English language edition
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On to the New World! is the cry from the fans of El Grande. Leave the Spanish mainland behind and set sail to discover the New World! This time let your trusty Caballeros help you control the islands and the seas of this new land. Both land and sea may contain special treasures to add valuable points to your collection of victory points.
As the players explore the islands, they discover the land and sea areas of the New World. One discovered, they rush their Caballeros to the most valuable areas to claim them for themselves. They buy Castillos to protect their Caballeros from attacks and build ships to support trade and fishing. Power is gained by dominating the land areas and launching ships into the sea areas. All this with the goal of showing up the other Grandes that are trying to take control of the New World.
Governors allow you to further secure your regions. And the Grandes themselves travel to the New World to grant their most prized region with their special protection.
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 90 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 835 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
Average Rating: 4.1 in 10 reviews
I originally purchased this game as a gift for a strategy game playing family member. We are used to playing games which involve what we both deem to be too much luck. This is not that game. The reviews here are primarily true--it is a highly complex and strategic game. If you do not enjoy playing games where each turn can take an extensive amount of time, then this is probably not the game for you.
I will not go into the game play, but will highlight a few things. The play can be long--each round usually takes longer than the last. The instructions are complete and completely understandable, but like any game are subject to interpretation. I would encourage you to make firm interpretations as the need arises. I disagree that the playing pieces are not of a poor quality (yes the box could be designed a little more efficiently). However, my primary review is based on the game play, and this game fits my definition of a must buy.
I could go on, but all in all this was a great purchase. We enjoyed it to the point of ordering one for myself as well. This is definitely a game located in the easy to reach portion of my game closet.
While related only loosly to El Grande, this clever game retains much of the same feel of the original, so if you liked El Grande (and what's not to like? :), you are likely to enjoy this also. Players use tiles to build up islands and sea areas, and then use their Caballeros, ships, castles, and governors to control and score points for the areas. With a variety of available actions each turn, but a strictly limited capacity to perform them, there are always lots of choices and the strategy is challenging. The variable turn order and number of Caballeros available provided by the power cards (direct from El Grande) adds uncertainty that keeps the game exiting. Play the expanded game; it's only a few (minor) extra rules and much better than the basic game.
The one caveat is that the number of available options and somewhat analytical nature of the game can sometimes make it seem slow, and it takes a game or two to get up to speed - it is like El Grande in this respect, more cerebral than many games. Still, once you've played a couple games and gotten some of the quirky rules down, it should play more quickly.
At the price, it's very hard to beat this game.
Depending on your tastes, El Caballero will be either a treat or a chore. It's heavy on forethought and calculation, but a little creativity is also necessary to generate points in a game where the board is a work in progress. There is even room for a bit of deviousness, as you can make it a point to knock others' caballeros off the map--at the risk of having the favor returned, of course. You will be quite proud of the little empires that you build, once you convince yourself that they are safe. The 'board' will look like a maze to passers-by, but you will know every island and isthmus by heart.
However, the game will likely seem dry to non-gamers, as the explorer theme can easily be forgotten amongst the point-counting and decision-making. As others have mentioned, this is definitely a game that can and will promote 'analysis paralysis.'
There is one point mentioned below that is worth reiterating: the 'basic game' should be ignored entirely. It seems to be an afterthought designed to make the game easier to learn, but I am not sure that this is necessary. Moreover, without the 'Grande' pieces the game is seriously flawed, as the board tends to stretch out in a line rather than spread out in all directions, and it is just less interesting in general.
If you are hard core, you may want to give this game a try before it disappears.
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Can't find the game board? Relax! You will create it in this excellent sequel to El Grande, where adventurers follow Columbus to the Caribbean. Area tiles showing combinations of land and sea are placed in turns, gradually forming a landscape full of opportunity and danger. Rounds begin with players in turn selecting one of their Power Cards; the highest value goes first, but the lower numbers allow more Caballeros (Knights) to join players' expeditionary forces. Caballero cards are placed adjacent to tiles to control lands, and ships are bought to fight for the waterways. The freedom to choose the order for playing the many possible actions on a turn encourages mental agility. You'll also need a keen eye for hidden opportunities to expand your influence or evict enemies. Players having the most and second most influence in regions score at the end of rounds. Excellent as the game is for three or four, it really shines as a two-player battle. Expanded rules present even more strategies without significantly increasing complexity. Come and explore a new world of gaming.
Wolfang Kramer and Richard Ulrich have given us a new game that uses the same theme as their previous masterwork, El Grande. While not a retread of that game, it has a similar feel to it and offers gameplay that should delight fans of the original while drawing new converts into the El Grande fold.
