Review – Great Western Trail
A Point to Point Movement, Hand Management game.
Title: Great Western Trail
Year Published: 2016
Designer: Alexander Pfister
Publisher: Stronghold Games
Game Time: 75-150 mins
Set-up Time: ~5 mins
Theme: Old West
Mechanic: Deck Building, Hand Management, Point to Point Movement, Tile Placement
How to win: Score the most points.
America in the 19th century: You are a rancher and repeatedly herd your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. This earns you money and victory points. Needless to say, each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow.
However, the “Great Western Trail” not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail. Also, it might be a good idea to hire capable staff: cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your very own buildings, or engineers for the important railroad line.
Many many steps…
Add the 5 Station Master tiles randomly to their spaces.
Put the 7 neutral buildings on their spaces randomly, or in order if it’s your first game.
Turn over tiles from those marked with a ‘1’ which include a Tepee or Hazard tokens in lowest matching spot until 7 tiles have been revealed.
Put the Job Market token in the dashed space. Turn over tiles from stack 2 and place the workers in the top row under the player count until you meet up with the Job Market Token.
Last bit with these tiles, fill the foresight rows from their respective stack.
Shuffle the cattle market and lay out a number of cards depending on the player count.
Then shuffle the objective cards and lay 4 out, also shuffle the starting objectives and deal one to each player.
Give each player a player board, tokens and starting deck in their colour. Add the tile onto it’s space on the player board showing the correct player count. Also cover the spaces on the board with disks.
One player shuffles the private buildings and reads out the number and letter printed on them so everyone is using the same side of the building tiles. If you’re new to the game, make sure everyone is using side’A’.
Each player puts their Train in Kansas, the marker on 0 certificates on their player board and shuffles their Herd deck. They draw 4 cards.
Choose a random start player and give them $6. Each player in turn order gets $7/8/9 accordingly.
Each turn is played over 3 phases – Move, Use Action, Draw Cards.
On the first turn of the game, you will start by placing your pawn on ANY neutral building on the board.
To Move, follow the arrows on the board counting each ‘Tile’ (Building, Tepee or Hazard) as a space. You MUST move at least 1 step but no more than the maximum number of steps printed on your player board. You can stop on any tile but MUST stop at Kansas.
If you land on or pass through a tile with a hand on it, pay the cost of that hand shown on your player board to the player if a player owns the building, or to the bank if it’s a neutral building. (If a player can’t pay the cost they don’t have to, even if the tile itself earns them income)
After moving, Use the Action of the location your pawn is on.
If it’s Neutral, or a building you own then either use the action on the tile or take an Auxiliary action shown on your player board. (more on those later)
You can use each action on the building once each in any order. Any costs must be met in full to take an action.
Actions added to buildings that have been built on a ‘Risk Action’ space become part of that building.
If you takes don’t take the actions on the tile, you can take an auxiliary action. Also, if the building belongs to another player the only option you have is to take an auxiliary action.
If in Kansas, you perform all 5 Kansas steps in order…
Foresight – Place a tile from each row in the relevant space on the board. Hazards and Tepees go into the lowest value relevant space. If it’s a Worker, place it on the row with the Job Market token, move the token down a row if a worker would be placed on it.
If the token is moved down a Yellow arrow, fill the Cattle Market back to the maximum number of cards.
Income – You reveal your hand and calculate your income. Count 1 type of cattle (distinctive card colours) once each, totalling the sum of their value and adding 1 per certificate used.
You earn that many Dollars and discard your hand.
Delivery – You now put any disk from your player board on a city equal to or lower than the value of your cattle. You can’t deliver to a city you have already delivered to, the exception being both Kansas and San Francisco who can take an infinite deliveries.
Some disks have a cost to move and a disk on the player board space with dark corners can only be placed on a dark station space, white corners can go on any station. If you have no white space disks left, you can place a disk from a dark space on to station with a white space. Got it? 🙂
If you have no disks left on yours board or you can’t pay the costs for those that are there, you can move a disk from another station instead.
If the station you’re delivering to is further down the track than your train, you must pay pay 1 coin for each red cross between the front of the train and the city you are delivering to.
Now you move your Cattleman to the start of the trail and refill the foresight spaces. Then you Draw Cards up to your current hand limit.
Play continues clockwise.
Now, a quick look at the actions you can take on the various buildings…
Take a worker from the track that isn’t on the same row as the Job Market token. Pay the cost and add it in the leftmost empty space of the relevant worker row.
When taken, it goes into yours discard pile. When drawn, you can add it to your play area before moving or before/after taking an action to gain the bonus on the card. Each card in your player area can be fulfilled at the end of the game for points and you get negative points for unfulfilled objectives. Objective cards still in your deck (not played for their bonus) at the end of the game can be discarded from the game or kept and scored, it’s up to you.
Build a Building
Build a building on an empty space, or replace one of your own buildings on the trail. You needs the right number of craftsmen and you pay $2 per craftsman used. If you replace a building, you pay the difference between the 2 buildings.
Move your train as many spaces as shown, or as many Engineers the player has depending on the type of movement used. Ignore spaces containing other trains and a train can move fewer spaces forward if required. A train can move into a turnout space which counts as one movement.
If a train moves into a Station you can immediately upgrade it. A station can only be upgraded once by paying the cost and placing a disk from your board on it following the same rules as placing on cities.
But, you also take any rightmost worker of any type from our player board and put it on the station.
You then perform the action on the station now or lose it. The exception to this are Certificates which you add to your track, and anything which gives end game scoring.
Trade with Indians
Take a Tepee tiles and gain/lose the value of that tile.
Take one single auxiliary action. If the action allows it, take 2 auxiliary actions or 1 double action if the counters have been removed for that particular action.
Use Cowboys for one action each to buy cattle or add 2 cards to the cattle market. Purchased cattle go into your discard pile.
Remove one if available, pay a cost if required but keep the tile.
When a player places a Worker tile onto the final point of the worker track, they take the Job Market token. Everyone else gets one more turn but cannot hire workers if they go to Kansas.
- 1 point per $5
- Points for Buildings built
- Points for Crests on Cities
- Points on Train Stations
- Points on claimed Hazard tiles
- Points on Cattle cards
- Points on completed Objectives
- Points on Station Master tiles
- Points on covered Worker spaces on the players board
- Points on uncovered Disk spaces on the players board
- Points printed on the Job Market token
- Lose points for uncompleted, but played Objective cards
So, wow, lots to do here… You don’t really get punished by not doing something which is always nice 🙂
You can focus on Buildings, your Train, Cattle, Objectives, Workers, a bit of everything or a mix and match of any of them.
I’m finding this round up difficult as no particular element of this game is good… But, it all comes together VERY well. It’s more than just a boring bunch of mechanisms though, it’s a very well crafted game.
I give it 9/10