List Price: $39.95
Your Price: $31.99
(Worth 3,199 Funagain Points!)
from 23 customer reviews
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In Granada, one of the most impressive building projects of the Middle Ages has begun: the construction of Alhambra. A palace, fortress, and a small city -- all-in-one -- Alhambra is made up of the world's most beautiful gardens, pavilions, chambers and towers.
The most prominent builders in all of Europe and Arabia want to demonstrate their skills. Employ the most talented teams of builders to construct your Alhambra. Hire stonemasons from the north and gardeners from the south, who all want a fair wage and insist on being paid with their native currency. With their help, towers can be constructed, gardens designed, pavilions and mezzanines erected, and manors and royal chambers built. Compete against your opponents to build the greatest and most impressive Alhambra.
Players: 2 - 6
Time: 45 - 60 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Weight: 1,235 grams
Customer Favorites Rank: #136
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
- 6 starting tiles
- 54 building tiles
- 1 building market
- 1 scoring board
- 12 counters
- 108 money cards
- 2 scoring cards
- 6 tile reserve boards
- 1 bag
Average Rating: 4.4 in 23 reviews
It seems as though I've settled into playing medium weight games. Part of this comes from the preference of the group I play with. Alhambra fits perfectly into that category, but is a wonderful game that I think would appeal to casual gamers and gamers alike. On your turn you can take one of three actions and of course there is never enough time to do everything you want to do, which adds a nice degree of tension to the game. Do you buy and build, take money or redesign? There is also the uncertainty of when a scoring card will appear which stops the round and initiates scoring. For me and those I've played with this is just an absolutely outstanding game deserving of my five star rating. I just don't see this game losing its luster as it is a different game each time you play. Wonderful, wonderful game!!
I am not easy to please when it comes to games, but this game is in my top five! I love that it can be played with 2 just as nicely as with 6. It's fun, and not as expensive as many other games of it's caliber. I've played it countless times since we got it for Christmas. The game requires strategy, but my 11-year-old nephew could keep up just fine. The game is well made, and the play is simple to teach others. Loved it!
This game is one of our favorite games to play with 2 players. The pieces are sturdy and the colors on the tiles are gorgeous. Since there are different ways to further your scoring points at the end of the rounds, you can play different strategies with each game. Each game is different and fun. I can imagine it will only get better when we play with 3 or 4 players too -- highly recommended. Also we suggest trying Acquire, Lost Cites, Cartegena, and Ta Yü if anyone is looking for some great 2-player games.
Alhambra is a fun light- to medium-weight game. Each player purchases buildings and adds them to their own palace complex. You get points for having the most of a type of building. You have to have the right kind of currency to get a building. And you have to fit the building into your complex in the right way, a bit like a puzzle.
I put off getting this game for a long time because frankly I thought it was little boring to look at. But finally after reading all the great reviews and realizing it got the 2003 Game of the Year Award, I decided to try it. I’m very glad I did. It’s not boring at all to play, and the artwork is actually nice too.
My wife and I have played this game four times so far, both with 2 and 4 players. Everyone that has played has really liked it. For the 2 player version, you have to use a dummy player, but it works well. I highly recommend this game.
My partner and I have played Alhambra a half-dozen times, the last with the German expansion set (!), so admittedly I can't speak to how this game scales up to 3 or more players. But for 2 players, it's a gem of a game.
Alhambra is a nice balance of luck (which cards turn up) and strategy on 2 fronts: the money cards in assorted currencies, and the actual building tiles that are purchased and jockeyed into place. As building tiles are collected, the walls that appear on some of them is what gives the construction process an extra kick. If you focus too closely on the walls or otherwise limit yourself, you leave yourself with no room to grow your 'Alhambra' and important tiles will have nowhere to go. Savvy players weigh the 'placeability' of tiles against their actual value in the mid-point and final scoring of the game.
My partner has consistently managed to boost his score with big points for a long wall, AND at the same time collect the tiles he needs to win. I'm learning, but tend to focus on storing up currency so that I can buy what I need to, when I need to.
