Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Arve D. Fühler

Argentum Verlag, 2014

No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Doug Adams writes about the game:

El Gaucho is a game for two to four players, for ages 10 and up. The theme of the game is players are cattle barons, acquiring and selling cattle on the South American pampas. A full four player game should take about an hour. Two player games take around 30 to 40 minutes.


The game is attractively produced, and comes packaged in a slim bookcase style box. Inside the box there is a small bag of about 30 wooden Gaucho pawns, in four colours, as well as a large colourful game board. The game also comes with punch boards containing fence pieces, and sixty cattle tiles. Each tile features a cute and amusing illustration of a cow, which adds a lot of charm to the game. Some scoring markers, a start player marker, and a German rulebook completes the package.


The object of the game is to be the richest player at the end of the game. Players will acquire cattle tiles, add them to herds, and sell the herds during the game. Sales of herds are translated directly into victory points, recorded around the perimeter of the game board. The cattle tiles enter the game from a stack of sixty tiles. There are five "breeds" (colours) of cattle in the game, and each cattle tile will be a unique combination of breed and value (ranging from 1 to 12). Cattle tiles that players acquire during the game will meld to the right of cattle of the same breed, increasing the value of that herd when it comes time to sell the herd.

When adding cattle to an existing herd, the value of the cattle must maintain a sequence in either ascending or descending order. So you can grow a herd with say 2, 5, 6, 9 value tiles, or 9, 8, 3, 2, 1, and so on. When you come to add a tile that does not maintain the sequence, the herd must be sold before the new tile begins a new herd. When selling a herd, each tile is worth the value of the most valuable tile in the herd. So, a herd of 12, 4, 3 = 36 pesos, while a herd of 5, 4, 3 = 15 pesos.

The game is quite straightforward to teach and play. Before the game, the players are given some cows to begin their herds, and the game begins. There will be a start player, which rotates around the table from turn to turn. The start player rolls a handful of dice onto the game board, into a cute little fenced area that functions as an effective dice tray. Each player will take turns selecting two of the rolled dice and taking actions with those die results. The final player will only have three dice to select from.

Players can use die results to either reserve cattle tiles, or to reserve a future action. The cattle tiles that can be reserved are displayed in four rows on the game board. Each tile has two numbers on it - a large number and a smaller number. If you spend dice whose pip-value exactly match the value of the large number on the tile, you may place a gaucho on that tile, standing up. If you only match the smaller number on the tile, you may place a gaucho on that tile, laying down. Later on, or even in the same turn, you may match the smaller number again, and stand that gaucho up.


At the end of the round, after each player has had a turn, each row of cattle tiles is checked. Any row that has a gaucho on each tile is considered complete. The players may take their reserved tiles and add them to their herds. However, cattle tiles are only awarded for standing gauchos. Gauchos that are lying down aid in the completion of the row, but do not award tiles to their owners. It is at this time that players may have to sell off their herds in order to accomodate newly acquired cattle tiles.

While the game is all about getting the cattle tiles, sometimes the dice will not cooperate, and you will not be able to reserve cattle. El Gaucho gives players the opportunity to use die results to place their gauchos onto one of six different action fields, allowing them to take an action on a future turn. These actions are important, and give the players something to think about. On a future turn, players may remove a gaucho from a reserved action, and take that action - this can be combined with their normal actions with their two selected dice.

The six actions are:

  • Sort - When adding cattle to a herd, you may insert the cow tile into your meld, rather than adding to the right of the herd.
  • Wish - Add a third virtual die of any value to your two action dice.
  • Immediate Sale - Sell a herd immediately, with a bonus 5 pesos.
  • Steal Cattle - Take any cattle tile from another player's herds - that player is compensated in pesos.
  • Raise/Replace Gauchos - Stand up two or your laying down gauchos, or replace another player's laying down gaucho with a standing gaucho of your own (compensate that player with pesos).
  • Secret Cattle - Choose one or two cattle tiles from a secret pile of four tiles, and place them in the cattle rows with standing gauchos.


The game will end when the pile of sixty cattle tiles is exhausted. Players take one more normal turn, with dice rolling and selection, followed by one final turn where only the gauchos on action fields are used. Any cattle tiles with gauchos standing on them are awarded to their owners, and finally all herds are sold off. The player with the most pesos wins the game.

El Gaucho is a difficult game to review. I have played the game five times and enjoyed it each time. Four of those games have been two player games, with one breed of cattle removed, so you play with 48 cattle tiles, and a reduced playing area for the cattle rows on the game board. We found the game fun, quite quick to play, and surprisingly deep and thoughtful. Our only four player game only confirmed this opinion, and the extra two players and only 12 extra cattle tiles almost made the game feel too abrupt. The game has an unusual feel to it, and it's difficult to get a read on it. It seems to be a game like Ticket To Ride - it can be played as a light family game, or as a ruthless, cut-throat gamer's game. The more you look at it, the deeper it becomes. It is also surprisingly mathematical, if you want to take it to that level.


Let us take a deeper look at the maths side of things. Say Doug is holding a 6-5-4 herd of cattle, and has a Steal Cattle action reserved. Janet is holding the same herd, with 10-9-3, and Roger has 12-2. Who does Doug steal from? Doug's herd value is currently 18, and if he takes Roger's 12, Doug would have to sell for 18 and begin a new herd with a 12. Roger's value drops from 24 to 4, but he gets 12 pesos in compensation, so he's effectively only down 8 pesos. If Doug takes the 2, the herd is maintained and goes from 18 to 24 in value, and Roger drops to 12, with with only 2 in compenstation, so he is now 10 pesos down. If Doug took Janet's 3, she drops from 30 pesos to 20, with 3 pesos compensation ... with five breeds of cattle on the table, you can see this game gets ... deep!

The game also has an unusual tempo - the game can seem to end almost too quickly, before players have settled in and performed all their plans. You may get caught out by having the game end while you still have laying gauchos on the board, which are worthless at the end of the game. Planning is crucial here, and having the right actions reserved is critical. You have to be a turn or three ahead of the game - you can look pretty silly reserving a Steal Cattle action, only to have your intended target perform an Immediate Sale before you get to act. You can perform some trickery with turn position to get this to work, if you are watching the start player move around the table.

There appears to be several ways to tackle the game too. I have seen a game where a player seemingly did very little during the game, just quietly acquire cattle, perform a thoughtful theft, and sell everything off at the end of the game ... and win the game. Other games have seen players sell using the Immediate Sale action and get the 5 peso bonus.

The dice may bother some, but I have only seen one instance in five games where a player couldn't use a die to do something. This was myself in the four player game, when I was the last player to act that turn - I was left with three dice of value 4, 4, 4. I couldn't use them on cattle tiles, and could only place one on the Steal Cattle "4" action. I guess a rogue roll may hinder more players, but I suspect it will be rare. Of course, players acting before you can see what dice you would like and ensure you don't get them! Of course, this is part of the game.

In summary, I think this is a very good game, and one of those rare games that can be played at different levels. This would make a nice family game, and a faster game for experienced gamers who want something quick and chewy. The production is lovely, the theming is well implemented, the game is very easy to teach, and very accessible. Recommended.


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Copyright © 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany