Last night marked the third games night that we’ve held at Scalliwags. We managed to get our wires a bit crossed: in all our publicity, I was saying that we’d be featuring 7 Wonders, while Richard was broadcasting that we’d be playing Alhambra. We played Alhambra.
The actual Alhambra is a historic palace in Granada, Spain. It was first built in the 9th century by Spain’s Moorish conquerors, and added to by successive Christian rulers. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Arab-Islamic architecture and gardens, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Alhambra, published by Queen Games, is a tile-laying game for 2 to 6 players (there is a special rule-set for the 2-player variant). Players use money cards, in four different colours and values from 1 to 9, to purchase building tiles with which to construct their personal Alhambras.
There are 54 building tiles in the game, divided into 6 types of building, each denoted by its colour: Pavilions; Seraglios; Arcades; Chambers; Gardens; and Towers. Within each group, each tile has a different cost and a different number or configuration of exterior walls. The object of the game is to score points by having the greatest number of tiles of any colour at one of the three scoring rounds that occur. Points are also awarded at each round for the longest continuous exterior wall.
Each player starts with an amount of currency dealt face-up (but randomly) such that the total is not less than 20. Four buildings are drawn at random from the bag and placed upon the building market, each beside a token depicting one currency colour. That will determine which currency will be needed to purchase the building tile placed in that spot. How much currency will be needed is dictated by the number in the bottom-right corner of every building tile.
Certain orientation rules govern tile placement within a player’s Alhambra: buildings may not be placed upside-down or sideways (all the roofs must point upwards, in other words); building tiles must join by at least one side; a tile’s side with a wall may not be joined to a side without a wall; a player may not create an empty area (like an absent tile) within his Alhambra.
The order of game play is quite simple: on his turn, a player may
- take money from the face-up four-card draw pile (one card of any value, or a combination not exceeding a value of five), or
- buy and place a building tile, or
- rearrange his Alhambra tiles
And that’s pretty much it. (Of course, that’s like saying that climbing Everest is just an 8.8 km walk.)
At each scoring round, the points awarded for having the most buildings increase. In the first round, if you have the most blue buildings you are awarded one measly point — but by the second round, the same situation would net you 8 points, and by the final scoring round, holding the most blue buildings would score you 16! In the first round, only the clear winner on building count scores points, but by the second, the leader and runner-up each get points, and by the final round the winner, runner-up, and third-place for each building colour score points. As you might imagine, the points pile up quickly.
The winner of last night’s game, thanks to his spectacular run of 4 Towers plus the longest continuous wall, was Mario Villano. He very graciously accepted the staggeringly awesome prize package, which consisted of two promotional Munchkin cards and a cup of black coffee on the house 🙂
Our players last night rated Alhambra a 7 out of 10. Three out of the six commented that, since there is no real opportunity to mess with your opponent, they found the gameplay a bit bloodless. Rather like the original Dominion, the focus is on building the best Alhambra that you can, rather than stealing from or sabotaging that of your fellow players. Still, the fact that the game can be played by 2 to 6, and that the games are relatively brisk at 45 minutes to an hour each, make this a keeper. Recommended.