2017’s Azul has already rocketed to the top of many all-time lists—and it’s already the #1-rated abstract on BGG. Its sequel, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, didn’t quite tickle people’s fancies to the same extent. But, as is true with many trilogies, the newly-released third game Azul: Summer Pavilion has recaptured the magic of the original and then some.
All three games use the same core tile drafting mechanic. Each round starts by filling up a number of “factories” with four tiles drawn blindly from a bag; the tiles come in six colours. Players take turns taking all tiles of one colour either from one of the factories or from the centre. If taken from a factory, the other tiles move to the centre. The first player to take from the centre gets to go first next round--but they also incur a penalty.
Summer Pavilion adds a twist in that every round one colour is considered “wild”, a different colour in each of the six rounds. When you grab tiles you also must grab exactly one wild tile as well (if you grab the wild colour, you don’t get to do that).
After tile drafting comes placement, which also happens in turn order in Summer Pavilion. Each player has their own board consisting of seven sextets of spaces each numbered from one to six. Each group of six looks like a pinwheel or flower, with six of them arranged around the seventh. On the basic side of the player boards, each outer pinwheel is devoted to one colour and the seventh is neutral; on the advanced side, there are no pre-set colours.
To place a tile on a numbered space your board, you must have that many tiles (plus possible wilds) of that colour. Only one of them gets placed; the others are tossed into the tower discard. You score immediate points based on how many other tiles your newly-placed tile touches, and you may earn bonus tiles by surrounding special areas on your board. Those bonus tiles come from a separate area and every round it’s first-come-first-served. Getting bonuses can set up awesome combos. At the end of the sixth round players score additional points for flowers they have completed as well as covering all the 1’s, 2’s, 3’s or 4’s on your board.
If you are a fan of the original Azul I think you will love Summer Pavilion. You get a much deeper strategic depth for just a few extra rules. If you haven’t played any of the Azul games, Summer Pavilion is not that much harder than the original and in fact may be more approachable and forgiving, in that you have a lot more options to place tiles, which means fewer go to waste, which means fewer lost VP.
Click here to order your copy of Summer Pavilion, and all the best for 2020!