Splendor of Azul by 7 Wonders Architects thanks to Tiny Tina

I am two weeks away from just over a week off work. It’s been quite some time since I had a proper break from work, so I am looking forward to it.

Last week I had every intention of swinging back and getting stuck into Horizon Zero Dawn again. That took a little bit of a dive as most nights I was resting. I want to get back into Horizon, but an epic open-world adventure isn’t what I am in the mood for right now.

Do you know what I am in the mood for? Something that doesn’t take itself too seriously while allowing play with friends I haven’t seen in far too long. Was there a game that came out recently that would allow that to happen? I wonder…

7 Wonders: Architects

After a couple of abstract games this week, we ended our Board Game Arena session with a new favourite. Yep, we ended the day with what will sort first in this week’s entries – 7 Wonders Architects.

We have been playing 7 Wonders Architects fairly consistently since starting. It’s such a fun and quick game, that ending the gaming session with it seemed like a great end to the day.

There is one thing I wish you could do with Board Game Arena and 7 Wonders Architects, and that’s pick your Wonder. I got the Colossus of Rhodes twice in a row, and when playing two games that makes things a little boring!

20220404 - 7 Wonders Architects - Rhodes again
Two of the three Wonders here are in a lot of our games

If you were playing for ranking or the like, I understand the random distribution rule. But when you are trying to play casually, I don’t see why the random rule needs to be enforced. The ability to pick your Wonder for fun and experimentation would be nice.

Still, I have said it before and I will say it again – if that’s all that someone has to complain about, it can’t be that bad!

The original 7 Wonders still has a lot going for it, and is a game I wouldn’t mind playing again. It’s really hard to get that many players together for a game or two is the only problem.

I could try jumping on a table in Board Game Arena. Honestly, I am worried about walking into competitive play. Not winning doesn’t worry me. It’s been my experience that the competitive section enforces gatekeeping. Maybe I will try and get over that assumption during my upcoming break.

Azul

It’s not too often Alpal asks to play a game that I am wary of, but a couple of weeks ago she asked to play Azul. I had heard many good things about Azul, but in the back of my head, I had doubts. Being colour blind is usually the problem I have with games, and I guessed that was it.

But playing on Board Game Arena meant that I didn’t have to spend money on finding out for myself. Alpal wanted to play Azul, and it’s not like I wasn’t curious about the game. So, we fired it up and gave it a try.

20220404 - Azul - Starting a new game
Starting a new game. Instantly every knows what is going on. No, not really.

On a very basic level, Azul is a drafting, pattern-matching and tile placement game. There are small groups of tiles available that you can select a single colour from. Other tiles go the centre of the market, where people can also pick from.

When all the tiles are gone, players can place tiles from the holding rows onto the board proper. When this happens, you score one point for the tile plus on point for every connected tile in a row and/or column.

It sounds more complicated than it actually is. Play can be picked up in a single round. I would call Azul hard to teach as most people would be looking for the extra catch that doesn’t exist. If you go in with the idea that it’s easy to learn though, everyone will quickly have fun.

20220404 - Azul - If you just looked at a game you would have trouble following
If you try and look at a game and understand rules only from board state, you are making it hard on yourself

I am glossing over the gameplay for a pretty simple reason. I want to talk about why I was wary of Azul in the first place.

Short version – I shouldn’t have been. I did find it strange that the green and red tiles were the only ones without a pattern. Well, I say green – maybe teal is a better description of the colour. But with the different shades, I could tell each tile apart without a lot of concentration.

When I have to concentrate on identifying pieces more than the gameplay, it’s incredibly frustrating. This is something that many people don’t think about, and I thought Azul fell into this category. I am very happy to report that this isn’t the case.

20220404 - Azul - I got ganged up on
So Rabbit and Alpal worked it out. I got a little picked on!

It’s possible I got Azul mixed up with Sagrada which became popular about the same time? I’m not 100% sure. But I am looking forward to playing a bit more in the future.

I don’t know if I want to run out and buy a copy, but that’s only because playing on Board Game Arena is so good! Well, that and I have a few games that can fill the niche that Azul fills.

Splendor

Splendor became a games night favourite for a hot minute a few years ago. The idea is simple – trade for gems and earn at least 15 points to win. Splendor is a game that will either quickly hook you or turn you off from playing forever.

I quite enjoy playing Splendor, and occasionally fire it up on the PC for a solo game. Alpal doesn’t have quite the same impression of the game. So I was surprised when she threw it in as a possible game choice. Rabbit was going to be the decider though, as I wasn’t sure how she would like Splendor.

20220404 - Splendor - Starting a new game
It looks like more is going on than there is

Here is the thing with Splendor – it’s a great abstract game, but people try and follow the theme. The trading of jewels works as a general idea and gives direction to the wonderful artwork. But for understanding what you are supposed to be doing in the game? No help at all!

I try and explain Splendor in terms of mechanics, and ask players to ignore why they are doing the actions. When this works, people tend to enjoy playing.

But for some people, the theme of the game is required to give direction to their gameplay. These players are the ones I tend to see not enjoying Splendor as much.

