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Great article Jay and worthy of a tip! I have intuitively done a few of these strategies over my many games of El Grande, but never actively thought much about why I was doing them. This article summarizies the best strategies nicely and uses great examples to boot!

Now you need to tackle Tikal!
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Jorge Montero
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St Louis
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I'll take Manhattan in a garbage bag. With Latin written on it that says "It's hard to give a shit these days"
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Great article. The only core aspect of the game you don't discuss is court management, my personal favorite. Novice players ends up losing caballeros from the board because he doesn't have any in their court. They also end up taking a 4 or 5 card but only have caballeros available, wasting some of the power of the high cards. Every wasted caballero placement is just like an extra share in Age of Steam: Most of the time, it proves that you were to aggressive, and will probably will end up costing you the game.

Also, I thinl that in every scoring round you should plan on playing 10+ caballeros on the board. No matter how skillfully you play your cards, 7 caballeros every three rounds will not give you enough leverage to score many points. The more caballeros you have on the board, the better your chances of using every intrigue card to your advantage.
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Rob McFadden
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Cherry Hill
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Thanks Jay! This post was worth the wait.

Your story of the player who took the intrigue card late in the game is a great one. Another reason not to fear the lead... I guess you never know when that kind of fortune will come your way.
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mike hazel
United States
easley
South Carolina
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Jay this is a wonderful article. It feels like a conversation I might have had with you over the years. I look forward to seeing you again, not this year unfortunately, but for many years afterwards. You have always been one of my favorite opponents and one who so obviously loves the game itself and the give and take of the tournament that I value your opinion. You have given us great advice whether we have played a great deal or have just started. Have a great time in Lancaster.

I rarely post on Geek or anywhere but this is very good stuff and I thank you for it.
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Michael Marvosh
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Boise
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Jay, I played a 4-player game of El Grande the other night and attempted to employ tip number 2, the Rule of Twos (or whatever it's called).

It seemed to me that it took me the first three rounds just to establish a presence in the provinces, and I was pretty far behind after this. I never really recovered. I had a lot of provinces with 2 guys on them, but got started so late that I didn't get enough first places to put up a decent showing.

What's the practical way of implementing this strategy?
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Rob Flowers

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Good article. My thoughts on El Grande are nearly as detailed as that, so hats off to Jay for sharing them.

My general plan, which works a surprising amount of the time, is simply to GET YOUR CABS ON THE BOARD. I find that I pretty often am running out of pieces in my provinces by game's end, or that I'm darned close.

I came to this realization from my early plays of the game in which I succumbed to the instant scoring cards or cool things you can do with Intrigue, and later I came to realize that both of these are more powerful if you have more cabs on the board to begin with.

You start out with 7 cabs in your court. That's a lot! Plunk down a highish bid (not your 13... ) and get them out there with a 4 or 5 action card. On rounds 1-3, I especially try and get the higher cards.

Later on, I spend less time putting cabs in the regions and more time in the Castillo. Your forces in there can't be messed with (but they can't spread out either, so don't go overboard)

Another benefit in concentrating on board position early and not score, is that often in multiplayer games, people tend to gang up a little more (especially the intrigue card players) on the leader. At the beginning, the leaders will be the ones that take the special scoring cards, so they don't get as many men on the board and then have players messing with them. It can be a painful position to be in!

Other small, perhaps obvious tips:

1) "It's good to be the king". The Move the King action is always powerful. I have to have a very good reason to pass this up if the action is still available when it's my turn to choose. (Perhaps a really good scoring combination) Don't be afraid to use this if you are short a little bit. I've often taken this when I only have 4 cabs in my court (and I wasn't expecting to get it). 3 is a little painful, but then, your other choices may not be any better.

2) Use your turn to make other choices unattractive (or at least less harmful to you). Suppose a special score comes up that's beneficial for somebody else. Go earlier, if it's not too painful, and put more guys in the regions that will score. This is much better than taking the scoring action just to deny it to someone else. (Sometimes, though, that will be your best choice, if you can't affect the regions that will score.)

Another common example is the 2 cards that take men away from courts. Especially the one that empties it completely. Lesson 1 is, don't let your court get too big if this card is out there (or really, almost any time). However, if you do have a sizable court, either bid high and go early, using the card yourself or emptying your court with your turn, or bid low and refill your court after someone else takes the action.

3) Silly Scoreboard trick: if I happen to have a Mobile Scoreboard action available (which I like for the 4 cabs alone), I will sometimes plop the 4/0/0 scoreboard in my own region if it was only a 4, or even a 5 region to begin with. As long as you maintain a reasonable edge in your home region, other players will be much more reluctant to challenge you and perhaps end up in second place with 0 points.

4) the 1-13 combo

Worth mentioning again. I try to get this once in a game, if possible (and it's usually possible). I prefer to do it on turns 5-6 or 8-9, but I'll go for 2-3 if the other players let me. Simply, you play your 1 on the 2nd turn before the scoring round, allowing you to bid first just before the scoring round with your 13. You better be darned sure you then use the Move the King action to lock down your home provice.

This is, of course, weakened if the Royal Advisor comes out on the turn you play your 13, but it isn't fatal.
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Jim Cote
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Excellent article. I just got my copy of El Grande Decennial today. Can't wait to put some of this good stuff into practice.
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Daniel Corban
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Newmarket
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I am another new El Grande player who appreciates articles like this. I didn't take too many notes, because I don't want an unfair advantage over my play group (yet). arrrh
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Bruno Valerio
Portugal
Lisboa
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Thanks Jay, played my first El Grande game last Saturday and i was imediately in love with the game.

Can't wait to try it out again!
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Brad Musil
United States
Shawnee
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"I feel I owe a debt both to my wife for the many hours (and days) spent apart from her while moving caballeros..."

So, let me get this straight, you repay your wife for all the hours and days she didn't see you when you were playing by spending hours and days writing this?

That aside aside, what an awesome post! Yucata just implemented El Grande, one of my favorite games, so I've been playing it a lot lately.

I am a huge Kramer fan--El Grande is my second favorite game, second only to Kramer's Torres. I've been thinking about writing a Torres strategy guide, and you've inspired me to go ahead and do so. Stay tuned...
 
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Karel Stastny
Czech Republic
Prague
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The strategy guide does not appear to be here anymore. If anyone wants to read it, they can do so here http://boardgamestrategy.blogspot.cz/2010_09_01_archive.html. (I am not the owner of the blog, I just wanted to read the guide and this is where I found it)

Hopefully this will help save you some Googling
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Jay Fox
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Cherry Hill
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I've upped my game - up yours!
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I recently changed my user name to sync with my game club. In doing so, I lost the articles I had written. I have rebooted my strategy guide to a new thread.
 
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