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I told my wife that I was almost to the point where I could teach geometry simply from the box shapes that I have. Gaudi (Casa Consultors, 2002 - Jep Ferret and Oriol Comas) is one of these, coming in a hexagonal box. The game is based on a hexagonal design by Antoni Gaudi, done for an apartment building in Barcelona. Players place hexagonal tiles down, so that they match both in color and design. The tiles are quite nice-looking, and having a Carcassonne-type game with hexagons sounded interesting to me.
Sadly, the game simply didn't work for me at all, and not a single player I've played it with has enjoyed it. The art is too abstract, the designs are at times confusing, and the rules are fairly unsatisfying. I think that the game holds true to the art and design of Mr. Gaudi; but since I guess I don't have an artistic eye, the game holds no joy for me. It's a nice looking game in a nice box, but the gameplay is boring and too difficult at times to be enjoyable.
A pile of eighty-four hexagon tiles are shuffled and placed face down in piles. Each tile is composed of three sections, with a different pattern on them (called "animals"). The same three patterns are on all tiles, in the same positions - only the colors change. There are three colors (green, blue, and orange), and two of every possible permutation with three of the tiles that are one solid color. A three-colored tile is placed in the middle of the table as a starting tile, and then each player draws three tiles. Players also receive a pile of counters in their color and two objective cards. One card is chosen from a stack of "animal" cards, showing a pattern that player is after, and the other is a "color" card. The youngest player goes first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they may play one, two, or three tiles, attempting to complete an "animal." A completed animal is three tiles placed together to form a completed hexagon that is of the same color and pattern. Tiles must match all sides with current tiles, both in color and pattern. If a player plays two or three tiles, they must all touch each other, and must form an animal (two animals with three tiles). When the player completes an animal that matches one of their two secret objectives - either in color or design - they place one of their counters onto the animal. The player then draws tiles equal to the number they've played, and play passes to the next player.
Players must play a tile each turn; if they can't, they must exchange tiles with the pile until they get a playable one. When one player runs out of tiles and there are no more tiles in the draw pile, the game ends. Each player gets one point for an animal that matches either their color or pattern, and two points for animals that match both. The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: As cool as a hexagonal box is, it's a bit of a pain to store on the shelves, although it is sturdy. The tiles are of good quality but were a bit of a pain to punch out of the sheets; some tearing of a few of the backs occurred. The player tokens are okay, but in my game, many of the pictures are off-centered on these small round tokens (they look like hole punchouts…) The cards are of decent quality, although they did have to be punched out. By far, the most annoying feature for me was that the "animals" were simply abstract patterns. It was just very offsetting to be continually referring to something as an animal that looked NOTHING like one. Even worse, two of the patterns look similar at a glance, and players were constantly trying to connect tiles that were illegal. This single feature would probably keep me from playing the game much. But it's not all.
2.) Theme: The game comes with a small booklet talking about the background of the game with a short essay about Antoni Gaudi, which I gamely read. I even searched for Gaudi artwork on the internet, trying to get in the mood of the game. I simply couldn't. I don't mean to belittle Mr. Gaudi's artwork, but it's certainly not for me. And I think one has to enjoy his artwork to better appreciate the game.
3.) Rules: The rules are on twelve pages - two pages for six different languages each. There is also another two pages of examples, which were fairly helpful in showing how to place the tiles. The rules are too short, however, and leave a couple of things out. For example, it sounds like a player can only switch a tile when they need to; but then in the strategy section, it says that a player should switch them more often! The game is easy enough to teach, although knowing about tile distribution is probably important.
4.) Players: The game is best with two, three, or six players. Otherwise, some players will have the same colors and animals, while other players will have less competition. This is not fair to the players who have the same goals as someone else; and in fact it's easily possible for two players to have the exact same goals, which is annoying for them, and a bonus for the others! There should have been a better way to do this.
5.) Objectives: I personally find the fact that the objectives are "secret" ridiculous. Since a player can only place one of their tokens on a completed animal that meets one of their objectives, it becomes clear quite quickly what their objectives are. So why keep them hidden? Sure, someone might try to prevent you in the beginning of the game but usually at the cost of scoring an animal themselves. This part of the game was silly; I like secret stuff but give me a bit of a challenge to figure it out, okay?
6.) Tiles: Because the tile orientation is the exact same, a misplaced tile (or deliberately badly placed one) can make a whole section unplayable. The game seems to lean more towards geometry and art than it does towards playability. One thing I've always enjoyed about Carcassonne is the fact that there's usually a tile that can be placed in the empty holes left around the board. In Gaudi, that's simply not going to happen. Empty holes are going to honeycomb around the board, unless players place tiles extremely carefully. The rules about tile placement, which force a completion of an animal with more than two tiles placed, also skew the game towards the players who get the luckiest when drawing tiles.
7.) Fun Factor: I've played through a complete game of Gaudi but have aborted two others with the full consent of all players involved. It simply wasn't fun, was annoying to those who didn't get the tiles they needed, and just didn't have any attraction about it. In other tile laying games, usually a cool map or something is revealed as the game proceeds. Here, there simply was a shifting pattern of colors and shapes with large, unseemly holes dotting the landscape. No, Gaudi simply isn't interesting or fun.
I really can't recommend Gaudi to anyone except perhaps a devoted fan of Antoni Gaudi's work. It seems to be designed by an artist rather than a gamer and appeals to an abstract, mathematical side that is entirely devoid of fun. I think there are several flaws in the gameplay, and that it won't really be attractive to most players. Regretfully, I must tell you to pass this one up.
"Real men play board games"
Iâ€™ve had pretty much the opposite experience. Gaudi has proven quite popular in casual gaming circles, and even some of the gamers with whom Iâ€™ve played have enjoyed it. Iâ€™ve probably played a dozen or more times and it maintains a place in my collection.
Here are a few excerpts from my review:
Simple rules and simple mechanisms, yet filled with interesting choices and decisions. Iâ€™ve used this phrase several times in the past, but it certainly fits here. Players must analyze the board layout and decide where is the best location to place a tile or tiles. Often, a player must choose to play just one tile and save his other tiles for a potentially more lucrative location later. However, that situation may not develop, so the decision must be made whether to place the tiles now for one point, or hold off and hope for a 2 point score later in the game.
Further, players are free to form animals that donâ€™t match ANY of their cards. This prevents opponents from finishing that pattern and scoring points. As the game progresess, it is wise to attempt to discern the identity of the animals and colors possessed by your opponents. Armed with this knowledge, you can block scoring opportunities for your opponents, especially when you are unable to complete an animal pattern that will score for you on your turn.
With three tiles in your hand, it is usually possible to play one or more tiles that will either complete an animal pattern for you, or at least possibly set yourself up to complete the pattern on a subsequent turn. Of course, there is always the chance that an opponent will scurry in and complete the animal pattern prior to your next turn, but thatâ€™s part of the risk (and fun) involved in the game. And, yes, there is some luck involved, as it is possible that none of your tiles will prove beneficial, but that is a rare occurence.
Iâ€™ve now played the game three times with both gamers and some casual gaming friends (including my wife!) and it has proven very popular. This is one of those rare hidden gems that come around all-too-infrequently.
You can read the full review (as well as some interesting back-and-forth banter between another game and me) on the Geek at: