I have written about Azul before. Today a fresh delivery made it through quarantine and onto my doorstep! I’m talking about Azul Crystal Mosaic. Here’s my first impression.
First a clarification: unlike other titles in the Azul line this is not a standalone game. This is an expansion for the base game, and it provides two new features. First (and most requested) is a plastic overlay for the standard game board that is designed to keep tiles and (more importantly) the score marker in place. In the original game the game boards were nice and sturdy (unlike the player mats from Terraforming Mars which are also roundly criticized for allowing components to slide around). But they were flat. It wasn’t a huge problem for the tiles themselves, but the score marker was a light-weight wooden cube that was easily disturbed / moved if you were not careful. Unless you were playing for “funsies” and not keeping score 😉 this was a bit annoying.
The new plastic overlay trays are not…sturdy. The acrylic trays that I bought for my Terraforming Mars player mats were fantastic. They were also $15 each. This entire upgrade package was only $15, so I wasn’t expecting more than what I got. What I was expecting was something that would hold the score marker and the tiles and keep them from moving around.
The tiles that you place on your board are held in place extremely well! Check out the picture where the overlay is slanted at nearly forty-five degrees! Unfortunately this wasn’t the problem that I was hoping these overlays would solve. I rarely had problems with bumping my tiles…or if so, it was easy to reconstruct. The problem was with keeping the score marker in place. In my opinion, these overlays do a poor job of solving the more important problem.
The spots on the score track are finicky. Some feel too small for the original wooden score marker, resulting in situations where (at least in my case) the wooden score marker occasionally sits on top of the hole rather than snapping or fitting snugly into a specific spot. The other disappointment with the score track is that instead of unique holes / slots for each score position there are groups of two. I don’t know how well it will show up in the larger image below.
How should this have been done? I think the publisher should have created the overlays with a smaller score tracker in mind, and provided four new cubes that were going to fit into precisely sized pockets. It would not have drastically increased the cost of the package to include four new (smaller) wooden cubes, and they would have fit so much better. Bottom line: the overlay solves a problem that didn’t need solving (sliding mosaic tiles) and didn’t do an effective job of solving the problem that did need solving (bumping the score tracker).
Does that mean I regret purchasing this expansion? Not at all!