Well it may have been 4 or 5 years late but we eventually got El Grande to the table. Its been sat on Tels gaming shelf for 15 months in its shrink wrap. I guess part of the reason that its taken so long is that we have played a couple of games of El Caballero and most of the group weren't keen. I'm not going to explain how to play the game as if you haven't already played the game then go out and get it, it is one of the classics. It should be in every gaming groups collection (and you shouldn't wait 15 months to play it).
Since none of us had played the game before, and we only had a 2.5 hour session we decided to start with the short game, ie skipping rounds 1,4 and 7. Paul was immediately suspicious of the game as being an ardent Sunderland FC fan was dismayed to find that he had to call "Newcastle" his homeland. Nobody had any idea what they were trying to achieve so we got what I expect are unusual opening gambits. Steve was the start player, but wanted to ensure he didn't have to make the first move of the game so opened the bidding with his 1. Andy won the first auction and decided to take the king, but then decided not to move him but leave him stuck in the corner, allowing him to place enough cubes to wrestle control of "Newcastle" from Paul. Tel then took the "score 4s" card. Since he was the only one on a four province, and it bering his homeland, he immediately opened up a 6 point lead. Paul used his action to Andys detriment (theres nothing like a bit of tit for tat) and was the first to remember that he could place pieces into the castillo. Into the second round and Steve now decided that bidding low meant that he had to bid first next round and he didn't like that idea so bid his 13. Tel also went high with 12 leaving the other three to all bid very low. Steve moved the king and then piled all 5 of his pieces into an adjacent region. Tel then took the move king into an adjacent region. Allowing him to move the king into a 5 region that Tel was already populating. Andy actioned the card that forced everyone else to discard all their caballeros in court ensuring that caballeros were now in short supply. Oggie then took and actioned the score 5 regions action card, Oggie managed to claim majority in one such region first, but Tel managed to extend his lead due to the kings region. Since we were playing the short game this was now the first scoring round and Tel was able to extend his lead. Of course being a runaway leader isn't always the best position to be in as all the others do there upmost to drag the leader back into the pack. For Andy this meant that he now faced so difficult decisions as he was desperately trying to ensure neither Tel nor Paul benefitted from any of his moves. Paul had obviously twigged some of the scoring as he started to pull away from the pack and slowly close in on Tel. Tel had the last move before the second scoring round, so managed to claim a majority in a heavily contested area, to hold onto a reasonable lead going into the last third of the game. Andys feud with Paul still hadn't abated with Andy trying to bend the rules to move Pauls homeland instead of his own with one of the cards, when that failed he waged war on "Newcastle". This forced Paul to use his occupants of the Castillo to reclaim his homeland instead of making an assault on one of Tels strongholds. And it was this that cost him the game, with Tel just hanging on to the win. Paul claimed a comfortable 2nd with Oggie and Steve tying for 3rd and Andy bringing up the rear.
I suspect we wont have to wait too long for this to hit the table again. A thoroughly enjoyable game which took 1.5 hours to play (the short game). There was a delay at the start of each round as we had to translate the action cards as they were overturned. Apparently the English cards are available, and this will be a very useful purchase and should speed up the game enough to ensure that we'll get the full game played in future.
Tel 77, Paul 72, Oggie 59, Steve 59, Andy 46
Ratings / 10
Tel 8, Paul 8, Oggie 7, Steve 8, Andy 8