Our only complaint about Alhambra is that the 2-player variation requires us to play against an imaginary player named 'Dirk' (after the game's author) which can feel a bit contrived; we don't bother to move his marker along the scoreplate anymore. Plus, I lost to Dirk once and it was too humiliating to be beaten by an imaginary player!
Overall, this has rapidly become one of our favorite games (along with Attika) and I heartily recommend it.
(One note: this game is so complex and nuanced that I found it disorienting to add the expansion set, which includes 4 different areas of play. In my experience, it takes a while to first master the basic game. In other words, Alhambra is NOT like Carcassonne, in which the expansion makes the game even more fun and variable right from the start.)
Fantastic game, easy to play, beginners can finish well if they play it right. Played with lots of strategy, nice game design based on skill not luck.
Fun and rewarding to play. Play with friends after dinner or setup a whole evening and play it lots of times!
Game of the year 2003, great!
Alhambra is very enjoyable to play. Everyone who has played it so far has nothing but positives to say about it.
You must balance the need for gathering money with timing out when to buy certain tiles to add to your Alhambra. Do you run yourself low or out of money to get tiles you think will help you win, or wait to be able to make multiple purchases in a turn?
Also, building your Alhambra with a long outer wall can be very important too. I have seen plyers win by having lengthy walls, and some win without this. But they are important as they can add points each scoring round.
I have played several 2 player games, it works fine. With three players it gets even better. It will allow up to 6 players.
The game is well made, with the tiles and money cards colorful and easy to figure out. Alhambra is a great mix of tough decisions and risk taking, and each game is different. No duplication or routine moves here.
I can't wait to play again!
We bought this game only two weeks ago and we already played it quite a lot. My wife and I love these kind of games (there is indeed some resemblence to Carcassonne) where there are quite simple rules but where there is much depth. Like in many German games you'd like a lot to do when it's your turn but you only have one action. So the decision making is kind of tough, although when you're able to buy a tile with the exact amount of money you'll get another action.
So in your turn you've got an important decision to make: should you buy that ineteresting tile immediately or should you take another bit of money to be able to bid the exact amount the following turn and have another go?
We like those kind of games, and our gaming friends do too.
If you want a clever game with simple rules, Alhambra is certainly a choice you won't regret. Oh... and by the way, you'll also have another German 'Game of the Year' in your collection!
I just went to my first gaming conference in years and this was my favorite of thirty games I played! It's easy to learn but still has some advanced strategy. You can see what your opponents are attempting to do, and move to prevent that. You can build your own strategy, to acquire the best properties. There is some luck, but winners are mostly determined by skill, however all games will be close. Each player moves and all moves are quick, interesting, and important to the outcome of the game. Graphics are nice. Best for three or more players. A great four person game.
I had never played the original version(s) of this game, so this game is truly new to me. And we played the first half-dozen times with evolving rules (the hazards of early translations, I'm told). Nonetheless, everyone I've played it with, gamers and non-gamers alike, has loved this one. I can't give this game enough positive comments.
It's almost always close and plays in just under an hour. Plus, the components are nice. The only real negative is that the inserts in the box make it impossible to put everything back in after playing once--so you just ditch the plastic inside the box and you're home free.
Buy this game!
Of all the games I've played this year -- nearly 20 -- Alhambra is my favorite. The game design appeals to two kinds of thinking at the same time. There's a game of choosing and spending resources, and there's a game of tile laying and set collection. The two kinds of game-play are woven together nicely so that neither is more important than the other, but either can drive your strategy.
The game components are lovely, made of nice materials and the aesthetic is very appealing with good colors and nice illustrations. The components are also organized well enough that it's easier to set up and take down than many other games. The instructions were clear and, while not simple, we managed to learn the game after one or two rounds. We needed a pretty big table to play on, but it was easy enough to keep everything in reach or pass around what wasn't easy to get to otherwise. All of my kids, ages, 8, 13, and 16, played this game with me, but my two oldest liked it a lot better than my youngest.
Now, I confess, I'm a middle-aged mom, and I hate the no-holds-barred-king-of-the-mountain competitions that characterize some games. I prefer games that don't rely on cutthroat tactics. With two or three players, Alhambra offers just such a constructive, peaceful game (unless you use the clever imaginary player rule explained in the instructions). With more than three flesh-and-blood opponents, though, people will start gnashing their teeth and railing at the gods as their much-needed tiles are bought by their annoying siblings. This can be fun too, but it's nice to have a choice.
