El Grande: J.C., Larry, Chris, Roy and Allan
This was my second game of El Grande. J.C., Chris, and Roy had never played before, so Larry taught the rules in record time. J.C. seemed to take to the game right from the start and began moving the King for maximum screwage by placing it in the corner provinces. His placement of the King in Catalonia caused quite a bit of chaos with my forces located in Aragon.
Despite J.C.’s efforts to corner the King, on reflection most of the action between the leaders (J.C. and Larry) took place in the center. By the end of the 6th turn Larry and J.C. were vying for dominance in Old and New Castille.
Having only played this game for a second time I can only make some general comments on play.
* Larry clearly demonstrated and made great use of the Castle. I was taken by surprise a few times at how one moment Larry didn’t have much of a presence on the map and then after scoring the Castle he became dominant. I believe Larry’s skillful use of this device placed him securely in the lead and eventually sealed his control in Old and New Castille.
* J.C. played a more safe and analytical game and diversified in his placement of forces. He and Roy lead in having the most diverse holdings - 5 provinces by the end of turn 6. J.C. ended up with more pieces in these areas than Roy, only because Roy began his diversification strategy later in the game. Chalk that up to being a newbie at it. I feel that if J.C. caught on to the advantageous use of the Castle earlier he would have taken the lead.
* Roy’s strategy started to heat up by turn 4 and he ended up making good use of his action cards. I think that his next game will be quite different than this one.
* Chris also made some neat decisions allowing him to catch up to the rest of the pack.
The game wasn’t played to its conclusion and ended at the end of scoring on turn 6. Larry and J.C. were clearly in the lead and had very little point separation between them. I think Larry would have eventually taken the game by turn 9, but I also think that we would have seen some very interesting action going on with the use of the Castle.
Roy, Chris, and myself would have had quite a struggle in taking 2nd and 3rd place. I had more pieces on the board and was a bit more spread out. At the end of turn 6, a clear strategy for Roy and Chris would be to chip away at my holdings. They had already discovered this advantage by Turn 4 and had proceeded to dismantle my holdings. Perhaps if they concentrated a bit more on Larry and J.C. their lead might not have been so great.
I had a great time playing this and look forward to many more plays. I know that folks are going to start pushing to play the expansions with it, but I’d still like to play a few more core games before moving on.