I first played The Quest for El Dorado around 6 months ago but even after one play I was hooked. It's what I call the perfect "Saturday afternoon game". Any game played during the day needs to be on the shorter side. With kids awake, you simply cannot get away with pulling out a 4 hour game. Interruptions occur, my wife needs help, someone gets called home...it's just not worth it. So games that are 30-90 minutes tend to thrive, enough time for a commitment but not so much time that the children being awake will ruin a good game.
Until El Dorado, one of my favorite Saturday afternoon games was Kingdom Builder. I've yet to write about it, but suffice it to say that I still love it, it's still in my collection, and I'm sure I'll get around to a post about it eventually. Loving Kingdom Builder aside, El Dorado very quickly caught up and rushed into 1st place. It's incredibly variable, it has the perfect amount of player interaction, you can get a game in under 45 minutes, and it teaches in under 15. An absolutely solid experience.
At its core, the basic idea is you and your fellow explorers are racing towards El Dorado, trying to get there before anyone else. Along the way, they'll hack through forest, traverse rivers and lakes, upgrade equipment at the local villages and more. The main mechanic here is deck building combined with a race along a variable board and it works so well. I've always loved the idea of deck building with a board, but most of the games I've played with that aspect eventually left my collection. Trains, Clank, A Few Acres of Snow have all left, Mage Knight I only recently discovered and hopefully will stick around, and Ignite and Monumental are two kickstarters that I'm very excited about, one is combat based and the other a 4X experience.
So far though, El Dorado looks like it will stay. Every decision is fraught with meaning, every turn spent building your deck instead of racing ahead, is a turn that can cost you the game or win you the game. Every explorer in your way along the perfect path is intensely frustrating (in a good way), but that frustration is more than balanced out by the perfect turn where you manage to play your cards, advancing along a full map tile and taking the lead.
The game is as accessible as it is enjoyable, I highly recommend it.
We recently started a new blog, about games that have left our collection and why. Check out the first post here, about Sentinels of the Multiverse.