I have had a great time trying out games this year, and there are a lot of good ones out there, but Alhambra is my favorite of all of them because its double-edged playing style is most absorbing.
Cute game with pretty pieces, inspired by Mughal art. There's also very little "cut throat" involved, perhaps even less than Carcasonne, which makes it nice for playing with children.
Another good thing is the box: There's a place for everything, so it's not all a big mess you have to pull apart when you open the box (which is one thing I don't like about Settlers of Catan, which is of course otherwise a great game).
My main complaint, however, is the rules: There're are a bunch of little mistakes and, in some cases, slight ambiguity, but these aren't a huge problem like with Tipover.
Winner of the Spiel des Jahres (Germany's most coveted game prize) and a 2nd place finish in the DSP (the second most coveted game prize) meant that Alhambra (or the more legally acceptable 'The Palaces of Alhambra') was going to get a lot of attention heaped on it. Is it well deserved?
If you like planning and management, simple but tight, there's a lot in Alhambra to like. Careful card management, tile acquisition, and tile placement, and a dash of lack adequately sum up what's on display here.
In the center of the table there is for all player's display a mat with 4 currency cards, and 4 tiles available. Having a 'lazy susan' to place the mat on in order to accomodate the view of all players is very helpful. The four tiles sit in 4 different slots, one for each type of currency, and each tile has a different price listed right on the tile itself. Players have a hand of cards which represent the four different kinds of currency. Each kind of currency can only be used to purchase the tile that is currently available for it. If a player can match or beat the 'price' of the tile, she may buy it. Once purchase, the tile will usually be placed right away adjacent to one or more of the player's existing tiles. Tiles come in one of 7 colors, and players are vying for 1st and 2nd place in each of the colors, with each color being of differing value. Or, if you don't want to buy a tile, you may instead get more currency by taking face-up currency cards from the center mat.
But if that was all there was to the game, it would be pretty dull now, wouldn't it?
You see, one of the important keys to the game is careful management of your currency. It is important to have as many currency types as possible so you always have a chance to buy a tile you need. (There's nothing worse than seeing the exact tile you need appear on Orange when you have no Orange currency!) You also need to be able to sum your cards to as many totals as possible. (?!) You see, if you can buy a tile with the exact amount of currency, you get an extra action. You can overpay, but you get no change, and you don't get the extra action. Extra actions are HUGE, because with careful planning, you can keep acquiring extra actions, up to a possible total of 5 actions!
And even that is not all. Of course getting color leads is valuable (most purple buildings gets you 'x' number of points), but you also need to have good wall strategy. You see, the tiles may be placed side to side, but only if their sides match, and only if they can access your starting fountain tile. Each tile has a mix of 'open' and 'closed' sides -- the only difference being that a closed side has a black bar on it. When you place a tile, it must always have an open side touch another open side. And, if it has a black side on it, that black side(s) must either be exposed (on the outside of you alhambra) or it must be 'match up' side to side with another black side. It's an excellent addition to the game making careful planning possible. You acquire a great tile and find you have no way to legally place it! The designer made the 'wall strategy' an important part of the game by awarding points for walls too -- the longer your unbroken wall, the more points you get!
Need additional actions like being able to save an unplaceable tile for later, or being able to swap one tile for another keep this game alive with neat tactics. But the game has it's frustrations. It is a wonderful game with a LOT of stuff. You've got tiles everywhere, currency everywhere, a big mat in the middle, a scoreboard too. You need a lot of table space to make this work. And with all these components and the quick pace of the game, it's a bit of a pain to be constantly restocking the center mat. It's visually fiddly too: You want to know if you are in the lead in purple buildings and so you look around, and have to study each players alhambras in order to find out who has the lead in what -- and that adds a lot of downtime to the game. (A chart to track progress in each color would have been really nice to have.) And the game is wildly out of control with 5 or 6 players (even 4 is a bit wooly), so, though, playable with more, I would only recommend 2-4 players.
