Azul is the second game from Plan B Games. In Azul, the players are tile-setters who have to build the walls of the royal palace in the Portuguese city of Evora. The walls must be provided with beautiful mosaics with cheerful colored Portuguese tiles. The player who builds the most beautiful wall, wins the game.
Each player has his own player board in front of him with the pattern of the wall, a number of rows where the tiles can be stored and a score rack. In the middle of the table are a number of large, round, cardboard chips on which four beautiful plastic tiles are laid each round.
The players may take turns to stock tiles. In your turn, pick up all the tiles of the same type from one round and slide the rest of the tiles to the center. Instead of grabbing tiles from a round you can also take all tiles of one kind from the middle (the player who does this will get a penalty point, but is also the starting player of the next round). You then place these tiles on one of the rows on your own board. If you take more tiles than fit in a row, place the excess tiles at the bottom of your board. These tiles yield penalty points at the end of the round. If a row is not full, you can proceed in a next turn (but they must be of the same color).
This continues until all tiles have been used from the center of the table. The players then take turns to check which rows they have completed on their plates. For every row that is full, the first tile is moved to the right spot on the wall. The rest of the tiles from this row go to the discard pile. Terraces that are not full will stay for the next round (you can still finish them).
Every time you put a tile on the wall you will score points. A single tile yields 1 point, but a tile that is part of a row or column of contiguous tiles yields as many points as the row or column is long or wide. And if a tile is part of both a column and a row, you score points for the both of them.
The game ends after one player has built a complete row on his wall. Often this will be the case after 5 rounds, but sometimes the game can take longer. At the end of the game bonus points will be awarded for rows and columns that are completely finished or for players who have placed all tiles of one color on their wall. The player who has the most points wins the game.
Conclusion: What makes Azul good?
With Azul, Plan B Games has a direct hit. The game has the magical combination of a beautiful design, high-quality play material (especially the tiles), few rules and a short playing time. The game plays smoothly and the players are busy most of their time filling their own plates. But you have to keep an eye out for what the other players are doing! You want to prevent that you are unable finish your rows because tiles are empty and you will be unable to transfer the tiles to the wall. And at the same time, you also have to prevent your competitors from sticking you with a huge stack of tiles which you can not use and therefore end up with a lot of penalty points. The game is friendly enough to appeal to a wide audience.