My parents gave me Der Palast von Alhambra by Dirk Henn of Queen Games for christmas, and I’m writing this review to warn you of buying this game. Despite a recommendation from my aunt Conny and the “Spiel des Jahres” (game of the year) prize of 2003, this game could stand improvement in various departments. But let me begin with a short description of what the game is all about.

Given money in four different “currencies” which you basically draw from a few stacks, you buy building blocks of your very own palace. There are a number of different block types, such as pavillon, tower, gardens, etc. The person to amass the majority of pieces of one type gets a given number of points in each of the three scoring rounds. If two players share a majority, they split the points. The person with most points wins.

Here’s my list of pet peeves:

  • The game is unnecessarily complex. For example, I don’t know why there have to be four different currencies. Additionally, The fact that each player needs to have a reserve stack is a foul hack to compensate for the fact you can build your way into a dead-end.

  • The game is non-interactive. Except for the shared card stacks and the shared data about who has how many buildings, one player’s actions really do not affect the others significantly. This game might be good if you hate talking while you play.

  • The game is very dependent on luck. Strategies, at least the ones that I’ve been able to devise, are usually foiled by missing means, such as a missing card of one color. Also, it doesn’t feel like the game rewards significant efforts fairly. For example, f you have invested heavily to build a majority in some building type and someone else matches it, you might end up with fewer points than the next-best player who might only have one building of that type.

  • The instructions omit important strategic advice. For example, the cheaper a given building block is, the more walled-off it is, typically. Walls severely restrict your building activity late in the game, while making little difference at the outset—but you typically don’t get that until it’s already too late, at least for the first few games.

PS: If you feel that my take of this game is entirely incorrect, please let me know in the comments.

PPS: This post is not meant to give me bad karma with my parents. I appreciated their gift very much.