Azul wins the 2018 Spiel des Jahres

Azul board game box art
Azul means blue in Portuguese

Late last month, the secret purple monkeys emerged  from their magic jar of mustard and formed the name of this year’s winner of the Spiel des Jahres, the German Game of the Year. As predicted, the monkeys slowly and methodically spelled out a single word, Azul, a beautiful and very popular tile placement game designed by Michael Kiesling.

If the formatting of this post seems different, it’s because WordPress has installed a new editing package called Gutenberg. I’m not sure why they named it after Steve Gutenberg, but hey, he was really good in Cocoon, right?

Kiesling is a well known designer, who in collaboration with his zany next door neighbor, Kramer, created award winning games like Torres and Tikal. Azul will handle two to four players and a game usually takes about 30 minutes. It’s a very family friendly game, and has a recommended player age of eight and up.

How to Play Azul

Azul board game with tiles
Yes, I realize that my beer should have been on the coaster. It was empty anyway.

A round begins with four tiles randomly distributed to a number of decorative coasters. Players take turns gathering tiles from the coasters to add to their board. A player may only take one type of tile from a coaster and must take all of the tiles of that type. Any tiles not taken are moved from the coaster to the center of the table, thus freeing up the coaster for a cold beverage.

On the player board, there are a series of five rows. These rows act as holding spaces for the tiles you gather. Any tiles that cannot fit within these spaces count as negative points at the end of a round. Filled rows allow you to move tiles onto your mosaic, where they score points equal to the number of adjacent tiles.

The first person to take tiles from the center of the table also takes the first player marker tile for the next round. This counts as a normal tile and must be placed in your negative points row. A round lasts until all the tiles are taken. When a player has completed a row of five tiles on their mosaic, the game will end on that round. This usually takes five or six rounds, since the topmost row only requires a single tile to fill.

As usual, I have given a horrible explanation of how to play a game. You can check out this video to get a better idea of how to play. There a ton of videos out there, but I chose this one because at some point someone thought that the game looked funny all alone on the shelf and decided that it would look better if there was a tiny cactus in a purple pot next to it. I respect that.

What I think of Azul

So much of what makes Azul great is the bits.

There’s a lot to like about Azul. It plays very well with two players, and I may actually prefer it as a two-player game, but it’s still fun with three or four. Turns go by very quickly once you know the rules, and it’s pretty easy to teach.

There’s just enough player interaction to make things interesting, but not so much that anyone should suffer from analysis paralysis.

There is a giant bag of beautiful plastic tiles. Seriously, I love the tiles. It feels good to pick them up or to draw them from the bag. They make a wonderful noise when handled. Maybe that’s silly, but the tactile aspect of a board game is important, I think; otherwise, we could just play games online.

And it comes with free coasters.

The logo of the Spiel des Jahres

This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2018 winner, Azul, then please do so on this post.

If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.

7 thoughts on “Azul wins the 2018 Spiel des Jahres”

  1. I don’t think your comments about the tactile appeal of the game are silly at all. Just the opposite, I think that aspect is a vital part of the aesthetic appeal of the game. Furthermore, I think the SdJ jury thinks like this, too. After all, they seem to want to select games that are good “ambassadors” for our hobby, as well as games that will stand the test of time. Azul’s classic-style presentation fits the bill.

    1. Thanks Mark. One of those photos was taken in your backyard, which reminds me of another good thing about Azul. It can be played outside. You don’t have to worry about cards or bits being blown away.

  2. Agree with the idea of Azul being windproof. Yesterday, I played games with a fan in the room. Azul stood its ground, whereas Merkator and its tiny paper cards was a little flighty.

  3. I really enjoy Azul. It’s simple, but there’s great strategy and your choices feel meaningful to both you and others. I think it’s likely to be in for the long haul, remembered and played for years.

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