Azimuth Overview - Kickstarter Prototype

I received a prototype copy of Azimuth in exchange for posting an overview of the game, which was then passed on to another reviewer.  I played the game 5 times with 2 and 4 players.  My goal is not to convince you to back the game, but to let you know how the game plays so that you can decide for yourself if it's something you would enjoy.

I hadn’t heard the term Azimuth until learning of the newest game from Tyto Games on Kickstarter.  Of course, I then had to know what an azimuth was, and the internet showed it to be a very confusing concept (for me at least).  I guess when you’re drifting alone on the open seas with only a compass and the horizon to keep you company, figuring out azimuth can be important to help you find your way home.  All you need to do is to find a fixed reference point in the sky (such as the North Star), and calculate the angle away from North or South in relation to the horizon… and you’d need to know how to do tangents, sines and cosines in your head… and you’d need to know what to do with that information once you had it…

Luckily when it comes to games, Azimuth a really cool title for a simple game that doesn’t require complex math to play!   

Azimuth is an abstract game for 2 to 4 players with a simple theme, executed with super cute elements in the custom wooden meeples and lighthouses.  In this game designed by Sharon Katz and Lior Kienan from Tyto Games, you’re stranded on an island trying to make your way home to your lighthouse on fickle rafts that drift with the wind.  Playing is as easy as placing or turning a wind and moving all adjacent rafts of the same color one space in the direction the wind is pointing.  Really, that’s the entire game.  

Once you get a raft next to the island, your castaway can hop on board and begin their long journey home to their lighthouse.   However, the seas are rough and everyone else is trying to get off the island and navigate to their own lighthouses as well.  Of course, other players’ rafts and winds are constantly getting in your way, but this is where the game begins to shine.  

Rafts will stack when they sail to a location of another raft, popping on top if no castaway is there, and sliding underneath if a castaway is present.  When a player places or turns a wind next to a stack of rafts, all rafts above the topmost raft of that player’s color will move as well.  There’s an element of strategy in getting other players to move your rafts in the direction you want, or getting underneath another player’s castaway and sailing them in the wrong direction.

There’s another layer of strategy in your ability to turn another player’s wind by using one of your coconuts to move all rafts of their color instead.  In a 3 or 4 player game you can do this only up to 4 times, and deciding when to play these coconuts and whether to use them to your advantage or to mess with another player can be the difference in getting home or floating aimlessly on the high seas.   

In a 2 player game you don’t have to use coconuts - you can turn other player’s winds as much you like, making the 2 player game a little more cut throat and tactical.

Your ultimate goal is to get your castaway on a space next to your lighthouse and sail the raft a final time home.  However, you need to be deliberate about your early wind placement to ensure this is possible.  There’s no requirement to place a wind in a position that sails one of your rafts, which means your opponents can place their winds next to your lighthouse to make it tougher for you to get home.  If you end up blocked by other player’s winds you’ll need to be very careful with your coconut use.  It can be very frustrating to run out of coconuts and realize you’re completely dead in the water with no way to get home!

Playing Azimuth is a delicate balance of being deliberate and tactical.  It’s easier to plan ahead in a 2 player game, while the chaos of 3 and 4 will keep you constantly guessing and adapting your strategy.  In a 2 player game you have more time and opportunity to plan for using your opponent’s rafts to your advantage, and more of an ability to mess with your opponent, but this is constrained by coconuts at larger player counts.  And at all player counts, early wind placement and later wind movement is key.  

If you’re looking for an abstract game with an inviting theme that’s easy to learn and play, Azimuth really hits the mark.  It’s a lighter fare, yet charming in it’s presentation and simplicity.  It’s light enough and fast enough to be played as a filler game, and easy and engaging enough for a family game with younger players.  However, if you’re a fan of abstracts with deep strategy and planning several moves ahead, this isn’t the game for you.  In that, Azimuth is more checkers than chess.  

Azimuth has already funded on Kickstarter and is working its way towards some exciting stretch goals.  If this sounds like a game you might enjoy, you should definitely check it out!  

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