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Which Azul Is For You?

News - Azul wins 2018 Spiel des Jahres Award

For Those Who Like To Start At The Beginning

The beginning as in the Sound of Music song is indeed a very good place to start. Although I do think that sometimes I subscribe to the Mach II version may be better. There are some people who enjoy the first iteration of things because it is the original. The people who watch a series like Midsomer Murders from season 1 even though there are eleven million seasons so far. For those you must of course get the original Azul!

When Azul first came out it’s USP was its brilliant clacky tiles. There weren’t many games out there that were providing such brilliant components as retail standard. This tile selection and placement game bounced into the abstract game genre with a bang. The idea was straightforward, you drafted tiles onto your player board trying to fill up your personal score zone grid without taking unnecessary tiles. All those unplaceable tiles ended up as negative points. There were options for hate-drafting and kinder play was also rewarded.

For Those Who Love To Mix It Up

Azul Stained Glass of Sintra is the second in Michael Kiesling’s series, and probably bears the most resemblance to the original. The boards are modular in that you assemble this prior to each game. Each player has a two sided palace board at the bottom and a set of window strips that are arranged randomly by each player. So each time you will likely have a different board configuration. This really shakes up the replayability. You also have a glazier meeple which determines where you place your tiles, so you can find yourself in a sticky situation if you can’t quite get your brain in order at the start.

For Those Who Love Flexibility

Summer Pavilion took the square tiles of the previous games and mixed them up into diamonds. I think that this is probably the easiest to teach and the least punishing, so I would probably chalk this one up as the best gateway to Azul too. Summer Pavilion offers a lot more freedom in how you can work ahead. Unlike in the previous versions, there is the option to carry over up to four tiles from this round to the next with no punishment unless you have tiles left over at the end of the game. You also have two distinct stages, the draft and then the placement. Unlike in previous iteration you can see what tiles you get during the whole draft phase before you start placing them. This is what makes the thinking ahead far more forgiving and much nicer for new players.

In this version there is a pretty severe punishment for getting the first player token. Everyone wants to get the best pick of the tiles on the next round but to do so does mean you will pay a penalty. You must decide when it is best to take the first player token from the centre, you will likely get the best crop of tiles from the centre but you lose a point for every tile taken this way. This causes a game of cat and mouse, ensuring you get the best tiles.

For Those Who Like Things Just So

For the perfectionists, there is really one choice, and that is the one that started it all is simply known as Azul. During the game you are drafting tiles from the centre of the table, thematically the factories, in order to place them onto your board. You must draft the tiles that will fit onto your player board

This game may be for you if you prefer your abstract games to be more constrained and constricted in how you play. This game really does rely on you “not messing up”, which for me removes some of the playstyle. I am not known for AP (analysis paralysis), and my “shoot from the hip” playing does often result in a few errors.

For Those Who Enjoy Min Maxing

Sometimes there are games that require min maxing and a little “mathsing” out the best solution for Azul Queen’s Garden. This shakes up the drafting stage whereby now you have no idea of what will come out through the round. Tiles are drawn from the bag in stages, and the garden tiles are face down until the plastic tiles are all gone from on top of them, so it is a real game of chance about what might come up. This to me makes the game more exciting, I love having to pivot when I realise that what I had planned may not come off exactly how I liked because my green tree didn’t appear. This is additionally interesting because of the tiles being one of six colours and displaying one of six symbols too. So there are both colours and symbols to think about. The scoring that happens throughout the game is also a fun addition and may change the order in which you do things.

I guess I’ll simply round up by saying that if you fancy Azul in your collection, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed regardless of which you buy. For me I think my favourite is Summer Pavilion to play with my family, but if I was being selfish then I really like the way Queen’s Garden plays out and scores. I guess there is room for more than one Azul in every collection!