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My Top 20 Countdown - #14

Max Jamelli
United States
Chambersburg
Pennsylvania
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#14 - El Capitán




El Capitán first hit my radar here on BGG when I did a search for games with "economic" categories. I looked through pictures and read a little here and there and decided this would be good for the wishlist. As I was doing some vendor shopping at 2008 WBC, I saw it again. I looked at the back of the box and read over it and honestly, even if I hadn't seen it on BGG I probably would have bought it. I forget what the price was, but it was very reasonable so that was a bonus. When I opened it up, I was very happy with the quality of the cards and components. Wow, was I blown away by the artwork too. This game made the name Mike Doyle (I) stand out for me. Awesome stuff.

El Capitán is a re-make of Tycoon. The El Capitán BGG page says it's based on it, with many improvements. Here are some of the bigger ones.

1 - In Tycoon you were allowed to take a load with your first action. In El Capitán, you are not.
2 - Cities are grouped in different ways in El Capitán.
3 - New fort rules (don't know what the fort rules were in Tycoon)
4 - Start money 20 as opposed to 15 (see, no need for a first action loan)
5 - (what I really like) New start player after a payday (a special start player figure is added)


The only experience I have with Tycoon is an AI solitaire sim, so seeing a viable comparison isn't possible for me. I do think that these are improvements though, based solely on my experience with El Capitán. The improvement I like the most is #5 - having the start player change. The way El Capitán does it, is by having the player with the least money pick who will start. Why is this important? Well, going first in this game isn't always good. In a four player game, where players 1, 2, 3, and 4 are playing in order -- if player 3 finishes his builds for the round, player 4 gets to go and that's it. Players 1 and 2 are out of luck. Now, if player 1 had the lowest amount of money and selected player 2 as the starting player (order 2, 3, 4, 1) and player 3 finished his build, then players 4 and 1 would get to do one more action before scoring. It's a great mechanic that gives the lowest ranked player some power over getting back into the game.

Maybe the best part of El Capitán is the rulebook. While there are plenty of rules to go through, I was able to read them and really understand them. As I've said before, I needed my brother in law to read and explain Carcassonne to me. Rules are not my friend. I usually relied on Tom Vasel and Scott Nicholson to help me learn games. Because of that, I decided that since I understood El Capitán, I would make my own video -- and the name Kitchen Table Games was born. It was my early intention to review all of the games I knew well enough. That never really happened. (if you watch the video, I'm sorry about the music and please forgive my intentional butchering of the city Napoli)

El Capitán is another game that doesn't get to the table as often as I'd like. Matter of fact, it's only been played 6 times. One reason for that is I'm weary of the 2 Player variant and it's rare that I get 3 players around. I was able to bring it to a gameday and show it to some friends, but I'm holding out hope that I either start a board game club at a Middle School and can introduce it to some students, or I guess I'll have to wait 10 years or so until Derek can play with Mommy and Daddy. Jen has played this game, but I never had her rate it so I don't know where it falls on our combined rating Geeklist.

The one universal complaint I see about this game is the font. I can't argue that one. The cards and the board are very pretty, but I'm a fan of function and that script font doesn't work for me. I get by using the "cheat sheet" dots on the bottom of the cards. An easier to read script font could have and should have been used.

Final Thoughts
I'm a big fan of economic games, so El Capitán already had that going for it. I like games with card play and I enjoy end game bonuses -- El Capitán has both. I think of all my games in the top 20, El Capitán has the worst "time owned/times played" ratio. As it is, El Capitán is still a worthy game for my top 20.

Rated 8.5 / 10
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