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NEXT MOVE Azul - The Queen's Garden

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Tokens and Garden expansions. The first setup requires the players to unpunch all the garden expansions and the tokens first. Here are our thoughts on the positive and negative elements of each game in the Azul series. Azul What Azul does best: On one side of the display area, you could place the scoring board with the rotatory wheel. The rotatory wheel dents should be aligned with the two markers on the top quadrant (first round). You could either keep the game box close to easily access the game tokens and the jokers or prepare a pile of each close to the scoring board. The other tokens could be retrieved from the fox as needed.

You also get a bonus of six points for groups of tiles that are all of the colours or all of the shapes but the same colour. You will also score negative points if you are left with any tiles or expansions, so being thrifty is key. A bit like another of my families favourites, Quirkle. It makes my brain hurt sometimes, in a good way. Components Over the course of six rounds players will draft tiles to create a summer pavilion, carefully avoiding wasting any supplies. Each of the six tile colors takes a turn being wild during a round, helping players complete sections on their player board. Players earn progressively more points as they place tiles and begin to fill in each section on their board. Bonuses are earned for surrounding sections of the board and for completely filling in stars at the end of the six rounds. What Azul: Summer Pavilion does best: If you are looking for an abstract game with a bit more depth and don’t mind a lot of moving parts, Azul Stained Glass of Sintra could be a great choice for you.


Every one of the symbols shown on the tiles is worth a different point value that players could earn at the end of the game, but they also represent how much it costs to play that tile into a garden. Should a player ever want to place a tile in their garden they need to spend an amount of tiles - of either the same colour or symbol - equal to the point value of the one they want to place. For instance, a player could pay for a turquoise butterfly tile with two other turquoise or butterfly tiles. However, just as players cannot draft identical tiles, they also cannot pay using identical tiles. Having to consider how you’re going to pay for tiles, as well as which tiles you want to put into your garden, serves as an even greater test of your ability to think ahead and significantly rewards players who make clever decisions. The player boards feature an area for players to store their tiles before placing them in their gardens. Identical tiles could not be placed next to each other. If a player fully surrounds a garden feature (pavilion, bench, statue, or fountain) by placing a tile, the player immediately receives as many jokers as depicted on the bottom left side of the player board. If the player could not store all the jokers, those in excess are lost. Players Actions If you are looking for a crunchy abstract game with a large lean toward the puzzle category, Azul: Queen’s Garden could be a good fit for you. This juggling of both strategic and tactical aspects, alongside spatial play and pattern-building, is rich and engaging. There’s a lot to consider at every stage of the turn yet, as the game progresses, you won’t feel boxed in by your earlier decisions. Even the draft has interesting repercussions as garden tiles aren’t flipped face up until they’re clear of drafted hexes. So taking a hex you want might inadvertently create an opportunity for the following player. Player action, Pass – Passing is final and once passed the players could not do any further actions. The first players that pass will receive the first player tile and once all players have passed, the round is over.

The big difference between Queen’s Garden and its predecessors is how players interact with the series’ fundamental gameplay mechanics of drafting and tile-placement. Azul laid down the initial groundwork so that Queen’s Garden could plant far more elaborate designs within its soil, designs that force players to plan ahead and think carefully about their decisions in the same satisfying way that lovers of the series are used to. In the Azul game series, players will take turns drafting colored tiles from the center circles to their player board. When certain sets of tiles are collected and satisfy placement requirements on their board players are able to score points. If players draft more tiles than they need they must discard the leftovers — this causes them to lose points. We’ve played all four and we can confirm that each are perfectly lovely in their own way. Yet, because they are each so similar to the other, we don’t feel that you need to have each game on your shelf. Starting from the first player, each player could only perform one of four actions choosing among: acquire tiles and garden expansions, place a tile, place a garden expansion, and pass. The original is perfectly simple. With straightforward and easily understood rules, this is the least overwhelming in the series. It doesn’t try to get too cute with mechanics and that’s the beauty of it.Finally, each group of six different patterns or colours scores 6 additional points. Not surprisingly, the player with the highest score wins. How To Store The Game Away The jokers will need to be placed in any of the 12 spaces on the storage board. Player markers are placed on the square “15” on the scoring board and the single hexagonal marker (evaluation marker) is positioned on his icon on the left of the scoring board. First Player Actions Now, here’s where Azul: Queen’s Garden takes a hard left away from Azul as we know it… Rather than placing hexagons directly into your garden, you have to pay for them. The cost for any hexagon (including any garden expansion, based on the printed space) is the same as the value of pips on the hexagon – to be paid in either identical-value or colour hexes, or jokers. As with drafting no hexagon that is identical to the one being played can be used, and players can’t mix the colour/pattern currency. So for example, to play a six value blue hexagon, you’ll need to play either five other blue hexagons or five other six-value hexagons. Oddly, the cost includes the chip you wish to place (which is then placed in the garden) whilst any other chips are discarded into the tower to be re-used later. The modular boards make the game fiddly in a way the other two are not as you will flip and remove window panels throughout the game. This often results in bumping and disrupting your placed tiles if you aren’t careful. Considering the simplicity of the original Azul, it’s surprising that designer, Michael Kiesling, continues to produce more and more follow-ups. The fourth entry in the series, Azul: Queen’s Garden, was revealed just last month and will be seeing a wider release later this year. Of course, if you happened to be at Essen Spiel 2021 - the biggest board game event in the world - this weekend, then you’d be able to get your hands on the game right there and then.

Everyone knows what to expect here. Lovely artwork, nice clean symbology and a lovely presentation make up a game that looks fantastic on the table and after a play or two, is very simple to understand.The game ends suddenly, so if you aren’t paying attention, you can get caught completely unaware. You must always be watching to know just how much longer the game is likely to go on. Claimed hexagons and garden tiles go in your storage area: you can only have twelve of the former and two of the latter. To get them out of storage and into the garden you’re trying to build you have to pay with other hexes, and the more points on the design the more you have to pay, up to five total. You can only pay using hexes of the same colour or design as the item you want to place, although you start with three very useful jokers which serve as wildcards. As well as drafting tiles you are now drafting Garden Expansions to put your tiles onto as well, a massive change from what I have played before in these games. More Freedom In the paper tile tower, you will find 5 identical series of tiles divided into numbered bags. All coloured tiles could be stored in the tile tower itself once you have opened the bag while the grey ones (the wild tiles called “jokers” in-game) have 4 dedicated slots in the tray. The chains of rigidity of previous entries have been thrown away for a more free, more personalized approach to your tile placement. I really like this a lot; it broadens the space for you to create what you want and allows you to change your layout and design on the fly. Costly, Costly Tiles

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