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Subject: Alhambra: The Beauty of Architecture rss

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Kristen McCarty
United States
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Our journey around the world of board gaming leads us to the beautiful Alhambra of Granada, Spain. Alhambra is a Moorish fortress complex, dating as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries. In Arabic, Alhambra means Red Castle or the Red One. Poets have called it "a pearl set in emeralds." It has been a military complex, the residence of royalty, a citadel, a court, and a tourist attraction. It is also considered one of the greatest examples of Moorish architecture. Over the years it has been added onto, fallen into disrepair and finally restored and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fountains, gardens, orchards, nightingales, arabesques, and Islamic inscriptions can be found throughout.

Alhambra's artistry is certainly captured in the game that bears its name. In Alhambra you are one of the master builders of Europe and Arabia trying o prove your skill through the most beautiful Alhambra.


There are a few versions of Alhambra, so depending on your version you will have slightly different components. I own the Anniversary Edition so I'll focus on that edition.

You start out with six wooden lion fountains in the 6 player colors. Next you have 6 different colored meeples (player figures.) Then you have the game board which has the scoring track, area for cards, and area for building tiles. Next, there are 54 building tiles in six different styles, 108 currency cards in four colors, 2 scoring cards, 6 point tables, and the draw bag.

These components are beautiful and of the best quality. I especially like the wooden lion fountains and the score board from the Anniversary edition.

Object of the Game

The goal of Alhambra is to have the most buildings of each building type in your Alhambra during the scoring rounds. Players are awarded points for their buildings and the wall around their Alhambra during each of the three scoring rounds. Points increase throughout the game and the player with the most points after three rounds is the winner!


Each player takes his or her Lion fountain and place their meeple on zero on the scoring track. They also get a points table and starting currency. Four currency cards are also put on the board.

Draw four random building tiles from the draw bag and placed in the market. The currency cards are divided into five piles and the first scoring round card placed in the second pile. The second card is placed in the fourth pile. The piles are placed on top of the other in numerical order.

The player with the fewest cards is the start player or if players have an equal amount the player with the least amount of money starts.

Game Play:

During each player turn you may do one of three actions:
• Take some money
• Buy and position a tile
• Redesign your Alhambra

Take Some Money: You may choose to take money cards from the supply. If the cards don't total five, you may take more than one card.

Buy and position a tile: The second choice to to buy a building from the market. Each tile has a price on it. That price must be paid, but you can pay more. You do not get change. The price must also be played in the correct color of currency. If you can not pay the needed amount you can not one of the other actions.

The market squares are not refilled during the players turn. A player can take a maximum of five actions during their turn.

After buying a tile tile can be put into the players Alhambra at the end of their turn. The tiles can be placed in any order. They can also be placed in reserve.

There are certain rules to build the Alhambra. The tiles must be placed the same way as the starting tile with the roofs facing the same direction. Sides touching must be the same. A tile that has a wall must touch another tile with a wall. Each new tile must be reached by foot, so walls can't block off tiles. No spaces may be left.

Redesigning your Alhambra: A player may need to redesign their Alhambra. The pieces may not be moved anyway a player wishes. There are only three ways allowed, and the rules must be followed. A player can take a tile from the reserve and added to the Alhambra. A tile may be taken from the Alhambra and added to the reserve. There is no limit to the reserve. A player may also exchange a tile from the reserve with a tile in the Alhambra. The reserve tile must go to the same spot.

At the end of a players turn replenish the building tiles and the currency cards.


There are three scoring rounds in Alhambra. The first two happen when the scoring cards are drawn from the currency cards. The last is at the end of the game.

When the first scoring card is drawn the scoring round takes place. Players determine who has the most of each of the building types. Each building type is worth a different amount of points. Follow the scoring cards. Record the points. When the players have the same amount of buildings they divide the points (rounded down). Player's also count the length of their longest wall and score one point per length.

During the second round, players score points for having the most of each type of building and for having the second highest number of buildings. Walls are scored as well.

During the third scoring round first and second highest number of each building type receive points as before. Also, the player with the third highest amount receives points. Walls are also scored. Reserve buildings do not count.

End of Game:

When there aren't enough tiles to fill the market, the game ends at the end of the players turn. The tiles in the market are given to the player who has the most money of the currency type. If there is a tie no one gets it. The tiles are placed before the third scoring round.

The player with most victory points is the winner!

Special Two Player Rules:

Alhambra includes some special rules for playing with two players. First, you use three of each color of money card. Players also use an imaginary third player, Dirk. He does not build an Alhambra but collects building tiles. At the start of the game give him six random tiles. He also gets points for his building during the scoring round but not walls. After the first scoring he gets six more tiles and a third of the remaining tiles after the third round.

Players can also give a building tile to Dirk instead of placing it in their reserve or in their Alhambra.

My Thoughts:

Alhambra is a very thoughtful game. You will find yourself trying to envision the best layout of your Alhambra to score the most points for your wall. You also have to look at the other players Alhambra to determine who is in the lead for each building type. Don’t forget about checking your currency and the building tiles in the market place. Also watch the score card to see which building scores the most points and try to tally your score to help you decide on your next move. You certainly should not just randomly take tiles and place them in your Alhambra. You will not win and most likely will be left far behind. At the same time Alhambra is not a heavy game. You can still have a conversation with the other players and enjoy the game. It isn’t quite a gateway game, but with some help new gamers can easily enjoy the game.

The game itself isn't as beautiful as the real Alhambra. The artwork is attractive and detailed. I prefer the components of the Anniversary Edition because of the game board and the lion fountains.

I mostly play this game as a two player game with my husband and it’s nice to have Dirk along. He is pretty easy to keep track of and doesn't take anything away from the game play. I do feel he gets too many building tiles to start the game out and I find myself trailing him from time to time. I have thankfully never lost to Dirk. We usually don't take advantage of being able to give Dirk extra tiles; it would probably make me mad if my husband did that! Well, not really. Dirk does make since in the two player game and of course it allows me to place this wonderful game.

Quick Stats:

Designer: Dirk Henn
Artists:Jorg Asselborn, Jo Hartwig, Christof Tisch
Number of Players: 2-6
Play Time: 60 minutes

Photo Credits: From : andreo (samoan_jo), Bernd Dietrich (Bernd), Xavier Carrasco (Er Murria), Cuppa Jack (verive), Timothy Pinkham (TimothyP), Gary James (garyjames), Andy Cassola (the_spy), Ender Wiggins (EndersGame), Oliver Macdonald (Maccheek), (\____/) (tommih), Bernd Dietrich (Bernd), JESUS TORRES CASTRO (JESSONSO), Curly chicks with bowties are cool! (Gelatinous Goo)
Other images are linked.

This review was originally posted on my blog: A Game Built for Two
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Fabulous review, thank you.

Alhambra is one of my favorite "gateway" games, as the rules are simple, the theme is accessible to everyone and you can play with more than 4 people.

I also lived in Madrid for a time when I was younger and visited Grenada several times. It truly is amazing and the art/theme of this game captures it well.
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