Publisher: Stonghold Games, Designer: Alexander Pfister, 2 -4 players
So, quite literally I just finished a 3 player game of the Essen Spiel hotness, Great Western Trail, with the guys on Thursday night. This game became one of the most popular board games from the recent trade show, in which everyone was talking about and pre-ordering as soon as they could. This peaked my interest and I aimed to play this ASAP to see what the fuss was all about, and I have to say straight off the bat, I enjoyed it!
For the start, it’s a deck builder, and secondly, it has cows… Wait… No that’s Michael’s reason for buying it! We found out afterwards he likes cows and has a little cow spotting book he carries around with him. Sorry, I’m completely off the beaten path. But that’s what this game is about in one way. Herding your cattle along the beaten path from Texas to Kansas City to sell for money and points. You have this little cowboy figure and you move along the trail as far as you are able to go (your player board allowing) and if you stop at one of the neutral buildings or your own, you can then do the actions of the building. He will return to Texas to start again and repeat this journey until the fat cow sings… cough… the game ends.
The buildings allow you to do things to help you out on your travels: sell cattle, build houses, buy better cattle, hire employees etc. The deck building aspect is your cattle. Your starting deck of cards are cows, you have a few different types of cows with different values on them. But when you get to Kanas City you need to have a set of different cows to score you points and money. Example, if you get to KC and you have, grey v1, 2x green v2s and white v2 in hand you only earn $5 not 7. So, as you are wondering through the wild west you are trying to visit places where you sell or trade cards in your hand, to then refill your hand afterwards in the hope to get the right set of cards. I really liked this part of the game. In your head, you are trying to figure out where you can off your doubles for the best prices in the hope of drawing a different cow.
You can buy more cows to add to your herd and these are better than starting ones and score you points at the end. But another element to the deckbuilding aspect is, you can obtain objectives cards. Which when you collect, get placed into your discard pile which will get shuffled along with the cows and eventually come back around into your hand. You can play these when you have them in hand, to earn you a bonus action on your turn. However, once you play that card it stays in your play area and you will have to score it at the end of the game. But if you don’t meet its requirements by the end then it scores you negative points. To which was another great twist to deck building, I haven’t come across yet. True, Marvel Legendary‘s villains will score you points and give you a bonus, but here you have to wait for this bonus to come back around and then you also have to question whether you could meet its demands or not.
There is a lot of other stuff going on in the game, you can hire workers to reduce costs or improve your actions (seen this many times before) and there is a train that you move along the board so you deliver the cattle to other cities (scoring you points). This allows you to move a disc from your player’s sheet to a city or station, and does the Terra Mystica, Scythe move; a counter from your board to another area to improve your capabilities and earn more points. And this was kinda nice to choose a path you want to go down but still nothing different.
What concerned me a bit is that the game took us 3 hours to play with only 3 of us. We all felt like we were going at a good pace and there was little down time, plus we were even overlapping each other’s turns because we could keep the game moving this way. When we finished I said, “would you believe it took 3 hours to play!” Not one of us felt like we had been playing that long. That being said, I don’t think I could play it with an AP person.
“Lewis, I’m Looking at you, buddy.” 😉
Icons! Don’t get scared of the all the icons in the game they are very clear and understandable after a while. That’s another thing publishing companies; player aids, you do all these fancy icons but a lot of the time you provide no player aids or quick reference guide.
At first thoughts, I was thinking it has no interaction or conflict with others players and it is almost a solo multiplayer game. But I thought about it; imagine, you are wondering the heartland with your cows, making your way to market with a pack lunch of spam sarnies in your satchel. You’ve walked this path many times before, however, you come across a building that suddenly appeared and NOW you have to pay to pass through!
“Dick move Blue player!”
So I was wrong! Placing buildings in certain locations can impact other players, they might have to pay you to move through and it makes the journey longer and if you stop at opponents buildings you can’t use its actions. Plus, you are watching what cattle they are buying from the market, whether they are speeding up the train track to get to stations first and hazards can be placed out to restrict moves as well.
I love the fact that you can buy hazards, they come with victory points and if an adjective requires hazards, then it helps to score that too. Talking of scoring, at the end of the game, it was a little tricky to score because Michael seemed to want to do it in his head when there was a perfectly good score pad provided and then I nearly missed out on scoring my hazards… because there is quite a bit to count up. Board Game Stats app came in handy and all was right with the world……. because I won!
All in all, I really enjoyed my first play and it’s one of those games where I was left thinking how would I play it better next time. But also I left believing I was on some kind of journey that I did multiple times. I, the cowboy, was having an adventure every time, strolling through the valleys, trading and selling off my multiple cows, hoping when I get to Kansas City I will be in good shape to sell at the best prices and make my mark in a new city location. Not only that, but you can choose the path you take; do I take path A where Michael has placed a house and I will need to pay him a toll or do take path B and loose out by avoiding the hazards. Ok, so there might not be much of a story and common sense tells me which way is best because it’s cheaper or the fact I don’t want to give Tom anymore of my money. There is no reason why you can’t make up a story.
I really do look forward to my next play of Great Western Trail, my only concern is the fact it took 3 hours to play, maybe it will speed up next time, we will see. I do plan on making up a story of cowboy travels through the wild west multiple times… in my head, that is.
“Nite, Joel Boy”
Ah the classics…
Written Joel Wright
Photography Joel Wright
Game provided by Micheal
Visit www.meeplescorner.co.uk to buy your copy