Authors: Wolfgang Kramer /
Richard Ulrich

Publisher: Hans im Glück 1996

Spiel des Jahres 1996

Deutscher Spiele Preis 1996

G@mebox Star



"El Grande is a strategy game for 2 to 5 players, and itīs settled in Spain of the 14th century."

Each player takes the role of a local baron - called "Grande" - and tries to get predominance over the spanish regions. Main "instruments" for the Grande are his nobles, the Caballeros. He may place his Caballeros into different regions in order to get the dominance in this regions and get victory points for doing so.

The gameplay itself follows the normal "players take their turns" procedure, with the exception that the order in which players take turns may change from round to round. At the beginning of a new round, the players each set a "might"-card in front of them. The player who has chosen the highest card will take his turn first, the player with the lowest card last. Already at this phase the players have to think carefully which card they want to place in front of them, since they have each value from 1 to 13 only once. So when a player definately wants to ensure that he will be first on one turn, he has to play the card with the value "13", wich means that all the players still keep their "13" card and will be able to start first during subsequent turns. But many strategies are possible here. So the first player during a turn has first access to the action-cards and he may chose from all available cards, but the last player will have the advantage of being the last one to influence the buildup on the gameboard that turn. So the players have to decide whether they want to play a high or low card. Also decided by plaing this card is the number of Caballeros the player is allowed to levy this round. The higher the card of the player, the LESS caballeros he may levy and move to his court.


After the order of players for a round of play is determined, the first player starts his turn. First he levys the number of caballeros indicated on his "might"-card, which means that he places these caballeros from a common reserve (called "the Province") to his court. A players court is nowhere on the gameboard, but just in front of each player. It is used as something like a station for caballeros on their way onto the gameboard. The gameplay is much influenced by the court, since a player may only move Caballeros to Spain which he has at his court. So if a player plays high "might"-cards during subsequent turns, he will be the first one to chose of the action-cards, but the number of Caballeros available at his court will fade away rapidly.

Next the player must decide which card he wants to take from the deck of action-cards. The action-deck is divided into 5 different piles of cards, and at the beginning of a round one card from each pile is turned over. Now the player will have to chose one of these cards, which give him the possibility to do one of many different random events. By taking the card the player also indicates how many Caballeros he may move from his court to the gameboard at that turn. So if he takes a card from pile "1", he may move only one of his Caballeros to a spanish region this turn. Before or after placing his Caballero(s), a player ma perform the action listed on the card he chose. By this he may influence the gameboard in order to find a suiting region to place his Caballero(s).

After the player has taken his turn, the next player in the row takes his turn and he performs the same actions as his predecessor. The procedure continues until the last player has taken his turn and then a new round starts with the placement of the "might"-cards.

The game continues this way for 9 full rounds, and after rounds 3, 6 and 9 there is an evaluation of each players possesions on the gameboard. The regions which are occupied by the Caballeros have different values, and during the evaluations phase the player with most Caballeros in a regions scores Victory-points accordingly to the value of the region. The players coming 2nd and 3rd in a region also score Victory Points, but less than the player with most Caballeros. The player who has most Victory Points after round 9 wins the game.

These rules already give enough gameplay for an interesting boardgame, but "El Grande" has some more rules which give the game an astounding depth of play. Very important in the game is the figure of the King. This figure is placed randomly at the start of the game, and it may only be moved if a player plays a "Move King" action-card. The King himself is ambigious, offering protection to the region he is in but also being a threat to any neighbouring regions. So the region which is occupied by the King cannot be changed as long as the King is in it. Thus a player may move the King to a region where he has the majority of Caballeros, and if this player succeeds to prevent other players from moving the King, he can ensure to have this region during the next evaluation phase. The other side of the King is that his presence is needed to introduce new Caballeros into the regions. Players only may place Caballeros into regions neighbouring the Kingīs region. So the placement of the King always needs careful planning in how far a region needs to be protected from these consequences. Also the moving of the King is a strong possibility to thwart an action planned by another player, since the placement of new Caballeros now happens in different regions.

Another important feature of the game is the "Castillo" (Castle). This is a wooden tower which is part of no region, and during the Caballero-Placement a player may opt to put one or more Caballeros into the Castillo instead into the regions. In an evaluation phase, the Castillo gives Victory Points to the player having most Caballeros in the Castillo. But before the Caballeros in the Castillo are counted, each player secretly choses a region where all his Caballeros from the Castillo are going to be placed. Thus the Castillo also influences the majority in the regions chosen, and the regions are evaluated after the Castillo has been emptied. So a comfortable lead in a region may still lead to a loss if another player places his Caballeros from the Castillo there.

To my mind "El Grande" is a great game which deserved to get both german game awards. The game offers a perfect mix of strategy and entertainment, and it still is a family-game because of its easy-to-learn rules. The rules of the game are presented in a very comfortable way, offering the players to learn everything during a short learning-game, and once the basics of the game are understood, the playing csan begin. A very good feature is the Castillo and the rules for it. Itīs always a chance to "invest" Caballeros in the Castillo which later may influence the gameboard. And since all players have the same deck of "might"-cards, a very equal and balanced game is ensured. I think itīs a fine game which offers fun for many hours, and its even quite good with only two players.

Expansion-Set: König & Intrigant


Using this expansion set for El Grande, the players now get much more strategy into the game. The "might"-cards and the action-cards from the basic game are removed, and they are replaced by new action-cards. These cards now combine the values of the "might"-cards with actions for the players. So each player plays one of this cards at the beginning of a new round, and by this card the order of the players for this turn is determined. But each player also has decided on a special action by playing his card. This allows the players to determine definately which special action they will have for this round of play, and seeing the actions of the other players allows better planning. But there is one obstacle left: The player with the highest card played will always be conicidered King, the player with the lowest card will be "Intrigant". For these two special action cards exist, which means that these two players are forbidden to use the action they have played.

