Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
In our house, the holiday season is synonymous with cracking open new board games. It’s a simple consideration, really: Most physical games cost just a tad too much for my girlfriend or me to buy one for ourselves. Make it a bit of festive gift-giving, though, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to acquiring new toys to play with.
As a consequence, our holiday haul can also be a bit out of date, hence why I’m currently obsessed with Azul, a.k.a. the hottest new board game of 2017. At the time, Michael Kiesling’s tile-laying masterpiece won a whole host of trophies (including the prestigious Spiel des Jahres, the Palme d’Or of incredibly nerdy German board game awards), and its reputation is extremely well-earned. I find myself enjoying the speed of it and the strategy, a deceptively simple game about building patterns (and, more importantly, if you’re a spiteful asshole like myself, stopping other players from building theirs).
But the real joy of Azul is in the feeling of the cool tiles in your hand, the click-clack as they bounce around in the bag. Touch is an underrated sense in gaming. No disrespect intended toward the Rumble Pak (or the haptic feedback in PlayStation Move games like Beat Saber, which do an amazing amount of work to convince you that your rhythmically slashing lightsabers are “real”), but it’s one of those things that’s always been tricky for digital entertainment to replicate. Azul’s actual style of play might be abstract—there’s not a whole lot of similarity between screwing your opponent out of that last red piece they need for a game-winning combo, and the actual art of Portuguese tile design—but it perfectly replicates the fetishistic beauty of building and hoarding the little ceramic wonders themselves. It feels good to play, in a way that a lot of games with similarly fancy components miss, and it’s a very welcome (if belated) addition to our house’s gaming library.