I decided to review the board game Azul by Michael Kiesling. This game is for 2-4 players with around a 30-45 minute play time. There are two different versions you can play, and you simply flip your board for the other one. Side A, you have specified places for the color tiles to go while Side B, you have more freedom with where you place the tiles as long as you follow the same pattern of no repeats in columns and no repeats in rows. The game involves players collecting all of one color of tile from a plate or from the center and placing them into one of five rows on their boards. If the player has too many of one color to the row, the tile “falls” to the bottom of the board where it will have negative points. Once the tiles for the round are gone, all the players see which rows they filled up completely with the colors and move one of the tiles over to their main board in that same row. They add up their points for that round and then continue to play until someone fills up an entire main row or the tile bag becomes empty. Then the players add end of game goal points to their scores which could be filling an entire column or row, or they collected all 5 of one color. The one with the most points wins.
If I were to rate this game, it would be 5/5 for visuals and 4/5 for game mechanics. To a new eye, this game seems to be very difficult and they may be turned away by it. That is what almost happened when I showed this to a couple of my friends. But once you play through a few rounds and they get the idea of how to add up their points, it becomes easy to understand. The gameplay requires you to have a plan, but then also 5 back up plans after that if someone takes the color from the plate you were eyeing. You also need to keep track of the center of the plates because if no one is choosing a certain color, it may become overpopulated and the poor soul who has the last turn of a round ends up with so many lost points. These may seem like a negative, but I like how much you need to strategize and think ahead. You don’t have to wait around on your turn already knowing what you will do because you tend to constantly have to change your plan of attack. You have the ability to look around at other people’s boards and determine which plate they may be after and you could wreck their plan. It’s not my play style, but I like that the players can choose that strategy if they wish. There are so many different ways to fill the same board and it gives you options. It’s clever and fun. You don’t really know who is going to win until the very end. Even if someone was ahead the entire game, the end of game points could create an upset. You are always on a constant equal playing field with people fighting over tiles and creating bargains with each other. Besides the cool game mechanics, I just love the art for this game. Each tile has a different pattern and the board it just so pleasing to the eye. Everything is very cohesive; nothing looks out of place. For such a simple concept, it is very ornate with many different looking textures in the art on the board. Even the bag for the tiles is decorated. The only thing not decorated in this game is the small black cube used to keep track of your points. I think that is just amazing and deserves credit.
Pertaining to our class, Tabletop Games and Leadership. I think this game takes a lot of strategic thinking and planning but being able to be flexible. Your plan could disappear within a single second as soon as someone chooses the exact play you were going to make on your next turn. Then you must adapt and find a new plan. I think this could really help teach leadership. Sometimes things don’t go the way you wanted or planned. As a leader, you must reflect on the past and change things to be better in the future based on what you learned. You can have as many plans as you want, but even then, none of them could work. If this happens, you must go in a completely different direction you never thought of before. This changing and adapting can teach so many lessons and open the world to more possibilities. This may be just a game about building up tiles, but on a deeper level, it’s a game about flexible planning.