El Caballero Review

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El Caballero is a game by Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich published by Rio Grande Games.  It is for 2-4 players.  In this game players are following Columbus and exploring the islands he discovered.  At least, that’s the premise anyway.    To begin, players choose a color and take 8 of the 10 Caballero tiles, 1 set of power cards that are numbered 1-13 and a scoring marker that is placed on the score board.  All of the area tiles are shuffled and the first tile is turned over.  As long as it does not have a fish or gold symbol on it, you place it in the center of the play area.  Tiles are reshuffled and the top 5 are laid out face up.  The game now begins.  The first player has 7 actions that he may do in any order.  They are as follows:  Supply (add Caballeros to your court or supply by playing a power card), play an area tile or play 2 if the number 9 card is used, add or increase 1-2 of your Caballero cards, buy 1-2 ships by paying 2 Caballeros per ship, build 1-2 Castillos by paying 1 Caballero per Castillo, return Caballero cards or ships to your supply/court for no cost, move ships or Castillos from one area to another.  There are only a few things to remember when performing your actions.  Area tiles must be played with land touching land or water touching water.  To claim land areas, you must have the most Caballeros in an area by placing Caballero tiles with the amount used touching the area of land or water.  Caballero tiles can only border one land area.  If it borders more by either the players action or one of the opponents, it must be removed.  Unless there is a Castillo on the Caballero tile, the Caballeros are lost, otherwise they go into the supply.  Ships as well as Caballeros are placed on Caballero tiles that touch water or land.  That’s pretty much the basics for a players turn.  The next player then takes their turn.  This goes on for 7 rounds, with scoring at the end of the 4th and the 7th round.  Scoring is done in several ways.  First by adding up the number of Caballeros in a land area.  The most Caballeros wins the area.  The number of land tiles in an area plus number of gold icons in the area doubled is what the controller of that area will receive in points.  If more than 2 players are playing, the second ranking player receives just the value of the region.  For the water areas, the number of water tiles are added plus fishing icons.  Each ship in that area earns that number of points regardless of who has area control of the water.  The game continues until the 7th scoring phase.  The player with the most points after that phase, wins.

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COMPONENTS
The components are very nicely done.  The Caballero and area tiles are all very thick and sturdy with great coloring and art.  The power cards are a little small but they get the job done.  They have nice colorful artwork as well.  The small tokens used for the governor extended game as well as the ships and Castillos are very sturdy and thick as well.  The wooden scoring marker and Grandes for the extended game are nice and colorful.  I have to say though, the crowning piece in this box is the score board.  It is so beautiful to look at and is a very nice addition.  The rules for scoring and player actions for both the standard and extended game are represented on the score board.  This is a very welcome addition.   The only complaint I might have is that the box insert doesn’t exactly lend itself to placing all the pieces and tiles into the box properly.  I still haven’t figured out how to use it yet.  Still, it’s only a very small gripe.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is very nicely done with very easy to understand rules.  It’s not complicated in any way.  The only thing I could complain about is that it’s not in color.  Once again, this is a very small gripe and doesn’t really affect anything other than just sheer aesthetics.  I like the addition of the extended game rules.  Overall nothing really bad here.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
First off let me state, I don’t normally play tile laying games.  I don’t like playing Carcassone at all.  However, I really enjoyed playing this one.  It’s really fun and easy to play.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to play and it’s easy to learn.  It plays well with 2 players or more.  I enjoyed laying out the pieces and making land areas.  It felt like I was making a treasure map as I played.  After the game, my son and I took the remaining tiles and placed them out to make a huge map.  We had lots of fun playing this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
El Caballero is a light – medium weight game with a great feel of exploration through tile laying and area control.  It scales up really well and it’s fun for everyone, including non Carcasonne loving players like me.  It won’t burn your brain, but it will make you rethink your tile placement.  All in all, it’s really fun.  Give it a try.
9 out of 10

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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