There was a game on sale at Target and Azul was its name-o! (sing this to the tune of “B-I-N-G-O”).
Why? Because at its base level, Azul is like new-age Bingo. And now the much-hyped, rightfully hyped game is on sale at Target after winning the prestigious Spiel des Jahres 2018 Award earlier this year. In case you didn’t know, the international award is given to the best game of the year.
The game is unassuming at first glance. Players each have a game board and are hoping to build a 5 x 5 tile mosaic for some fancy royal bathroom. Each player gets to go to the factories and bring home tiles that they must first place in a setup area on their board, then transfer to the bathroom area. This is where Bingo comes in. Not only do straight lines either vertically or horizontally earn you points, but getting five of the same type of tile does as well. In addition, building sequentially, as in placing new tiles adjacent to existing tiles, also scores you more points along the way. And the person who builds the most beautiful bathroom tile pattern (of course, determined by highest score), wins!
I know! That sounds stupid, right? You’re probably thinking I only like this game because it has to do with the bathroom, right? (and yes, I do like it also because of that). However, the game really is awesome. You see, many modern tabletop games have simple, yet elegant mechanics that create hours of fun, though they lack a real theme. And this is among the best of them. Fortunately, their choice of theme also allowed the team at Plan B to present Azul in an art style that stands out in a crowded marketplace. Furthermore, the tiles just feel good in your hands and have that addicting Mahjong-like click-clack sound and feel.
But the best part of this game really is the strategic game play. Each time it is your turn, you start with two main choices: do I try to help myself or do I screw over someone’s bathroom? The subchoices from there also create a unique puzzle, because, in a nutshell, what goes around comes back around, or in many cases, does not come back around again as you hoped because now those tiles are gone.
Honestly, this is the type of game that you really have to play in order to appreciate. If you’re on the fence about picking it up, there are many video reviews and tutorials online that you can sink your teeth into. If you’re like me and like irreverent humor, check out Shut Up and Sit Down’s take on YouTube. Or, you can also just take a chance and pick it up at Target. Worst case scenario, you can return it if you don’t like it. And if anyone asks, no, I didn’t tell you to do that. I’m merely stating that as an option. But yeah. After playing it a couple times I’m pretty sure you’ll keep it.
P.S. – Upon looking at the rules again, I see that the backstory has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with bathrooms. It does have everything to do with some king in Portugal wanting to decorate his Royal Palace with Moorish decorative tiles similar to those he saw at the Alhambra palace in Spain. I guess I read “Royal Palace” and assumed they were talking about a bathroom. I mean, that’s an honest mistake that anyone would make, right?