Essen 2016 – Great Western Trail
Drive cattle up to Kansas and ship it by rail.
A big game of cattle, cards and cash.
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.
If you cleverly manage your herd and navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of Great Western Trail, you surely will gain the most victory points and win the game.
This is all done with a mix of mechanisms and you start your turn with point to point movement around a board. This board shows connected routes of buildings, some belonging to players but most a neutral buildings that start on the board.
You move your meeple, following the route moving at least one space up to your maximum speed and take the action on the building you land on. (Assuming the building is your colour or a neutral one, you don’t get to use the abilities of other players buildings)
These abilities are vast and varied so I won’t go into detail but they include…
Trading with the Locals… You take one of these TeePee tokens and gain (or lose) the amount of money printed on the board next to the token.
BTW, those hands you see on the tokens, and on buildings, means you have to pay the bank or a player a fee each time you move through that space.
Hire a Worker… You buy them from a track, paying the cost and placing them on your player board. There are 3 types, Guys that help you buy cattle, Guys that help you build buildings and Guys that help move your train.
Remove a risk… Take a Dessert, Avalanche or Water token from the board after paying the cost… These tokens block routes (well, slow you down on certain paths) on the board across dangerous area on the map.
You can gain objective cards for end game scoring… They show you the criteria required which includes all kind of things including the above risk tokens which is why you would spend actions and money on getting them. These cards go into your deck of cattle cards and when drawn, can be played for an ability but then they MUST be scored at the end of the game, even f you fail it and lose points.
If an ability lets you move your train you can along the track but you can also pull into a station. if you do you can put a token on this station.
You can also build buildings, sell cattle cards from your hand, buy cattle from the ranch and much more…
Things get pretty cool when you get to Kansas which all of the paths on the board leads to.
Here you have 5 steps…
Firstly you fill some Worker, Risk and/or TeePee tokens back up.
Then you sell cattle in your hand BUT all the cattle must be different so duplicate copies of the same cattle card are discarded. Each cattle card has a value and you gain that much money…
Then you add a token to a track of cities which I assume is showing which city you sold to…
The higher the value of cattle you sold, the further up the track you can sell… But it also depends where your train is… You can sell to any city numbered up to the value of your cattle, but you must pay if the city is ahead of your train…
These counters you put on the board come from your player board.
These tokens uncover extra abilities, remove restrictions, increase your movement speed etc Also, adding workers to your board covers up spaces that give you a one shot bonus.
When adding the workers to the board push a token off the bottom of the track the game ends.
You get points for a whole bunch of stuff.
This is a very good game. It has a great mix of mechanisms, plenty to do, no real punishment for missing out on getting points from one area so you can just enjoy playing.
You can go for a bit of everything, focus on your cattle and train, maybe make building buildings your thing. I really like games that does this. I always think of Russian Railroads where I think ‘I’m going to focus on this track this game’.
A great game by a great designer.