out and about. We thoroughly enjoyed Axio Rota and found it to be a wonderful little filler game. It has beautiful presence on the table and takes two minutes to learn.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on 18/09/2020. Updated on 10/08/2021 to improve the information available.