There is a layer of strategy and depth behind the beauty of Azul, the award-winning tile drafting game where players compete to assemble a wall of ceramic tiles.

Simple and easy to learn, Azul takes its inspiration from the tin-glazed ceramic tiles used to decorate palaces in Portugal, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing set of components with a gorgeous glazed art-style.

Setup for some board games can be tedious, requiring the sorting of components and the shuffling of decks. With Azul, this setup is far more straightforward, with five to nine beautiful factory boards placed in the middle, and each player receiving a board of their own. Then, each factory gets filled with four coloured acrylic tiles drawn at random from a fabric bag. Players can take all the tiles of the same colour from a tile, but the excess tiles get placed in the centre of the board.

The game takes place over the course of at least five rounds, with each player taking all tiles of the same colour from either the factory boards or the centre pile until no tiles remain. Chosen tiles are placed in rows on the player’s board, with full rows building tiles on the player’s wall. Each tile placed awards its player with a point, with bonus points obtained by placing adjacent tiles or filling rows. The game ends if, at the end of a round, a player has completed a horizontal row on their wall.

Azul shows its nuances in how it plays. Each tile from a chosen factory which exceeds the amount needed to craft a wall-tile gets placed at the bottom of the board, imposing a penalty to that player’s score.  Pick the right tiles, and you might set off a chain of adjacency bonuses which catapults you to victory, but your friends will be looking to get tiles of their own. The rewards for filling rows and the fact that each row and column only has one of each type of tile means that there is a sense of rising tension, each subsequent round allows for greater point gains but less flexibility.

Azul’s speed of play and surprising depth despite its simplicity make it a perfect game for the family, one with space for replayability, it promises to be a family favourite and deserving of the acclaim it has received.

~ Shane