There certainly is a middling dose of luck -- when tiles get flipped, you may end up getting exacly what you want colorwise, and having the exact currency combos to get extra bonus actions, or you may have none of the above -- but experience will win a lot of games, and, for that matter, I win fairly consistantly, which tells me that I must be doing something right. The game is definitely a solid 4, but with all the fiddliness, it makes me wonder hoe often the game will actually get pulled out. Still, it is a very enjoyable game (I have played at least 15 times) and worth taking a good look at.
Alhambra is one of those cleverly designed strategy games in which several key mechanisms are tucked into relatively easy to learn set of rules, combining to create a very challenging and satisfying gaming experience.
4 different currencies. Since tiles must be purchased using the currency indicates on the display card, this can be rather frustrating. However, it forces players to make some difficult choices, determining whether to pick up new currency in hopes of the desired tile still being available next time around, or to settle for a lesser choice with another currency in order to maintain momentum (or prevent its purchase by an opponent). Added to this is the bonus for an 'exact' purchase: having the right card or combination of cards to pay the exact purchase price of the tile, entitles the player to make yet another purchase immediately. I've seen players buy as many as 3 tiles in a single turn this way, which isn't as difficult as it may seem if one fills one's hand with a lot of currency cards. Of course, to do so means avoiding early purchases, which can give opponents a healthy headstart.
Tile type & progressive scoring. Another choice to be made is whether to concentrate on one or two specific tile types in order to score high in those types, or to spread purchases over numerous types, hoping to compensate for low scores in each type through the cumulative effect of competing in 4-5 tile types. The strategic choices can be rewarded by what one might describe as a 'progressive scoring' system, which rewards more players with points each scoring round. In this system, only the first place tile holders in each category score the first round, but the second highest holder can score in the second round, and the third highest in the third. This means one must constantly study the opponents'Alhambras and the available purchases; a couple of good tile purchases by opponents can cost you a lot of points if left unchecked.
The Wall. And of course, there's the exterior wall that's built around one's Alhambra. Since each section of the contiguous outer wall is worth a point, this adds another option to consider when purchasing a tile. A well-developed wall can bring in an additional 9 or more points if done well (and with a little luck). A tile may be more valuable for what it adds to the wall, than it is for what it adds to your tiles of that type.
The combination of these facets in Alhambra makes for some tense gaming. We've played with 4 and 5 players, and I would say 4 is preferable, but 5 still works very well. Our group hasn't found the downtime to be particularly cumbersome, as vigilant players will watch to see what currency cards opponents are collecting.
Add to this the excellent game components, and Alhambra is a one of the better strategy games to hit the hobby in the past year. If it were a bit less dependent on the draw of tiles and currency cards, and featured a bit more player interaction, I might rate this as a 5-star game.
All in all, I highly recommend it.
This game is very easy to learn but difficult to master. It has a wonderful mix of luck and strategy. It also has a surprise element as you do not know when the scoring take place. But I have to give it 4 fours due to the minimum interaction between players. But overall, this game is great fun for all.
Excellent game for occasional gamers. It's easy to learn, though at first intimidating to people that don't play board games much. It turns out that it's much easier to learn though than anticipated.
There is some strategy in the game but mostly depends on luck. Good, since non-experienced gamer's don't get discouraged. Bad, if you want more than the occasional fun.
Great quality game material.
Recent winner of the 2003 SdJ, Alhambra is an interesting game combining a unique auction with tile placement and obtaining majorities. With very nice graphics and nice strategic weight to the game, it certainly is a solid entry.
Players all start with a center tile, the fountain. During the course of the game, players will be acquiring and adding more tiles to expand their own alhambra, not unlike placement in Carcassonne. And, like Carcassonne, the placement is restricted somewhat to make the game more interesting.
But to even place tiles, players must first win them. At the beginning of the game, players are dealt out a hand of cards. These cards are numbered and colored, each color representing a different type of currency. At the beginning of a player's turn, there are four random buildings available, one for each type of currency in the game, and four randome currency cards available. A player may either: A. Take one currency card (or multiple currency cards if the total sum is no more than 5) or B. Purchase a building or C. Use a 'Reserve' action. Now the twists.
