Last holiday season, Azul was all the buzz. Copies of the beautiful abstract strategy game were flying off our shelves and for good reason! The first Azul quickly became a favorite among the staff as well as one of our top sellers. This holiday season, Next Move Games has released a standalone sequel. We’ve already cracked our copy and are excited to tell you all about it!
The good: As with original Azul, this game is an artistic experience from the moment you open the box. The pieces are beautifully rendered in translucent patterned squares. The familiar factory displays and drafting bag are nestled into the box. A beautiful cardboard glass tower is ready to go to help you keep your pieces organized as you progress through the game. The player board is replaced with a set of pattern strips (six per player) that increase game-to-game variability.
Next Move Games made a solid attempt to make the glass pieces distinguishable for players with varying levels of color perception. Every color has a unique pattern and the pattern is printed on the pattern strips as well as the glass pieces themselves. One side of the factory display even offers quadrants you can organize the pieces into by color. However, these patterns are just not very prominent. They’re hard for even my (young-ish) eyes to see! Still, we appreciate the effort.
The less good: Let’s talk about the box, friends. Azul box was well designed and all the pieces fit into it intuitively. Not quite so with Azul Stained Glass. Try as we might, the sturdy and impressive looking box just wouldn’t accommodate all the pieces (at first). At one point we even tried shoving the bag with the glass pieces into the glass tower which sadly let to rippage! It took us several more minutes to realize that the glass tower actually collapses, letting you store it flat and making room for everything.
Each round, players pull four glass pieces from the bag and place them on each factory. Players draft like colors from any of the zones (factories or center) until all pieces are claimed. Sound familiar so far? This is where the similarities end.
Instead of tiered horizontal placement zones, the players’ windows are built on their own set of six pattern strips. Pattern strips are made up of five places for stained glass pieces each. Once a player has completely filled a pattern strip, they clear the strip and place one of the glass pieces in the pane below the strip. Then, they flip the pattern strip, and can fill it one more time to complete a column. In addition to color requirements to complete a pane, players must manage a whole new dimension of placement limitations. Glass can only be placed on a pane when the player’s glazier character piece is positioned above the pane. The glazier can advance to pattern strips to the right as you draft your glass for free, but in order to move back toward the left pattern strips, you must take a special reset action, forgoing your glass draft for a round.
Ok, folks, hold onto your seats. Prepare to spend some time reading (and re-reading) your rulebook as you attempt to decipher all the ways you can score points. It gets easier the more you play, we promise.
There are two scoring schemes, based on which of the two palace board pane-types you play (there’s one on either side of the palace boards). Side A has four ornaments, which act as a centerpiece for scoring, while side B has no ornaments and each pane is scored independently. While the two palace boards have similar difficulties, we’d suggest learning to play on side A.
We won’t get bogged down in the scoring here, but suffice it to say that like original Azul, you score points at several stages of the game. Primarily: you score points when finish a pattern strip (and move a glass piece into a pane below the strip), and you score points at the end of the game as well.
The good: For a game with drafting mechanics so reminiscent of its original, Azul Stained Glass is surprisingly refreshing. Because of the placement limitations tied to the glazier, we found that the strategies around what to draft were wildly different! We spent much more time focused on each others’ boards, trying to draft things not only that required the fewest reset actions for our own glazier, but also leave pieces that forced the opposing player to reset their glazier or take penalties for breaking glass (having to draft more glass pieces that they can place in their pane).
The less good: Azul original was fast to pick up. You can explain the rules to your friends in just a few minutes, and while the strategy runs fairly deep, you don’t spend too much time floundering in confusion and decision paralysis. The new Azul Stained Glass isn’t quite so elegant, and we found that there were significant slow down in plays as we got bogged down trying to work out more complex strategies. However, this isn’t all bad! It just means this game is a little meatier, and if you’re working with players who are newer to strategy, we’d still suggest starting them on the original first.
Learn to play
We’d love to teach you how to play! We host board game learn to plays every Saturday at 6pm, and we’ll be featuring Azul Stained Glass on Saturday 12/15! Check out the details below, or follow the event on facebook.
what do you think?
Send us your thoughts on Azul Stained Glass or on our review in the comments!