In 2017, a game was published that turned out to be one of the biggest hits of designer Michael Kiesling’s career. It was called Azul, and was an abstract game where players were drafting tiles that would then get put into a wall mosaic. The game garnered a lot of acclaim, even winning the prestigious Spiel des Jahres. Last year, a sequel came out called Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, and this year we got
Azul: Summer Pavilion is the third title in the Azul line from Kiesling and publishers Next Move Games. In this game, 2-4 players are acting as master artisans, coming together to build the summer pavilion of King Manuel I of Portugal long after his death.
As in the other games in this series, each player will be working on their own individual player board. Also familiar will be the factory displays in the center – twice as many as the number of players, plus one, arranged in a ring. Each of these will be seeded with four random tiles, which this time have a rhombus shape. However, in this version, there is a central board that shows a large flower shape. This will be filled with ten random tiles. This central board also has a scoring track, and players start with their markers on space 5.
A game of Summer Pavilion lasts for six rounds. In each round, you will begin with a tile acquisition phase. Here, players in turn order will draft tiles from the factory displays. It works a little differently than in other iterations. You will choose a display and take all tiles of one color from that display. However, on the main board, a wild color is indicated depending on the round (purple for the first, green for the second, orange for the third, yellow for the fourth, blue for the fifth, and red for the sixth). If there are any wild colors on that display, you must take ONE of them in addition to the other color you took. You can’t take just the wild color. Once you have taken your tiles from the display, move all remaining tiles to the center of the ring.
You can also choose to take all of one color tile (plus one wild tile) from the center of the ring. If you are the first to do so, you’ll also take the first player tile, which loses you points equal to the number of tiles you just took.
After you gain your tiles, you take turns placing tiles on your player board. There are seven stars to fill up – one for each color, and a central star which takes one tile of each color. Each space has a number in it (1-6), and you will need to spend that many tile to place one in a space. So if you want to place in a yellow spot with a 3, you need to have three yellow tiles – two are discarded to the tower, and the other is placed in the right spot. You can use wild tiles as a different color, as long as you also include one tile of the color you’re using in the set.
Each tile that you place scores one point, plus one per connected tile in the same flower. So, in the example above, playing on the yellow 3 would only score you one point, while playing on the yellow 2 or 4 would score your four points. Also, if you surround one of the preprinted spaces on the board with tiles, you get to take more tiles from the central board – one tile if you surround a pillar, two if you surround a statue, three if you surround a window. In the example above, the player has surrounded a window with yellow tiles, and if a yellow 2 is played, a statue will be surrounded. You get your choice of which tiles you take, and they are replaced from the bag when your turn is over.
When you can’t place anymore (or don’t want to), you can pass. You are allowed to save up to four tiles from round to round, discarding any excess (and losing one point for each tile you have to discard). You then reset the displays (adding all discards back to the bag if needed) and advance the round token to a new wild color.
After the sixth round, the game is over. You add points for completely filling in stars on your board, plus more for completely covering up all of your 1s, 2, 3s, or 4s. Any unused tiles at this point lose you one point each, and the high score wins.
I like the original Azul a lot, and I’ve been interested to see where Kiesling and Next Move take the system from there. My prediction is that Azul is an evergreen title – it will be around for a very long time. With this third title, the series maintains the essence of the original while still managing to be its own thing. I’m eager to try it out, though I suspect that the original will still be my favorite. I still need to play Sintra sometime as well, but I don’t think you need to have played one to play another.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!