There are many themes for games that make you sit there in slight bemusement. Released in 2017, Favelas is an abstract tile laying game designed by Chris Bryan, published by Wizkids, which sees players taking turns in beautifying their favelas with vibrant coloured tiles. But is it just eye-candy, with no substance, or is there more than meets the eye?
Favelas is played over three rounds, in-which players will score points based on having the majority (or tied majority) of any one of the coloured favelas on their player board, plus bonus points for having all favelas colours visible at the end of each round. Scores are determined by the value of the dice on the ‘Beautification Council Guidelines’ board, which are manipulated during each round of play.
At the start of the game, players are randomly assigned a player board, all being slightly different to each other. The Start Player will roll all of the dice and place them into their respective places on the main board. This will give a general indication of how each colour majority may score once the round is complete.
On their turn, players will select and place a tile, either from one of the three double-tiles from the open market, a double tile from the face-down round stack, or a single face-down tile. When placing tiles, these must never extend off the edge of the player board, and must always be fully supported beneath (in other words, tiles cannot have a tile positioned without another tile in direct contact below).
Dice, and therefore round-end scores, are manipulated when the active player covers a tile with one or more matching colours directly on top of it. If a player covers yellow with yellow, they must change the value of the yellow die up or down by one. This is action mandatory - if the die is six, then it must be lowered to five (same as one must be upped to two). The ‘clear’ bonus die is manipulated when any player chooses to place one of the face-down single tiles. Should they happen to cover a matching colour, they then change the face of both the clear bonus die, and the colour die respectively.
A round ends when either the “Round End” tile is flipped face-up into the open market, or, if taken by a player from the face-down stack on their turn, then the round will then end after it is placed. (Round End tiles are shuffled into the bottom four tiles in the three round stacks at the start of the game).
Scoring then takes place, with players moving their markers around the edge of the ‘Beautification Council Guidelines’ board. The player next in turn order from the one that instigated the end of the previous round will begin as the Start Player for the next. They must begin by re-rolling all of the dice, which could impact player’s choices for the rest of the game significantly.
The player with the most points at the end of the third round is declared the winner.
I have really enjoyed playing Favelas. Rounds and scoring are generally fast, and it can be played by people of differing board game experience levels. Rounds can be drawn out a little longer than they perhaps should be, dependant on the players sitting at the table. A playthrough can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes in my experience, with players needing to keep an eye out for how their competitors are strategising. This slow down in play can be an issue for some, for what is meant to be a filler game.
I’m yet to have been involved in a game where there is a runaway winner. I particularly enjoy the strategy involved in manipulating the scoring dice, either in your favour, or simply to block somebody from scoring big. It is not advisable to concentrate on any one colour, as the points gained can differ drastically from round to round.
The artwork style is something I am really drawn to, perhaps inspired by the Rio Carnival. This does a great job is drawing player’s attention, and those passing by. The components are of a good quality, which surprised me given the game's price point. I would have understood if the tiles were thinner, but I’m certainly glad with how they turned out. My only pet-peeve with the production values is the insert, it can be troublesome storing everything with ease, but that’s a very minor issue.
If you are interested in a light filler game, that plays well, looks great, and takes up a small amount of table space, you should certainly give this game a try.