There is no change in the game when a building is purchased. If you overpay, tough luck. And there is another hitch to overpaying, it ends your turn. You see, if you pay the exact amount of the building cost, then you get to take another action: You could take a currency card, you could play a 'reserve' or you could purchase another building (and if exact amount paid, you could take yet another action!) So with a lot of currency, a player could buy all four buildings, if he had the exact amount for each.
But wait! Even if you have the exact money for a building, you may not want it. Players are scoring for majorities in each building color. There are seven colors and each has a different point value. In the first round there is only first place, but scores are low. In the second round, there is first and second place and points are a bit higher, and so on thru the fourth round. So you may be able to afford that building with yellow currency, but if it's a building you don't need, it's often better to wait.
Okay, but even tile placement is tricky. You see, you can buy any building that you have the currency for, but there is still the trick of placing it. Many of the tiles have black walls on 1, 2, or 3 sides of the tile. Tiles may not be rotated, they must be place 'ride side up' relative to the player. Rules for placement are fairly simple:
First, when a tile is placed, it must have access to the fountain starting tile. If it doesn't, it can't be placed. Secondly, any tile placed must match, empty to empty and wall to wall. Most of the time your'll want your walls on the outside of your Alhambra, but that is not alway possible. But there are additional points in this game for walls. Your longest unbroken chain of wall segments along a perimeter are worth one point per segment. Problem is, while working on a long wall, players might box themselves in way so that they will have a tough time placing additional tiles. If you can't play a tile you bought, you put it on your reserve board.
And the reserve action lets you play tiles you've dumped onto your reserve board, or to swap out an existing tiles (in case you've boxed yourself in.)
Well, that's the short gameplay round up. But is it fun? The acquisition fo currency so that you have lots of possible sums to purchase with is the first trick, but then you also need to buy buildings that will put you in the lead of several colors, and you need pieces that you are able to add on, and you are trying to manage your wall (which makes tile placement very tricky indeed.) It is a delicate balancing act. You may buy a tile that you can't place right away so that your opponent can't get it. But will you be able to play it? When? Will you sacrifice a turn later on to get it down to the board?
There is a fair dose of luck in this game too, which can be an issue. Good planning an acquisition makes up for most of it, but if the color you have a lead in suddenly comes up for other players on their purchasing turn, then you won't even have a chance to fight for that lead -- you have to work on something else.
All in all a good game though. Really best with 3-4 players, since 5+ tends to be chaotic, Alhambra is a neat game with well integrated mechanics. One complaint I have is that the center mat with the building on it can't face everyone, and having things 'right side up' makes the game quick, so I'd invest in a lazy susan if you purchase this game. One other knock: there is no easy way to keep track of who is ahead in which color, which means players are constantly having to look around at his opponents' upside-down boards to figure what color building he needs to buy to get points. Oh, and the game is a huge space hog. Whew! Quite a few minor knocks.
But it's the combination of minor knocks that takes this game down a notch for me. All together they make the game take longer than necessary, and that is too bad. This could be a 5-star game, but a few things keep it from being that. Still, with experienced players, it becomes a bit less of a factor, and the types of planning required involve majorities and tile placement, and it's rare to find a game that combines both so well.
Upon opening the Alhambra box, the five of us starting discussing whether this game was the Game of the Year. I noticed immediately the tile-laying quality of the game, reminding me of Carcassonne and Wolly Bully.
The game then proved elusively easy to understand the rules. Unfortunately, I drew the short hand of up to 20 with three cards. That started the game. You have four tiles drawn from a black bag you arrange on a small board. Each tile has a symbol for a particular kind of money, such as denars. If you have the exact amount of money to pay for one of the palace tiles, you receive another turn. That also means if you a 5, 2, and 1 and the tile costs eight in in a particular denomination, you still have the exact amount.
Each person is given a fountain tile at the beginning to start the palace. The only stipulation is the corners have to match with the color purchased. Also, you have to trace a path through all the tiles without running into walls. You may keep the tile back on your reserve board to place at a later time. During the game the palace player has one of four options:
1. You may draw money from the four overturned cards, and draw several cards if only add to five on the denominations.
2. You may buy a building tile, such as a pavillion, for the exact amount or an amount over (e.g. 8 for a 5 price). The tile can be immediately placed.
