The Meeple Guild: Azul impresses with its looks and gameplay

YORKTON – There are always games that end up surprising when played.

Azul has proven to be such a game recently.

The game was a gift from my son’s Yule, but a COVID pandemic and crazy work schedule meant the game hadn’t been played for a few weeks before we got together for a game night and played it. put on the table.

Now, Azul isn’t a new game, it was first released by designer Michael Kiesling in 2017, but it wasn’t a game I’d ever really put on a “wishlist”.

In retrospect, that was a mistake on my part.

The game is highly rated on www.boardgamegeek.com, a go-to site for all things board game, with just under 100,000 owners of the game, a number likely far lower than actually exists. One review suggested hundreds of thousands in sales.

Now, to be fair, high ratings aren’t necessarily something that guarantees someone else will like the game. Span rates are high on BGG and it fell pretty flat at our table.

But with Azul, the rating seems justified.

For starters, the rules of the game are quite straightforward and simple to follow. This meant that we might have just unboxed the game the first night, but we were playing in about 30 minutes – and yes, that helps us play a lot of games, but this one could be picked up smoothly by non-players. players.

The game is all about drawing tiles, beautiful, brightly colored “bakelite” tiles, which are really nice to handle and are also brightly colored, giving Azul high marks for aesthetics.

You collect tiles over a series of rounds, trying to build columns, rows, or matching five of one color, all of which score points at the end of the game.

Typically, the matches are tightly contested – only once has a player been left in the dust, and only once has a player managed to gain a significant margin of victory over about nine or ten games.

Although the game score contributes, the winner must have had a good final score to come out on top.

The game is relatively fast too. We put about 10 games into the book in about three hours. During that time, we actually wrapped up the game, then decided on one more and had it back on the table within minutes, so setting up is quick.

Azul is a game where “just one more game” is likely to be an oft-heard comment, and is a quick game to wrap up a game night with something fun, but not too taxing in terms of strategy.

And yes, it really is an abstract strategy game. Once the tiles are drawn from the bag to randomize the starting tiles in play for a turn, everything else is there in front of the players, so you can see what the opponents are doing in terms of scores and try to counter some of their plans if you want too.

However, as an abstract strategy game, Azul is played with two, three or four players. It’s rare that multiplayer abstract strategy games don’t get bogged down in someone’s “kingmaker” actions, or gang up on the weakest player by others at the table. Most are therefore not too pleasant.

Blokus, for example, plays quite well in fours, but a perceived weak player will find himself boxed quite often.

Azul, at least for three players, is playing well, we each won about a third of the games on opening night, and since the tile count is adjusted down for two players and up for four, it seems likely the game will be fine, with BGG reviewers leaning it to be better with two.

This game was a most pleasant surprise, with the three Meeple Guilders at the table all giving it high marks. He is likely to become a regular time filler and was a great Christmas present.

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