Great Western Trail


Personal Ranking: #2


Time to Play (in my experience): 2- 2 1/2 hours


Age Level: I think probably 14 or 15 for this one


Difficulty Level: 5 (15-25 minutes to teach, over 90 minutes to play)


Type of Game: Deckbuilding/Hand Management/Rondel. In a deckbuilding game, everyone starts with a personal, basic hand of cards, which you will modify over the course of the game. In “Great Western Trail”, these are a hand of cow cards. In a hand management game, that you need to best manage your own personal deck of cards for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. In a rondel game, your marker goes round and around a track or a circle, and usually you can only go in one direction. In “Great Western Trail”, your player piece goes from the bottom of the board to the top, and when it gets to the top, it returns again to the bottom.


Here's a hand of cows. They can be discarded to do different things along the way. When you arrive in Kansas City, only different types of cows matter.



Game Setting: Old West America


Brief overview of how to play: Each player’s turn is divided up into 3 steps; move, take action, refill hand. If you arrive in Kansas City, you sell all the different colored cows in your hand, place a marker along the “train track” and start again at the bottom of the track.



Great Western trail in progress



How many players does it play?: 2-4


Ideal number?: 3 (4 might run just a little long)


Why do I love/recommend this game?:


Lots of ways to score points. All of the points are tallied at the end of the game, and there are a ton of ways to get those points. This means that there are a lot of different strategies that you can try.


Variable buildings/set up. All of the building tiles are double sided. I love variable, random set up in games, so I literally toss the tiles in the air and see what side they land on. Those will be the buildings that we play that game. The common buildings can also be randomly set up, which can have a huge effect on how one plays the game.


Simple, elegant gameplay. This is by no means a simple game, but what you do on your turn is usually pretty quick and simple. You go to a building and you do one or both of the actions. Turns can go really quickly. 


It always seems too short. This is by no means a short game, but every time that I see the ending coming, I’m always like, “no! I need more time!” This, to me, is a sign of a good game, especially when the game is on the long side.


Clever upgrade system. When you go to Kansas City, you must place one of your player markers in a city along the track. Those markers are taken from your player board and while they sit on your player board, they are covering up an upgrade. When you remove a marker, you can do more in the future. 



Personal board, ready for upgrading!


Is there anything offensive in this game? Anything at all?: Not that I can see. 


Final word: Great Western Trail is one of the longer, more complicated games that I have in my collection. It has a lot of moving parts. However, it plays smoothly, at a brisk pace, and I never want it to end when I see the endgame is approaching. I almost always want to play the game again immediately.


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