What to do when you're faced with the unappetizing prospect of spending the evening doing nothing more exciting than pack for an upcoming move? Why, play games of course! David had arranged for a small get-together at his digs, so off I (Patrick) went to join David, Ann, and friend Torre (oh dear, I'll have to check the speling on that asap) in a game of El Grande.
Short aside for those who haven't played the game: El Grande is an influence-type game where the players are trying to ensure that they have the optimum placement of caballeros (i.e. little colored cubes) in the various game regions. Scoring occurs three times (once after every three rounds), with first, second, and third place scoring points depending on the value of the region. Special actions are bid on (this bidding also determines turn order during each round) which permit the players to do such dastardly things as score additional regions, manipulate caballeros on the board, etc.
Torre and Ann jumped out to a huge lead very early on (via special scoring), leaving Patrick and David to scramble mightily while attempting to make up the deficit. The attempt fell somewhat short, leaving a healthy gap between the two front-runners and the rearguards at the end of the first scoring round. The next three rounds saw plenty of jockeying for position, complete with politicking (which usually consisted of emphatic denials of strong position from those about to be picked on - strange how EVERYONE seemed to feel they were doing poorly!) resulting in a tiny six-point spread from first to last after the second scoring round.
As the game neared completion, tensions steadily rose. One particular action would have major consequences on the final result: When Patrick chose to carry out an action that had all others players select a region from which to remove their caballeros, David selected a region where his lone caballero was in third place, good for one point when the region is scored, instead of one of no consequence. That lost point turned out to be quite important! Going into the homestretch, it was impossible to tell if there was a clear leader. David's attempt to move the king in the final round was vetoed by Ann, which helped Patrick somewhat (thanks Ann!). The scores were carefully tallied, and the winner is...
Ann : 95
Wow! Far and away the closest and hardest-fought game of El Grande that I can remember. An absolutely miniscule four-point spread across the entire field, with a tie for first. Remember that one point David accidentally gave up? Oops. Truly a classic game.
One final point: During all three scoring rounds, there was a tie in the castille scoring, which let David score five to everyone elses zero twice (the other tie was a three-way for first which cut everyone out)! Add another free five from a special castille scoring action, and you can tell that the castille was VERY kind to David. Good stuff.
Until next time!