Rainy Day Game's Board Game Review of El Grande:
El Grande in Summary
Political influence and intrigue in medieval Spain; it's a great theme for a game and Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling have turned it into one of the most popular games of the last few years: El Grande. You're a "Grande", or noble, from the provinces of the country trying to make it big in te court of the King. You do this by bringing in your followers from your home province. No one has enough follows to flood the map, so careful placement and movement of your resources are needed to tease points out of the game.
Ever since the El Grande board game was released in 1995, it has been one of the gold standards of the strategy game genre. It especially appeals to gamers who want something a step up from The Settlers of Catan. While we love Settlers dearly, it's obvious to anyone that pays it that it's not the most difficult board game you're ever gong to play.
El Grande takes all those great German-style game qualities that you love about Settlers and takes it to another level. Once you've played El Grande, you'll really appreciate the power of Eurogames. And it's nice to know that even though we play Settlers several times a month, there's still something we can play which will keep us on our toes and demand another level of play.
El Grande Gameplay
EL Grande is a game of shifting influences and territory control. This creates a game of subtlety which rewards the player who becomes a student of the game over many many playings. This is the stuff that strategy games should be made of, and El Grande is one of our most favourite of the genre.
The genius of El Grande is in the way players decide which actions they can take. Each turn 5 action cards are revealed, and players bid on the order in which they can select their cards. The genius lies in the fact that the more powerful the card, the fewer Cabelleros you are allowed to move onto the board from the provinces. This creates a critical tension between long term strategy and immediate tactical advantage. And remember this is a four player game, so with a 5 card deal, there's always an action which is not performed.
So each turn the five actions are revealed, players bid on their right to select their card first. They take this card and then they can perform the action listed on the card or they move the appropriate number of Cabelleros onto the board. They can move thier pieces before or after the action. ou can also choose not to perform the action at all. This creates some interesting strategic choices. Perhaps a card is revealed which will really damage your position, and you want to make sure that it doesn't come into play against you. Just bid high and ake it yourself. If you can turn it to your advantage, great! But it may be worthwhile to just burn a card out of the deck rather than let it affect you.
Players continue in this way, ringing peices onto the board with the intention of being the player with the most followers in a territory. For that player, there are points to be had.
Who should buy El Grande?
From this review, it should be obvious that the El Grande board game isn't for the first time gamer. For all of those of you out there who have dabbled with the family-level Eurogames, here's your chance to step up to the next level.
And we don't play El Grande all that often. To tell the truth, Settlers or some of the other board games on our site fit the mood more often. But this is such an excellent board game that on those occasions when you want a really strong strategy game, El Grande will be the only choice to make.
The Manufacturer's Board Game Review of El Grande:
It is a time of awakening. The position of the king is secure, but the high aristocrats, the Grandes, look to expand their influence. Thus, intrigue fills the country! Their primary weapons are the attendants to the king: the Caballeros. Each Grande has his favorites, recruited from the provinces, which he deploys to accumulate the power he so desires. Fencing, not with the sword, but with cunning and deceit, the Grandes struggle for power, sending the Caballeros openly into the regions and secretly to the Castillo.
With El Grande, the well-known authors Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich have created a game that challenges players to use their minds and their wits to win. Although this strategic game requires subtle strategies, it is easy to learn and comes with an introduction that ensures a fast entrance into the game. We believe you will find this a game that is both beautiful and practical, making the game a pleasure to play every time.
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