Dive Into the Beauty of the Moors with Azul

Azul is the perfect game for art-lovers and strategists alike.  Set in the royal halls of a Portuguese palace, this game pushes you to embrace the interior decorator inside of you in an effort to please King Manuel I with your tile-laying skills.  With gorgeous tiles and fast-paced gameplay, Azul is a beautiful game that you won’t soon forget.

The Story of Azul

The highlight of Azul comes from its wonderful theme and intriguing backstory.  Azul is named after “azulejos”, the beautiful white and blue ceramic tiles that were first introduced by the Spanish Moors.  When the Portuguese king Manuel I visited the Alhambra palace in southern Spain, he was captivated by these stunning tiles and demanded that they be used to decorate his royal palace back home.  As the player of the game, you’re one of the tile-laying artists tasked with the challenge—are you up for it?

Pieces of the Game

Azul also stands apart from the crowd thanks to its gorgeous playing pieces.  Each player gets their own playing board fitted with a tile wall and score tracker.  The tiles are made from a shiny and attractive resin that makes placing them on your board incredibly satisfying.  The game also comes with several different tile repositories, which are cute little decorated disks that hold the tiles you have to choose from.

All of the components of the game are made from sturdy and attractive materials that make Azul a game of supreme elegance.  Instead of using flimsy cardboard or peeling stickers, Azul really invests in the visual and physical elements of the game.  You’ll remember Azul for years to come thanks to their impressive attention to quality and detail.

Laying the Tiles

The game goes on round by round, with players taking turns collecting the tiles from the repositories and placing them in a row.  Players will take all of the tiles of the same color from a repository, continuing until all of the tiles have been collected.  At the end of each round, players will then be able to take tiles from the row and use them to fill their board and win points.

You can earn points for placing the tiles in specific patterns or completing certain sets on your playing board.  You’ll have to choose your tiles with care, however, as any unused tiles will cause you to lose points and move further away from winning the game.  

Azul Sequels

Azul has come out with several sequel games that expand on the premise of the initial game without losing any of its artistic splendor.  In Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, players lay down windowpanes in a beautiful stained glass window instead of building an intricately tiled wall.  The translucent pieces and double-sided player boards are even more beautiful and fun to play with than the initial game.

Azul: Summer Pavilion is another sequel game inspired by history, although this one is based on a story that never came to be.  After King Manuel I completed his royal palaces, he ordered the construction of a summer pavilion (but died before it began).  In this sequel game, players take on the roles of master artisans who lay tiles, build stars, and earn bonus tiles for special tasks.

Build Your Pattern and Please the King with Azul

Azul is suitable for ages 8 and up, with simple rules that you can explain in a matter of minutes.  It can be played by 2-4 players, which makes it well suited for small groups and families.  Because the game has such a unique aesthetic element to it, it’s the perfect romantic game for a date night or anniversary.

Playing time lasts 30-45 minutes, but it’s fun enough that you could easily play a few games back to back without getting bored.  In a world full of unimaginative and aesthetically lazy games, Azul really stands out for its attention to detail and its unique theme.  Players will have an excellent time stepping into the role of artists and creating their own beautiful picture.  After only one play of this dynamic game, Azul will have you considering a career in interior design!

 

How to Play Azul

It’s Queen Bee vs. Queen Bee in the Game Of Hive

Chess is a time-honored classic that pits two players against each other as they strategically move pieces around a game board in order to capture the other side’s King.  The game of Hive turns chess on its head, getting rid of the game board and replacing the pawns and rooks with spiders and beetles.  Hive lets your build the game board yourself as you deftly place these hexagonally shaped bugs in an attempt to capture the powerful Queen Bee of your rival hive. 

Insects of the Hive

There are 22 total pieces in the game, so each player gets 11 pieces for their hive.  Each of the pieces contains a colorful insect carved onto a shiny black or white hexagonal tile. Unlike a traditional beehive, both hives in this game are populated with additional insects that defend the Queen Bee and attempt to trap the other player’s Queen Bee.  Each player gets one yellow Queen Bee piece, which can only move one space at a time.

Players also get two brown Spiders pieces and two purple Beetles pieces.  While Beetles can only move one space at a time, they can climb over other pieces and prevent them from moving.  The Spider, on the other hand, can move three spaces around the outside of the layout, which tends to be more useful early on in gameplay rather than later.

The three green Grasshopper pieces can jump over pieces in a straight line, while the three blue soldier ants can move as many pieces as it likes around the edge of the hive.  Each insect must be deployed to either protect the Queen Bee or surround the other player’s Queen Bee.

Capturing the Queen

Players take turns setting down their pieces and forming patterns, allowing them to play their pieces however they see fit.  The Queen Bee piece must be played within the first four turns of the game, which gives each player a limited amount of time to develop their opening strategy.  Every turn after that forces you to decide between putting another piece on the game board or moving one of your current pieces.

