Go Huskies!...oh, well
For our third international game using VOIP, Jill and I once again took on Jim and Sonja in Edinburgh. To play El Grande in this way, we had to set up phantom areas for our overseas opponents’ provinces, courts, and bidding cards, and the stacks had to be managed on one end. We simply dug through our stacks and found the correct card pulled randomly on the other end.
Jim began in Valencia, Jill in Seville, Sonja in Granada, and I started in Aragon. In the first scoring era, there was an absolute glut of scoring cards, the “sonders”. Score any region (3 times!) and score ‘4’ regions (once) came out in the first 3 rounds. I focused early on populating my court, figuring that I could at least wreak some havoc with the Intrigant cards. However, the scoring cards led Jim and Sonja to drop consecutive ‘13’ and ‘12’ bidding cards to get at the scoring cards, leaving Jill and I with easy access to the King card. I moved the King in the first two rounds, despite bidding 6 and 4.
In the third round, the card that lets you move the king again came up, so there was no real point in being the highest bidder. You just had to hope that the king was moved right before your turn. Oh, and there was another scoring card available! I ended up being able to get the king into Aragon with my majority and Grande just prior to the scoring round, but Jim and Sonja had jumped out to around 14-16 point leads.
Because my lead in Aragon was tenuous, I was forced to deploy my Tower troops to Aragon. I had used my King card placements well, scattering my yellow dudes all over the map to pick up as many second place spots as possible. The first round ended with Jim in the lead, me 4 points behind, Sonja a few points behind me, and Jill just rounding the first corner. To be fair, she was quite distracted by our rather fussy 9 month-old, who was wondering why we weren’t paying more attention to her. It was mid-afternoon for us, so it was a valid point.
In Round 4, a score-the-castle card came up. Jim and Sonja once again fought over it, and both dumped many caballeros into the castle in this scoring era. Seeing this, I dropped in one and left it at that. Everyone else was having their turns at moving the king around in this era, and previously unavailable parts of the board began to see more competition. Sonja placed a mobile scoreboard into Catalonia (the “8” scoring board), and I promptly took it over. I was able to score it due to a Score ‘7’ and ‘8’ regions card in the next round, but Jill used the other move-a-scoreboard card in the following round, ending that for me. Also, in round 6, the second score-the-castle card came up(!), which helped Jim to extend his lead.
Jill managed to get the king into her new home region of Old Castille (thanks to a move-your-Grande card), and started to close the gap a bit in the next scoring phase. I had again done well in my second place quest, while also controlling my home region and New Castille. I actually ended up just ahead of Jim at the end of this scoring phase, with Sonja a ways behind, and Jill rounding the second corner.
In the third scoring era, things fell apart for me a bit. Jim had seeded his blue guys in nearly every region, and was relatively untouchable in the hard to reach corner areas. My influence had shrunk as everyone had taken bites out of most of my second place areas around the board. In the final round, Jill had decided to go for control of New Castille and Old Castille. I had the option of knocking Jim out of first place in Basque country or trying to secure my lead in New Castille. I opted for New Castille, because Jim had dumped eight caballeros into the tower during this era (yes, I’d been counting this time). That was enough for him to take first in New Castille.
I thought that I had one caballero in the tower when the time came for deployment, and I couldn’t see where it would possibly benefit me. So I chose Catalonia, to secure my second place there. As it turned out, I had three dudes in the tower, which would have helped me either maintain my lead in New Castille (which Jill took over upon deploying her tower troops there) or my HOME REGION where I had seven caballeros and no competition. This, of course, is where Jim sent his caballeros. I am an idiot.
Jim won with a score of over 120. I posted a respectable 105-ish. Sonja was in the low 90s and Jill just turned the third corner, having come on strong late.
This was the third straight Skype win for Jim, who played masterfully. I was reminded of why this is one of my top games. On the other hand, I can still hear Sonja’s cruel and uncontrollable laughter over the internet connection as the final deployments were revealed. Such a disastrous turn for my Grande. I had no chance of actually beating Jim, of course, but I could have given him a scare.
Next time, I resolve to go back to what’s worked before: Focus on the Northern and Southern regions, try to place in Valencia and the tower, and use the Intrigant more.
Bright, brilliant colors are to be seen everywhere, the stones and pigments undimmed by the passage of decades. The floor of the corridor is a colorful mosaic of stone, with a distinct, winding path of red tiles about 2' wide.
El Grande over Skype!! I love it.