Rumor has it that the King of Portugal visited the Alhambra Palace in Southern Spain and was fascinated by the overwhelming beauty of the Moorish decorative tiles.
The King, who was deeply impressed by the inner beauty of the Alhambra, immediately ordered that his tile-laying artist should decorate his palace in Portugal with similar wall tiles.
And this is where the players of Azul come in.
Azul is an excellent tile drawing game by Michael Kiesling and was launched in 2017.
It was awarded the coveted Game of the Year Award in 2018 and stood alongside other mainstream board games like Ticket to Ride, King Domino, and Colt Express.
Learning how to play Azul is not difficult, although part of the math becomes a little more intensive.
It’s swift and straightforward, but there are lots of options, making it a challenging game to master.
You can play the game with 2–4 players, and it lasts for about 25 minutes.
Let’s dive deep into this article on how to play Azul.
How to Play Azul Game – The Setup
Azul needs 60 seconds to set up. It can hold 2–4 players, so start by providing each player with a player board.
They’re 2-sided, but for your first game, we recommend the 5×5 grid, which has a suggested pattern, instead of the empty one.
Take 1 scoring marker and set it on the “0” field of your points track.
9 round mats represent the tile factories. Depending on the number of players, place the right amount in a circle at the center of the table:
- Place 5 factory displays in a 2-player game
- Place 7 factory displays in a 3-player game
- Place 9 factory displays in a 4-player game
There are 100 tiles (20 for each of the 5 designs).
Mix them up in the bag and then place four tiles on each factory at random. Put the 1st participant marker (the square tile marked ‘1’) in the middle of the factories.
Return all unused player mats, valuation markers, and factory displays to the box.
Aim of the Game
The objective is to be the player with the highest points when the game ends. Players try to acquire tiles to set up their 5×5 grid (the King’s wall) and earn points each time you set a tile at the end of each turn
There are also ways to score points at the end of the game.
The game is played over a lot of rounds, each consisting of three phases:
- Factory offer
- Wall tiling
- Preparation for the next round
The starting player can go to any of the factories. You select one and take all the same color tiles from that factory claim them.
Leftover tiles in that factory should be placed in the center of the table, next to the first player marker.
Then, the player gets to choose which horizontal line pattern he sets his newly acquired tiles on his player mat.
5 pattern lines are on the board with 1 for every row of the wall. The setup has a staircase-like appearance.
The upper pattern line has a space that can only accommodate 1 tile, and the second line contains 2 rooms that can house two tiles.
And it continues in that order up to the bottom line, the fifth, where 5 rooms can hold five tiles.
The tiles you take has to be kept in a similar pattern line; you can’t divide it.
For instance, if you’ve taken 3 yellow tiles, you can’t put two in one line and the other on another line.
Also, if you pick up more yellows in a later round, for example, there are only two options.
You can either place them on another (though free) pattern line or add them to a path that already contains yellow.
A single pattern line may only consist of tiles of one color.
All the tiles you’ve selected that you can’t or don’t want to place, as stated by the rules, must be placed in your floor line, filling up the spaces from left-right.
These tiles are considered to have fallen to the floor and assigned negative points in the wall tiles phase.
When all squares of your floor line are full, set all other fallen tiles back on the cover of the game box to store them for the time being.
The end of this phase is when the middle of the table and all factory displays have no more pieces.
Then, continue with the wall-tiling phase.
All players can perform this phase at the same time by moving pieces from their completed pattern lines onto their walls.
Examine your pattern lines from the beginning to the end. Move the tiles right along each full line to the area of similar color in the equivalent line of your wall.
Every time you move a tile, you immediately receive points.
Then, take out tiles from all pattern lines that no longer have a tile on the far right space.
Put them in the cover of the game box to keep them for the time being.
After this, all tiles left on the pattern lines stay on your game board for the next round.
Once the round ends, players take a look at your lines pattern. When you’ve completed a whole line of one tile type, move one of these tiles over to the similar pattern type that’s within the horizontal row of the wall.
All participants may have finished at least one or two lines, maybe all five!
For example, if your triple pattern line is complete with 3 blacks, move a black tile over to the third row inside the wall.
If your four pattern line is only partly full with, 2 red tiles, for instance, nothing happens.
These red tiles will stay there for the next round and will be there until you finally fill that line later. Only then can you move one of those red tiles over.
Now you score points with the tiles that you’ve just moved over to the wall.
If the tile sits lonely (not next to another previously placed tile), it receives a single point.
However, if a newly placed tile is next to another, it is valued differently.
Count how many tiles in this row are horizontally connected (also including the new tile). This is how you score many points.
Then, calculate how many tiles are vertically linked (again, also including the new tile). You score the same number of points.
Move your black cube marker on your score bar along with the right number of spaces.
Don’t place your new tiles flat, put it up against the wall (so you can remember at a glance the tiles you scored in that round and the ones placed in a previous round).
You can then place them as soon as you score it.
If players have tiles on their floor line, or maybe the first player marker, they add up the sum of minus points they’ve accumulated and move their marker back by as many spaces.
Preparation for the Next Round
This is another aspect to note on how to play Azul.
If no player has yet completed a 5-consecutive-tile horizontal line on their wall, prepare for the next round.
The player that has the starting marker refills every of the factory displays with 4 tiles from the game bag, as indicated in the setup.
If there’s nothing in the bag, fill it with all the tiles you put in the cover of the game box and then keep filling the factory displays left. Then, begin the new round.
In the rare event that you exhaust the tiles again and there’s none left in the cover, you can begin a new round. However, not all factory displays will be complete adequately.
End of the Game
Azul ends as soon as at least a player has completed a horizontal row over his grid successfully.
The round ends as usual, with each player rating their newly placed tiles except any discarded tiles.
When the game ends, you’ll earn additional points if you achieved the following:
- Score 2 points for each complete horizontal line of 5×5 tiles on your wall.
- Score 7 points for every full vertical line of 5×5 tiles on your wall.
- Win 10 points for each color you put all 5 tiles on your wall.
The player, who wins the game, is the one with the most points on her score bar.
In the event of a tie, the winner of the game is the tied player with more completed horizontal lines. If the tie doesn’t break, the win is shared.
Final Thoughts and Tips
You only get to cover a tile location once.
Assuming you get the tile with the yellow sun title in your grid in the top row, you cannot insert any more yellow sun title in this work row as it’s already complete.
That’s part of the game’s difficulty: At the beginning, it’s easy, but the further you get into it, the more you run out of options.
Apart from that, consider keeping all the other necessary tips in mind on how to play Azul.