20220404 - Splendor - Building Engines for Gems
Like Azul, Splendor only makes sense once you know how to play

Playing Splendor on Board Game Arena with people at the same level as you is a lot of fun. If you are new to playing with experienced players, you will be in for an uphill battle. A game of Splendor can be over in 10 minutes, not giving new players time to explore and experience the game.

If you are curious about playing on your own, the Steam or iOS/Android version is quite a lot of fun. There are not only various levels of AI opponents, but you can pick their playing styles as well. And that’s the base game – there are puzzles and challenges as well for solo play.

Elden Ring

So many games I want to play, but Elden Ring has a slight priority at the moment. It’s not because of spoilers or anything like that. I need to develop the muscle memory for Elden Ring, pure and simple.

I already described how my Sifu Platinum run had caused me a few issues to start with. It’s not Elden Ring’s fault – I keep hitting the wrong buttons. Well, for the first 2 to 3 hours, I kept hitting the wrong buttons.

This week I played for another couple of hours, coming up to the 5-hour mark. And that last couple of hours made a huge difference!

20220404 - Elden Ring - I am no longer fleeing this big guy
The first few times I met this guy, I got bonked. I finally beat him though!

There is no way I have mastered Elden Ring. That takes far more than 5 hours. I have gone from getting my butt handed to me all the time to dispensing some pain!

I don’t know if I am doing things the ‘right’ way, but I am having fun. There is the first big opponent – the Tree Sentinal – to deal with. I haven’t even tried yet. But I have begun exploring a few areas and even took out the double bosses I blundered into during my first game.

There was an island that I thought I would have to wait until later to explore. Well, the coastal cavern actually leads to this island! That was a nice surprise and a gentle guide from Elden Ring that the world is truly interconnected.

20220404 - Elden Ring - Coming out the other side of the cavern was awesome
After exploring in darkness, coming out on another island to this site was amazing

This feeling of accomplishment is what FromSoftware has nailed in their games. Yes, the games have a steep learning curve. It’s also true that they are not for everyone, in every sense. But if you stick with the games, the rush of defeating that first big enemy sets you on a path of completion.

I decided to call it a day because a) my arms were hurting (bad chair) and b) some huge bear was handing me my butt. I thought I was clearing out some base with zombies (I haven’t looked at the lore yet) and assumed I was doing OK.

Well, I beat what I thought was a standard enemy, and all of a sudden it turns into this huge bear! Elden Ring was taking the mickey, surely!

20220404 - Elden Ring - Nope Nope Nope Nope
Appearing out of nowhere and lunging like crazy – Nope Nope Nope

So the cycle is set for Elden Ring. I was celebrating my progress, and Elden Ring looks at me with that little smile and pounds me to the ground. But I am on the path to defeating the bear. I already started making progress on when to dodge at the correct times.

See how we go later next week after my new comfy chair arrives!

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

Borderlands is a series that I have enjoyed but rarely get the chance to enjoy properly. Some games are definitely biased towards cooperative play, and coop time is rare. My favourite Borderlands DLC was Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, and I want to play a game based on the idea. Hence watching Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands on day one to see what the gameplay would be like.

Well after a week of praise and watching some gameplay from some awesome streamers, I nabbed a copy. There is still a good chance I won’t play for a bit to play with SpookedShibe, and enjoy a coop adventure. But everything was looking good as a solo romp, and a fun shooter is what I need right now.

So if you haven’t heard of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, think of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. In Borderlands. With all the guns and general mayhem that entails.

20220404 - Tiny Tinas Wonderlands - Meet the Newbie
Meet the Newbie – not even fully painted!

This starts in the best possible way for me. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is the first Borderlands game you create your own character! No more jumping into a prebuilt character. Everything is yours to mould in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.

The humour of Borderlands is a known quantity, and the tone generally hits for me. What is killing me at the moment are the voice actors. The cast is public knowledge, but I am not going to go into detail here. It’s something you need to hear and appreciate for yourself.

I have only played a couple of hours of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, but the pacing so far has been pretty spot on. Even with the fantasy epic quest backdrop, it’s still a first-person shooter at its heart. And not only that it’s a Borderlands shooter, so the loot cycle starts pretty quickly.

20220404 - Tiny Tinas Wonderlands - Borderlands gunplay so far is great
Borderlands gunplay has always been fine. It’s the ridiculous loot that keeps things going.

There is a large change in the form of the Overworld. The world of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands isn’t a huge open-world affair. The Overworld map connects you to different locations. Even random encounters whisking you to small squad combat areas.

The thing I love about the Overworld is the obvious love put into the world. Chips and soft drink rivers litter the landscape. Dice can be seen buried into the terrain. Punching bottle caps drop them down to become shortcuts to areas.

While most of the game will be in first-person combat, this Overworld feels like it is going to be a lot of fun to explore.

20220404 - Tiny Tinas Wonderlands - Exploring the overworld is more fun than I imagined
The humour of Wonderlands is easier to catch in the Overworld where you can take your time

As mentioned, I have played Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands for about two hours so far. My first class was a Sporewarden, for the ranged abilities. I might start another character and see which I prefer, then play that one solo and the other for coop play.

Hopefully, this week settles a little more, so I can explore Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands a little more!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know! 

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Until next time,

JohnHQLD