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2010 June 8
by Michael Schroeder

So I’ve decided to write my first game review. I decided that Alhambra would be a good choice to start with as I have a number of games under my belt so I can give a fair assessment of the game.

Alhambra, Queen Games, Rio Grande Games

Alhambra, Queen Games

What’s the Game About: Here is an excerpt from Queen Game’s web site…

Granada at the beginning of the 13th century –
work has started on building the ALHAMBRA

The best master builders in the whole of Europe and Arabia want to demonstrate their skills

Employ the most suitable teams of Builders and make sure that you always have enough of the right currency. Because no matter whether they are stonemasons from the north or horticulturists from the south – they all want a proper wage and insist on their “native” currency.

Compete against your opponents to build the ALHAMBRA.

Basic Idea In My Own Words: The object of Alhambra is to score the most points (surprise surprise) by securing the most pieces of a certain color that make up your Alhambra. The game comes with a bag of say, oh, 100 (+/-) tiles that consist of different colors. In order to get these pieces (to make up your Alhambra), you must pay for them with money that is is in view of all players on the table. There is a draw pile, next to that, there is four dollars of random currencies and a discard pile, next to the game board. The shared, limited resource in this game is the money. It seems that in most Euro games I’ve played that there seems to be a limited resource that everyone is vying for.

How do you know what currency to take? This is all part of the strategy of the game. There’s a lot of luck in the game because 4 randomly drawn Alhambra tiles are out on the board at once, but your job is to try and balance out your number of pieces in each color. The colors range from blue, red, purple, green, brown and white, where purple is being worth the most. ¬†Knowing that purple is worth the most at the end of each 3 scoring phases, I wouldn’t try to focus on just purple, while it’ll secure you the most points out of the colors, you will get bit in the rear for it.

There are a limited number of tiles in the game and their number is printed on everyone’s own personal reserve board. So you can keep this in mind when trying to clinch colors. But again, just don’t go after one color.

Alhambra, Queen Games, Rio Grande Games

Alhambra, Queen Games

So you have this money in front of you, with denominations of maybe 1,2,3,4,5,6, etc. Not every denomination is printed. On your turn you either a.) pick up money. If there is money in front of you that’s 5 or less, you may take as much money as you want, as long as it’s below $5. So if there’s a 2 and a 3 sitting there, you can take them. But if you want that lone 9, you can take only that. Turn over, next persons turn. If you don’t pick up money your turn can be to build a piece of your Alhambra, upon which you’ll pay at least the denomination you have for what you need.

The board is layed out ti display 4 tiles, each random tile is placed on a color, blue, orange, yellow or green. You need the matching color currency to buy a particular tile. Each tile has a number on it as well, if tile X has the number 11 on it, and it’s on green, you must pay equal to 11 green. And if you overpay – too bad, turn done, next persons turn. If you do happen to pay exact, you may take another turn.

The final type of turn you may take is to rearrange your Alhambra. This is risky but needed sometimes. When you take this as your turn you are now doing something necessary, but inefficient. Meaning, arrange your Alhambra correctly the first time and you won’t have to waste a turn doing this.

Why would you need to rearrange? Because most tiles have black walls around them. You must not box yourself in and your Alhambra pieces have restrictions on where you may put them. So keep this in mind while playing. Also in addition to regular scoring at the end of the game, you do get points for your longest outer wall around your Alhambra. The game is scored 3 times. At the end of the final scoring, that is when the game is complete.

Component Quality: 3/5

I think the components are great in this game. The tile stock is good and a good thickness, illustrations are good, the box is nice and sturdy and solid. The insert is nice where it keeps all pieces together. My only complaint is that you absolutely cannot store the game on your shelf upright. If you do, pieces will be all over.

Theme: 3/5

The theme is a good one, it ties in perfectly with the game mechanics, but I’m sure they could have used just about any theme.

Instruction Manual:  4/5

The manual is well written and easy to understand and not too long.

Luck Factor: 4/5

There is a lot of luck involved, random money is turned over and random tiles are drawn, more then likely, it will be someone else’s turn when you wish it was your turn to nab something. But that is all part of the strategy, maybe take a lot of money first so you’ll well prepared for when the tile that you want comes out.

Strategy: 4/5

There is a lot of great strategy in this game. It’s not too hard and it does take a decent amount of thinking into consideration. Some people with Analysis Paralysis may delay the game a bit.

Overall Feelings: 4/5

Overall, I enjoy the game very much and I’ll never turn down a game. It’s a lot of fun. My wife and friends throughly enjoy it. I haven’t had one person dislike the game. It’s a light enough game that most people can pick up and it has enough strategy where a more hard core euro gamer will enjoy!

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