Review: The Quest for El Dorado
Race through a dense South American jungle in pursuit of the legendary city of gold.
Designed by Reiner Knizia and published by 999 Games
👤 2-4 players
🧩 Deck Building, Race, Grid Movement
⚖️ Light (For Families)
In The Quest for El Dorado you assume the role of Expedition Leaders in a quest to find the legendary city of gold. The Quest for El Dorado is a race to the City of Gold. To get to this City of Gold you need to recruit and play expedition cards to move your expedition through the jungle.
Each player stars with the same deck of expedition cards. At the start of your turn you will have 4 cards of that deck in your hand. You can use these cards to either move your pawn or buy new expedition cards. Each card shows a number of machetes, paddles, coins or a special ability that can be used. Machetes are used to move through forest spaces, paddles are used to cross water spaces and coins can be used to move through villages or buy new expedition cards from the market. At the start of the game the market is filled with 6 different expedition cards you can buy, during the game these expedition cards will get depleted and new (stronger) expedition cards become available. Once you're done moving and recruiting, you may discard remaining cards or hold on to them. After that you redraw up to your hand limit of 4 and the next player in clockwise order takes their turn. The first player to reach the City of Gold wins the game (or expedition)!
The Quest for El Dorado is my goto gateway game when introducing players to the deck building mechanic. Deck building can seem very boring in if you're not familiar with it, as there is not much visual progress (apart from your deck getting thicker or thinner). The Quest for El Dorado solves this by adding a racing mechanic that is both exciting and fun!
In The Quest for El Dorado you need to balance your movement and recruiting. If you focus too much on recruiting somebody might reach the City of Gold faster. If you focus on movement early on you might get stuck in the later parts of the expedition since it gets increasingly more difficult to move the further you go. You can also remove cards from your deck to thin out your deck. The player interaction comes mostly from blocking other players (yes, you can't move through each other) and from the constant fear of somebody going faster than you.
El Dorado is good at limiting your decision space. You don't have to think too much about whats ahead, just where you're at right now. This makes turns quick and this means it plays well at all player counts. At two players you have to move two pawns instead of one, and both need to get to the City of Gold. So even in a two player game there is plenty of tension and blocking.
The Modular board of The Quest for El Dorado offers plenty of variation. The rulebook offers a variety of different expeditions (ranging from easy to hard). Once you've played all of those I recommend you check out the following link for 40 more scenarios you can start playing right now:
I recommend playing with the Caves variant which adds Cave tokens. The Cave tokens can be collected from the board and they offer a variety of one time abilities that can be used at any point during your turn. This will definitely spice up the game for more experienced players.
👍 One of the best modern gateway games, deck building with a race element is exciting
👍 Fast turns and not much down-time, plays well with all player counts
👍 The theme and new vivid artwork make it accessible
👍 Modular board adds variety every time you play
➖ Setup can be a bit time consuming, you also need plenty of table space
The Quest for El Dorado
Alternative title: De zoektocht naar El Dorado
The Quest for El Dorado is in my opinion the definition of an accessible game. It offers excitement, solid mechanisms, a fun theme and approachable artwork. Even for experienced gamers its a joy to play, and I definitely recommend adding in the Caves variant as soon as possible.
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
Looking for alternatives or similar games? Have a look at Bad Company or Cubitos.