Countdown to Christmas with 26 cool games – A = Azul


The holidays are coming! The time to find good company, catch up and play games! Still looking for an original present under the tree? I give you 26 game tips.

A of Azul

Azul rules! Because Azul s both beautiful to look at and great fun to play. If you give Azul, you actually give two presents. The game is inspired by the colourful decorations of the Alhambra in het Spaanse Granada. Portuguese King Manuel I was so impressed by those decorations that he commissioned you to create a similar wall.

The wall is your game board, the ceramics the game tiles. You build your wall according to a set of fixed rules. Those rules make it quite planning and puzzling. So you give a game and a painting!

Playing is planning, grabbing and building

A round starts by filling the factory discs (the round discs in the picture below). This is the factory where you get your tiles. Each round, with your eyes closed, you make a grab for the bag and place 4 tiles on each disc. In turn, players then grab tiles from the discs.

But! You may only take one type of tile. For the disc on the bottom left, for example, that means either 2 yellow tiles or 1 light blue or 1 red. The tiles you don’t take are placed in the middle of the table between the factory discs.

This will put more and more beautiful tiles in the middle. And of course you can also take tiles from the middle. But then you get the starting player’s chit for the next round. That’s nice, because you get to start later. It’s also unfortunate, because it’s a minus.

De stenen die je pakt, leg je op je spelbord aan de linkerkant. Van boven naar beneden heb je daar 1, 2, 3, 4 of 5 plekken om tegels te leggen. De onderste is moeilijk te vullen, want meestal kan je niet in een keer 5 dezelfde tegels pakken. Je mag altijd minder tegels neerleggen en die bij een volgende beurt aanvullen.

Je moet wel altijd alle tegels neerleggen die je hebt gepakt! Heb je er 4 gepakt en nog maar plek voor 2 tegels? Jammer! Dan vallen er tegels op de grond = is de onderste rij van je spelbord. Dat is de rij van de minpunten. Hoe meer gevallen tegels, hoe meer minpunten. Toch kan het ook goed zijn om voor minpunten te gaan. Als je daarmee bijvoorbeeld een rij volmaakt en extra punten pak is het toch de moeite waard. Kwestie van plannen en afwegingen maken. 

Taking points per round

Are all the stones from the factory wives and out of the centre of the table? Then the big shuffling starts! And with that: taking points! Players take turns building their wall. They do this from left to right and from top to bottom. So you start at the top square on the left. If you have a red brick there, for example, move it to the right-hand side of the red square. Then you move on to the second row on the left. You may only move tiles to the right when the row on the left is full. Only one tile may be moved to the right-hand side. The rest fall off.

By placing the tiles, you collect points. You get one point for every tile adjacent to the new tile in the row and column. The scoring starts slowly, but after a few rounds it goes really fast. You can also get extra points if, at the end of the game, you have all the tiles of a type + points for each row and/or column you complete.

Building requires flexibility

It may sound simple: building a wall. But it requires a lot of puzzling, planning and, above all, flexibility. After all, everyone goes to the same factory to shop for tiles. If you’ve just decided which tiles you want to take, the player in front of you takes them!

Then you either have to make another plan or go for fewer tiles than you had hoped for. Or you can choose to take more tiles and take the minus points as well. What are you prepared for the most beautiful mosaic?

If you have played Azul before and are ready for an extra challenge: turn your game board to the back side. This is the grey side. There, you decide where to place the tile on the right. Tiles of the same colour may not lie on the same vertical line. For the advanced bricklayer shall we say.

Azul’s popularity makes for some fun expansions

When a game is popular, expansions (of course!) follow. Azul’s first expansion is The Windows of Sintra and it’s in our cupboard. I really think it’s an asset! Clever how the makers managed to create a variant that is reminiscent of the base game, yet completely different. The other expansions are: Summer Pavilion and The Queen’s Gardens. The Mosaic Expansion is an addition. There is also the card game 5211 which is published in Azul style, but is a totally different game.

Totally new: On Amazon I also found the Azul Meister-Chocolatier a collector’s edition of Azul where you don’t lay tiles, but get bonbons from the factory at the right time. This game is only available there in German.

Want more inspiration for beautiful, fun, funny and original games? Then check out the complete A-Z for the holidays. You still have plenty of time to buy gifts that will impress soon! If you buy through a link in this review, you will also support Pen & Pion!

General information about AZUL

  • number of players: 2 – 4
  • time: 30 – 45 minutes
  • from: 8 years, the game is language-independent, so younger players can also puzzle along
  • price of the basic game Azul: € 30 (update Dutch price fall 2023)

This review was updated November 2023. You will find affiliate links in the text. If you purchase the game (or anything else) through these links, you support this website and the work ofPen & Pion 🧩🎲♟️

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