I would never have guessed that a card game about doors and door knockers would have so many layers to it. Somehow designers Joshua J. Mills and Nat Levan have created a puzzley and some what deceptive card game based on this theme. Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena is a tableau building game that has some very nice surprises.
Gameplay in Aldabas is simple but the strategy is deep. Each player is given a vault along with five cards to start the game. During the players turn, they must take 2 actions, either different or the same action twice. Players can take two coins from the supply, buy one door card or place one door card in their tableau.
Each card in Aldabas has a door in a primary color (blue, red, yellow) along with a door knocker and iconography. These door knockers are tied to the five suits in the game and this will determine how they score at the end of the game. While it may seem advantageous to try and get every faction, this is ultimately a losing strategy.
Each of the five suits score differently and reward only the first and second place players who collect the most points in that faction. For instance, the Soldier suit (lion door knockers) will give you points for each Noble suit found in your tableau. The person with the most points in the Soldier suit receives 3 points per Noble and the second place will receive 1 point per Noble card. Ultimately the Soldier suit isn’t scoring you points but it’s allowing you to score points for the Noble suit.
Every card put into your tableau needs to be deliberate since you’re shooting for first or second place in each of the suits you collect.
Which Door Do You Choose?
Aldabas has a wonderful puzzle feel to the gameplay. Your tableau has restrictions on how doors can be built and this will have a big affect on what you purchase during the game from the Dock. There will always be five doors available at the Dock ranging from free to the cost of three coins. Your restricted from placing doors of the same color adjacent. This can restrict you from placing that perfect card on the table due to a previous card you’ve played.
When placing a door card, you get to take the action on the card along with the actions of the one or two adjacent doors. This is a great way to double or triple a single cards action over a couple turns. These card actions are tied to suits. Ideally, you want to find a combination of suits that will give you the actions you need throughout the game.
Let Me Show You To My Vault
My favorite part of Aldabas has to be the use of the vault. At the start of the game, players can place one of the five cards they begin with into their vault. This is a great way to surprise your opponents with additional scoring that wasn’t present in your tableau. In the clergy suit, players get the opportunity to add cards to the vault throughout the game. In the soldier suit, you can add coins to your vault which will give you 2 additional points per coin at the end of the game.
The vault is this secret space that allows you to take your opponents by surprise when it’s used well. This is the part of Aldabas that keeps players watching every action their opponent takes. Players who disengage during another players turn will lose track of the mysteries hidden away in the vaults of their opponents.
Since each suit only scores for the first and second place finishers, the game feels significantly different when playing 2-players vs 4-players. In our 2-player matches, things felt tighter and more head-to-head. In a 4-player match, players are looking for the best avenue to take the lead in a suit instead of trying to collect a little bit of everything.
Josh Cappel and Juan David Vargas did an excellent job with the art in this game. The box art looks incredible and each of the door knockers have a unique feel that really fits their theme.
The depth presented in Aldabas was a pleasant surprise as I tried new strategies to out score the other players. If this card game seems like one that you would enjoy, head over to the Kickstarter page today.
Visit the Kickstarter campaign for Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena through May 18, 2021.
A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family.