Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser
AZUL: SUMMER PAVILION (Next Move Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 45-60 minutes; $39.99)
King Manuel I of Portugal is continuing his building spree and has invited the greatest artisans from around the world to help construct his grand summer pavilion. The king continues to be enamored by intricate Moorish tile work and has charged the artisans with constructing a masterpiece. To the one who performs best, acclaim and rich rewards await.
Azul: Summer Pavilion by designer Michael Kiesling is the second sequel to the designer’s immensely popular and award-winning game Azul, which was originally released in 2017 (and featured in the Winter 2018 GA Report). The game uses the same tile-drawing and selection method as pioneered in Azul, but adds considerably more placement options and decisions. As such, it seems to have more appeal to those seeking a deeper game than the original, which has wide appeal and is easily accessible for folks new to the gaming hobby. This review will assume a basic familiarity with the original Azul.
Each player receives a personal board depicting six star patterns surrounding a central star. Each “star” has space for six tiles, with the outer six being color-specific. There are spaces between the stars that depict statues, pillars or windows. When these spaces are surrounded, the player will receive additional tiles to place.
In the center of the table are placed nine factory display tiles (fewer if playing with less players). Tiles are drawn randomly from the bag with four being placed on each of these factory tiles. Additionally, one tile is placed on each space of the large central star depicted on the separate score board. These tiles can be taken by players when they surround the statues, pillars and/or windows mentioned above.
Tile selection is virtually identical to that found in Azul, with the exception of the wild tiles. Each turn, one tile color is considered “wild” (as depicted on the central score board), and that type of tile can be used for any color. However, players are restricted as to how many they can take with each selection. Normally, a player selects one of the nine factory tiles and takes all the tiles of one color that are present on the tile, sliding the remaining tiles to the center of the table. Additionally, if there are any wild tiles on the factory tile selected, the player must take ONE of those tiles. A player may only ever take one wild tile per selection, so if he chooses that color, he may only take one wild tile, even if more are present.
Instead of taking tiles from a factory tile, the player may take tiles from the center of the table in the same manner as described above. The first time any player selects tiles from the center, he also takes the first player marker, which will allow him to go first on the next round. However, the first player to take tiles from the center also suffers a -1 point penalty for each tile taken.
Players continue selecting tiles until there are no more remaining on the factory tiles or on the table. At this point, players add their collected tiles to their player board, following some placement restrictions:
- Each outer star space lists the number of tiles of that color a player must possess in order to place a tile there. These numbers run from 1 – 6. So, for example, if a player wants to place a tile on the red star on the space marked “4”, he must possess four red tiles. He places one on the space and discards the remaining three red tiles to the tower.
- The player may place a tile onto the central star in the same manner. However, the central star must have six different colors placed upon it, so players must carefully manage their tile selections to insure they meet this requirement.
After placing a tile, the player scores one point plus one for each connected tile on the same star. Additionally, if the player completely surrounds a pillar, statue or window, he may take bonus tiles (1, 2 or 3, respectively) from the large scoreboard star, adding them to their supply. Those additional tiles are quite handy in expanding one’s placement options and opportunities, so surrounding those features is an important element to a successful strategy.
Once all players pass on the opportunity to place tiles, the factory tiles are reset for the next round. When the bag of tiles depletes, all tiles from the tower are added to the bag and play continues. Each player may keep up to four tiles for the next round, with any remainder being discarded to the tower. Players must operate efficiently, however, as each tile they are forced to discard costs them a victory point.
The game concludes after the sixth round, at which point players score bonus points for certain achievements:
*Fully completing a star by having a tile on each of the six spaces. This earns 14 – 20 points, depending upon the color of the star.
*4 – 16 points for covering all of the same numbers on all of the stars. For example, a player will score 4 points for covering all 1’s, but 16 points for covering all 4s, which is much more difficult to accomplish.
*One point is also lost for each leftover tile.
The player with the most points is the victor and becomes the king’s favorite artisan.
It is widely known that I am not a fan of game expansions. I am also not too keen on sequels as I find them often to be more of the same but with added complexity. Often I find that an expansion or sequel takes a very good game and over-complicates matters, adding more layers and time. I usually go out of my way to avoid expansions and sequels, preferring to play the original.
Azul, however, has been another matter. I thoroughly enjoy the original, and I understood that the sequels didn’t add much time, nor did they overly complicate matters. I found the first sequel – Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra (Summer 2019 GA Report) – to be fine, but nothing noteworthy. As such, I didn’t have high expectations for this second sequel. However, I must say that I am very pleasantly surprised, as I find Summer Pavilion to be excellent. It adds a considerable amount of placement decisions and gives players more strategic options to pursue. These added options and strategies, however, do not take the game out of the realm of “gateway” games, as I have found that non-hobbyists still understand the game and can play well. The additional features of the game do come with the cost of adding some time to the game—about 20 minutes or so—but it is an acceptable length for all of the benefits derived.
I am intrigued by the many options presented in Summer Pavilion. When deciding which tiles to take, a player must consider which star he is targeting, whether or not he has the likelihood of acquiring enough of that color to place the tile where desired, whether he is aiming to complete a particular star or cover certain numbers, whether he is attempting to surround a pillar, statue or window, and more. There are so many more decisions and options than what is present in the original Azul, and these decisions are rich, but not overly taxing.
Azul remains a favorite “moderate” strategy game, one that appeals to both gamers and non-hobbyists. The theme is appealing, the tiles are colorful and sturdy, and the decisions to be made are challenging but not overwhelming. Michael Kiesling continues to do a fine job with this series and, with Azul: Summer Pavilion is working on changing my mind about sequels! – – – – – – – Greg J. Schloesser
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