- Summary: The name of Alexander Pfister should become commonplace for you if it already hasn’t. Pfister has created some recent Spiel des Jahres award winners, so it’s no wonder that Stronghold Games snatched this game up when they had the chance. Let’s get into the game itself. The board is sprinkled with a few buildings here and there and to move from one location to the next costs an action. If you decide to stop at a city, that effectively ends your movement turn and you’ll then take the action afforded you at that city. You move along a weaving track taking your cattle from nondescript Texas to Kansas City. You repeat this loop (Rondel style), gaining one of three different characters to help you in your endeavors along the path. The Cowboy helps you purchase more and better Cows. The Cows are obviously sold in Kansas City but can double as resources at certain buildings along the path to gain money. If your Cows make it all the way to Kansas City, then you score them according to the variety of Cows you have. The more diverse, the better. Craftsmen allow you to build an assortment of buildings along the path that play a two-part role. Your building is for you alone, allowing you to do an action similar to the other city actions available to everyone though usually at a cheaper cost allowing you a minor benefit of some sort. The second part of these buildings is the one and only time you really interact with other players. If your building shows a green or black “hand” then the other players will be forced to pay you a set amount of tax as they pass by. This tax differs due to number of players in the game. It’s another way to gain income, which happens to be rather limited to begin with. The last character you can utilize is the Engineer who helps with the all important Railroad Line. Aside from the diversity in your Cows, the Railroad Line is certainly the next best place to gain points in this game. Each Engineer you employ allows you to move your train along the line farther and farther, dropping off you circular tokens along the way for end-game scoring and other fun accouterments that play a beneficial role in the game. All of this plays really well and feels rather nicely balanced. Never did I feel bogged down or behind in the game and I’m positive the other players at the table felt the same way.
- Cons: The game certainly never really felt like it, but after playing and pondering the game a bit, it became painfully clear that I never really interacted with any other player throughout the entire game. That’s not to say there weren’t times that a player’s placement of a building or obstacle wouldn’t slow me down or force me along another path through sheer convenience, but that’ about the extent of player interaction. The only other issue I had with this game was the time. The game was a tedious learning experience. It’s not a simple and intuitive game to pick up and play. It requires a ludicrous amount of concentration and a solid 30 minutes minimum to get the basics down. Then you’re playing for upwards of 3 hours on your first play. I would assume any subsequent plays would be greatly reduced in time, though still pushing 2 hours which is the suggested time on the box. This is probably right on the money for4 experienced players, though this game also lends itself to being an Analysis Paralysis inducing length hog. On BGG the suggested best number to play with is 3. Since I’ve only ever played it with 4 I can’t speak to this, but it makes sense. The only other minor complaint I have, if you even want to call it that is that we didn’t use but a fraction of the building tiles afforded us in the game. The board was virtually identical at the end of the game when compared to set up. This may have been our particular play through, but it never really seemed a viable plan to build much. The building perks seemed negligible at best and I think we all preferred to simply go with the buildings already on the board. Again, that may simply be the game we played and may not be an accurate representation of a typical game. Consider it an observation.
- Pros: One thing I really liked about this game aside from the Rondel movement of my pieces, was the market system for the three character types in the game. As a player passes through Kansas City they will seed the market with available characters and hazards. As the market fills up the price fluctuates from row to row. Since money is really tight in the game, it becomes important to get to the locations allowing you to purchase characters quickly so you’re not having to pay through the nose for that all important Engineer that you need three turns hence. This market also acts as a round tracker. When the market fills up, the person who filled in the last row receives a token giving them a few extra points, but it also marks the last round in the game. Unless I’m terribly mistaken I believe the game gives equal rounds to everyone, which will make some at I, Geek very happy.
- Rating: I thoroughly enjoyed my play of Great Western Trail, but there were some aspects of it that left me wanting. In all I’d say this is one of Alexander Pfister’s better games. That being said I’d give this game a solid 7.5 out of 10.
We’ll be back with another 4-Headed Dragon Review focusing on our recent trip to BGG.Con 2016! Thanks for reading!
Great Western Trail – An I, Geek 4-Headed Dragon Review
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