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Subject: Granada: A detailed review rss

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John Sizemore
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Richmond
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This is NOT a Chihuahua. It is a Sphynx cat. A bald, grouchy Sphynx cat who will bite you if you mistake him for a Chihuahua.
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Introduction

Granada, as the box will tell you, is based on Alhambra, another (apparently very similar) game by the same designer and company. I haven't ever played Alhambra, so I won't be comparing the two games here.

Players take turns buying building tiles and adding them to the map of their medieval city. Unlike Carcassonne, each player has a map of his own that is not connected to those of the other players. Points are awarded for having the largest number of buildings of each specific type, and for having a continuous moat around the buildings.

The Bits

The board is decent, though probably a bit larger than necessary for what it does. It shows a scoring track and spaces for the money supply, the four money cards currently available, and four spaces, each marked with a different currency type, for building tiles up for sale. Each player has a spot for storing buildings that they have bought but not yet added to their map. There is also a space for marking which side (even or odd) the next building tiles will display when they are put up for sale.

Players don't construct their city maps on the board, but directly on the table top between their seats and the board. The tile layouts can get large and convoluted, so a fairly spacious table is necessary.



Money is represented by cards, in denominations of 1 through 9. To make things more interesting, there are four different currencies, each with its own color (yellow, green, orange and blue) and symbol, so there are 36 unique money cards in the game. For a two player game, two copies of each (for a total of 72) are used; more players use all three copies of each card.

There are nine different types of building (hospital, library, school, etc.). Each building tile has two sides with different building types on each side. One side has an even price, the other side costs one more and is therefore odd. For each building type, there are 12 tile-sides of that type, each with a different price (2-13), for a grand total of 108 tile-sides on 54 tiles.

The land/moat configuration for each tile is the same on both sides. The most expensive tiles have land borders all around. The cheapest are peninsulas, with moat on three sides and land on one. The prices of the tiles are only relevant when they are bought; the more expensive tiles (though usually easier to integrate) aren't worth any more victory points than the cheap ones.

The Play

Players start with a valueless start tile and some random money. Each player takes a turn doing one of three actions: taking money, buying a building, or rearranging their map.

To take money, a player simply selects one of the four cards that are available on the board. If there are small denominations available, the player can take more than one card, so long as the total value does not exceed five. Since players never get change back on their purchases, and because paying in exact change nets a free extra action, small denominations are quite valuable. Money is refreshed from a common stack, so sometimes the currency type everyone wants just isn't available.

To buy a tile, the player pays at least the price of the tile being purchased in the currency corresponding to the space the tile is being offered from. If a player manages to pay the exact price, he may take another action. Hand management is key to winning, as these second actions are often useful for replacing the money you've just spent.
After buying a tile, the player may pay an additional 3 (or more) of any currency to flip the tile over to its alternate building type. At the end of the turn, the tile may be added to the player's map or personal supply, and cannot ever be flipped thereafter. Purchased tiles are replaced randomly from the bag, with the side place up (even or odd) changing with each round of replacements.

A player electing to rearrange his city may add one tile to his map from his personal supply, remove a tile from his map and put it in his personal supply, or replace a single tile on the map with one from his supply.

Tiles cannot be turned or flipped when they're added. They have to be joined to tiles already on the map, and the sides have to match up. There can't be any islands or holes.

Scoring

There are three scoring rounds, A, B, and C. The first two are triggered by cards hidden in the money stack, while the third takes place when the tiles run out and the game ends.
Players get one point for each tile edge in their longest stretch of water edges (the "moat"), plus varying amounts for having the most tiles of any particular type. Each building type is accounted for, one at a time, and the total number of tiles of that type in each map is counted up.

In round A, the player with the most tiles in his map of that type gets one point for each tile of that type in anyone's map. So, if Alice has built five hospitals, Bob three, and Charlie one, Alice gets nine points for the hospital building type, while the others get nothing. In round B, the leader gets two points for each tile, and the second-place player gets one. So, in the example above, Alice would get 18 points and Bob would get nine. In round C, the leader gets three per tile, second place gets two, and third place gets one. These points for third place are a huge factor, since one tile can net a big bunch of points if two other players have been fighting for first place in that type.

Two-Player Variant

Granada for two players adds a neutral dummy player to the game. Unlike similar variants in other games (like Settlers of Catan, for example), the neutral player is very simple and easy to integrate--he just adds a few tiles to his map at the beginning and after each scoring round. He adds some competition and variation to the game, speeding it up without being a hassle. You can use him to counter your opponent by buying tiles for him, or you can just try to take advantage of the tiles he has.

