So… for a moment today, I liked Azul The Queen‘s Garden. Only having to manage 1 hand is definitely making this much easier to plan out.
So let me explain how the drafting works. I think this is neat.
- The game is played over 4 rounds
- For each round make a stack of garden spaces, flipped down. These are additional building spaces for your garden with pavillions on them and space for 6 tiles. The number of building spaces depends on the number of players so for 2 players there are 5 building spaces in each stack.
- The first player takes 4 garden tiles from the bag and puts them on top of the stack for the current round (and returns the first player marker to the center)
- The player then drafts all the visible tiles of either 1 symbol or 1 color (this may include building tiles as they have a single hex filled in, but at first none of these are visible anyway).
- Players do not take doubles but have to take all tiles of the chosen type and place them in their storage, if they cannot store the pieces (storage is for 12 tiles and 2 building places) they cannot choose that type.
- After drafting, take the top building place from the stack with any tiles still on it and place it next to the stack.
- Place 4 garden tiles on top of the stack
- Check if any other building space is without tiles and flip them over to the side with a symbol printed on them—the next player could now draft this
You can either draft or place tiles in the garden on your turn. I like the drafting, as the tiles come into play over a number of turns and the starting player does not get first choice on everything.
So our game went reasonably well for 2 rounds. Then on the third round,
I had plans to play some expensive tiles and had been filling up my storage with other tiles to pay for the high-value ones. On my turn I add 4 new tiles to the display and it included 3 different colored tiles of the highest value (6) and there was a 4th one already in the display. I had one of the 5th color and with a joker, which I had I would have been able to place any of those tiles the next turn.
I got excited and then saw my storage had only 3 spaces. So I couldn‘t take them. I was pretty disappointed. As I mused over what else to draft, I explained to my partner that hate drafting anything didn‘t make sense, as the only other group I could reasonably take that included one of the high value tiles was also 4 pieces. And drafting any of the other two, just to make the group less attractive would cost me points later on especially in the colors in question that I had no intention of playing to my garden.
So I drafted something else, and then my partner who had 4 storage left, took those 4 tiles. But he didn‘t have the 5th one and no jokers. So for him this was in fact just denying me the opportunity to score 6 points and then it turned out the cost for him was much higher as he had just drafted a bunch of tiles he had no use for. It was a pretty bad move.
After a few more turns, when my partner noticed how he couldn’t place any of the tiles he had in storage—unless he got very very lucky—he basically flipped the table.
Sadly, it is entirely possible to maneuver yourself into a corner where it is obvious you will lose the game unless something very specific comes up. With a bit more experience in the game, this would not have happened but it happened and it will happen.
I like that drafting tiles to deny them to someone else seems like a pretty bad idea. Especially the valuable ones.
Halfway through the game, I was prepared to write I had been wrong and this was much better than my first impression. Alas… it was not to be. So, as I said before: I would love it as a solo-puzzle, playing just one hand showed me that. But my partner—as foretold—hated the game. He hates when games allow him to make mistakes that basically end the game right there (it was too late to undo by the time he noticed) and he is unwilling to put in more plays to grok a game. A game that is not fun on first play… I am sad that this is the way things are. But this is my collection, he just indulges me and I have to make sure the game sells itself on that first play. I was too engrossed in my own board state to see where that move would take him.
I don‘t know what that means for the game in my collection. I like OG Azul reasonably well and bought it for the explicit purpose of having a game I enjoy that I know I can teach to anyone. The teach for Hex-Azul is not that much more complicated but playing the game is much harder and it allows for mistakes that make playing the game un-fun. OG Azul will always allow you to keep playing, you only notice in comparison with others that you are doing badly. So I‘ll possibly give Hex Azul another try with our friends—but we recently talked and both said „my favorite is the church windows“ at almost the same instant. Weirdly, none of us owns that one.
But chances are that this will go to the sell pile without seeing a full multiplayer game