3. You may pull one of your tiles from your reserve board and place on the continuing evolving palace of your own.
4. You may replace one of your tiles in the exact location with a tile from your reserve board.
The game started moving quickly after the first two turns. The five of us quickly began to develop strategies. One player kept building the longest outside wall. Another player concentrated on mostly pavillions. Certain players began to accumulate all the cash cards they could for future purchases.
At some point the cards drawn for cash produce the first scoring card. You need to have something on the board to score the initial points. Then, after considerable more turns, the second scoring card is drawn from the cash deck. It is important to keep track of how many tiles remain on one's reserve board. Those tiles left on the reserve board do not score any points for the two scoring cards or the final scoring.
One of my favorite features of the game was the ability to pick up tiles from the building board when the last tile was drawn. If you have the most villas on your palace over other players, you receive the Villa tile from the building board. If you can place that Villa, that will score more points for you.
Each kind of building as well as longest outside wall is scored at the end of the game. Our scores ran the full gamut: 71, 57, 46, 45, and 39. Even the last placed player said he would play the game again with a different strategy.
The last placed player did comment not enough control exists with what cards you can draw for cash. In my own case, I built too much and left two buildings in reserve at the end of the game.
The second placed player commented that randomness of the cards and the tiles did not bother him. After all, isn't life a series of randomness? In my own case, bring on more of Moorish Spain and its ability to build beautiful palaces. The cards, the tiles, and the boards are well designed.
I am one of those who never played any of the previous incarnations so perhaps I am biased. That said I think the artwork is attractive and the game has a nice puzzle quality. I can see where some would say the game is not excessively interactive. However the common resources make the game suitably interactive. This is not multiplayer solitaire! There is a certain elegance to the proceedings which place this squarely in the medium weight family strategy category. I suppose that those wanting more 'take that' mechanics or less luck could be left cold. Not me, though! I think the sudden scoring gives the game appropriate tension and that the competitive not combative nature places it in good company of sharp German game design. I suggest this game to those who like Goldland and other tile based games, though it is different. I can't say what it's like for more than 4 players but our group liked it just fine. Buy without fear, Alhambra is a challenging but not difficult to understand game. I look forward to playing again!
I hear this is a remake of Stimmt So!, but as I've never played that one, I have nothing to compare it with. Nevertheless, I really did enjoy this game (or this newest version of this game).
I found the components and graphics very pleasing and eye-catching. The game play was quick and engaging, with minimal downtime and the game was finished in about an hour, which included going over the rules. The gist of it is players can either take a currency card (one of four colors/currencies) , buy a building for their 'Alhambra,' or switch some of their Alhambra pieces' positions. I am VERY oversimplifying here, but it was fun building your own palace and maneuvering the pieces to extend an outer wall (worth lots of points) while trying to maintain dominance in as many colors of buildings as you could.
I'm looking forward to playing some more. No one could argue that Alhambra could knock a game like Tigris & Euphrates or El Grande from their lofty positions, but a good time nonetheless.
This is an enjoyable light game but I thought the luck factor was a bit too much for my tastes. There is a lot of luck involved in the money cards and the building tiles that are flipped each turn. It’s true that with good planning and clever play you can create more opportunities for yourself but usually the winner is the one who is getting one lucky break after another with building tiles being flipped that they can exactly afford. In summary, fun light game for the casual gamer. Serious gamers will not be all that impressed.
I have very mixed feelings about this game. It is aesthetically beautiful; the components are very pleasing to look at, and feel smooth and sturdy. It is also such a clever game, with a lot of balancing to do: a player must decide whether to overpay for a tile in order to acquire it right away, wait until he has exact change in order to take multiple actions during his turn, add to his various currencies in order to maximize his future buying flexibility, or alter, as possible, the design of his Alhambra.
Additionally, one must try to collect as many of the same type of building as possible (especially the more valuable ones) while attempting to arrange the pieces so that they not only all lead to the central fountain but also have as long a continuous wall around them as possible. This is ingenious. (It is also the only game in which I consistently beat my husband - not an easy feat!) For all of those reasons, I would give Alhambra 4 or 5 stars.
