If you’re a fan of art or interior design, then Azul is the game for you. Set in the lavish palace of King Manuel I of Portugal, Azul puts your interior decorating skills to the test to see who can build the best pattern for the palace walls. You’ll have a blast with the delicate, intricate little tile pieces as you pick and choose which ones will help you make the best design. An expert combination of aesthetic appeal and complex strategy, Azul is a masterpiece of a game.
The Beauty of Azul
Perhaps the best part of the game of Azul comes from its origin story. Azul is based on azulejos, which were white and blue ceramic tiles introduced to Spain by the Moors. When the Portuguese King Manuel I was on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, he couldn’t help but be captivated by the beauty of these dazzling tiles.
In fact, he was so overcome by the beauty of these azulejos that he instantly ordered for his own palace back home in Portugal to be decorated in the same way. This is where our game begins, as you the player become the tile-laying artist charged with embellishing the king’s royal walls.
Collecting the Tiles
Azul is incredibly simple to learn, setup, and play, so you’ll be able to dive right in. Players start with their own individual boards and scoring markers. A ring of discs sits in the center of the table, each holding four randomly drawn tiles and one white tile for players to choose from. Players will take turns pulling tiles from one of the discs and adding them to their boards.
When you select the tiles, you must choose all of the tiles of that color from the disc to add to your board. You’ll fill in each row of your board with one color at a time. If the row is full by the end of the round, then you can move it onto the patterned scoring wall on your board.
Building Your Pattern
This is where the game gets interesting. You get to choose how you place the tiles to decorate the palace, with certain patterns and sets scoring you extra points. This part of the game allows your inner artist to come out as you try and earn as many points as possible while still building something of beauty.
Beware of taking tiles you cannot use, however, as this will harm your score. If there are no free rows in which to place your tile or you’ve already completed a row with that color title, then you’ll earn negative points.
The key to the game is to make sure you’re able to fill the rows on your player board while planning out your long term strategy for decorating the palace. The game ends when the first player completes an entire row in their patterned scoring wall.
Azul has two spinoffs that have similar gameplay but employ different yet equally beautiful components. Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra turns you into a window-builder as you craft an elegant stained glass window of your own design. This game comes with beautiful double-sided window panels that offer an infinite number of potential combinations.
Azul: Summer Pavilion tasks you with decorating the king’s summer pavilion, a task which was never actually completed in real life. This spinoff offers a bit more complexity to the game that can make it a worthy upgrade for fans of the original Azul.
Azul: Embellish To Your Heart’s Content
Azul is playable by 2-4 players, so it’s definitely best for small groups or for one-on-one games. It’s suitable for ages 8 and up, mostly because of how simple the game is to play. However, it’s definitely got enough complexity that adults won’t tire of it.
Playing time for Azul lasts 30-45 minutes, which allows you to get a hang of the game in case you’re interested in playing multiple rounds. All in all, Azul is the kind of game you’ll want to play multiple times in order to nail down your winning strategy. Buy Azul today and let your artist be free!