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
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"