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Meeple’s Eye View – Alhambra

The Meeple’s Eye View is an in depth review of one of the many games in our board game library. This week’s column is written by featured blogger Rick Grayshock.

Think you can build the most extravagant and beautiful palace? Grab a starting tile and hire your best contractors. This is Alhambra…

Theme: Palace building

Number of Players: 2-6 (Best with 2-4)

Game Time: 60-75 minutes

Age Appropriateness: 10 and up

Game Type: Hand management, set collecting

In Alhambra, you are adding buildings and gardens to your palace/complex/Alhambra. (Hence the name.) You collect different currencies in order to pay for these buildings, as each builder wants to be paid in their native currency. It has an element of luck to it, but it is also strategic and somewhat puzzle-y.

Game Play: On their turn players may either collect money from the bank, buy and construct a building, buy a building and place it in reserve or swap a tile from their reserve into their Alhambra. If a player can pay for a building with exact change, they get a bonus action. Thus a player could actually purchase all four available buildings on their turn and still collect money from the bank to end their turn. Rare, but possible.

There are rules governing where certain building tiles can be played, including the walls that line most tiles. There are three scoring phases in the game, two of which are activated by cards shuffled into the money deck. The final scoring phase is triggered when the last building tile has been taken from the bag and placed on the market.

The game is scored according to who has collected the most of each type of building and who has the longest continuous wall surrounding their Alhambra.

Component Quality: The components are good quality, even if they aren’t that exciting to look at. They aren’t unattractive, they are just pictures of different buildings. The look of this game will not entice your 13 year-old to the table for game night.

The board in the picture is from the ‘gold’ edition. It is not included in the standard game, nor do you really need it. It is nicer than the components in the regular edition (which is the one I own.)

My Take: Alhambra is a good game, and can be used as a gateway game for new gamers. It isn’t generally the kind of game that is going to grab people and get them excited—unless they enjoy puzzles. I’m not really talking about jig-saw puzzles, but figuring out how things best go together. Designers will likely enjoy this game.

The game can move along fairly quickly if you are playing with those that know how the game works. If you are playing with a group of new-comers it can slow down a bit. In a large game your turn can seem to take a little while to come back to you.

There is light tension in the game, mainly from hoping a building available in the market makes it through to your turn. Players that recognize your need for a certain type of building may block you from it by buying it ahead of you. (I’ve been known to do that on occasion.)

Expansions and Replay-ability: There are actually a number of expansions available for Alhambra, most of which add buildings to the game or add another component for scoring. Disclosure: I have not played any expansions for this game, nor do I have much interest in paying around $20 for an expansion that contains 8 new tiles and a few new rules. The base game I find very enjoyable to play still.

Meeple Rick GrayshockRick Grayshock is a husband and father who is a digital content producer for FOX Sports Ohio and is a co-founder of the Cleveland sports website WaitingForNextYear.com. Rick is excited to contribute to Meeple Moments and to write about his ‘other’ favorite hobby. Follow him on Twitter @RickGrayshock.