The publisher recommends a couple of opening strategies, although potential strategies are limitless.  One recommended strategy is to place a Spider, Bee, and Ant in a V formation, allowing the Ant to protect the Bee while the Bee is free to roam.  Another strategy is to form a V with two Spiders and a Bee, giving you the freedom to move quickly to block your opponent.  Once a Queen Bee has been surrounded on 6 sides by the other player’s pieces, the game is over.

Hive Expansions

Several expansions to Hive have been released that add new pieces with their own unique moves.  The Mosquito piece can be used as a wild card, taking on the movement of whichever piece it currently touches.  The Ladybug expansion released in 2010 and Pillbug expansion in 2013 create additional offensive and defensive opportunities that can allow you to pick up other bugs or rescue your ailing Queen Bee.    Because the original gameplay of Hive is only 20 minutes, these expansions can extend playtime and make Hive last almost as long as a chess game.

Build the Hive and Capture the Queen

If you’re looking for something a little more kid-friendly than chess, Hive is the perfect option.  It’s just simple enough that kids can enjoy it while still allowing for adults to enjoy a more complex game.  The beautiful wooden hexagonal tiles are also one of the biggest standout elements of the game, creating a visually stunning board as the game goes along.

Similarly to chess, Hive is designed for only two players.  While this is not the game for family game nights or group hangouts, it’s an excellent game for couples or lighthearted tournaments.  Hive is suitable for ages 9 and up, so two kids squaring off can have just as much fun as a parent and child can.  The more you play Hive, the more you’ll begin to uncover the numerous strategies and methods you can employ to win the game and avoid the dreaded stalemate.

 

How to Play Hive

Find the Pattern and Lay Down the Line With Qwirkle

Qwirkle is an abstract tile-playing game that takes the concept of Scrabble and turns it on its head.  Instead of forcing you to spell out difficult words with tiles that will send your friends and family scrambling to the dictionary, Qwirkle is played with tiles bearing colorful shapes that you have to arrange in a line.  No game board is required with this simple and creative game—all you need is a flat surface and a yearning for a little competition.

High Quality Wooden Game Pieces

As opposed to the bland little brown tile pieces you use in Scrabble, Qwirkle comes with 108 shiny black tiles featuring colorful patterns in various intricate shapes.  The delightful game pieces are often one of the most memorable parts of any board game, and Qwirkle delivers in spades.  From the whimsical clover to the dynamic eight-point star, Qwirkle’s quirky tiles will be sure to build a beautiful pattern by the end of the game.  

Laying The Tiles

Gameplay begins with mixing all of the tiles in the bag and having each player draw 6 tiles at random.  Every turn, each player will place one or more tiles on the table to form a row.  The rows need to each share one attribute of either color or shape, but not both.  For example, one row can consist of clover tiles in different colors, while a different row may be each of the shapes in the color red.

Unlike Scrabble, which forces you to play with the tiles you’ve got before drawing new ones, Qwirkle allows you to spend your turn exchanging the tiles in your hand for new ones.  This can end up making the game way more dynamic instead of saddling you with a dud hand for the rest of the game.

Scoring Points

Every time you place a tile in a line, you score one point for each tile within that line.  If you complete the line with the sixth and final tile, congratulations!  You win a 6-point bonus that can jettison you into the lead.  An additional 6-point bonus is given to the first person to play all of their tiles once the bag has run out, which is just enough of a boost to keep things competitive until the very last second.

Qwirkle is simple to learn, but definitely gives plenty of opportunity to employ strategy.  Blocking other people from continuing a pattern can be just as effective as plotting out your own high score combination.  However, the luck-based element of the game will throw a wrench into even the most carefully laid plans.  This combination of luck and strategy will keep you coming back to Qwirkle time and time again.

Fun For Families And Non-Gamers

Qwirkle is the perfect game for families and kids of all ages.  It’s an excellent game to use to teach younger children about concepts like shape and color matching and counting, while older kids can learn concepts like strategy and planning.  Suitable for ages 6 and up, Qwirkle is incredibly easy to learn and will having you playing like an expert within minutes.  But just because it’s so simple doesn’t mean that it’s boring—Qwirkle leaves plenty of room for more advanced players to play the long game while novices can enjoy it at the basic level.

Qwirkle is also much more accessible to non-gamers than hardcore games like Catan.  Because the rules are so simple, even people who don’t normally enjoy board games can find themselves drawn in for a 30-40 minute game.  This dynamic game can join together serious and casual gamers, serving as a gateway game towards more advanced board games.

Walk The Line With Qwirkle

Qwirkle is a simple game with an abstract concept that can appeal to a wide variety of gamers.  Its accessibility is where it truly shines, even if that removes a little bit of the complexity of the game for people who are looking for something with a greater challenge.  Still, if you’re a visual gamer who likes building intricate patterns and playing with beautiful wooden game pieces, you’ll love the quality that Qwirkle has to offer.

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