Azul: Crystal Mosaic (Expansion Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Michael Kiesling
  • Publisher: Next Move
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Time: 30-45 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 5

Azul has been on a hot streak since its 2017 release, winning the 2018 Spiel des Jahres and inspiring two sequel games (Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and Azul: Summer Pavilion).  But, surprisingly, there wasn’t an expansion for Azul itself, unless you count the oh-so-amazing Joker Tiles.

But the Crystal Mosaic expansion was released a few weeks ago, and my family and I have been playing it over and over.  The expansion comes with acrylic player board overlays, plus two new boards with different ways to play.  We’ve fallen in love with Azul all over again!

The Components

The most noticeable feature out of the box are the new acrylic player boards.  You can place these over Azul player boards — even the ones in the base game — and they have small indentations which hold the score marker and tiles in an organized fashion.  These alone are worth the price of the expansion!  

Also included are two new player boards.  These replace the boards from the base game, and everybody agrees in advance which board to play.  Like in the base game, no matter which board you’re using, each color of tile can only appear once in a column or row.  

Side 1 has five different spaces — one for each color — that have a x2 marker.  You can only place a tile of the matching color on these spaces, and when you do, you earn double the points!  Scoring is otherwise the same on this board, although the penalty row now goes -1, 0, -1, -2, -1, -2, -3.  

Side 2 is a different pattern from which to play Azul.  It has the teal tile in the middle, with the other four colors splayed outward.  Scoring is also different on this side: a completed row is worth 3 points (unlike 2 in the base game), a column is worth 10 points (unlike 7 in the base game), and getting all of a color is 12 points (unlike 10 in the base game).   The penalty row now goes -1, 0, -1, -2, -1, -2, -3.  

My thoughts on the game…

Crystal Mosaic is a fun, well-produced addition to Azul, and fans of the base game will naturally want to add this to their collection.

The acrylic player boards are beautiful, and they keep the play area neat and organized.  They fit nicely over both the existing boards and the new ones, and the tiles now settle neatly into place.  More importantly, the overlays prevent the score marker from moving around.  These alone are worth the price of the expansion!  

We bought the expansion for the overlays, but we fell in love with the new player boards.  Side 1 is the more interesting side because of the spaces that double the score, but we’ve also enjoyed Side 2.  Both sides change the strategies in the game considerably, and they have renewed interest in playing Azul in my household.  

Both of the player boards have a lot in common with the advanced board from the base game — it can be tricky to only have a color once in each row and column — but the switch things up by forcing new patterns.  The new scoring on Side 2 is also fun — you have an extra incentive to complete rows and columns — and the new pattern on on both sides for the penalty row means taking a second tile doesn’t cost anything.  

For an expansion that costs less than $15, there’s quite a bit of new gameplay here.  The production value is top notch, and like all good expansions, Crystal Mosaic highlights the best parts of its base game.  

Comments from the Opinionated Gamers

Brandon Kempf: Look, I’m a sucker for anything Azul, not going to deny it or make any excuses for it. I adore the game. So far we’ve only played one side, the side with the multipliers and it definitely ramps up the need to plan and pay attention to what is going on. We don’t play with the “advanced” sides much in base Azul, never really felt the need to, but I can definitely see why folks like that particular puzzle, it definitely makes the game feel a bit deeper. I like the acrylic overlays for the boards, although I think you’ll still find yourself bumping that score marker just as much as you did before, if that was an issue for you. The dividers are not that deep, so any slight bump is still going to jostle that little cube, but the overlays help. I’m anxious to try the other side of the new player boards, but I’m just not quite sure that my wife is, we’ll see. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Chris Wray, Brandon K
  • I like it.  
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…
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5 Responses to Azul: Crystal Mosaic (Expansion Review by Chris Wray)

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  3. Steve Marano says:

    For the record, there have been a number of posts on BoardGameGeek’s Azul CM forum that express disappointment in the overlays (including one from me) in that the depressions for the scoring markers were cut too narrowly. The cubes simply don’t lay securely which sort of defeats the main purpose of the overlays. But I really like the new layouts, and feel it’s still worth it given the low price.

    • Matt Johan says:

      Do you mean the cuts are too shallow?

      • Steve Marano says:

        Actually, the slots are both too shallow and too short (top to bottom). So the scoring cube doesn’t really sit flush within the slot. What’s worse, there is one slot for every two scoring points (i.e. the openings are rectangular instead of square), forcing you to carefully place the cube to cover the correct point value. And also to be careful not to bump the overlay such that the cube slides over to the other point value. All of this added up to the overlay being more of an inconvenience and annoyance, at least to us. In fairness, several others on the BGG forum stated that they didn’t experience this issue, so it could be a quality control thing. In any event, we’re not using the overlays. And I’m going to stay on the alert to see if the manufacturer ever decides to offer replacements.

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