The board game Mandala Stones by Board & Dice is a nifty abstract strategy game that offers a multitude of interesting decisions. If you’re into abstract games, want to see beautiful patterns, or just enjoy playing games and would like something light and strategic, then Mandala Stones might be right up your alley.
Mandala Stones Game Overview
Mandala Stones is an abstract strategy board game for 2-4 players and takes about 30 minutes to play. It was designed by Filip Głowacz and is published by Board&Dice. You’ll move artists and pick stones to place on your personal player board, which can score points on future turns. Stones will be placed on the mandala board, and if a symbol with the number of hands corresponding to the number of players in the game is covered, the game end triggers, and the player with the most points is the winner.
A player takes one of two actions during their turn: either pick up stones or score points. To pick, move any artist to any of the other five empty artists’ spaces marked with a circle on the board, and take the top stone of adjacent stacks to that artist. The stones can only be taken if the pattern on the stones matches the design on the artist’s top, likely leaving some behind on the main board. If the spot is adjacent to another artist, it can not be placed there.
For scoring, you can 1) score the top stones or 2) the stones of any single color. When scoring the top stones, select any stones from the top of any number of towers on your player board and score one point for each. Place these stones in the center of the mandala board and go outwards. If you choose to score by color, score all of the towers on your player board with that matching color according to the rules of those stacks. Note that this action can only be done if at least two top stones share a common color. The scoring rules of the different towers are as follows:
- Score 1 point for each tower on your board of a different height.
- Score points based on a stone’s position and height (a tower consisting of 1/2/3/4 stones scores you 4/2/1/1 points).
- Score points based on a stone’s position and height (a tower consisting of 1/2/3/4 Stones scores you 1/3/4/1 points).
- Score points based on a stone’s position and height (a tower consisting of 1/2/3/4 stones scores you 1/2/4/6 points)
- Score a point for each different color on this stack of stones and add one to that value
As with the other scoring method, place these stones in the center of the mandala board and go outwards, scoring any bonus points as you cover them.
Thoughts on Gameplay
I’m not usually a big fan of abstract games, but I enjoy Mandala Stones. The rules are simple and easy to learn, but there’s a great depth of strategy.
In addition to managing your scoring strategy, you also need to manage your opponents and the timing of everything. In fact, I would say that timing is one of the most critical aspects of the game! You may find yourself taking stones that your opponent needed at a given time and vice versa; placing too many or too few stones can cost you bonus points; if you grab stones from the wrong space, you end up scoring less than you intended to with color scoring. Lastly, you may find the game ending at an undesirable time if you aren’t keeping an eye on your opponent’s moves.
Mandala Stones Artwork and Components
The Mandala Stones artwork is inspired by the ancient art form known as mandalas. These geometric patterns represent spiritual concepts such as unity, balance, harmony, wholeness, and peace. They are often drawn in concentric circles, spirals, or grids. As you can imagine, a game based on these mandalas is beautiful.
Regarding specific components, the colorful stone tiles and artists have an excellent feel to them and are the highlight of the production. Although, they can be hard to distinguish between at times, making the gameplay challenging at times.
On the other hand, the scoring board, player boards, and objective cards are lackluster in design. The font choices seem a little odd to me and are a muted grey compared to the stone tiles’ vibrant colors.
Despite these criticisms, I’d still define the game as visually appealing overall. I just think there could have been some design touches that would have pushed it over-the-top in appeal.
Mandala Stones Filling the same Niche as Azul & Sagrada
I wholeheartedly expected Mandala Stones to take off like Azul and Sagrada did when they were first released. It fills the same niche: a lightweight but cutthroat, abstract strategy game with depth and beautiful components. But sadly, it didn’t. I have a few minor criticisms of the game, and overall think Azul and Sagrada are a bit better, but if you’re a fan of either of them, then you probably also want to own Mandala Stones.
Mandala Stones is A Little Fiddly
My number one complaint about Mandala Stones is how fiddly the stacks of stones can be. The setup is annoying, and you’ll find yourself knocking down towers over and over again. The main board also requires you to construct many such towers, and it’s a long monotonous process for the level of gameplay that you’ll experience. Still, once I have the game setup, I do find myself playing a few games in succession. I guess it can’t be that bad.
Overall, I really enjoy Mandala Stones. It’s a game not without faults, but it’s easy to teach, and the gameplay is rewarding enough that I’m certainly going to be keeping it on my shelf.
- Simple rules with a distinct "play-again" feeling. Fresh look and unique mechanisms
- Simultaneously approachable for casual gamers with depth to satisfy experienced gamers
- A game of tranquility and beauty! Arrange colorful stones to create a stunning work of art together with your friends
- Mandala Stones is played over a number of rounds. Each round, beginning with the starting player and continuing clockwise until around the table, every player will take one turn
- English (Publication Language)
Paul Shapiro is Founder and Editor of Board Game Squad. He enjoys all types of games and experiences, but has a particular penchant for medium to heavy eurogames.