FTW Staff Picks - Alhambra
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Genre: Tile Placement / Hand Management
Designer: Dirk Henn
Player Size: 2 to 6 Players
Game Length: 60 minutes
For fans of: Carcassonne, Suburbia
Alhambra is a game I forget about all the time. Whenever I'm considering a game to play with friends or suggesting something to patrons at the cafe, I always seem to overlook this former Spiel des Jahres winner. And yet, whenever it manages to get play - I remember how fond I am of the experience. I've under appreciated it for far too long. So this one's for you, Alhambra.
There are two core mechanics in Alhambra that blend seamlessly: building your alhambra complex and money management. In some ways, you can draw parallels to other city-builders like Suburbia. But in Alhambra, your creation is in direct competition with the other players' alhambras. Only the owner of the most tiles of each building type will score in the first round. And from then on, points will be awarded to second and third most tiles. This prevents players from min-maxing their alhambra, and instead optimizing based off the tiles available, and the ones already bought.
There's also the hand management and economic factor. Players do not receive change when overspending to purchase tiles. Furthermore, players receive an immediate additional turn if they pay exact, allowing a potential cascade of five consecutive turns. To penalize money hoarders, as the deck of money depletes the next scoring round draws closer. This keeps the game moving at a good pace.
Among popular games like Catan, Carcassonne and Dominion, I have always preferred Alhambra. It fits the unusual, but prevalent 5-6 player range. It plays relatively quickly with very manageable rules. And at the end of the game, you come away with a fulfilling board game experience. It may be overlooked, but Alhambra sits neatly in the definition of "solid" board games.