The Day in Gaming, September 13, 2019: Azul

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Almost two years ago I played Azul for the first time. It was insta-love: Azul was an abstract game with simple rules, a quick play time, and more strategy than expected. According to BG Stats, I’d played the game 55 times before today.

In Azul you’re a tile layer decorating the king’s palace walls. The theme isn’t relevant to the game play, though. Just know that those solid plastic pieces that look like Starburst aren’t meant to be eaten and you’ll be okay.

On your turn, select a single color of tiles from one of the coasters (aka “factories”) and add them to your board. You and your opponents repeat this until there are no more tiles, then you’ll move to the scoring round. If you’ve completed a row, then slide one Starburst, er, piece, to the right on its designated spot on your wall. Discard the other tiles.

You’ll score one point per tile you’ve added to your wall, gaining more points if they’re adjacent to previously placed tiles. Continue playing rounds until someone finishes a horizontal row. At the end of the game you’ll gain bonuses for collecting a complete set of one color and any rows or columns you’ve completed.

The best part of Azul is its simple turn structure and depth of strategy. At first you’re simply gathering tiles, hoping to line them up and/or collect enough for bonuses. But then you realize you can hate draft against your opponents, taking tiles that help you, but also hinder their own walls. You’ll also start figuring out ways to connect rows and columns that’ll earn you more points.

Until today I hadn’t played a solo game, but thanks to this solo variant I found via BGG, I was able to knock out a game by myself in 15 minutes. The dummy player uses a simple set of rules that neatly mimics a human opponent. And since the game lasts only five rounds, you’re hard-pressed to maximize your scoring opportunities during each turn.

Do you play solo variants of board games? Let’s talk about them on my Twitter feed!