While we were finishing up Split, Jim decided to open his new copy of Alhambra and learn how to play it. When Split finished, Jim gave us a summary of the rules, we went over the pictures of do's and don'ts in the German rules, and Jim, Scott, Chris, and I started spending money on our palaces.
The game is a basic set majority game with the following twists:
- Scoring cards are dealt somewhere in the deck, so you dont' know exactly when they'll show up. You have a general idea of when they'll appear, but you can't plan for an exact number of rounds.
- You need to be able to place the tile in your palace complex for it to be considered for scoring. Sometimes you want to purchase a tile to help your rank in that particular color, but you can't legally place that particular tile given your current palace layout. At best you'll have to put the tile on your reserve board and hope you'll be able to place it later.
- You don't receive change for any purchases. If you overpay, too bad. If you can pay the exact change then you get a bonus turn.
None of us had played before, so we all were feeling things out in the early part of the game. Jim and Scott started by spending most or all of their initial money on building tiles even if they couldn't pay exact change. Chris and I used most of our initial turns to build up a pile of cash in our hand, trying to get a good set of numbers that could provide exact change for many future situations.
Somewhat by dumb luck, I ended up with the sole majority in two of the "richer" colors by the time the first scoring card appeared, so I had a healthy, early lead. The second scoring card seemed to come fairly soon after the first, and I managed to hang on to the majority in those colors to maintain my lead. However Scott had built quite a formidable wall and majority in many of the other colors to close the gap quickly. During the final scoring, Jim scored well and almost passed me, but I was able to score enough to hold him off. However Scott had the sole majority in half of the colors and had a long wall to boot. He sailed well past me during the final scoring to take the win.
I enjoyed this one a lot, as it was fairly quick and fun. Turns were pretty simple and fast, so downtime between turns wasn't a problem at all. In many ways it reminded me of Union Pacific. The mechanism for acquiring money was very similar to that of acquiring shares in UP, the restrictions of placing tiles in your palace had some parallels to train placement restrictions in UP, and the majority scoring for tiles was similar to majority share scoring in UP. The turn angst was probably the biggest parallel for me, as the money vs. tile decision felt just like the acquire shares vs. display shares decision in UP.
All in all a fun game I look forward to playing again.