Critique

Granada is a classic Euro-game, with novel mechanics, draw-based randomness, and good interaction. Setup is quick, and even newbies can finish a game in an hour. The random elements of the game can be frustrating at times, when you can't get the currency you need, or when there is only one interesting building up for sale. It's rare to get completely stymied by awful luck, though. Superior planning and making the most of the opportunities available will usually lead to victory even with bad draws.

The moat feature gives a nice balance of risk and reward. Moats can be worth a ton of points. The best way to get a lot of moat points is to work toward a single, all-encompassing island. Trouble is, tiles can't be added to islands. If you join up the moats on two sides of your map, then there will be a considerable number of tiles that you will not be able to use without rearranging your map. It's handy that you're able to keep tiles in reserve, but actually integrating those tiles to get points will cost you actions that might be better spent otherwise.

The scoring system makes for some interesting strategies. Ideally, you'll want to stay one step ahead in the building types that you expect to win. You can't dominate everything, but being very diverse is a recipe for failure, too. Getting way ahead in one building type really doesn't gain you much, while trying to sneak in a second or third place in another type probably will.

All in all, Granada is an excellent mix of tile-laying and hand management, complex and variable enough to be replayable by frequent gamers, and yet simple enough to teach to non-gamers in twenty minutes or so. It isn't the most exciting game I have ever played, and so I can't give it my absolute highest rating. But if you're looking for a game that practically anyone can pick up and enjoy, you could do a lot worse.

Pros

* Nice bits, not too fiddly
* Easy to learn
* Short play time
* Interesting scoring rewards good strategy and planning
* Very good two-player variant included

Cons

* Scoring can lead to analysis paralysis
* Requires a big table

Rating: 9/10

This is my first review for BGG -- I hope you find it helpful!
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Steven Metzger
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Knoxville
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Thank you for the great review! I've been looking for more information on this game for quite some time.

I have not gotten a chance to play Granada, but it appears that the biggest differences between this and Alhambra are:

1) Where Alhambra gives out set point values for first, second, and third in a building type, Granada gives out the same point value for each type of building - the variance comes when you consider how MANY of each type of tile there are in the game. There are also nine building types, changing the average number of buildings per type from nine to six. Alhambra veterans will know that this is a BIG change and often a player will need to try to "win" more building sets than they are used to in order to compete.

2) The flippable tiles add some depth to your decisions - while a building will appear six times on average, these frequencies could vary drastically. It appears that every building has a complete 2-13 range, and with only so many possible wall/coastline combinations (13 of them), it appears that the building types are abstractly-related commodities, and none are valued differently at any stage. Of course, this could be false - the average range on Alhambra tiles is fairly limited, and having nine costs of 2 and nine of 13 could make things a lot more difficult and change the game quite a bit (especially with the $3 flip option).

3) As I said above, the buildings sound like they have abstract relationships with each other...if I'm wrong, someone correct me, but if I am correct, you no longer have the distinct ability to classify certain buildings as "early game" or "late game" performers (although I might be a little delusional since the endgame is clearly the most critical stage).

Aside from that, it's sounds like pretty much straight-up Alhambra, which I love and (unfortunately for me and everyone on Boite a Jeux) I can't get enough of.
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Joel Weeks
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Roswell
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Good review. I really like the game. I would say that it is probably best bought by people who really enjoy the Alhambra set of mechanics and are looking for another way to play the game.
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Matthew Cordeiro
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Great review. This sounds like it's about 80%-90% the same as Alhambra, though.
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Paul Gudnason
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I bought this game knowing that Alhambra is a great game. Having never owned the original, I thought this might be the same satisfaction, but offer variety.

I have now played the game 6 times and I liked it even more the sixth time.

Tile flipping is a new mechanic for me, and I am enjoying the effect on the game. The constructed cities we have created never look the same from one play to the next. Strategy does seem to revolve around paying the exact price as much as possible. A study of number theory seems appropriate. For instance, knowing that 2 odds make an even can influence your money taking decisions.

I do want to try the game with the maximum six players, I imagine that it would help the market and money colours change rapidly.

I'm a definite fan of the game and agree that there is no need to own Granada and Alhambra. They are not that unique from each other.

I cannot say that the two player game is as good as a three or four player game. Truly, the game is mislabeled as a two player, since the real experience of play starts with three players. I would only bother with a two player to teach the rules to a new player.

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