El Grande

El Grande: Classic Board Game Rules, Instructions, and Winning Strategies


El Grande is a classic board game that has been engaging players since its release in 1995. This game of strategy and intrigue is set in medieval Spain, where players take on the roles of Grandes, or nobles, vying for control over the various regions of the country.

The game is played with a deck of cards and a board that represents the map of Spain, divided into nine regions. Each player has a set of Caballeros, (or knights), which they deploy to the regions in an attempt to gain the most influence and score the most points. The game is renowned for its depth and complexity, offering a rich and engaging gameplay experience that has stood the test of time.

El Grande is a game of strategy and area control, in which players take on the roles of ‘Grandes’ in medieval Spain. The objective of the game is to score the most points by having the majority of your own “caballeros” (knights) in various regions of a map of Spain, while also keeping the king’s favor.

I find it similar to Struggle of Empires and San Marco, two games I’ve written on that are worth checking out (though San Marco, in my experience, is much ‘lighter’ than El Grande)

The design and development of El Grande took place during a time when the German board game industry was experiencing a surge in popularity, and it is considered one of the first prominent examples of the “Eurogame” genre. These are board games that emphasize strategy, player interaction, and abstract physical components, rather than luck or conflict.

El Grande won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 1996, which is often considered the highest honor in the board game industry. This helped to solidify its status as one of the most influential board games of its time.

The game has been reprinted several times and has had several expansions, including Grand Inquisitor & Colonies and King & Intrigue. In 2006, a Big Box edition of El Grande was released, which includes the base game and all its expansions.

El Grande is widely regarded as one of the best games of its type and is highly praised for its depth and complexity, as well as its balance between strategy and tactics. It is seen as a game that requires careful planning and strategic thinking, with players needing to anticipate their opponents’ moves in order to succeed.

Despite being over 25 years old, El Grande remains popular and influential. Its blend of area control, action selection, and majority scoring has inspired many other games. Even today, it is often used as a benchmark for comparing other area control games. I personally see its influence on a lot of modern strategy and territory games. Consider it the Grandaddy of area control games.

Rules for playing El Grande

  1. El Grande is played over nine rounds. At the start of each round, players draw a card from the deck, which determines the order of play for that round.
  2. Players then choose one of their power cards to play. These cards determine the number of Caballeros they can move from their court to their provinces, and the order in which they can choose from the action cards.
  3. Action cards allow players to perform special actions, such as moving Caballeros around the board, adding more Caballeros to their court, or scoring points.
  4. Players then deploy their Caballeros to the regions on the board, trying to gain the majority in as many regions as possible.
  5. At the end of each round, the regions are scored, and the player with the most Caballeros in a region scores the most points.
  6. The game ends after the ninth round, and the player with the most points is declared the winner.

While these are the official El Grande rules, some players like to introduce ‘house rules’ to add variety to the game. For example, some players might agree to play a shorter game of only five rounds, or to introduce new action cards with different effects.

How to Win at El Grande

Winning at El Grande requires a careful balance of strategy and tactics. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Plan your moves carefully. It’s important to think ahead and consider the potential consequences of your actions. For example, if you deploy all your Caballeros to one region, you might gain the majority there, but you’ll leave yourself vulnerable in other regions.
  2. Use your power cards wisely. These cards can give you a significant advantage, but only if you use them at the right time. For example, a power card that allows you to move Caballeros around the board can be a game-changer in the later rounds, when the board is more crowded.
  3. Keep an eye on your opponents. It’s important to pay attention to what your opponents are doing and adjust your strategy accordingly. If you see an opponent focusing on a particular region, it might be worth trying to contest their majority there.
  4. Score points whenever you can. While it’s important to plan for the long term, don’t overlook opportunities to score points in the short term. Every point counts in El Grande, and a few points scored early on can make a big difference in the end.

As you gain more experience with El Grande, you’ll start to develop your own strategies and tactics. I find the key to winning is not just about having the most Caballeros on the board, but about using them in the most effective way.

Best Strategies for playing El Grande game

While there are many possible strategies for playing El Grande, here are a few that have proven to be particularly effective:

  1. Focus on a few key regions. Instead of spreading your Caballeros thin across the entire board, try to gain the majority in a few key regions. This can help you score more points and make it harder for your opponents to challenge your majority.
  2. Use your action cards strategically. These cards can have a big impact on the game, so it’s important to use them wisely. Try to save your most powerful action cards for the later rounds, when they can have the biggest impact.
  3. Keep your opponents guessing. One of the keys to success in El Grande is unpredictability. If your opponents can’t predict your next move, they’ll have a harder time countering your strategy.
  4. Don’t forget about the King. The King can be a powerful tool in El Grande, allowing you to control where new Caballeros can be placed. Use the King to your advantage, but be careful not to leave him in a region where your opponents have the majority.

Scenarios for El Grande

El Grande is a game of ever-changing scenarios, with each round presenting new challenges and opportunities. Here are some common scenarios you might encounter, and how to turn them to your advantage:

  1. You’re trailing behind in points. If you find yourself falling behind, don’t panic. There are plenty of opportunities to score points in El Grande, and a well-timed action card can quickly turn the tide in your favor. Focus on gaining the majority in key regions and using your power cards effectively.
  2. You’re in the lead, but your opponents are closing in. If you’re in the lead, it’s important to stay vigilant. Your opponents will be looking for ways to challenge your majority and steal your points. Try to anticipate their moves and counter them with your own action cards.
  3. You’re locked in a tight battle for majority in a key region. In this scenario, every Caballero counts. Consider using an action card to add more Caballeros to your court, or to move Caballeros from other regions to the contested region.
  4. Your opponents are focusing on other regions, leaving one region largely uncontested. This can be a golden opportunity to gain the majority in that region and score some easy points. But be careful not to neglect your positions in other regions.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing El Grande game

  1. How many players can play El Grande?
    El Grande can be played with 2 to 5 players.
  2. How long does a game of El Grande typically last?
    A game of El Grande typically lasts between 60 to 120 minutes.
  3. Can I play El Grande with my kids?
    Yes, El Grande is suitable for players aged 12 and up. However, due to its complexity, it might be challenging for younger players.
  4. What happens if two players have the same number of Caballeros in a region?
    In the event of a tie, the player who played the higher power card in that round wins the tie

My Favorite Game: El Grande Review [Video]

Review of El Grande – RPGnet