With the strategic board game Race to El Dorado Ravensburger has published a very promising one in collaboration with the game designer Reiner Knizia and the illustrator Franz Vohwinkel. The concept was so well received that Race to El Dorado was able to secure a place on the nomination list for the game of the year 2017. The combination of deck building and racing is already convincing in theory - and thus offers family players the opportunity to prove themselves in a deck building board game. The concept is so well thought out that Race to El Dorado could manage to open deck building games to a completely new target group. Our board game review on the tactical hit Race to El Dorado shows why this game is definitely not to be missed.   

Indiana Jones: The Magical Gathering ?!

On the Board game review too Kingdomino, the winning title for Game of the Year 2017, follows our game report on its worst rival: Race to El Dorado by Reiner Knizia. 

Is thematic Race to El Dorado a classic expedition or adventure game. 2 to 4 participants make their way to the golden land of El Dorado, which is hidden deep in the jungle of South America. That - and the picture on the game box - is very reminiscent of adventure films like Indiana Jones. Reiner Knizia embeds the deck building mechanics in a completely different way, because it is anything but adventurous. Almost like in a classic deck building game, players can tinker around with their card strategies if they wish. Everyone always has the choice of whether to make the journey as fast as possible or to experiment with their expedition team so that they don't run out of stamina.

The Race to El Dorado is a strategic board game with high long-term motivation. Not only because it is a lot of fun to react to the game situations, but because the game board can always be put together differently. Either according to patterns given in the assembly instructions, which differ significantly in terms of their respective degrees of difficulty, or completely freely. The latter is especially fun for experienced players and is a praiseworthy strength of the strategic board game from Ravensburger. With a few tips in mind, exciting adventures can be designed. Fortunately, pitch architects are not left completely alone, because the assembly instructions provide four valuable tips for meaningful combinations of the individual terrain tiles:

  • Avoids large areas in one color.
  • Make sure that abbreviations always lead over fields with difficult conditions
  • If you're planning a curve, the inside lane should be harder to walk.
  • Avoids too many bottlenecks.

Particularly courageous expedition leaders can of course deviate from these instructions. We did not come across a really unplayable combination during the games as part of the board game review - the one or the other hand-made composition of the terrain was, however, quite crisp. 

The variable structure of the game includes the equipment of the players, which is always the same: 2 playing figures, 1 expedition board, 8 basic cards (consisting of 1 sailor, 3 researchers and 4 travelers). A minimal change only brings to light the excellently functioning 2-player variant: only then do you really need the second character. If everything is prepared, you immerse yourself in the game and develop your game strategy round by round.

One thing is certain: behind Race to Eldorado there is more than you would think at first glance. 

This is how the race to El Dorado works

For the sake of simplicity, your career as an adventurer begins with a ready-made entry-level route. Players first build their way to El Dorado from five landscape tiles. This is dictated by the game instructions and it is highly recommended that you follow this little tutorial. The fact that board games continue to rely on this type of game introduction is a great trend. Instead of just explaining the rules, 2 to 4 players will also participate Race to El Dorado step by step through their first adventure. The editors rely on a clear combination of an illustrated structure and a clear explanation of rules. If you look at the scope of the rules, it quickly becomes clear that the basic rule concept is comparatively simple: by playing cards in hand, players move across the terrain or buy new cards. The aim of the game is to reach the target field - the lost kingdom of El Dorado. 

Each turn is divided into three phases, which active players resolve one after the other before it is the turn of the next adventurer:

  • Play cards
  • Discard cards
  • Draw cards

This simple process results in consistently fluid card switching, allowing the deck building component to blend in smoothly with the gameplay. The market provides card replenishment, where players can put together their deck by making the most sensible purchases possible. Because active players can only buy one new card per turn, hand changes are less radical than in "real deck building games." It quickly becomes clear why Race to El Dorado This is an entry point into the extremely tactical deck building business, especially for family players. Nevertheless, this playful evolution is not a must. Those who are satisfied with the combination of deck building and running game will easily maintain their long-term motivation with the strategy board game from Ravensburger.

Also extremely positive: players carry out their actions with a total of 4 cards in hand. The comparatively small number of cards in hand gives the player an overview of what is happening quickly, but above all simply. While you can only buy one new card at a time, the movement is more flexible. You can play as many cards as you want from your hand, but you can only use each card once per turn. It is up to the players whether they want to fulfill the conditions of the terrain fields or simply block paths - which can be quite useful depending on the field situation and is quite nasty. And so the players move forward, clear blockages out of the way or become one themselves, in the end until the target field is reached and the Race to El Dorado thus won.

Thousands of play options for adventurers

It feels good to be with Race to El Dorado To have come across a board game whose variability can already be seen when unpacking the game material. Combining a personal game board from a total of seven terrain tiles is fun and ensures a high level of replayability. Together with the deck building system, a game (almost) always feels unique. Race to El Dorado brings a lot of fun to the gaming tables at home with its almost perfect gaming system. Even frequent players cannot escape the charm of the strategic board game from Ravensburger. If a spring novelty from the 2017 vintage can worthy represent the cultural asset "parlor games", then this is it El Dorado.

