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.
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.
'El Caballero' is the little brother of the classic El Grande. It shares some of the same mechanics as its sibling, but it is definitely a separate game and should be considered on its own grounds.
The mechanics of the game are quite well documented elsewhere, so I will merely give my own take on it. El Caballero is a difficult game to grasp. The strategies are subtle and opaque. There are so many options available to a player that it can quite easily induce 'analysis paralysis.' Each turn must be carefully considered, because even the slightest mistake can result in a crushing loss.
Unlike El Grande, the caballeros of this game can easily be lost completely. Cabs equate to influence, influence to victory points. Losing one's place in the game can result in a many-turned struggle to regain one's place in the New World.
I would not recommend El Caballero for the casual gamer. It requires too much of the player to be played on a light, frequent basis, such as the somewhat similar Carcassonne. It is a game that rewards deep thought and a strategy played out over a number of turns. Peaceful co-existence is not the goal here. Utter domination is....
Recommended for the strategy gamer.
I have only played this with two people but it was a blast. There is a lot of thought involved during your turn. I love the fact that because of the tiles and their placements, the game plays different every time. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is because, like I said above, I have not played it with more than two players so I do not know how well it works with more people.
This is an excellent game for those who enjoy a very cerebral, chess-like gaming experience. The components are fine though not as nice as some of the Rio Grande games. It's actually a very good 2 or 3 player game. The pace can be slow if players' brains lock up during their turn. Some mechanism for forcing a decision (a timer) could be used. If you enjoy a rollicking, luck-driven game, stay far clear from this one. But if a battle of intellect is what you seek, don't miss this game.
El Caballero is not like its predecessor El Grande even though they share a lot of the same mechanisms. What it is instead is a highly tactical tile-laying game. I would definitely ignore the basic game altogether, as the advanced game adds very little complexity but a lot more important options.
The gameplay is solid and thought-provoking. What it ends up being is a game where each turn you are heavily studying the board and seeing what weaknesses exist and how you can take advantage of them. There are a lot of 'tricks' you can execute, with special tile-laying combinations and its important to know the rule book well to know what special cases and exceptions exist.
The gripes I have with the game are that it can be almost too tactical. You pretty much play for the short term, and try to take advantage of other people's mistakes. There's not a lot of long-term strategy as you're playing mostly for the immediate payoff. There's also very little luck, although some exists in the tile draws. The rulebook is somewhat obtuse, but mostly because the special cases and exceptions are spread out.
Overall, a game I enjoy, and certainly a gamer's game, not something to play with the Monopoly-lovers out there. It's not quite as good as El Grande, but it's a different game entirely and will appeal to a slightly different type of gamer.
After buying this sequel to El Grande and reading the reviews below, I will refrain from explaining the actual play of the game and will only highlight and expand on some of the things mentioned that I believe are astute observations, and just add a few observations of my own. As always, take what you think is useful and leave the rest.
This -is- a very cerebral game which takes getting used to; in our first game, my wife and I stopped after the first scoring round because the play seemed so slow and odd--we didn't give it a chance to show its hidden facets. Subsequent play reveals a chin-on-the-fist thinker of a game, where nary a word may pass for several minutes, like a game of chess is apt to be. Again, this may be up your alley or abhorrent to you; it all depends on what you like in a game.
The 'advanced' version of play is more interesting for me, with more options. The game board turns out better because you can surround your caballero tiles, making the landscape less fragmented, which makes the interpretation of the tile-laying much easier.
I found the learning curve to be fairly steep, partly, I believe, because of the badly-written instructions' over-use of the word 'card' as a descriptor of every single game piece other than the Grandes. Also the many terms in Spanish in every sentence became cumbersome, ie 'one castillo card costs two caballeros. To place a castillo card, turn your caballero card to show two less caballeros in your court.' That's not a direct quote, but after three paragraphs of stuff like that I was ready to give up.
I was disappointed in the production quality. The illustrations are excellent, of course, but the card stock for the tile could have been thicker, and the cuts made with the dies more sharp and thorough. Instead, the thin wafers popped out of the cardboard sheets with difficulty, and on two tiles, the graphics layer partially ripped off the core. Bummer! The box is very large to accomodate the cardboard sheets of unseparated tiles, but when everything is popped out, the entire game could fit into a ziploc bag! And that's what I ended up storing different pieces in, because if you don't, you end up with a box of 150 cards, tiles, tokens and markers in a jumbled mess! That really peeves me. If only all game boxes would be designed as effectively as Krieg und Frieden or Tikal! So one star off for that.
I know it sounds as if this review is all complaints, and it pretty much is. Other reviewers have highlighted this game's virtues, and I really do agree with them, but feel the shortcomings should be adressed. That said, there's no doubt that: I bought it, am pleased with it and will continue playing it.
It's a very smart game for gamers, it's challenging, cerebral, a bit abstract, and the art is nice. It is an excellent follow-up to El Grande, and a good addition to the tile-laying genre. However, if the producers had gone a little further, and copied the excellent production quality of this game's predecessor, this would have been a great game instead of a good one, and maybe would have even edged out some of the other runners-up for Game of the Year. But... I guess we'll never really know now, will we?
I have only played this game once, but I liked El Grande and the low price enticed me to give it a try.
My first impression was focused on the beautiful components. As usual, Rio Grande has done an excellent job of producing/translating the game. The tiles look nice and the different colors for each player are readily discernable for a very pleasing look. The rule book is easy to follow and the game can be learned in under a half hour.
As far as playing the game, we started out quickly and soon learned that there were way too many decisions to make to try to rush things, and this was generally agreed to be a good thing. What seemed simple was actually quite complex. There is one new mechanism which is the 9 power card which allows you to place two tiles on your turn instead of the usual one. This turned out to be a huge move and one has to consider when in the game you want to use it and if it will be done offensively or defensively.
This is a game with a lot of promise which is fun and yet quite a challenge to master its strategy.
I have honestly tried to play this game many times. I never really felt the appeal of it and every game that I played ended up hopelessly one-sided. Preferring games that have a little more luck than this, I found the play to be a little robotic and constrained; since nothing is hidden I always knew what my opponent was up to. So I never got interested enough to play the Advanced Game which introduces governors and Grandes.
I suspect that a large contributor to my ambivalence towards El Caballero is that it does not seem play well with only two players - which is mostly the number at my table.
I bought this game before I got El Grande and it actually put me off buying El Grande for a long time, because of the similarities I expected the two games to have. When I did buy El Grande, I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps it will give me an excuse to try El Caballero again.
The parts of the game were pretty enough but there did not seem to be as much care put into the game as there was with El Grande. Perhaps I just like games that come with thousands of little wooden cubes; this may also explain why I enjoy playing Euphrat and Tigris.
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.