Two Christmases ago, I was beginning to really explore expanding my board game collection. I fell in love with the simplicity of Azul, yet the cutthroat nature of the game drew me in further. It also helped that the components were top notch and I was hooked. I asked for the original Azul for Christmas, I got it from my sister-in-law and then when I got to my parent’s house I saw a box that looked exactly the same as the one I had already received. I started thinking I was going to have to return this and I was even scheming about what different game I could get before I even opened the package. The time came and I was surprised to see Azul Stained Glass of Sintra (at the time I did not even know it had been released!).
I had a decision to make, do I keep it? It is technically a different game and I was interested in it, but do I have a place in my collection for both games? I decided to keep it and see for myself, and I have not been disappointed.
In Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (I will call this SG for the remainder of this post) you are building a stained glass window instead of tile wall in original Azul, and SG functions very similarly to original Azul in their base mechanics. You have a certain amount of factories and you load them up with 4 tiles, each player takes turns choosing one color from a factory and taking all of those tiles and the remainder get pushed into the center market. You then have to place your tiles in your player area and this where SG shines compared to standard Azul. In standard Azul, you have a static player board that functions the same every game, unless you play the grey side…which I have never done. Anyways, with SG the player board are variable every game! You have 7 columns that you shuffle up and place in front of you in a random order and you maximize your output from there! When you fill up a column you move one of the tiles to the “stained glass window” and score points (more on this later). When you fill up a column once, you flip the whole column, when you fill it up a second time, you remove it from the game which then limits the spaces you have to take on more tiles. Big time plus for SG.
Another big plus about SG is you have an additional action to choose from each turn. When you are placing tiles in your columns, you can only place them to the right or in the same columns as something called your glazier, and when you place to the right of the glazier you move him to that column. It looks like a little worker, but it functions in an interesting fashion. Each turn you have the choice to either take tiles and place them in your area OR you can move your glazier all the way back to the left most column providing maximum flexibility. The tension lies in whether you will be able to get the tiles you want after making that move! It can also be used to avoid being stuck with tiles you do not want or cannot take, which seems to be the biggest complaint surrounding the original Azul.
Back to scoring. This is the only semi-confusing part, which typically pushes me to bring out original Azul before playing SG with any new players. You score when you place a tile below a filled column. You score the points for the column AND any other column that also has a tile below the columns. Azul and all of its variants make explaining scoring difficult! There is also two options for final scoring but I have only ever played one variant. You score based around these little black diamonds on your board below the columns. If you have 1 tile around it you get no points, 2 tiles you get minimal points, 3 tiles you get good point and 4 tiles surrounding the whole thing gets you 10 points. That is typically easier to explain but it can be hard to remember.
All in all, I am happy that I have kept Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, it has become one of me and my wife’s favorite date night games. We typically play a minimum of 2 play throughs each time we sit down to play!
+ Beautiful game
+ Variability means less burnout
+ Still cutthroat, but has more strategic options
+ Comes with a tile container for used tiles!
- Scoring can be confusing