Board game review: Race to El Dorado by Ravenburger

The game arouses a thirst for adventure: The well-known explorer setting is visibly good for the game, because it makes the topic understandable even for casual gamers. Instead of having to rely solely on your imagination when it comes to mentally immersing yourself in the game world, as an adult you like to fall back on your childhood memories to feel like Indiana Jones - or your card-playing twin.

The enclosed cave module is also more than a gimmick. It fits seamlessly into the game and adds exciting moments to the gaming experience. With the cave module it is important to decide whether smaller detours are worthwhile, because sensible advantages could be hidden under the cave tiles. Thanks to different levels of difficulty ensures Eldorado for lasting fun that can turn every game into a little challenge. Or you can enjoy the excellent interlocking game elements of the board game in a rather simple mode. Motivation can be drawn from almost any composition - of material and types of players - as a round of games.

Pictures of the race to El Dorado


Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 40 to 60 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: high

Published by Ravensburger
Author: Reiner Knizia
Graphics: Franz Vohwinkel
Year of publication: 2017
Language: German
Cost: 40 Euro


When you read deck building, you usually think of the fine art of trading card games. With that, the strategic board game has Race to El Dorado to do nothing at all, of course. Much more likely you can get Reiner Knizia's title with board games like one Dominion to compare. Anyway Eldorado many parallels to other popular board games - visually as well as playfully. The fact that the experienced game designer Reiner Knizia uses such tricks is not to be assessed negatively, but basically quite clever. Instead of relying on innovations, combined Race to El Dorado well-functioning mechanisms without losing their independence. The adjusting screws were turned everywhere in order to change the deck construction play in details. In fact, the race to El Dorado is wonderfully catchy and sometimes new. Family players in particular benefit from the easy-to-implement rule constructs, which bring the fun to the table after a short break-in period.

Those who play regularly already know the basics of the deck construction system Dominion, where Reiner Knizia managed to get the mechanics in Race to El Dorado to reduce it to the essentials. Deck building in the strategy game by Ravensburger is more direct and intuitive - but requires a higher degree of timing in order to be transferred to the game board. When it comes to cards, players ask themselves two key questions: Which cards do I use to move? Which ones do I prefer to use elsewhere, for example for buying or for disposal?
A little trick makes Race of El Dorado especially exciting for games with players. In every game, regardless of whether there are two, three or four people, the entire card contingent is used. You don't have to be a mathematician to guess that the more players take part in a game the tighter the cards are. It's always about optimizing details - and that makes players constantly having to make decisions. On the board, this feels a lot more strategic than you could put it in words. The combination of covering knowledge and luck in pulling along works extremely well and makes Eldorado an exciting gaming experience.

Playful offers Race to El Dorado enough incentives for almost every type of player. While casual gamers gradually dare to approach the deck mechanics and tend to spontaneously move from decision to decision, frequent gamers push towards expedition success from the start by balancing their game actions as optimally as possible. To act wait-and-see during some moves in order to use this as an advantage for future moves, you have to be used to - or using the example of Eldorado learn vividly. Such strategies can prove extremely effective, especially when overtaking opposing players just before they reach the finish line.
Ever feels Eldorado noticeably more competitive than many other titles. This is primarily due to the classic start-finish concept. Instead of constantly brooding over point evaluations, in this board game you have right in front of your eyes how the current score is going and whether it is not time to roll up your hiking socks for a final spurt. This tangibility of a simple victory condition makes the strategic deck building game an ideal title for game rounds spanning generations. Like few other adult board games, it manages Eldorado to revive an almost outdated victory mechanic. Today, players only know simple races as a competitive framework from children's games or titles that place the luck factor more clearly in the foreground than Race to El Dorado it does.

Competing with your opponents is not an option with El Dorado significantly easier than with board games with more cryptic winning rules. All in all, things tend to be peaceful on the board. You can block paths and let opposing expedition teams do additional meters, but you have no more direct influence to make life difficult for other players. All the small nasties flow into the board game in a target-group-oriented manner and often create a smile, not frustration.

Reiner Knizia has succeeded in creating an extremely variable, exciting board game with comparatively simple means. The central pillars for the high replay value are, on the one hand, the landscape panels printed on both sides, which can be combined as desired. On the other hand, the deck construction mechanics in connection with the market strip ensure great playful freedom of choice. The map selection is limited as flexibly as the terrain tiles can be arranged. Ravensburger is welcome to think about regular expansions here. Deserved it Race to El Dorado in any case. There are seldom board game reviews that have made us scream out loud for additional content. Don't forget to praise the optional cave module that comes with the board game. In terms of play, it makes a lot of sense to deal with it directly: even casual gamers shouldn't miss the additional moment of tension - especially since the implementation of the special rules does not cause any problems.

Overall is Race to El Dorado an excellent title that knew how to convince in all games for this board game review. However, the entertainment value must not be viewed entirely independently of the target group: where strategy and luck meet, family and casual gamers usually feel more comfortable than frequent gamers. The latter are still happy to race after each game Eldorado .
For us, the quality of the strategic deck building game quickly became apparent, which was reason enough Eldorado as our favorite for the 2017 Game of the Year award. Even if the victory ultimately comes Kingdomino from Pegasus Spiele, the well-deserved placement on the nomination list was a logical decision of the jury. We would have wondered about less.

That brings Race to El Dorado at the end a great 4 rating points and a silver award for a successful family gaming experience.