El Grande is very fun to play. You win or lose because of your own choices, and the choices you make early in the game affect your chances at the end. It is the perfect strategy game. This will be a longer post because the strategy is complex.
Because it is less well known, I’ll start with the general game idea.
There are 6 rounds. (9 in the longer game) After every two rounds, you win points in every area that you have the most guys out. Each round, there is a phase to determine turn order based on the card that you play, followed by a round of play where you choose an action from the side and play your pieces accordingly.
Everything in this game is a trade-off. It is a lot like life. You can choose to stay up late to watch a movie, but the consequence is that you are exhausted the next day. In the game, you can choose to go first, but then you don’t get the option to have as many guys in our court. More extensive rules can be found here.
Round 1-3: Ramping Up
- Play your highest card in the turn order phase
- Choose the King action
- Play as many guys as possible
- Move the King away from where you played. (preferably to your own province)
- Win the Castille
Round 4-5,6-7: Preparation Phases
- Continue to get as many guys out as possible
- Score extra points if cards appear
- Win the Castille
Round 6,9: Final Strike
- Play your low cards in turn order phase, go last if possible
- Choose the card that will give you the most control over the final scoring
- Win the Castille.
- Manage your Court
- Don’t create grudge matches
- Do create tension among other players
Round 1 and 2
At the beginning you really want to get as many guys onto the board as possible. Later you can move them around or take turns to score points, but right now, you need guys out to work with. To do this you need the first turn. Play your 13 in the first round, and try to win the second round, while still having enough guys in your court to play them on the field.
The King is very powerful at this point because there are so few guys out. By controlling the king, you control where placement occurs, and if you go first, you can own an area and move the king away, almost guaranteeing you multiple winning areas.
Winning the Castille is so important throughout the game because by winning there, you get the points for the Castille, plus you are almost guaranteed to win one more area when you move the guys out of the Castille.
Preparation Rounds 3, 5
The whole goal of these rounds is to prepare you for the scoring rounds. You don’t have to go first, but you should still be placing many guys out. This is also a good time to put guys in the Castille to prep you for scoring.
Here is where you have to play your best. Going last by playing your 1 will give you an advantage in deciding the scores. In previous rounds, you played a lot of guys out, so you should be able to get at least one card that can move them to the right places, or add enough guys to win the scoring.
If you go last, you have the final say in where guys end up, so take advantage of it.
And win the Castille. (I can’t emphasize the importance enough.)
You don’t need to have to many guys in your court. You also don’t want to have to few. After the first round, you want to be playing cards that gives you enough of a court, but also gives you the position you want.
Don’t create grudge matches. In this game, it is really easy to ensure that someone doesn’t win, as long as you are ok not winning yourself. Don’t do something spitefully or it will end up destroying you and them in the end.
Do create tension. What I mean here is that you can set things up so that other people have to focus on each other. Move their guys in such a way so that they have to decide how to defend themselves against each other.
You made it to the end! The strategies here are good, but are difficult to actually implement. My final advice is to choose your best options, then stick with them. You will want to say that you wish you would have done something differently. Remember my post about creating your strategy. Learn from your mistakes and make your strategy better next time.