The Reconquista - A Historical Variant for El Grande
This variant seeks to portray Spanish history commencing in the mid-11th century and ending sometime during the course of the 16th century, creating a real story arc following the fate of Spanish history - and introduces the Moors as a non-player power. Do you have what it takes to beat the heathen Moors and emerge as the hegemon of the Iberian peninsula? Read on.
- Players draw one of the following province cards: Galicia, Basque Country, Aragon, Catalonia (with 5 players add Old Castille). Place your grandee and first two caballeros as usual.
- With less than four players, follow that up with the placement of the King drawing one of the cards left over from the above draw.
- With four or more players, the King is placed into France. Hence, only the Basque Country, Aragon and Catalonia are initially open for caballero placement. One the King is moved to a different province, he may no longer pay France a visit.
- Place two Moorish "caballeros" into all remaining provinces (i.e. New Castille, Seville, Grenada, Valencia, also Old Castille if playing with less than five players). I recommend using either the brown or green cubes for this purpose. In a five-player game, I'm afraid you'll have to get a sixth set of cubes for this purpose (or take some other sort of tokens representing these Moors).
DESIGN NOTE: The setup depicts the geopolitical situation in 11th century (in the five player game 12th century) Iberian peninsula, which initially was dominated by the Caliphate of Córdoba (which soon splintered in a multitude of Moorish successor states). Only along the Northern coast and Pyrenees did a number of Christian realms withstand the tide of Muslim conquest. As of the mid-11th century did those independent realms begin to turn the tables on their Muslim foe and reconquer the Iberian peninsula with crusading zeal, finally completing this momentous mission in 1492 with the successful siege of Grenada. This is what this variant seeks to portray. The players are cast in the roles of the sovereigns of those various Christian realms.
Depending upon where your "Grandee" (for this variant, perhaps more aptly called "capital") is placed, you'll represent one of the following realms:
Galicia = Kingdom of Leon
Basque Country = Kingdom of Navarra
Aragon = Kingdom of Aragon
Catalonia = County of Barcelona
Old Castille = Kingdom of Castille
This is of course only for flavour and has no bearing on gameplay.
Historically these realms not only fought the Moors, but were competing rivals. Ultimately, Castille managed to establish itself as the dominant power (much like England in the British Isles).
In this context of a fragmented Spain, it makes most sense to consider the King figure the military host of Crusaders.
- The "Great Military Host of Crusaders" (i.e. the King figure) may only be placed into a province already containing Christian (i.e. non-Moorish) caballeros. As under the standard rules, players may place caballeros into any of the adjacent provinces. This includes those exclusively containing "Moors".
- When placing the Military Host/King figure into a province, all Moorish caballeros present there are immediately removed from the game (Christians win a decisive battle, so to speak). Further, the player who moved the Military Most/King may remove up to one Moorish caballero in each of the adjacent provinces.
- Non-standard caballero placement (e.g. using the intrigue card or castillo placement as opposed to placement adjacent to the Military Host/King's region) may only occur in provinces either already containing Christian caballeros or being entirely free of Moorish caballeros.
- The VP score for the Moors is also tracked throughout the game. In the unlikely event that the Moors are in front at the end of the game, all players have failed their sacred mission to reclaim the entire Iberian peninsula for Christendom and collectively lose the game!
PLAY NOTE: Thus, all those provinces containing "Moors" are initially off-limits. Only once the "Great Military Host of Crusaders" is present in an adjacent province, are players allowed to place their own caballeros into that province. In other words, the "gamable board" gradually expands - with the "Commander in Chief" of the "Military Host" (the King figure) largely setting the pace of the "Reconquista" - depending upon where he places the "Military Host" and how many and which of the adjacent Moorish caballeros he removes. The "heathen territories" ought to present an attractive area to expand into, particularly for he who assumes the role of "Commander in Chief" as he can probably capitalize the most on those military victories since he able to place up to five caballeros while the others will have to make do with less.
I assume that it'll only take a couple of rounds for all provinces to have been made accessible (i.e. conquered in this manner), first perhaps still containing one or two Moors next to Christian caballeros, but it being only a matter of time until the last Moor in Spain has breathed his last sigh (to paraphrase the title of one of Salman Rushdie's novels).
INQUISITIONER & COLONIES:
Should you be playing with this expansion, I suggest the following:
- The Inquisitioner and his black caballeros function much in the same way as usual. However, much as for all other caballeros, provinces exclusively containing Moors and not being adjacent to the "Great Host" are off bounds.
- When you place a black caballero (dominicans? jesuits? can't remember what they're called) into a province containing one or more Moorish caballeros, you may remove one of those (historical rationale: the Holy Inquisition doing its work).
- Once there are Christian caballeros in Valencia, the Ship and Mediterranean region becomes accessible (historical rationale: the Kingdom of Aragon conquered Sardinia, Sicily, Naples etc after having annexed Valencia).
- Once the Moors are in none of the provinces the leading power, the Americas become accessible (historical rationale: It is no coincidence that Castille commissioned Columbus to sail to the Indies in 1492, the same year Grenada - the last Muslim bastion in Spain - fell. The Americas simply were the new frontier for Spanish conquest and missionary work).
- France is always in play.
- You may want to make the players' "collective mission" reconquer Spain tougher by placing three, four or even five Moorish caballeros into each of the initially Moorish provinces and thus slow down the reconquista and possibly make the Moors a real contender for victory. This would arguably give the Moors a headstart in VPs, hopefully encouraging the players to awaken their crusading spirits and drive the evil Moors out of Spain (who said this was a politically correct variant?!?! ).
- Note that greater toughness of the reconquista should also delay the Americas becoming accessible - if playing with the I&C expansion.
- Further, you could possibly allow the "Commander in Chief" to remove a specific number of Moors from adjacent provinces, rather than the maximum one Moor per adjacent province suggested above. That would give him greater flexibility.
Okay, these are my ideas off the cuff, regarding such a historical variant. Therefore, I need to yet playtest them. Clearly, the possible variations are endless. I'm anxious to hear your ideas, criticism and reports on how it worked out, should you try this.
Anyway, I pretty much got carried away with the basic idea of introducing a real story arc of Spanish history to the game. I hope I've made myself sufficiently understood. I plan to post here in future my playtest experiences. Now, I only need to convince my gaming friends to give this one a try.