After Ticket to Ride, we took our second shot at El Grande.
Hoo boy. I am not grasping this game's strategy yet. But I am enjoying it. Everyone else seemed to, as well. Ron commented frequently on how much he enjoyed the game. And Ben plainly enjoyed it also, mostly because he was kicking our butts.
I had put some thought in between plays into how I could play El Grande better this time. And I executed my strategy, best I could, but clearly it wasn't a good one, because I struggled the whole time. I did a good job recruiting followers from my provinces and getting them onto the board, as I intended, but I did not do a good job of setting myself up for the scoring rounds.
Ben took a lead early, which he really never relinquished. He scored early, prior to the first general scoring round, and also outscored us in the round itself.
In each scoring round, Ben had the most men in the Castillo. Clearly I have much to learn about the value of the Castillo. I shied away from it, worried about putting all of my eggs in one basket. But I also lost some flexibility, as well as the weapon of being able to take away someone else's hard-earned region when the right moment came.
Ron hung in there close behind Ben for a while. Ed and were further behind, when Ed made a key error in the second scoring round, and tried to send men from the Castillo into the king's region, Old Castile. This move had to be disallowed, and Ed was cut out of the action.
Ed and Ron also collided in various ways. Ed played a veto on a key action by Ron. Ron also grabbed a scoring card that Ed wanted, but then declined to play the action when he realized he'd misread the scoring bar in a particular region. These little collisions worked to Ben's benefit.
Ben was fortunate to be bidding first in a key round late, winning a card that sent everyone's men from their courts back to their provinces. Fortunately, it didn't hurt me, as my court was empty at the time.
I need to get back and reassess my take on this game. I suspect I've really valued some actions incorrectly.