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El Grande

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Doug Adams writes:

El Grande is a game where players each take on the role of a member of the upper aristocracy (a 'Grande') in 15th century Spain. The object of the game is to score the most victory points by strategically placing your aristocratic allies (Caballeros) on the game board.

The components are very nice, dominated by a large colour game board of medieval Spain. Spain is divided in to 9 areas, and the whole map is styled with an aged parchment look. Also included are 5 sets of coloured blocks representing each players playing pieces, 2 decks of cards, 5 region disks, a large wooden pawn (representing the King), and finally, a hollow wooden tower that stands 6 inches high on the board!

Given the historical setting, El Grande may sound like a detailed game of empire building, but it isn't. To win, you need to gather victory points, and you earn points by having the majority of Caballeros in each of the areas on the map.

Sound easy so far ? But wait, your Caballeros are divided into 2 pools. One in front of you is called your "Court", while the other (kept away from you) is called the "Provinces". To get Caballeros onto the game board (and earning points for you), you have to first move them from the Provinces to Court, and from there onto the board.

This is accomplished through play of cards, and here's where the fun begins. One deck of cards gets Caballeros from the Provinces to your Court, and also determines the order for the upcoming turn. The other card deck determines how many Caballeros get from your Court onto the map, and introduces many events that can swing the course of the game.

The card play is what makes El Grande such a wonderful game. Low cards get large numbers of Caballeros from the Provinces to Court, but you go later in the turn. High cards get little or no Caballeros to Court, but you get first pick of the event cards (did I mention that there's 5 new event cards revealed at the start of each turn, some good, some not so good ?).

At the end of every 3 turns, scoring for the most Caballeros in the regions takes place, and points are earned. Event cards can also produce bouts of scoring. The game ends after 9 turns and the winner is the player with the most points.

El Grande went into my top 10 favourite games when I first played it a few months ago. It only takes just over an hour to play, and is easy enough for family and friends. Serious game players will find much to like about El Grande as well.

Thoroughly recommended.

I have just received the expansion kit for El Grande from Hans Im Gluck titled "Konig & Intrigant". The contents are a new set of cards that replace the 2 decks in El Grande.

The basic rules of El Grande stay the same, but the way cards influence the game has changed substantially. Each player now holds an identical deck of 18 event cards, of which he secretly chooses 13 to play the game with. Events may now get played more than once per game, once by each player. Some new events have also been added, as well as 2 blank cards which Hans Im Gluck inform us are for a competition to invent new events for the game.

Konig & Intrigant is a must buy for El Grande fans.

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