Azul Stained Glass of Sintra Review - Box Feature

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra Review (2022)

Play Time: 30-45 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Next Move Games / Designer: Michael Kiesling

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra Ratings and Summary

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Kids Rating
Teen Rating
Parent Rating

Summary

Kids rating from our daughters (7 &10).
Teen rating from our son (14).

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is an exceptional follow up to the award winning Azul. It retains much of the great foundation from its predecessor but adds new layers that make it fresh and interesting. We think there is value in owning both.

4.5

Pros

  • The introduction of a colour bonus each round adds another interesting consideration
  • The two sides of the player boards with different bonus objectives add a lot of replay value
  • Retains the great core elements that made Azul such a fantastic game
  • Components are of the same high standard set by the original game but the glass tower is a welcome addition
  • The new elements introduced make the experience different enough from Azul to warrant owning both.

Cons

  • Some may find the glazier restrictions a little hard to grapple with at first leading to some early frustration
  • Much like its predecessor this game can be quite cutthroat and some players may find this an issue.

Big thanks to BoardGameRentals.co.nz for providing a copy of this game for review. As always, we provide our own unbiased perspectives on games we review.


What You Will Find in Our Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra Review


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The Spiel Des Jahres award winning Azul from designer Michael Kiesling and publisher Next Move games is a tough act to follow. Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is the next instalment in the series and when we first tried it some of us thought it may have missed the mark a bit. Many months later we have now had a chance to get more plays under our belt and much like the original it has grown on us… a lot. It still has that great core gameplay from Azul, but we now have an appreciation for the new elements that have been introduced. We’ll explain why we think this is another exceptional entry in the series in our review below.   

How to Play Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

Welcome to Sintra, Portugal! You did such a wonderful job of decorating King Manuel’s Royal Palace with Moorish tiles they need your services again. This time they want you to try your hand at furnishing the palace windows with beautiful panes of stained glass! What, you only do tiles? Unfortunately, it just won’t be good for business to refuse the King, you better learn quickly. Be careful if you break any glass there will be consequences, the King doesn’t like a clumsy glazier!

Objective

To win you must apply all your skill to complete stained-glass patterns to earn points. The player with the most points by the end of the game wins.

Set Up 

If you have young kids, you need to warn them before you open the box not to eat the stained-glass tiles. That may sound odd but…the pieces look a little like sweets that I recall from my childhood (anyone remember Sparkles?). My youngest daughter found these tiles very cute.

With that health and safety announcement complete you can start getting the game ready to play. The Setup is a little more involved than Azul but not too bad. Place the scoreboard on the table, set out round factory discs according to player count and place the glass tower in the play area.

Azul Stained Glass of Sintra Review - Game in Play
The game in play. The glazier pawns are a new concept in Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and provide an extra constraint to consider as tiles can only be placed below or to the right of them.

Fill each factory with four random pane pieces and place the first player marker in the centre of the table. Then take one of each colour of pane piece and randomly put one in each of the spaces labelled II – VI on the round track. The first space in the round track also receives an additional random pane piece. The colour of the pane piece in the round track determines which colour tiles will earn bonus points for completed pattern strips for that round. This is a nice addition to the game that we really enjoy.

Each player will get a Palace Board, 8 pattern strips, a Glazier pawn and two-coloured cubes all matching their selected colour. Each player then uses one coloured cube to place on the score track at ‘0’ and one on the top space in the broken glass track.

The Palace Boards have an ‘A’ and ‘B’ side each with different scoring objectives so players must agree on which one to use before the game. The 8 pattern strips are placed in slots above each player’s board ensuring the strip with the ‘joker’ spaces is placed with the joker side face down.

Rounds

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is played over 6 rounds. Each round continues until all tiles have been drafted from the factories and the centre of the table. During each player’s turn they can either advance a pattern or move their glazier back to the left most pattern strip.

To advance a pattern players draft tiles (pane pieces) of a single colour from one of the factories or the centre. Just like Azul being the first to claim pane pieces from the middle will allow you to go first next round but also move you one space down the penalty track. Pane pieces are placed on one of their pattern strips either below or to the left of the Glazier. You then check if the pattern is complete.

If the pattern is complete for that pattern strip, players will receive one point for each tile matching the bonus tile colour for that round, the points listed below that pattern strip and points for each pattern strip already completed to the right. One tile is then placed below the pattern strip and the pattern strip is flipped over. If it is completed a second time, then a second tile is placed below it on the player board and the pattern strip is removed from the game. Placing tiles below pattern strips in this way earns valuable end game bonuses but also allows additional points to be gained in later turns if pattern strips to the left of it are completed.

Azul Stained Glass of Sintra Review - Score Board
The score board track also displays the bonus tiles for each round near the middle along with the penalty tracker. Bonus tiles are a new concept and encourage players to include tiles that match the bonus tile colours in their completed pattern strips.

Here comes the bad news, if you collect more pane pieces than you can place, then you must move down the penalty track one space for each pane piece you cannot place. As you move down the track, the penalties become more severe. Unlike Azul the track doesn’t reset each round and so can be very brutal. I have been burnt plenty of times through penalties, for some reason I am a bit of a target in my household, or maybe I am not as good at this game as the rest of the family.

