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Subject: Is El Grande THE choice for Area Control Games? rss

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Jason Edwards
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Grove City
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Hello. I am an enthusiastic new convert to the board gaming hobby. I am building my collection and am trying to acquire a great game in all the standard categories. I'm ready for an "area control" (if I even know what that means exactly) selection and am sensing that El Grande is the big name (no pun intended) that arguably dominates this niche. It seems to have stood the test of time but I'm wondering if there is a better option out there now as I'm not enthralled with the theme (though I do like historical ones) and I'm also picking up on the fact (?) that El Grande is not too much fun with two players. I play games primarily with just my wife but also with a "non-gaming" couple and my wife, and a rotating group of college students (so games typically need to be taught afresh). Consequently, if the game is too "heavy" or long it isn't going to fly. So, is El Grande a game that would probably work well or do I need to be looking elsewhere in the area-control genre?

I really appreicate anyone who takes the time to answer. Thank you.
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Chung Chit Hang
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If i'm correct El Grande is the grandfather of area control game. It really is a great game with simple rules. However with 5 players it is a bit long, around 1.5-2 hrs.

Another great area control game would be rattus. It finishes in an hour and is great fun as well

A meatier area control game would be dominant species.
 
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Meeple Me
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Waterloo
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I've never played El Grande, but if you are looking for something a little more non-gamer friendly, Small World is likely the highest ranked, area-control board game for families.

Edit: Thanks to those who left feedback below. It seems I didn't have a accurate understanding of area-control - so I learned something today.
 
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Dave Eisen
United States
Menlo Park
CA
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El Grande really is the best of its genre and is a great game.

Something more thematically rich, say Dominant Species, is likely to take much longer. And it in general is not a genre that works great for 2 players.

Get El Grande. I've had pretty good success teaching it to less serious gamers. No need to bother with the various expansions.
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Charlie Theel
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My favorite area control is Chaos in the Old World.

My favorite hybrid Area Control/Worker placement is Age of Empires III.

I vastly prefer both of these games to El Grande.
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Tim Stellmach
United States
Arlington
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cyakobch wrote:
I've never played El Grande, but if you are looking for something a little more non-gamer friendly, Small World is likely the highest ranked, area-control board game for families.

Not an area control game in the sense that the term is generally used, which is to describe a vying for control of board spaces, not the serial conquest of them by one player or another.
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Don Kimes

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Indiana
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Evo (second edition) is my current favorite area control. Very simple plays in 90 minutes and fun theme. I think it's just as easy if not easier than El Grande. You won't go wrong with the classic El Grande but consider EVO as well you won't be dissapointed
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Caleb
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timstellmach wrote:
cyakobch wrote:
I've never played El Grande, but if you are looking for something a little more non-gamer friendly, Small World is likely the highest ranked, area-control board game for families.

Not an area control game in the sense that the term is generally used, which is to describe a vying for control of board spaces, not the serial conquest of them by one player or another.


Agreed. Someone wanting to play 'area control' is going to be disappointed by Small World. Not just because Small World is a bad game (though for my money it is - Vinci is far, far better), but because it is most definitely not 'area control' any more than Risk or Axis and Allies are.
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Dave Eisen
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bigbadbanker wrote:
Evo (second edition) is my current favorite area control. Very simple plays in 90 minutes and fun theme. I think it's just as easy if not easier than El Grande. You won't go wrong with the classic El Grande but consider EVO as well you won't be dissapointed


Similarly, Evo is not area majority. It, like Small World, gives points for being the player to control each space. and is more like a wargame without the historicity. El Grande and the like allow multiple players in each region and are not fundamentally about bashing each other: points are awarded based on relative rank presence in each area.

I like Evo, but would not consider it in this discussion.

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Davido
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My hierarchy for Area Majority (place pieces to the board and score by majorities-often 2nd and 3rd place number of pieces will score as well):

5P and best in class: El Grande
4P: Tikal
3P: San Marco
2P: Kahuna

honorable mention-scales great from 3-5p, has 2p variant (haven't played it so can't comment): China
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Moe45673
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Right now, I'm loving 1812: The Invasion of Canada. It looks dry but is actually very easy to learn. Rules can be explained in less than 5 minutes. Scales very well from 2-5 (right now, I prefer it with 2 though that may be because of the larger group I've played with) and....... with more than 2, you're automatically on teams as each side has multiple factions. So you can play couple against couple, men against women, or whatever.

It looks dry but is actually quite gripping. The board is beautiful as well.
http://www.gameshark.com/features/892/Cracked-LCD-236-1812-T...
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Darrell Hanning
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My personal preference woulid likely be Kreta, which does play well with 2. It's much like China, but also uses a role-selection mechanism, where each player has a set of roles each of which they must use once, before regaining the ability to play any of them.
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Evil Roy
United Kingdom
Sutton
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It's been quite a long time since I played El Grande but I remember not liking it much.

