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Author: Dirk Henn

Publisher: Queen Games 2003

Spiel des Jahres 2003



G@mebox author Marco Klasmeyer writes about the game:


This collecting and building game was designed by Dirk Henn, who is well known for his games based on historical background, such as Wallenstein. However, what makes Alhambra outstanding is that it has won the German game awards Spiel des Jahres 2003.

"The best builders from all over Europe and the Arabian countries are dying to prove their virtuosity. To build the Palace of Alhambra, the players must engage the most qualified construction workers. However, make sure you always have enough of the appropriate currency, since it doesn't matter if the mason is from the North or the gardener from the South - they all insist on their "home" currency. With their help, towers are constructed and gardens planned, pavillons and arcades constructed, serails and splendid apartments are created. Enter the contest for the construction of the Alhambra!"


The players take the role of builders competing for the greatest and most beautiful Palace of Alhambra. Each player has to collect different currencies in order to purchase all kinds of buildings from all over Europe and the Arabian countries, such as gardens, towers, serails, pavillons, etc. The price of each building is set in the currency of the producing country. If a player cannot pay the exact amount, his turn is over. If he is able to pay the exact price, he is allowed to continue as long as he can pay the exact sum. Remember, there is no change returned for the purchase of buildings.

Before each turn, money cards and building cards are placed openly on the table. Each type of cards is supplemented to a maximum of four cards, depending on the previous player's turn. I.e.: If the previous player has taken two money cards, two cards are placed on the table so that again four cards are displayed.

In his turn, the active player has one of the three following options: to acquire money, buy a building or modify the existing palace (add buildings from the player's supply or replace existing ones). If he chooses to purchase a building card and can pay the exact sum in the appropriate currency (it doesn't matter if this is done with one or more money cards), the player immediately gains one additional turn. Otherwise this one purchase ends his turn. Hence, a player can have a maximum of 5 turns in a sequence: One can pay four times the exact price and then either take a money card or reconstruct his palace.

After his turn(s) the player has to place the purchased buildings in his palace or in his supply. Placing a building card is effected according to the following rules, as each building card may have up to 3 sides displaying a palace wall:

  • Two adjacent building cards must have the same border, either a palace wall or no wall.
  • All building cards of the palace must not be completely cut off from the palace center by this wall. It must be possible to "reach each building afoot".
  • There ought to be no "holes" inside the palace, the buildings have to be placed accordingly.
  • All cards have to be placed either next to or above each other.
  • The text on all building cards must be readable, i.e. all buildings must show the same printed orientation (otherwise some building cards would be upside down).
  • If a building does not fit into the palace, it has to remain in the supply pile. There are no limits for the supply pile. A player can always directly choose to put a new building card into his supply.

At the startup, two evaluation cards are mixed into the stack of money cards. The first evaluation card is located in the upper third and the second one in the lower third of the stack. The final evaluation takes place after all money cards have been taken or after the buildings cards have run out. At each evaluation, the majority of a building type scores. The later the evaluation takes place, the more points a player gets. At the second evaluation round, also the second place scores and at the third and final evaluation phase also the third place gets a few points. Please note, the buildings in the supply do not count for the evaluation. As a special bonus, each player gets points for the longest continuously built palace wall. The player with the most points and hence the most beautiful palace wins!


Alhambra is a very nice game for game adictives as well as for families. It offers more short term tactics than strategic elements but what you also need is a portion of luck. One can try the complicate path to memorize the money cards the other players hold on their hands and estimate their interest to buy the one or the other building for their palace, or one can simply see what he can do during his turn. Every player has to balance the possibilities of purchasing buildings and/or acquiring money against the plans and desires of the other players. At the end of the game it could become very hard to defend the majority of a building type against the smart tricks of an opponent. The more players being involved in the game, the more unpredictable the course of the game becomes. It is quite hard to memorize what buildings and money cards may remain on the table before it is a player's turn again. Hence it is hard to achieve the majority of a building type because the decisive bit is the last building card. The victory will be often decided on the very last moves.

Apart from the playing mechanism, the design of this game is quite different from what QUEEN GAMES has produced before (with respect to Dirk Henn). There is no large board or dozens of wood pieces. Instead beautifully designed quadratic building cards make up the "game board", combined with one nice board for counting one's victory points and the "market place" for placing the building cards during the purchase. Also the box is quite small and handy. Thus it should easily fit in your gaming shelf. This year all new QUEEN GAMES editions experience this redesign of the boxes. Most collectors who suffer from little storage space will welcome this (I know what I am talking about...)

Alhambra addresses a broad majority of gamers, families, planners, collectors.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany