Review – Azul Mini
|Artist||Philippe Guérin, Chris Quilliams|
|Publisher||Plan B Games|
|Release Date||2023 (original 2018)|
As I sat out to do this review, the first thing I did was look up our review of the original Azul. Which, to our great shame, does not exist. So here’s a quick version: Azul is an incredible game, although I think it should have won the Kennerspiel and not the Spiel, as it’s not a true “gateway” game. (You know that somewhere in Germany, a mom brought it home for Christmas, 8-year-old Johnny got -14 points in one round and threw a fit, and they never played it again.) It’s fast, interesting, interactive (often cutthroat!), and beautiful. I understand why it got so many spinoffs! But should you get the original, this compact version, or both? Let’s take a look.
As I said in the intro, Azul is an amazing game, and also a well-established one. So this review is primarily about whether the Azul Mini package is worth it. Let’s start with the positives. First off, it’s literally half the price of the original at $20 MSRP, which is incredibly low for board games these days. Second, they learned from the original Azul quite a bit. The tiles have bubbled recesses meant to fit into bubbles on the player boards so that they don’t slide around. Furthermore, the score trackers are clipped onto the player board, so that they slide one tick at a time, and don’t come off. This is great for a small version of the game that’s surely to be jostled around, or for playing outside.
However, there are two component issues that frustrate me. The smaller one is the packaging. I understand the convenience of putting it all in the bag, but I feel like I have nowhere to “store” the extra pieces while actually playing the game, and I hate just having a game bag on my board game shelf. A small box with a magnetic lid would have been much better.
The second, far more egregious issue is that the factory tiles (where the main playing pieces, the glass tiles, are placed) feel like they were taken from a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy – wait, no, a Wendy’s toy, one of those all-cardboard ones that are ripped and broken by the time you get home. (McD’s at least gives you plastic action figures.) Seriously, they are some of the flimsiest components I’ve ever held, and they’re kind of the centerpiece of the whole game. You could use something else, or if you own the original Azul, you could just use the original factory tiles, which could easily fit in here. That begs the question why they didn’t just do that, which is of course that they were trying to get the price down to $20.
Really, that’s the fundamental issue with Azul Mini. A company with premium products known for slightly expensive, high-quality versions of family/family+ games is trying to make a cheap-o version of their game and it just doesn’t click for me. I would love a premium, miniature version of Azul that still costs $30 or so but has a magnetic box and maybe even bakelite factory tiles. As it stands, the original Azul’s packaging is not exactly that large, so I would direct most players there instead. However, if you get Azul Mini simply because of the cheap price and you haven’t played before – buckle up, because you’re about to play one of the best board games of the past decade.
The Bottom Line
A fantastic game whose components do not quite share that description. Unless your gaming budget is tight, stick with the original Azul.