What keeps me from doing that, I think, is that, despite all its challenge and brilliance, there is something about the game that feels dry and disjointed to me. The theme feels a bit artificial and peripheral, with each part of the game a separate analytical exercise. It is neither completely abstract nor does it have a captivating theme, and so it is less enjoyable for me, as I prefer the games I play to be either one or the other. If this sort of thing is not a problem for you and your fellow game- players, then you will probably love Alhambra. Otherwise, I would say, consider it at some point, but get something like Elfenland or Carcassonne first.
Compete to construct the biggest and best Alhambra. Everyone gets a starting tile, plus 20 units of each of four kinds of currency. Draw four building tiles to the supply board, and four money cards (valued 1 to 9). Each turn, either take one money card, take several cards of total 5 or less, or buy a building tile for its indicated cost. Each tile is next to a symbol showing the currency in which payment must be made. End a turn by placing any purchased tile, then replenish the tiles and money.
Tiles come in different colors and show up to three wall segments. When they're depleted, play ends. Score for having the most, second-most, or third-most of a color, and for each tile edge belonging to your longest wall. Most points wins. Alhambra, Germany's 2003 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year), is built for discerning gamers everywhere... in any currency!
That Alhambra won this year's Spiel des Jahres was not a surprise once it was identified as a top-three finalist. But prior to the voting, I would have had a hard time believing that the game would reach that lofty position. It is not a bad game by any stretch, but it is a direct derivative of the earlier Stimmt So and Al Capone games while adding some nice touches that clearly will appeal to both families and gamers alike.
Instead of buying Aunt Emma's stock certificates, this time players buy tiles showing buildings of six different styles in order to create their own Alhambra. The tiles are purchased in the Stimmt So format, meaning that the proper currency (from four types) must be used and if the player pays the exact price they can continue their turn. Once the 'master turn' is over, meaning that everything purchased is completed, the player must either add the tiles to their Alhambra using specified placement rules or put them into a reserve for later placement.
Also following its original, there are three scoring sessions and in each players score for their relative strength in each of the six building types. In the first scoring, only the lead player scores, in the second the first two score, and in the third the top three score. Only tiles that have been built into your personal Alhambra count for the scoring, so although keeping tiles in reserve can be a good strategy, it is one that must be used wisely else the value of the tiles will be lost.
Building the Alhambra is the new addition to the game, and this adds both a nice strategic element but unfortunately also a lot of down time. Each player begins with a central tile and all tiles laid must connect to this via a series of connected courtyards. The tiles have zero, one, two, or three walls on them and walls score when framing the outside of your city. When scoring happens, each player's longest connected wall scores one point per section, and this can be substantial. Interior walls do not score and they cannot be placed against the courtyard. Thus, choosing tiles to buy requires not only the evaluation of your relative standing by building type, but also how the tile will fit onto your display. This is what makes the down-time happen, as it takes longer for each player to decide what to buy and more importantly they then have to spend time orienting things properly in their display. In Stimmt So, you only need to think about the type of stock and then just stack it with the rest, so it plays much faster.
Money cards are available in the four currency types and in various values. When you take money, you can take any of the cards available. But in a very nice enhancement, you are also allowed to take multiple money cards as long as their total is not greater than five. Anyone who has played Stimmt So knows the frustration of having one's and two's available to you, then the card is refilled with a nine for the next guy. The multiple money card draw makes this much less of a problem.
On a turn, then, players can take money, purchase and place tiles, or change their Alhambra. Buying a building at its exact price gets you the choice of these three actions again, so theoretically you could buy four buildings in a turn and still take money. Tiles placed on the reserve, rather than the display, require an action to recover. The 'change Alhambra' action allows a player to move from the reserve to the Alhambra, remove a previously placed tile to the reserve (most likely for a revised wall strategy), or to exchange a placed tile with one from the reserve. This also adds to the strategy but increases the downtime.
The result is an interesting game that takes too long. All of the mechanics work well and this basic design has evolved well with the placement and building addition. But the downtime is a serous drawback since while your turn is more interesting, everyone else's seems to drag. The Queen/Dirk Henn connection continues to produce good output and Alhambra is a nice addition to their line, but consider yourself warned about the downtime.