A new concept in this game is the Glazier pawn. As you place pane pieces to the right of the glazier, the pawn will move right to those pattern strips. To move him back to his starting spot at the far left will take a turn. I often imagine this poor fellow running around a massive stained glass window and being thankful for a break when you move him back instead of asking him to place more pane pieces in the window.

Once there are no more pane pieces to draft the round is complete, you then remove one pane piece from the round track and refill the factories for the next round.

End Game Scoring

Once the game ends players will add any bonus points to their total score to determine the winner. The side of the palace board you play with determines what bonus points are on offer for that game.

Side A contains 4 ornaments. Players will receive bonus points for covering the four spaces around the ornaments. You gain 10 points if all four frame spaces around an ornament are covered with a pane piece, 6 points if three are covered, 3 points if two are covered and no points if there is one or no spaces covered.

Azul Stained Glass of Sintra Review - Board and Pattern Strips (Red and Blue)
There are two sides to each Palace Board, side A and B. Each side changes the way end game scoring bonuses are calculated and adds some good replay value to the game.

Side B requires players to count the number of completed windows (both spaces below the window contain a pane piece). Then each player will select a colour and count how many pane pieces of that colour have been placed at the bottom of their palace boards. The number of completed panes is then multiplied by the number of pane pieces of the selected colour that are on that player’s Palace Board to give the total points bonus.

Both sides require different considerations and change your strategy slightly. When playing with side A you are more concerned with clustering completed Palace Board spaces around ornaments. When playing with side B of the Palace Board you are trying to focus on a particular colour of tile and to remove as many pattern strips as possible to maximise the end game bonus.

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Gameplay Experience  

The original Azul was a simple game with incredible depth. Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra adds some additional layers to that core foundation laid by Azul. There is always the risk when adding to a great formula that you spoil it by overcomplicating something that works so well. That hasn’t happened here. Yes, there is slightly more complexity here, but it all makes sense and works well as a package. Our advice is to give it a couple of plays to get used to. Our first impressions on this game were mixed but we now love it.

The additional elements add some new considerations to Stained Glass of Sintra. You must now consider the positioning of your glazier and more importantly when to give this poor soul a rest. This is the part that some of us found most frustrating in our first game. My youngest daughter felt this extra constraint was too much and got put off. Now that we understand it a little better it’s less of a hindrance and more an interesting decision point. If I move too far to the right early, that restricts my options in future turns, but equally the panes to the far right are the ones that will be more rewarding in the long term.

Azul Stained Glass of Sintra Review - Board, Glazier and Pattern Strips in Play
Deciding which pattern strips to complete first is a key decision. Completed pattern strips will earn additional points for each pattern strip already completed to the right of them.

As I mentioned the order in which you complete the pattern strips provides some nice trade-offs and challenging decisions. In one of our recent games, I felt comfortable with an early lead I had accumulated by completing the higher value pattern strips to the left. My son on the other hand satisfied himself with the meagre point haul of the panes to the right. When mid game hit and he switched his focus to the left, I found my lead disappear and ultimately lost by 20 points. By completing the strips to the right first he was able to gain credit for them every time a strip to the left was completed. He enjoyed giving me a lot of grief later for squandering such a handy lead so easily.

The other change that we love is the addition of bonus points based on a specific colour of tile each round. This adds another dimension to decisions of which panes to complete first. You may want to delay completing a pattern strip if you can see it will trigger bonus points in the next round. My daughters are very focused on maximising these bonus points. When they happen to complete a pattern strip which yields 4 or 5 bonus points, they like to make sure everyone knows about it as they loudly count their points!

We think Azul has great replay value, it’s a game that I come back to repeatedly. Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. The two Palace Boards provide very different scoring objectives for end game bonuses. You must adapt your strategy to each board accordingly to be competitive. I enjoy both and like switching between them to keep things fresh. My son just loves the side B option which encourages completing both sides of pattern strips and focusing on a single colour of pane piece.

Player count changes the feel of the game slightly, at two players the game is very cutthroat. Your actions directly impact your opponent, and the penalties can be brutal in this game, even more so than Azul. This is mainly because the penalty track doesn’t reset each round as it does in Azul. At higher player counts the game is still very enjoyable, each turn is quick and there is little down time as a result. I would happily play this game at any player count.

Overall, the additional elements in Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra add some additional complexity but it’s not hard to get your head around and results in a unique and interesting experience. I do however think that the original Azul is better suited to introducing new or younger players to the series first, it is the simpler to learn of the two games.

Components

Azul Stained Glass of Sintra Review - Tiles and Tile Bag
Is it just me or do these look a little like Sparkles lollies? Remind the kids they are not for eating.

The components in Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra retain the high standard set by the original Azul. The stained-glass pane pieces are a nice transparent chunky plastic, but as I said they look a little more like lollies than stained glass panes.

All players now share a score board instead of having one on their personal board. This is better in my view as it is easier to see where everyone is at and any applicable penalties. It also has prompts to remind players how bonus points are earned for each side of the Palace Board.

