Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is a tile placement game in which you are competing to see who can build the best stained glass window for the palace. While doing so, you need to be careful not to damage any of the delicate glass pieces, or it will be counted against you! It is a follow-up to the hit tile laying game of 2017, Azul. Although playing the original Azul will give you the advantage of already being familiar with the basic concept of the game, it is not necessary to own or have played it to enjoy the new Azul.
The rulebook is well written and laid out in an easy to follow format. It covers everything that you will need to know to play the game. Unlike some rulebooks, which can be vague or make it difficult to interpret exactly what the designer intended in certain situations, I found that this rulebook covered every question that we had. It contains plenty of illustrations that show exactly what certain rules are referring to, which really help in making it easy to understand and follow.
The components for this game are absolutely gorgeous! The tiles for the glass are opaque colors, each color with its own unique design. The publisher has done their best to make these resemble stained glass pieces.
The pattern strips and palace boards that make up each player’s window are an excellent quality and are thick enough that you don’t have to worry about them warping. The pattern strips themselves are double-sided, which helps to increase the variety and replayability of the game, as each of the strips has a different pattern on each side. The palace boards are also double sided, which is intended to allow for two different scoring options (both of which will be covered under gameplay).
The scoring board and factory displays are made of the same thick material as the patterns strips and palace boards. The scoring board is easy to read, and the round tracker and broken glass track in the center make it easy to keep track of everything.
A unique component that is included is the glass tower. It is a cardboard tower that has a stained glass design on each side. When tiles are removed from gameplay (either from being broken or because a pattern strip was completed), they are dropped into the tower. This makes it incredibly easy to quickly refill the bag that the tiles are drawn from.
Although some of the glass colors may be difficult to distinguish for those who are color blind, the publisher and designer have included various ways to combat this by using a unique design for each color, as well as by designing one side of the factory displays specifically to help distinguish between the colors. The factory displays are split into five segments, one for each color, allowing the tiles to be placed on their corresponding color. Additionally, one of the sectors is darker than the others, which, when oriented towards the center, gives a designated place for each color of tiles to be placed when they are moved off the factory boards and into the center.
Azul: SGoS is simple to learn, but it definitely takes a little bit to get your strategy down.
The game is divided into six rounds. At the beginning of each round, the start player will draw tiles out of a bag and place four on each factory display. In each round, players will choose tiles from the factory displays, or from the center of the circle that the factory displays form, to complete their window.
Each player’s window is made up of pattern strips which have various colors of tiles printed on them. While the goal is to complete the pattern on each strip, there is a certain amount of thought that must go into this, as strips towards the left are worth more points, but each strip completed to the right of the strip that is being scored gives you one additional point. Additionally, each round is assigned a color of tile (with one color being assigned to two rounds), and an extra point is scored for each tile of that color that is on a strip completed in that round. Additionally, each player has a glazier in their color that sits atop of the strip they are currently working on. The player can only place tiles on strips that are either beneath or to the right of the glazier. If a player wants to place a tile on a strip to the left of the glazier, they must instead skip a turn to reset the glazier to the furthest left strip in their window.
As strips are completed, all the tiles are removed from it and the strip is either flipped to its reverse side (if this is the first time it has been completed) or removed from the game entirely (if this is the second time it has been completed). One tile from that strip is placed onto the topmost empty palace window beneath the location of the strip while the rest are placed in the glass tower. When playing with the “A” side of the palace board, the color of the reserved tile does not matter. However, if you play with the “B” side, the more pieces of the same color you have in your palace windows, the more points you’ll score at the end.
When choosing which tiles to take, there has to be careful planning, as any tile is taken that is not able to be placed on a pattern strip this turn is discarded to the glass tower and considered broken. That player’s scoring token is moved down one space on the broken glass track for each piece of broken glass. Additionally, the first player to take pieces from the center also has to take the first player token. This also causes the player to move down a space on the broken glass track. The further down you go on the broken glass track, the more points you lose, as the amount of points lost for each piece of broken glass increases every couple of rows. You can potentially lose up to eighteen points just by breaking glass. This can have a huge impact on your final score!
The same ends after the sixth round. Final scoring is done one of two ways, depending which side of the palace board you use. The first way, when playing with side “A”, is to count how many tiles surround each ornament on the palace windows. For 0-1 pieces you get no points; for 2 pieces you get 3, for 3 you get 6, and for 4 you get 10. There are four ornaments on the windows, so you have the possibility of earning a decent amount of points from this if you’ve planned appropriately.
The second way of scoring is used when playing with the “B” side of the palace board. With this side, you count how many complete windows you have (a window is considered complete when both spaces hold a tile). You then choose one color and count how many tiles of that color are on a palace window pane. You multiply that by your number of completed windows to obtain you score.
With either method of scoring, the points that you obtain during end game scoring are then added to the points that were earned during the game to calculate your final score. The player with the most points wins the game.
This is a relatively light game as far as complexity goes, and gameplay is quick and simple. Don’t let that fool you, however, as there is a lot of strategy to be found in this game. You’ll be selecting tiles from the factory displays in the center to design your window, and it will be important to keep in mind not just what you need, but also what your fellow stained glass artisans need.
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is a gorgeous game that is fun for both gamers and non-gamers. It is simple to learn, but has enough strategy to keep more experienced gamers entertained. With a short 30-45 minute playtime, it make it perfect for when you want to play multiple games or do not have much time to play.
Author: Tammy Skinner Golden
Tammy first started gaming in 2013 upon discovering Pandemic at Barnes and Noble. What started as a fun activity to do with her husband on the weekends quickly turned into a regular hobby, and a small collection quickly expanded into a much larger collection (she refuses to confirm or deny that she is addicted to buying games). She is married to an Army Chaplain and has two pugs and a cat. Her favorite things to do are game (obviously!), spend time with her husband and fur kids, and read.