Great Western Trail, the great route of the West
By Daniel Marco
I'll start at the end: This game drives me crazy! I had the opportunity to try it for the first time a few months ago, recently arrived from the Essen fair and it was love at first sight. Great Western Trail mixes several mechanics very well interlinked that will take us to travel through the United States to sell our cattle.
Great Western Trail is a game by Alexander Pfister (Isle of Skye, Mombasa, Oh my Goods! ...) that has recently been published in Spanish by MasQue Oca Editions. The game is illustrated by Andreas Resch who already worked with Pfister in Mombasa. We are facing a game for 2 to 4 players with a duration that will be around 2 hours in which we will squeeze our brains to optimize our movements to the maximum.
The Great Western Trail board
The first time you see the game unfold it may seem a bit messy but it really is not that bad. The board is divided into 4 main parts:
The route that we will take as authentic cowboys on the back of our horse driving the cattle. It occupies the entire central part of the board. We have several possible ways to go. We will go through different areas. We will face many dangers (no one said it was easy). We can go through different places and stop at buildings that even we ourselves will order to build.
When we stop to rest in a neutral building or some of ours we will have different actions to do: trade with the Indians, buy cattle, expand the reach of our rail line ... If we finish our movement in a building of another player we can only perform some auxiliary action available on our individual board. In addition, in some we will have to pay a "toll" to be able to cross over them.
It occupies the left side of the board. Every time we arrive in Kansas City, the first thing we will do is add new hazards to the route and new workers to the labor market. This will make us approach one step at the end of the game. Each time we fill in the labor market a file will go down the board. When we reach the end the final is shot and we will play the last round.
Then we will convert our cattle into money. One of the main mechanics of the game is to build decks (deck building). We are cowboys and we will handle a hand of cattle cards. Our mission is to take advantage of the trip between Texas and Kansas to exchange certain cows from our hand for others from our deck. In our destiny they will not pay us anything for the repeated heads of cattle. So the ideal is to arrive with as many unduplicated cows as possible.
Corresponds to the top and right of the board. Finally, we will use our rail line (represented by our locomotive) and the money we have just won to send the cattle to any of the available cities. We can only send cattle once to each city in the game (except Kansas City and San Francisco). When sending the cattle to a city we will place one of the disks of our individual board in that city. This will cause us to unlock certain auxiliary actions or improve certain skills such as moving more squares per turn, being able to transport more heads of cattle ...
In the lower part of the board we have the Cattle Market. Through actions of certain buildings we can go to the cattle market to acquire new cattle.
The individual board
In the individual board shows us on the one hand all the actions we can perform and the various improvements (covered by wooden discs).
On the other hand, in the central part of it we have room to place our workers. These can be of 3 types:
The cowboys will be useful to us to be able to acquire better cows and at a better price.
The builders will help us to build better and better buildings.
The engineers will use them to be able to advance our rail line and save money when sending our cattle to faraway places.
End of the game
When the round tab of the Labor Market leaves the board at the bottom, the last round will be held. Afterwards, the points will be counted. We are facing one of those games in which you score for everything. We will obtain points for money, buildings, cows, cities visited ...
The game of the year (for me)
I know I have left many aspects of the game in the inkwell (such as goal cards, for example). I do not pretend to explain the game with hairs and signals. For that, I always recommend reading the regulation. I hope that someone who is not clear that the game is going to have an idea above.
As I said at the beginning, I'm excited about this game. I enjoy every game from the first moment until the last round.
In Great Western Trail it is advisable not to neglect any of the fronts since it can become complicated to try to recover later. We must build buildings, placing them strategically to optimize our trips. We have to expand the variety of our cattle as well as removing the least valuable ones. We must hire workers from the 3 classes. And we must try to squeeze every objective to add all the possible points.