Azul (board game)
|Illustrators||Philippe Guérin, Chris Quilliams|
|Publishers||Plan B Games|
|Playing time||30–45 minutes|
Azul (Portuguese for blue) is an abstract strategy board game designed by Michael Kiesling and released by Plan B Games in 2017. Based on Portuguese tiles called azulejos, in Azul players collect sets of similarly colored tiles which they place on their player board. When a row is filled, one of the tiles is moved into a square pattern on the right side of the player board, where it garners points depending on where it is placed in relation to other tiles on the board.
From two to four players collect tiles to fill up a 5x5 squares player board. Players collect tiles by taking all the tiles of one colour from a repository, or from the centre of the table, and placing them in a row, taking turns until all the tiles for that round are taken. At that point, one tile from every filled row moves over to each player's 5x5 board, while the rest of the tiles in the filled row are discarded. Each tile scores based on where it is placed in relation to other tiles on the board. Rounds continue until at least one player has made a row of tiles all the way across their 5x5 board. Additional points are awarded at the end of the game for each complete row or column, and for each instance of all five tiles of the same colour being collected.
The basic game dictates where tiles of each color go on their player board, while an advanced version allows players to place them anywhere.
Keith Law, writing for Paste Magazine, said "The theme doesn't really tie into or matter for the game play, but the artwork is just fantastic and...will give Azul a ton of shelf appeal in a market where maybe publishers don't pay as much attention to that aspect of marketing."
Nate Anderson of Ars Technica described it as "an ideal weeknight game, or a game night opener, or a family title." The Wirecutter described it as having "slightly tricky rules" but is "easy to play" with "beautiful art".
Emily VanDerWerff, writing for Vox, said "Azul has made the leap from hardcore hobbyist circles to the shelves of Target and other stores where it might be selected by grandmas shopping for their grandkids...absolutely every aspect of playing the game is at once instantly understandable and agreeably fun – right down to how those tiles feel in your hand."
Awards and nominations
Azul has won a number of board gaming awards and received numerous nominations:
- 2018 Spiel des Jahres award
- 2018 Origins Award for Best Family Game and Fan Favorite
- 2018 Dice Tower Award for Best Family Game
- 2018 As d'Or – Jeu de l'Année Winner
- 2018 Mensa Select Certification
- 2017 Meeples' Choice Nominee
- 2017 Cardboard Republic Architect Laurel Winner
- 2017 Golden Geek Best Family Game of the Year
- 2017 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Runner-up
Sequels and Azul series
In late 2018, Plan B Games has released a second title in the Azul line, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, which utilised the same tile-drafting mechanism, and required players to match vertical patterns on two sided stained-glass window panes on the player boards. A movement pawn was added which placed additional restrictions on which pane a player could fill on any given turn, adding to the game's complexity.
A third game in the series, Azul: Summer Pavilion, was released in late 2019. It again utilised the same tile-drafting mechanism but introduced a wild colour which changed from round to round, and saw players collecting diamond-shaped tiles to create star patterns.
A fourth game, Azul: Queen's Garden, was released in 2022. Diverging the most from its predecessors, it featured a heavily modified variant of the original tile-drafting mechanism, and significantly increased the complexity of the pattern matching – with hexagonal tiles now having combinations of colours and symbols which could be separately matched for points.
There have been two expansions in the series: Azul: Crystal Mosaic, an expansion to the original game; and Azul: Glazed Pavilion, an expansion to Summer Pavilion. There is also the stand-alone game 5211: Azul, which rethemed the abstract card game 5211 into the style of the original Azul.
- Law, Keith (September 28, 2017). "It's Time for Some Game Theory with the Beautiful Azul". Paste Magazine. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- Sukumaran, Arjun (December 16, 2017). "Roll it the azulejo way". The New Indian Express. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- Law, Keith (December 17, 2017). "The 10 Best Board Games of 2017". Paste Magazine. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
- Anderson, Nate (November 24, 2017). "The best board games we played at PAX Unplugged". Ars Technica. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- Cordero, Raf (October 17, 2017). "Build A Gorgeous Mosaic Fit for a King on Your Tabletop in 'Azul'". Nerdist. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- Anderson, Nate (July 28, 2018). "Review: Azul, board game of the year?". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2018-11-22.
- Perling, Anna; Austin, James (9 December 2019). "The best beginner board games for adults". The Wirecutter. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
- VanDerWerff, Emily (December 22, 2018). "The confoundingly simple yet deep design of Azul, the best board game of 2018". Vox. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
- Anderson, Nate (July 23, 2018). "2018's "Board Game of the Year" award goes to… Azul!". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
- Fitzpatrick, Michelle (December 26, 2018). "German board games guru's offerings includes Trump, Nazis". Times of Israel. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
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- Larvor, Loeiza (December 21, 2018). "Jeux de société. Il y en a pour tous les goûts". Le Telegramme. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- "Winning games". American Mensa's Mind Games. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
- "2017 Meeples Choice Award Winners". The Opinionated Gamers. 2018-06-23. Retrieved 2018-11-22.
- "The Laurels: Best Architect Games Of 2017". The Cardboard Republic. 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2018-11-22.
- Hall, Charlie (March 14, 2018). "The best board games of 2017, as chosen by the Board Game Geek community". Polygon. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Lowder, James (December 11, 2018). "Top Games To Gift in 2018". WUWM. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- Sukumaran, Arjun (October 26, 2019). "Potential winners at SPIEL this year". The Indian Express. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
- "Azul: Queen's Garden (2021)". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
- "Azul Glazed Pavilion Expansion Review". Just Push Start. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
- "Azul & Expansions". Moonshot Games. Retrieved 16 February 2021.