“At the turn of the 16th Century, King Manuel I commissioned Portugal’s greatest artisans to construct grandiose buildings. After completing the Palaces of Evora and Sintra, the king sought to build a summer pavilion to honor the most famous members of the royal family. This construction was intended for the most talented artisans — whose skills meet the splendor that the royal family deserves. Sadly, King Manuel I died before construction ever began.”
Azul by Michael Kiesling, artist Chris Quilliams, and Next Move Games is one of those games that was recognized as an elegant classic the moment it was released in 2017. The game combined intimately attractive, bakelite style (ie. candy-like) tiles with intuitive, simple gameplay into a package that gamers and non-gamers alike were simply drawn towards. In Azul, players take turns collecting colored tiles from communal piles (factories), however one must pick up all of a single color tile, placing the remainder in a leftover central pile. All collected tiles must be placed on the player board, and extraneous, unused tiles count as negative points. The ever-growing central pile can likewise be mined for tiles in the same manner in future turns.
A sequel, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, was released in 2018. Sintra took this basic framework and added variable player boards, a new mechanism for placing tiles on the boards, and in general more variability. In short, the new game was significantly different, but still felt like “Azul”, and gamers snatched it up in waves. The gorgeous clear square tiles (Jolly Ranchers, as opposed to Starburst) certainly did not hurt the appeal.
Now Next Move Games has announced a third game in the series, Azul: Summer Pavillion. In this edition, the tiles are elongated diamonds, and fit on the player board in 7 circular rosettes – Six in the six tile colors, and one composed of one of each color. Tile selection retains the old Azul feel, with players selecting all of one color from a pool of tiles on a single factory card. However, in each of the 10 rounds, one of the tile colors is considered wild. The wild color cannot be specifically picked, but if any are on the selected factory, these are also collected with the picked color. The tile placement in Summer Pavillion has taken an interesting new tact – players do not immediately place their collected tiles on their board, instead collecting them in a personal supply. Each turn players can place one of their tiles on their board by paying a certain number of same-colored tiles from this supply. The cost depends on which slot in the rosette is being filled, ranging from 1-6.