El Caballero is the latest in a recent spate of tile-laying games. Reiner Knizia recently finished his trio of games in that vein, giving players three very good offerings to choose from. Luckily Kramer and Ulrich were able to avoid giving El Caballero a "me-too" feeling, developing a diversion that is quite different from Knizia's games. Where Euphrat & Tigris, Durch die Wüste, and Samurai are quick and (relatively) light, El Caballero is similar to El Grande in that it presents gameplay that is much deeper and thought-provoking.
The goal of El Caballero is to control the lands and waterways of the New World. The players are explorers following in Christopher Columbus' footsteps, exploring the Antilles islands of Salvador. As the islands are revealed each player uses his caballeros to rule the land and the surrounding waters. As the title implies, caballeros are your strength and the focus of the game.
Each player has eight caballero tiles that he can use throughout the game. The tiles are similar in shape and size to the terrain tiles that make up the areas of exploration. At the start of the game, each player takes one of his caballero cards and places it in front of him with the number five pointing at him. This is his Court, and as caballeros are added or subtracted he rotates and/or adds additional caballero cards to indicate how many caballeros are available to him.
Each player also has thirteen Power Cards with a number of caballeros on them, similar to those in El Grande. Also similar to El Grande is the fact that the higher numbered cards have less caballeros, forcing the choice between going early in a round or bringing a lot of caballeros to your court.
To start the game, a tile is laid in the center of the table to act as the basis of an island -- "Land Ho!". Each turn then consists of the players bidding for turn order with their Power Cards and then performing any number of actions. The only action that a player must perform each turn is adding an area tile to the growing board -- five of these are laid out at the start of each turn, and it is from these tiles the player chooses.
During his turn a player may play up to two of his caballero cards to the board, return any number of his caballero cards from the board to his supply, add caballeros to his caballero cards on the board (as long as he has them in his court, of course), or buy and place either ships, castillos, governors, or his Grande.
When adding caballeros to the board, the only restriction is that the caballero can not be adjacent to two land areas. If at any time a caballero is adjacent to more than one land tile, it is removed and placed back in the players reserve pile Therein lies a key element of the game; each player is trying to place tiles so as to expand his area of influence while simultaneously forcing his opponents' caballeros off the board.
Play pauses after the third, seventh, and tenth rounds for scoring. A land region has a value equal to the number of tiles that comprise that region, plus one for each tile that depicts a gold mine. The player that has the most caballeros in that land region scores points equal to twice the value, while the second place player scores the value of the region.
Ships, castillos, governors and your Grande all "cost" varying amounts of caballeros. Ships are placed on the border between one of your caballero cards and a water tile -- during the scoring round, each body of water is worth points equal to the number of tiles in the region plus one for each tile that depicts a fish times the number of your ships that border that region -- cha-CHING!
The castillo protects the number of caballeros on your placed caballero cards -- if the card is returned to your stores by a vicious tile placement, you do not lose the cabs on the card but return them to your court. Your grande completely protects your caballero card -- it cannot be removed from the board at all, but neither can cabs be added to it. Finally, any region that has been completely enclosed can have a governor added to it -- the points value for that region is now doubled.
Play thus proceeds much like El Grande: check out the area tiles on offer, bid for turn order, and then do your best to advance your position while stuffing the other players. Also like that game, it's hard to plan ahead since the game position changes so much as each players turn advances. That's one of the best things about both of these games -- they force the player to think on their feet. You can't formulate a "perfect plan" and then execute it. Of course, that's a bit of a problem since each player has to re-think their plans when their turn rolls around, which of course means longer player turns. You'll need to keep a tight leash on players who like to "over think" their turn so that they don't succumb to analysis paralysis.
Another thing that slows the game down a bit is its visuals. The tiles are gorgeous of course, having been illustrated by Doris of Doris and Frank fame. Once a bunch of tiles are laid out, though, the resulting patchwork is somewhat hard to mentally "grasp ahold of". The colors chosen make the layout tend to blur into something that the average gamer will probably take some time getting used to. It's similar to the problem a lot of people encountered when they played their first few games of Tigris & Euphrates; you're looking at the board but the patterns just aren't "jumping out" at you. Like that game, after a few playings you start to acquire the mental skills necessary to comprehend what's going on.
El Caballero offers a nice, deep gaming experience. Like El Grande, it's a "gamers' game", and you come away from it feeling like you've engaged in a true battle of wits. You have a lot of choices to make each turn, and small mistakes can cost you dearly when the scoring rounds come around. It's also very important to keep an eye on the other players, otherwise someone is going to jump way out into the lead and be almost impossible to catch. Like the visual aspect of the game, it'll take a few games before everyone realizes this and takes steps to keep the leader in check.
If you liked El Grande, you should enjoy El Caballero. It doesn't have the same "flavor" as El Grande, being somewhat cerebral and abstract, but the "feel" of that game is present. If you don't like El Grande, I suspect you won't like El Caballero, and I would recommend trying the game before buying it. If you're looking for a real meaty game with plenty of replay value, you can't go wrong with El Caballero. Recommended.