Arraial: A Pack-Em-In Portuguese Party!

Arraial game

Tetris has been around for over 35 years. Countless board games have been inspired by Tetris and involve fitting and/or placing polyomino shaped tiles in some way. Arraial, from Pandasaurus Games, is another to join the pack, themed on packing events and people into a Portuguese festival. It is pronounced “Ah-high-el” – said best with a guttural rolling R sound on the “high” syllable. Arraial is a game for 2-4 players ages 8+ and it takes about 30-45 minutes to play.

Arraial is the closest analogue to Tetris we’ve seen yet, but with player interaction and the ability to choose your polyomino shape(s)!  The goal of the game is to attract the most visitors to your festival in the form of meeples.

Setup

Each player takes a tall grid board representing their play area. Near one end (“top”) of the festival area players place a level board (a “ceiling”) where indicated depending on player count. Shuffle the tile cards and place three on the rotating octagon, three face up next to the octagon, and the rest face down, forming a deck.

Arraial setup for 3 players
set up for 3 players

How to Play

On their turn a player can spend up to three actions, each either rotating the octagon clockwise 90 degrees to reorient the cards available or dropping a tile onto their festival grid. This tile must be in the same orientation as it is on the card and cannot be rotated further once selected. The only requirement is that a player must take at least one polyomino tile at some point during their turn.

3 pieces create a single row at the bottom of the player board.
My first row

Tiles can be positioned anywhere from left-to-right but must continue downwards until it hits something (bottom of the grid or another tile). The “Tetris tuck” rule is allowed; as long as there is enough space to drop a tile straight down, players can slide it to the left or right to “tuck” it under another piece.

When a player completes a row, they raise the level bar one space and place a white meeple on it. These white meeples may join the party at the end of the round.

If the polyomino creates or adds to a group of two or more tiles of the same color, players add a single meeple of that color on the group. The player with the largest group of each color gets the unique special double-meeple of that color. However, the double meeple is fickle and will always go to the largest grouping of that color between the players.

Cleanup

At the end of their turn, players refill the octagon with cards of their choice from the face-up cards, then refill the face up cards for the next player.

If the octagon cannot be fully refilled, the round ends.

Round End and Game End

The level bar moves down two rows at the end of each round. If it can move without overlapping the pieces already on the board, all meeples on it head to the party below. However, if the bar would overlap a polyomino tile, you must remove the bar completely, and any white meeples on it (and the chance of getting more) are lost.

The third round increases the intensity by forcing players to take two polyomino tiles per turn instead of only one. After the octagon can’t be refilled for the third time, the game ends. The person with the most visitors (meeples, with double-meeples counting as two) wins!

11 regular meeples in various colors. A red double meeple and a blue double meeple.

Strategy

Just like with Tetris, players want to pack tiles together perfectly to complete rows. In Arraial, completed rows can’t disappear, so raising the level bar allows room for more tiles.

Arraial adds the dynamic of also wanting to create color groups to get color meeples, and possibly also the largest group bonus. Even choosing which shape/color cards to add after your turn is over is strategic. You’ll try to pick shapes that are difficult for opponents to neatly place, or colors that will not help them create color groups.

Depending on your strategy, it may be helpful to not rush to place multiple tiles in the first two rounds. It’s very tempting to create more/bigger color groups to gain more meeples or better secure color majorities. Unfortunately, building up too fast can increase your chances of losing your entrance tile and white meeples. These meeples often end up being a significant portion of one’s final score.

Impressions

Difficulties

Octagon wheel holding 3 polyomino cards.
Choose wisely

The biggest difficulty I ran into was the Round Three restriction. In the first two rounds, players must take one tile per turn. In Round Three, players must take two per turn. Forcing players to take two tiles out of their three actions doubles the burden of fitting tiles while reducing the orientation choices in half. This makes the third round far less strategic.

It can create a frustrating situation with no good options available, bloating the festival and causing players to lose the ceiling and associated white meeples.

I tried a “house rule” that provided more player choice to Round three by giving players four action points instead of three to allow two octagon rotations instead of only one. This balanced out the Round Three experience quite a bit. I still felt more intensity and stress with the mandatory two tiles per turn but I no longer felt like I was in a straight-jacket.

Final Thoughts

The artwork and colors all fit the festival and fun feel of the theme. The mechanics and theme also fit together well. The tension between efficient polyomino shape fitting and wanting certain color groupings and majorities is a fantastic idea/design. I really enjoyed this part of the game. In theory, turns can be fast. “I’ll rotate once and take this green tile here and put this yellow tile here. Refill octagon with these 2 cards. Done.”  However, it’s easy to overdo the contemplation and ruin the party. This is especially true for spatially challenged people.

If your gaming group can keep the party moving and avoid this analysis paralysis pitfall, I recommend trying Arraial. It’s unique, and just might fit in your game collection.

Check out Arraial at Amazon or at your friendly local game store for around $45.

Player board for Arraial with only the top 3 rows open
Let’s party!

The Family Gamers received a copy of Arraial from Pandasaurus Games for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Arraial
  • 7/10
    Art - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Family Fun - 8/10
7.5/10

Summary

Players: 1-4

Age Range: 8+

Playtime:  15 minutes per player

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