SNAP Review – Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

A boardgame…

What boardgame? This boardgame!

Get it? It’s a door knocker!

This is a SNAP review for Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena.

Game

Aldabas is a card-placement game for up to 4 players, designed by Joshua Mills and Nat Levan. It’s published by Grand Gamers Guild, and takes about 30 minutes to play.

Art

I love this art by Juan Vargas. Look at all these different doors! Each colored door has its own shape and texture. Great attention to detail – love it!

And each profession has its own type of door knockers, too. The soldiers are lions and jaguars, the nobles are lizards, there’s a bunch of water animals for the fishers. They’re all modeled after real aldabas from Cartagena in Colombia.

The other elements in the game are.. fine. There are cardboard coins, and this “dock” for the market that flips over into a tiny little scoreboard at the end of the game.

It’s cute, I like it!

Aldabas game setup - 5 cards in Dock, with deck and coins close by

Mechanics

Every player starts with a “vault” and a hand of 5 door cards. You must slide one card under your vault as hidden influence to be revealed only at the end of the game.

On your turn, you will take exactly two actions, but you may do the same action twice, or two different actions.

You may:

  • Take two coins,
  • Buy a door from the dock, paying the listed price in coins and adding it to your hand, or
  • Place a door from your hand into your block, activating its power and the power of any doors touching it.

Your block may not get any bigger than four cards wide and three cards high – and any card you place must be supported”by doors underneath and to the left. So, your first card must be next to or directly above your Vault.

You can also never place two doors of the same color touching each other!

Every card you place has an ability – some are immediately triggered (such as this fisher, who lets you steal coins from rivals) and some are permanent upgrades. When you place a card in your block, you use its ability right away, and the abilities of any cards touching it.

Fisher card from Aldabas

There are three ways to end the game. The supply of coins runs out; the Dock cannot be refilled with cards; or a player fills their 4 x 3 block.

Then every other player gets one more turn.

Flip over the Dock to the scoreboard and start tallying up points.

First, score points for every coin in your Vault.

Then compare influence in each profession – both in your block and in your vault. Whoever has the MOST influence in a profession gets points based on that profession’s scoring condition, and whoever has second-place applies a less-valuable version of that same scoring condition.

Examples: The Soldiers will score points for each Noble in your block. Have the most influence in Builders to score for each non-Builder in your block. Fishers let you score points for the cards still in your hand, Nobles score for each coin you have, and Clergy scores for the influence in your block.

Whoever has the most total influence will also get a bonus. And don’t forget about the Noble doors that give end-game points as their ability!

Expectations

I remembered seeing a lot about Aldabas when it ran on Kickstarter. I knew it was a card placement game. The art was cool… But I couldn’t figure out what door knockers had to do with anything.

I love the look of the cards. This door knocker thing is cool – people don’t really use door knockers anymore, so it’s a niche kind of thing there that’s really neat. I didn’t really know what the game was going to be about! The lion that is the door knocker on the box had almost a medieval / Warcraft feel, so I thought maybe something like that…

I will say that a small box and a relatively short playtime (30 minutes) always get me interested in a game.

Surprises

There are a lot of layers to the game of Aldabas. You’ve got the physical placement puzzle – you can’t put the same color doors adjacent to each other, but you also want to trigger abilities at the right time.

Then you’ve got the influence puzzle – you want to come in first place in influence for as many professions as you can… which means trying to balance influence among several professions, and paying attention to your fellow players and where they’re building influence.

Then lastly, you want to make sure you actually have the right components for the professions that you’re going to score! Nobles don’t do you any good if you’ve spent all your coins, and an empty hand makes Fisher influence worthless.

After a few plays, we used the player aid on the back of the vault to help us remember how all the professions score. But we did forget about some of the other ways to score – coins in the Vault and highest total influence! They’re only listed in the rulebook and not on the player aid.

Soldiers: 1st 3 per noble in your block. 2nd 1 per noble in your block....
The player aid is great, but it’s not enough.

Recommended?

Aldabas is a game that’s simple on its face but hides real depth of strategy. We’d say it’s playable by most kids 8 and up, because there’s very little reading required. But younger kids are going to get frustrated by the placement restrictions and math involved.

For older kids and adults, this is a great abstract game that can spark interest in another culture, as well. Aldabas in Cartagena are a real thing!

What are we going to rate Aldabas from Grand Gamers Guild?

We’re going to give it 4 door knockers out of 5.

Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena / Mills & Levan / art by Juan Vargas

The Family Gamers received a copy of Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena from Grand Gamers Guild for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena
  • Door Knockers
4

Summary

Age Range: 14+ (we say 8+)
Playtime: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 1-4

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