Machiavelli was again pushed to the back burner as several who were expected to attend were unable to do so. Thinking we were going to have a table of 4 players (in addition to the six still embroiled in a Merchant of Venus game), I set up and covered the rules of Tikal with Jerry Maus, Willard Fann, Trevor Antczak and myself. I had just finished explaining the rules when William 'Bill' Sanders arrived! I had spoken with Bill a few weeks back and had forgotten he was going to be attending! No matter ... 5 was the perfect number for my favorite game - El Grande! Plus, it was great meeting Bill, a very friendly and personable fellow. I hope he becomes a regular.
I had read a review of this in Games magazine and it sounded interesting. I managed to scoop a copy from the Gathering prize table and was eager to give it a try.
Alas, the review was better than the game. It's not bad, just very, very random with a severe 'luck of the draw' problem. This one is good with families and as a filler, but not much more.
there are 5 colored sets of cards ranging in value from 1 - 12 each. These are mixed together and four dealt to each player. Each player 'plays' a particular color, but has cards in his hand throughout the game of various colors. Furhter, there are 18 number tiles resembling one side of a die. 12 of these are positive and 6 negative, and they range in value from 2 - 6. Four of these are turned face up and form the rows on which players alternate playing cards.
On a player's turn, he must play a card on one of the four rows. When the total number of cards played on a row equal the number showing on the tile, the row is filled and the player who has the highest total of numbered cards played on the row takes the tile for scoring purposes. Of course, this can be positive or negative in value, depending upon the tile.
There can be major 'hosage' in this game as players play cards of their opponents colors onto the negative tiles, while trying to play their own cards on positive tiles. The major problem, however, is the game is almost entirely dependent upon the luck of the draw. If one doesn't draw many cards of his own color, he is entirely at the mercy of his opponents (and they aren't likely to show much mercy). The luck factor on this one goes through the roof. There is a trading option wherein a player may offer to trade a card or two cards for others, but only colors, not values, may be mentioned. This option was tried, but often didn't generate any 'takers', resulting in the player losing his turn. It didn't really add much to the game. As such, it is one that will likely only resurface with my family and non-gaming friends.
Understandably, the reaction I received from the group who played (John Moore, Jerry Maus, Eric Alleman, Lenny Leo and I) wasn't too favorable. Sure, we moaned when one of our cards was played by an opponent on a negative tile, and cheered when someone played one of ours on a positive tile, but it wasn't much more thrilling than rolling dice. Several of us suffered from drawing too few of our own color and I quickly found myself collecting two -5 tiles, a hole from which I was never able to climb out of.
John Moore emerged victorious in a narrow victory over Lenny:
John 10, Lenny 9, Jerry 5, Eric 3, Greg -4
The ratings displayed the lack of interest in this game:
Lenny 6, Greg 5, Eric 4, John 4, Jerry 4