The glass tower is a new concept and is used to collect the used pane pieces which makes it a lot easier to refill the bag. A nice improvement over its predecessor and makes replenishing the bag quick and easy. It also looks nice on the table.

The pattern strips and palace boards are made of thick, good quality card and are nicely illustrated. Flipping them can be a little fiddly as it’s easy to nudge the strips on either side but isn’t that big a deal. Overall a high standard of components here.

Theme

This is still fundamentally an abstract game and the theme is mainly used to align the aesthetics of the game to a common concept. I personally feel as though the theme is slightly more relevant in this game compared to its predecessor as the glazier does have a presence in front of you and travels as you complete your patterns. To be fair though, this game doesn’t need a strong theme to be enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra had a rocky start with our family and we were split on it at first. Thankfully we have had the opportunity to explore the game more fully and we all love it. It retains many of the core elements we loved from Azul but adds some enjoyable extras to add meaningful decisions and keep things fresh.

Is it different enough to warrant owning both Azul and Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra? For me the answer is absolutely! I love both games and I feel both offer a different experience. If you like Azul I think you are likely to like Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra too. I would suggest getting Azul first if you don’t have either as the rules are simpler and easier to learn.  

Is Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra easy to learn?  While the rules aren’t complicated, they are still more involved than the original game. Especially when it comes to scoring and the use of the Glazier. Younger children will likely need to work with an adult for their first game or two to get the hang of it.  

What will Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra teach my kids?  There is a lot of strategy in this game. Kids will learn to plan and adapt their strategies as the game develops. There is also an element of ensuring patterns will work within the constraints of the rules. Finally, there are plenty of opportunities to learn basic maths as they tally their scores each round and apply bonuses at the end of the game. 

What age is appropriate for Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra?  We think 8+ is about right for this game. Our 7 year old needed a little help at first to understand the Glazier and scoring rules.

Does Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra have good replay value?  Yes, some great replay value. The two scoring options on the Palace Boards offer very different goals for end game scoring that impact strategy.

We hope you enjoyed our Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page. You can also check out the Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra BGG page for more info.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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Other Games to Consider

Here are some other games to consider that involve drafting and tile placement:

  • Azul (Review)This is the original in the series and is a super simple tile drafting and placement game. Each round will involve drafting tiles from communal factories and attempting to make sets that can be used to make patterns in a wall area. Fantastic game but can be very cut throat.
  • Azul: Summer Pavilion (Review) – The third game in the Azul series is a little less cutthroat than the previous games. It now features a separate tile placement round and the ability to earn bonus tiles. We think this has a lot of depth but doesn’t add much in the way of additional complexity.
  • Sagrada (Review) – This game involves dice drafting and placement. The colour and number rolled matter when it comes to placement. There are multiple constraints in this game that make it feel very puzzly and challenging but it is not as cut throat as a game like Azul. Randomised window patterns, tools and scoring objectives also add some luck. Another great drafting game for families.
  • Cascadia (Review) – This is a very relaxing drafting and placement game. This time the theme is nature and wildlife related. Each player must draft and place combinations of habitats and wildlife to maximise points. There are multiple wildlife scoring cards which can be varied each game to keep things interesting. This one also has a great solo mode. There is not a lot of player interaction here but it is a fantastic game.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when you reach the bottom of the broken glass track and take additional penalties?

As per page 5 of the rule book, if you reach the bottom of the broken glass track you must immediately lose 18 points and then reset your marker to the top of the broken glass track. Brutal!

Can you drop below zero points through penalties?

While there doesn’t seem to be specific mention of this situation in the rules, the common view appears to be that you can not go below 0 points.

Do you reset the Glazier each round?

No, you do not reset the Glazier each round. The only way to reset the Glazier is to use a turn to reset him to the left most pattern strip.

What do you do if you have run out of tiles and cannot refill all factories before beginning a round?

The rules cover this situation on page 5: “The player with the starting player tile refills each of the Factory displays with 4 pane pieces from the bag as in the setup. If the bag is empty, refill it with all the pieces from the glass tower and continue filling the remaining Factory displays. Then, start the new round. In the rare case that you run out of pane pieces with none left in the glass tower, start the new round as usual even though not all Factory displays are properly filled.

Is Azul: Stained glass of Sintra good with 2 players?

It’s a great 2-player game. The number of factories adjusts to the number of players to ensure the game scales well at any player count. The game feels more cut throat at two players given there is only one opponent.

Strategy Tips

  • Complete the far right strips early: These strips will pay out points each time you complete a strip to the left of them, maximising your points.
  • Keep an eye on your opponents: If there is a colour, you’re after that won’t work for your opponents then you can afford to take that colour pane piece later. Prioritise pieces that both you and your opponents need as they will likely be snapped up if you don’t take them immediately
  • Cause penalties if you can: Look for opportunities to cause big penalties, if your opponent for example can’t accommodate one colour at all, try to leave that colour for them. Penalties can rack up quickly in this game
  • Adapt to the Palace Board: Side A and B of the Palace Board have very different requirements for bonus points. On side A, aim to cluster your completed tiles around common ornaments, on side B the key is to complete as many pattern strips as you can.

 

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