Reviewing board games that shed a tear.

Ctrl - Board Game Review | The Tabletop Crier

The Good

Pastel Color Scheme (+5)

I really like the pastel color scheme on this because it makes it look like a game that has been around for a while. The thing about pastels, at least aesthetically, is that they can be colorful yet not loud at the same time. This is a good way to brand an abstract game like this because you often find yourself in quiet thought. Energy levels for me can be influenced by the aesthetic so this is the right color energy for a game like this.

Setup of the boardgame Ctrl with pastel-colored pieces surrounding one large black cube

Easy to Learn and Clarify (+6)

The game is easy to learn but hard to master, which is a recurring attribute I look out for in games lately. Especially because you are having to think in three dimensions to outwit your opponents, that’s always going to be an area of mastery. Part of the reason that this game is definitely easy to learn is simply in the layout of the rulebook. I’m a fan of rulebooks that do not need to be wordy to explain gameplay. I’m often in the situation where we want to get through a bunch of games within a time limit and no one really wants to have to spend too much time sitting around not playing a game. If I can’t read everything beforehand this is great just fresh out of the box to learn and dive into.

In situations you have questions about, the examples are complete and will be detailed clearly in the rulebook. I’ve played my fair share of games where a specific situation isn’t even close to clarified in the rules so the amount of situations actually covered in this rulebook is a relief. This is especially true because of the highly competitive core to the gameplay where people are already heated up about losing control over Ctrl.

Opportunities for more Strategy (+6)

The scoring is the part I look forward to most. If you are familiar with area control, this game is so much more than that and can catch you off guard during scoring. Looking at area coverage from the top and from all visible sides there is a good chance you may completely overlook something. I have not played this enough times yet to decide whether there are clear opening strategies (similar to games like Chess, for example) or if there is a limitation on the amount of control you have in… Ctrl. I intend to find out eventually!

Gameplay of the boardgame Ctrl with different pastel pieces attached to a larger black cube

Gameplay is Quick (+6)

The 20 minute play time on the box is true to real life so if you think you can do better and you have folks at the table that are cool with an immediate rematch, you can totally do so two to three times and still have time for more games. As my collection starts to grow I’m much more interested in playing more games with varied experiences than one big game. Ctrl fits in with that goal very well.

The Bad

nothing bad comes to mind!

Close up of blue pastel components from the boardgame Ctrl with one flag and one card that reads "Blue"

The Ugly

Unpredictably Flimsy Components (-3)

My one complaint has to do with the relative flimsiness of the flag and placing it. The flag kept popping out of place or straight up knocking out existing cubes when placed. Depending on how badly some opponents want to win a side or have interpreted the state of the game cube, the branches of cubes will start to jut out in horrendous patterns such that they also lose some stability during handling. It’s relatively easy to figure out where pieces need to go back into, so it’s not a deal breaker — but it is inconvenient.

Difficulty: 2/5 for Advanced
Satisfaction Grade: A (93.3%) for Amazing
Worth Your Money? Yes.

You can find copies of this game at Amazon or Game Nerdz, or check with your friendly local game store to see if they can order local!

Note: This review originally appeared on the site Girls' Game Shelf.

Azul: Queen's Garden - Board Game Review | The Tabletop Crier

Azul: Queen's Garden box


a review of the board game Designed by Michael Kiesling 

Players: 2-4    Time Investment: 60 min



Game Aesthetic


Strangely the component quality was all over the place in this game. The player boards and score board were made of a flimsy cardboard that was nothing like the original Azul game. On the other hand, the tiles were made of the familiar resin material that made you want to eat the pieces. The gray Joker pieces were of a cheaper material that made a high pitched noise when they clacked together in the insert. The thickest piece in the game was the rotating scoring indicator which I found an odd choice since you only interact with it at the beginning of the round.

Azul: Queen's Garden board game components in pastel greens
It may look nice from this angle
but there is a lot of low quality cardboard in here

Artwork by Chris Quilliams

The most attractive parts of the game were the tower art and the board game box. Everything else was as one would expect and nothing of note. They did really nail down the garden aesthetic with the pastel green palette, and that contrasted against the more vibrant colors of the tiles created a pleasing experience during gameplay. I do wonder whether you would actually be buying bugs or birds in a garden but I'll just leave that one alone.

Azul: Queen's Garden close up of garden expansions and tiles, in vibrant colors like purple, greens, and yellow
Relatively simple design for the player boards and
clean, easy to identify markings on the tiles

The First Turn


It's relatively straightforward to figure out what you need to do on your turn as you have four actions to choose from: acquire tiles and garden expansions, place a tile, place a garden expansion, or pass. While this may seem easy, in practice there is a lot more going on in each of these actions (except for passing, of course). You can only acquire tiles that have one thing in common but the rest of their features need to be different. Placing a tile requires that you have other tiles and/or expansions that follow this same logic, with the exception of using Jokers to do this. 

Rewards and Objectives

There are clear in-game point scoring options, end-game point scoring options and Joker resources to obtain depending on whether you can surround a fountain, statue, bench or pavilion. All of these rewards can help inform where you place tiles or expansions, as they will score based on color or pattern. The real challenge is in attempting to create several groups that can score multiple times throughout the game and at the end of the game.

Azul: Queen's Garden player board with cyan tile with bird pattern and yellow tile with tulips pattern.
These two tiles can be placed but not next to each other
as they do not have anything in common

Ability to Pivot

Unfortunately it will become difficult to navigate around incorrect tile or expansion placements and because of the strict nature of the game's puzzle it can force you to start over in a way. There may be times where the tiles drawn from the bag just aren't want you need and you need to change up what your original plans are. Even your opponents' choices can force you to pivot your approach and perhaps give up on scoring for specific groups. In fact, you may even get in your own way because all of the tiles and expansions in your storage are ones that you'd like to place in your garden. Yet gameplay mechanic restrictions prevent you from having them all.

Azul: Queen's Garden scoreboard with varying colors and patterns
At the center of the board is the in-game "end of round" scoring and
at the side and bottom of the board is the end game scoring

Game End

The game ends after all players have passed during the fourth round. Once the final in-game scoring opportunities are complete, the end game scoring starts with counting remaining Jokers, removing points for having remaining tiles or expansions, then evaluating all aspects of the garden like colors, patterns, and groups of 3 or more. For those with enough planning prowess, there are additional bonus points for each group of six, though the other side of the board has a variant for groups of four and five as well.