Review: Mandala Stones

In Mandala Stones you form towers of colorful stones. You must place these towers on your player board in the smartest way possible in order to win the game.

Publisher

Board & Dice

30
minutes

€40
cost

2-4
players

Game explanation

In Mandala Stones you form towers of colorful stones. You have to place these towers on your player board in a smart way. Points are scored by placing top stones of the same color on the mandala board. 

Before the game begins you set up the main board. You do this by placing a stack of 4 random stones on each spot indicated by a mandala. You draw these stones at random from the bag. Next you put an artist (black tower) on each of the 4 empty spots in the corner. Finally, you give each player 2 goal cards. After you have done this the game can begin. You always have 2 options in a turn, pick and score.

Pick

If you want to start collecting stones you can go for 'pick'. You may choose an artist and move it to an empty location. Then you must take all surrounding stones with the same symbol as the artist. You always take the topmost stone of the stack and you may not take stones that are adjacent to another artist. These stones are then stacked to form a tower. You can place this tower on a spot on your player board.

Score

On your player board there are 5 different fields on which you can place towers. Towers can only be placed on an empty field. All the fields score differently, the way of scoring is depicted next to the field. In the leftmost field, for example, you score 1 point for each different tower height you have. For the middle 3 fields you get points depending on how high the stone you take is. The 2nd field will only give you 1 point for a stone that is 4 high. In the rightmost field, you get 1 point for each different color that is present in that tower. If you decide to score, then you remove the top stone of 2 or more towers. These must be at least 2 stones of the same color. The removed stones are placed on the mandala board. Don't have stones of the same color at the top of your towers? Then you can also choose to place 2 or more random stones on the mandala board. However, you receive only 1 point per stone for this.

The points you score are tracked with a marker on the score track. The goal is to take into account the color and height of the stones and towers you place on the fields. If you do this in a smart way you can score a lot of points. 

The game is over when you reach the field with hands on the mandala board. So with 2 players, the game is over after you reach the field with 2 hands. At the end you may choose which of the 2 goal cards you use. When you complete a goal card you get the points for it. These are goals such as having at least 3 red stones on your player board at the end. You add these points to the number of points you already had on the score track. The player with the most points wins the game!

Our thoughts

Mandala Stones looks beautiful and appealing. The game definitely appealed to us as well since we are big fans of abstract puzzle games. Mandala Stones fits that bill perfectly. Mandala Stones is another perfect addition to the abstract puzzle games in our collection.

The rules of the game are clear and easy to pick up. It takes some work to set up all the towers, but you can play fairly quickly. Mandala Stones plays wonderfully. It is not an intense game where you really compete with each other. We find this kind of games great to play in between other games. We understand the comparison with Azul that many people make, but the gameplay feels slightly different. If you like Azul, you will undoubtedly be able to appreciate this game as well.

Mandala Stones is not very difficult and is therefore good to play with less experienced players. In addition, the game offers enough challenge for the experienced player by using extra goal cards. During each game you are working on a different goal. You also notice that the more you play, the better you get. To play Mandala Stones you need insight and you will see which choices you need to make to get a higher score. The game can certainly be learned! 

Mandala Stones looks beautiful on the table. All the stones together on the table form a cheerful scene. Actually, all game components are of high quality except the player boards. These are made of very thin plastic. Also, the score markers are quite light and therefore slide easily on the score track, this can cause problems if you accidentally touch it. We find this particularly annoying as we keep track of all our scores and like it to be accurate. 

All in all, Mandala Stones is a high quality game that plays wonderfully. We get very excited by the cheerful colors and the challenging puzzle. We will definitely be playing Mandala Stones often. It is one of our new favorites in the genre of abstract puzzle games! 

Playing with 2 players

Mandala is a very fun game with 2 players. The pace of the game is nice and high and you don't have to be bored for a single moment. When your opponent's turn comes around, you have just enough time to think about your own next move. With multiple players there is a little more time between your turns. Not much else changes to the game. We would definitely recommend Mandala Stones for 2 players. 

Pros and cons

+ Simple and fast
Colorful
+ High quality stones

Lower quality playing boards
- Score marker slides easily

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This game has been kindly gifted to us for review purposes by Board & Dice.