Board Game On | Great Western Trail

What’s up nerds!

Spooky Season has wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean we’re slowing our roll with great new game recommendations for you and your own. This week we’re branching away from spooky games and instead pushing more towards new releases and general good family fun as we approach the ever loved holiday season. Can you hear it? Mariah Carey is being defrosted as we speak. WInter is coming.

Until then, allow me to regale you with a game of games harkening back to the times of yor when cowpoke would russell and the prairies were alive with the braying of cattle. The Great Western Trail: Second Edition has officially landed at The Adventure Begins, and now you too can relive the old ways of the West by driving your cattle herd to Kansas City and beyond to score points and dominate the cattle markets.

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. - Description from Publisher

Great Western Trail is a weightier eurogame with plenty of options for strategy and growth each time you play it. Players alternate turns driving their cattle further down the line to Kansas City, building private buildings to maximize their action economy and sending their engineers to develop the railroads as far out as they can -- so far so that even haughty New York City cant resist the allure of your beef prices. Whether you’re shooting to grab the most expensive cattle you can and continuing to develop your card-based economy, or choosing instead to multiply your forces through upgrades, the game somewhat forces you to choose a path early on; sticking your fingers into too many pies is a sure fire way to make it so you score very little points. Choose your path, stick to it and surely you can become the most notorious cattle baron in the West.

As stated earlier, this is a second edition to the game and features updated art, an expanded set of mechanics (12 private buildings to choose from), and greater representation in a time where representation matters. The road to Kansas City is rife with hazards that the hardened cowpoke needs to navigate safely to deliver his charges. Where in the first edition of the game these hazards were represented by teepees, those have since been changed to stylized bandits instead. Likewise, the specialists you can hire now are comprised of white men, white women and black men -- as opposed to the all white male dominated art style of the original edition. It might seem like a minor change across the board, but positive representation is important even if it doesn’t always make sense “in a historical setting”.

Great Western Trail has an absolutely beautiful gameboard with matching components of good quality. The bright, vibrant artwork stand out on its own and even includes colored plastic cowboy hats to place on your meeples as they progress down the board. Likewise, the player boards are tiered, allowing components to slot in and not move around too much as you go about playing the game -- a huge improvement over the original flat player board with too much going on. Cardboard punch-out tokens are of a decent thickness and size so they wont get lost amongst the game-state, and player specific tokens are vibrant enough to further stand out.

As eurogames are often known for it, Great Western Trail is a fantastic capstone for your board game night. Games often run up to two hours , so this isnt one you’re going to set up and play in quick order. Great Western Trail plays best with three players, but supports single player gameplay and has components for up to four players to go head to head. On the weightier side for rules, Great Western Trail is going to require at least one person to read through ahead of time to ensure a smooth transition into the game night -- I’d even recommend checking out a Learn to Play video on the internet as the rulebook is a bit of a monster to get through.

If you’ve played games such as Agricola and are looking for the next step up in your journey, Great Western Trail is going to be right for you. Other games to consider would be Lost Ruins of Arnak, Taverns of Tiefenthal or A Feast for Odin.  Until next time,


Jarek Kreitz
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