I think the expansion is very interesting, since it definately changes the character of the game. The strategical element becomes much stronger, and a turn becomes a little more foreseeable. The expansion is played best with 4 or 5 players participating.

Expansion-Set: Großinquisitor & Kolonien

Released in October 1997, this expansion introduces 4 new regions with special funktions and the figure of the "Großinquisitor" to the game.

The new regions are France, America, the Mediterranean and the "Spanish Fleet". All of them have special functions during the game, and they may bring the players additional Victory Points.

  • France: The players can place Caballeros to France following the normal rules. But there is a maximum of 3 Caballeros which may be placed there; if 3 Caballeros are in France, no more may be placed there until one of them is removed. During the evaluation-phase, France is counted off as normal, bringing Victory Points to the players depending of the number of Caballeros present. But the player who has placed the first Caballero in France gains extra-points for having sent an ambassador, and also the 2nd Caballero brings an extra point for being an envoy.
  • America & The Mediterranean: In these new regions is no limit concerning the number of Caballeros present. They give their owners Victory Points as normal, but depending on special action cards additional tokens of Goods or Gold may be placed at these regions. A player may put a Caballero onto such a token, and if this Caballero succeds to return to Spain, the token is removed and instantly brings the player additional Victory Points. Important is the position of the Vice-King in America. The player who brings a Caballero to America may become Vice-King if no other player is it until now, and for this a player also will receive Victory Points.
  • The Spanish Fleet: The Fleet is needed to transfer Caballeros from Spain to the Colonies and back. A player may place Caballeros onto the fleet if the King is in a coastal region. During subsequent turns, a player may move the Caballero from the Fleet to a Colony, back onto the Fleet and finally back to a coastal region in Spain. The player who puts a Caballero at the position of the Fleetīs Captain receives additional Victory Points during an evaluation-phase.

Very important is the new figure of the "Großinquisitor". With him comes an additional set of actions cards from which two additional piles of action-cards are built. The "Großinquisitor" may be move to the court of a player who choses the Inquisitor-action-card, and it brings some benefits to a player to have the "Großinquisitor" at his court. So this player has the command over the four Caballeros of the Inquisitor, and he may use them as his own and count them to his Caballeros during an evaluation. And each round the player has the "Großinquisitor" with him, he may move one additional Caballero from the Province to his court, or from his court into a region. Last, the player may decide during certain events in the game how to proceed.

This expansion greatly enlarges the possibilities of the players. Now single Caballeros may become much more decisive than in the normal game, since they can bring additional Victory Points by shipping Goods or Gold or by becoming Vice-King, Captain or Ambassador. To my mind, the new options for the players are a fine enrichment for El Grande, since they make it possible to leave Spain and to act in other areas of the world. It becomes very important not to underestimat the power of the Fleet, since it becomes possible to move Caballeros without actually playing an action-card. Played with 5 players, many small conflicts arise in Spain and in the colonies, and these conflicts strengthen the already good atmosphere of the gameplay. And, last but not least, this expansion can be played without problems by only two players.

Doug Adams (Australia) writes about the game:

El Grande is a game where players each take on the role of a member of the upper aristocracy (a 'Grande') in 15th century Spain. The object of the game is to score the most victory points by strategically placing your aristocratic allies (Caballeros) on the game board.

The components are very nice, dominated by a large color game board of medieval Spain. Spain is divided in to 9 areas, and the whole map is styled with an aged parchment look. Also included are 5 sets of colored blocks representing each players playing pieces, 2 decks of cards, 5 region disks, a large wooden pawn (representing the King), and finally, a hollow wooden tower that stands 6 inches high on the board!

Given the historical setting, El Grande may sound like a detailed game of empire building, but it isn't. To win, you need to gather victory points, and you earn points by having the majority of Caballeros in each of the areas on the map.

Sound easy so far ? But wait, your Caballeros are divided into 2 pools. One in front of you is called your "Court", while the other (kept away from you) is called the "Provinces". To get Caballeros onto the gameboard (and earning points for you), you have to first move them from the Provinces to Court, and from there onto the board.

This is accomplished through play of cards, and here's where the fun begins. One deck of cards gets Caballeros from the Provinces to your Court, and also determines the order for the upcoming turn. The other card deck determines how many Caballeros get from your Court onto the map, and introduces many events that can swing the course of the game.

The card play is what makes El Grande such a wonderful game. Low cards get large numbers of Caballeros from the Provinces to Court, but you go later in the turn. High cards get little or no Caballeros to Court, but you get first pick of the event cards (did I mention that there's 5 new event cards revealed at the start of each turn, some good, some not so good ?).

At the end of every 3 turns, scoring for the most Caballeros in the regions takes place, and points are earned. Event cards can also produce bouts of scoring. The game ends after 9 turns and the winner is the player with the most points.

El Grande went into my top 10 favorite games when I first played it a few months ago. It only takes just over an hour to play, and is easy enough for family and friends. Serious game players will find much to like about El Grande as well.

Thoroughly recommended.


I have just received the expansion kit for El Grande from Hans Im Gluck titled "Konig & Intrigant". The contents are a new set of cards that replace the 2 decks in El Grande.

The basic rules of El Grande stay the same, but the way cards influence the game has changed substantially. Each player now holds an identical deck of 18 event cards, of which he secretly chooses 13 to play the game with. Events may now get played more than once per game, once by each player. Some new events have also been added, as well as 2 blank cards which Hans Im Gluck inform us are for a competition to invent new events for the game.

Konig & Intrigant is a must buy for El Grande fans.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany