El Grande Board Game

by Gary Sonnenberg

(Waukesha, WI)

El Grande Board Game

El Grande Board Game

Click to buy El Grande Board Game from Amazon!Click to buy this item from Amazon!El Grande Board Game
Board game manufacturer:
Rio Grande Games
Number of players:
90 mins

Quick verdict

Are you a control freak? If so, you’ll love El Grande. If not, you’ll love El Grande. Use your best strategies to control as much of Spain as possible for as long as possible.

The game and gameplay

In the fun board game El Grande, you play one of five colors of cubes – red, blue, yellow, green, or brown. The smaller cubes are technically known as Caballeros, but since that’s too long to say all the time, we simply refer to them as “dudes”. You also have one larger cube which is called your Grande.

The overarching goal of El Grande is to place your dudes so they have majority control in as many of the nine regions of Spain as possible. You especially want control after rounds 3, 6, and 9 when each of the regions is scored.

Most of your dudes start the game in the provinces; that is, the general supply (in our case, a Plano box). You play a power card to bid on turn order and to move some of those dudes from the provinces to your court; that is, your personal supply.

From your court, you’ll promote from one to five of them to the board based on which action card you select. The action cards optionally throw all kinds of twists into dude placement and scoring.

The one rule that is never broken in El Grande is that the King, a tall black figure, has total control over the region in which he currently resides. Nothing can go in or out of his region. Therefore, controlling which region the King is in is a very significant part of game play.

This makes gaining control of the one action card that controls king movement, and which also allows you to promote five dudes to the board, very important. Playing a high power card (numbered 1 through 13) from time to time is a very strategic move.

The catch is that higher power cards allow very few, if any, dudes to be moved from the provinces to your court. Another catch is that you can only play each power card once during the whole game.

El Grande is a game where you need to pick on the leader. Obviously you don’t want that player get too far ahead. However, it is possible to catch up even when there’s a big gap on the scoring track, which is located around the edge of the board. What helps is that the other trailing players will usually help each other gang up on the leader resulting in some very close final scores.

You play each of the nine rounds similarly. Decide on which power card to play. Take an action card and either perform its action (offense) or refrain from performing its action (defense). Place your dudes in the regions on the board or in the tall tower called the Castillo. Score any points the action cards allow.

After the ninth round, the player with the most points is the winner.

Pros and cons

The game board has a fine linen finish and a gorgeous map of Spain (also Portugal and France, which are only used with the expansions).

The Decennial edition comes with both expansions, but they aren’t often played as there is so much going on in the basic game.

If you don’t like pick-on-the-leader games, this might not be for you.

El Grande plays best with 5 players. Four is acceptable. The more, the better the competition.

The verdict

El Grande board game is considered the ultimate area control game. It still ranks highly among gamers and with good reason. The combination of mechanics makes for an engaging game every time you play. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s so much better with 4 or 5 players, El Grande would hit the table at least once per week if not more often.

If you’ve played El Grande, please leave a rating and comments using the link below.

Click to buy El Grande Board Game from Amazon!
Click to buy this item from Amazon!

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