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El Grande is certainly one of my all-time favourite games. With four or five players it provides a quick moving, deep tactical game which really set the standards for area-control Euro games. It’s rather less good with two players, but it’s still OK and as there isn’t any real hidden information in the game, I figured Miss B could probably handle it.
Oh, and my copy is in German. This really doesn’t matter though as it just requires reading out the translations of the action cards once each turn, and the illustrations on these cards are generally very useful for demonstrating what they do.
Due to it being many years since I last played El Grande and my failure to read the rules properly, I made a bit of a mistake over where you can place your men on the board. When I remembered the mistake we had a discussion and decided to carry on as we were. The mistake just made it easier to place men, removing a degree of potential frustration, though also getting rid of much of the tactical play. For a first play with a 5-year-old that sounds in retrospect like a good thing, so I’ll pretend here that I intentionally decided that caballeros can be placed anywhere and not just adjacent to the king and would you please disregard the rest of this paragraph.
The game went remarkably well. El Grande really isn’t much of a two-player game (though there are some tweaks that can improve it) but it’s not a bad way to spend some time. Miss B got to grips with the basic province-to-court and court-to-board mechanism to move the caballeros, and was happy with the action cards too. I needed to remind her of things from time to time, but that’s normal: most card games involve regular reminders for her to draw a card. During play I challenged Miss B for a couple of regions so there would be a bit of a feel of competition, but we mostly pottered along on our own. Overall I felt things went really well, though it’ll be a while before we have a competitive game.
Next time we play (and I’m pretty sure there will be a next time) we’ll play the proper placement rule and probably just play a six-turn game (another thing I didn’t think about in advance). Then hopefully we’ll be able to play with more people one day.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5½): “It was good. I liked it because I learnt new words… like Koenig.” Ah, gaming plus German lesson all in one. Sometimes I miss the time when so many of these great games weren’t available in English.
The game: El Grande (Hans In Glueck), 2 to 5 players aged 12+.