I'd suggest König von Siam instead. It's quicker, more streamlined and always (in my experience, anyway) leads to a good close game.

It's also highly recommended for two players (here on BoardGameGeek, I've only played three-player).
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Scott Nelson
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Carolus Magnus is my personal favorite.
Kahuna is good two-player, along with Aton
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Johan Haglert
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Haven't tried it.

Haven't tried Rattus.

Think Smallworld is utter crap.

Liked Chaos in the old world (but have only played once.)

Own Dominant species.

I'd much rather buy CITOW than El Grande regardless.

Of course I think Warcraft III and most likely Starcraft II are better area control (well, not really, but they do what I want) games.
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Blorb Plorbst
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Bloomington
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I think it depends on what you mean by Area Control.

When I think of Area control, I think of a war game where you are trying to conquer more and more area.

El Grande is one of my favorite games but it's more about being a tactical opportunist than a strategic planner. While the points are scored by controlling an area, I'll freely give up an area over here if it means that I can earn more points over there. At it's core, it's about resource management and timing your actions, not really area control.

If you want something that I would call Area Control that still conforms to some euro-game standards, take a look at Shogun or Rheinlander.

If you want something grander in scale, consider War of the Ring or Twilight Imperium or A Game of Thrones
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Caleb
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CrankyPants wrote:
I think it depends on what you mean by Area Control.

When I think of Area control, I think of a war game where you are trying to conquer more and more area.

El Grande is one of my favorite games but it's more about being a tactical opportunist than a strategic planner. While the points are scored by controlling an area, I'll freely give up an area over here if it means that I can earn more points over there. At it's core, it's about resource management and timing your actions, not really area control.

If you want something that I would call Area Control that still conforms to some euro-game standards, take a look at Shogun or Rheinlander.

If you want something grander in scale, consider War of the Ring or Twilight Imperium or A Game of Thrones


You can't redefine what Area Control means though (or, rather, you CAN, but you'll cause confusion among others). Within gaming, area control has an accepted definition, and conquest-style games like war games are NOT in the definition.
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Gary Heidenreich
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davido wrote:
My hierarchy for Area Majority (place pieces to the board and score by majorities-often 2nd and 3rd place number of pieces will score as well):

5P and best in class: El Grande
4P: Tikal
3P: San Marco
2P: Kahuna

honorable mention-scales great from 3-5p, has 2p variant (haven't played it so can't comment): China


I prefer Mexica for four player, but Tikal is a really good game, as well.

San Marco IS a great three player area control, too!
 
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Jason Hinchliffe
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If you're primarily playing two player, you might want to consider that not all game types work well with all player counts.

Area Majority is definitely one of those.

Dominant Species for my money, is the best Area Majority game for 2 players. That said, it is heavy. There aren't a ton of rules, and the rulebook is very clear. However, the game itself is incredibly deep and nuanced, and can come off as just chaotic to inexperienced gamers. So, with that in mind, despite my deep love of it, I simply can't recommend it as a starting point.

Small World isn't an Area Majority in the traditional sense, as two forces can not occupy the same place at the same time, however, it does capture some of that flavour, and has a light rule set and very charming theme. It also has beautiful components, and plays extremely well with 2.

I would take a look at it, even though it does not strictly meet your criteria.

That said, when it comes to two player games, there are a number of geek lists on here that have a ton of recommendations.
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Kevin Garnica
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Have you looked at Belfort? Technically, that's an "area-majority" game...
 
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Caleb
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For two players, consider Sun Tzu. It's the quintessential treatment for 2 players. My wife didn't like it so I ended up getting rid of it, but it does actually make area majority work, and work well, for only 2 players.
 
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Shanthi Gonzales
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I love El Grande, and is definitely the founding father of area control games. Honorable mention for me goes to Wongar. A lot of people don't care for the theme, but I mostly care about the mechanics, and I think Wongar is great because when scoring happens, there are multiple things that score. You have to use the variant, however. The regular rules aren't as good.
 
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Jerry Wilkinson
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New Castle
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IMO Yes, El Grande is the choice for area control as long as you have 4-5 players.
 
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Paul W
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For a nice area control game that's a little on the lighter side, may I suggest Mission: Red Planet? Since you're looking for something that'll work well with a non-gamer couple, I think this one might be just the ticket.
 
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PK WADDLE
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Austin
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My simple response and 2 cents is YES.. I do think El Grande is THE Area Control Masterpiece. I also think for how much depth it has it's not ALL that uber complex to explain perhaps even to non-gamers/gateway gamers. Also my 2 cents to unfort. disagree with some of the above, I think Kahuna is lightly entertaining but is luck-based chaos-- it just seems to me it all depends on who gets whatever cards when they come up that there is not a great deal of processed decision making, but YMMV. If you are looking for something perhaps even deeper, City Tycoon seems to mix Alahambra, 7 Wonders and Area Control mechanics all together for a relatively successful mash-up.
 
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