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Great Western Trail (2nd Edition)

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Great Western Trail, or ‘GWT’ to its fans, is a tried-and-tested modern classic of a game. Designer Alexander Pfister is now regarded as one of the industry’s top minds when it comes to creating marvellous Euro-style titles. This is the second edition of Great Western Trail, published by Plan B and Eggertspiele. The core of Great Western Trail passes over from v1.0 to 2.0 – …
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Category Tags , , , SKU ZBG-PBGESG50160 Availability 3+ in stock
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Great mix of deck building, rondel style movement with a great decision space.
  • Multiple routes to points
  • Gameplay has had small tweaks and additions that work well
  • New solo mode

Might Not Like

  • Too soon for a second edition?
  • No real improvement to components
  • Weak insert
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Great Western Trail, or ‘GWT’ to its fans, is a tried-and-tested modern classic of a game. Designer Alexander Pfister is now regarded as one of the industry’s top minds when it comes to creating marvellous Euro-style titles. This is the second edition of Great Western Trail, published by Plan B and Eggertspiele.

The core of Great Western Trail passes over from v1.0 to 2.0 – you’re still playing as rival cattle ranchers. You move along the trail itself (which is a bit like a giant rondel), selecting which action to take. You’re juggling hand management, deck-building, set collection, and your finances. You want to have a hand of unique cattle cards by the time you reach the trail’s end (Kansas City).

There, you ship your cattle off down the train line for profit and potential end-game points. You’ll need to hire cowboys to bring in the cow cards. You’ll need builders so you can construct handy buildings along the trail. And you’ll want engineers so you can chug your train along the track for bonuses and upgrades.

What’s new in Great Western Trail 2.0, then? This isn’t a mere art refresh. (Although, that’s always welcome! The hazards, for one, are no longer Native American teepees, but Caucasian bandits.) The game now has much-coveted dual-layered player boards, so the discs and cubes don’t slide about as much. There’s also a new solo mode, as well as new private buildings for each player. There’s also a mini-expansion with maturing Simmental cows. You buy these as calves, but if you have one in your hand when you reach Kansas you swap it out for a value-two Simmental (and later on a value-3, if you do it again).

And even more great news? This second edition of Great Western Trail is set to be the first of a new trilogy of games! If that doesn’t make you go yeeeee-haww! then nothing will…

Player Count: 1-4 Players
Time: 75-150 minutes
Age: 14+


Great Western Trail 2nd Edition Characters

Great Western Trail is one of my favourite games. It is a permanent fixture in my top 5. So, when a second edition was announced I was interested but also a little peeved, it seemed a little too quick. Of course, this isn’t just a reprint, but the start of a trilogy of games using the solid mechanisms found in GWT.

The vast majority of Great Western Trail 2nd Edition remains the same, with a few tweaks and a little smoothing. It has been given a lick of paint all over and given a sleeker design in line with the visual for the intended trilogy. On top of that, a solo mode has been added, along with some new cattle!

Start Of The Trail

If this is your first dabble into the cattle rearing west, then you need to know what to expect. Through a combination of deck building, rondel movement, set collection and careful planning. You will attempt to build up the trail, breed cows and sell them far and wide.

On your turn, you will move up to your limit, which can be improved on your player board. Landing on a neutral or one of your buildings will allow you to activate the actions on those buildings. But landing on an opponent’s building only lets you use a basic action.

Placement of your buildings will be crucial as some require opponents to pay you to move over them let alone use them and you can force your opponents into some tough decisions on their route up the trail.

I mention a rondel earlier as this is what GWT reminds me of most. Usually, rondel is circles and fairly fixed in nature. Given that once you reach the top of the board you come right back down to the bottom it does seem like GWT offers an editable and growing rondel of actions.

The Good, The Bad And The…

Actions on offer will allow to build new buildings, buy new cattle, hire workers, gain coins and more. Often the strength of these actions is determined by the number of relevant workers that you have access to.

Moving your train further up the track will allow you cheaper access to further cities to sell your cows but to sell your cows you need to have a variety in your hand. Two of the same type will only count once towards the distance you can travel once. Each station has a numerical value, add the value of your cows to reach further and further.

This is where the deckbuilding comes in. Ideally, you want a good mix of cows, but a lot of the actions reward you for discarding two cards the same. Do you grab a load of cards that are the same risking a bad sale or mix them up and have potentially fewer actions?

Great Western Trail 2nd Edition Board

Yella Belly

This new printing actually comes with an insert this time. As with the inserts in some of Plan B’s other games it just doesn’t hold things in place. Otherwise, the components are mostly good. With dual-layered boards that function well, yet bizarrely don’t have a dual-layer for the 2 and 3 player adjustment. It is not a big deal but just seems odd with the rest of the things that have been considered.

The additions to gameplay are mostly small, with exchange tokens and a new breed of cattle the biggest of them. The exchange tokens are very welcome giving you more options and the ability to

run through your deck quicker. A welcome addition that I think was part of the expansion for the first printing.

The new breed of cattle is cool too. Bringing calves that actually get older as the game goes on into the mix. It’s a fun addition that is easy to add and brings more than you might think to the game.

A Lone Stranger

GWT 2nd Ed also brings an official solo mode to the game. This is a point chasing affair but an actual automated opponent with difficulty levels and ways to tweak the difficulty further should you become adept at beating the AI.

Player interaction works at a good level with buildings you build causing the route to be longer, and also adding potential costs for the other players. The cow market can become quickly depleted if you dally and competition to place out station masters is fierce.

Truth be told it’s hard to remember the older game in comparison. From memory, it does seem easier to rattle through your deck, and the exchange tokens certainly help with this, but I also may just be better at the game!

Whatever the reason it has made a welcome return to my table, and I am thoroughly enjoying the gameplay once again. The mix of mechanisms, combined with multiple strategies to try and tame and the pleasing movement around the western style rondel make for an excellent experience. It is absolutely one of my top games of all time.

Great Western Trail is an award-winning game for 1-4 players that takes you on a journey through America’s Old West. Players take on the role of a cattle driver, moving their herd across the Great Plains, placing buildings and hiring workers as they go. This isn’t a game you can whip out for a quick half an hour play- this is a game to enjoy over a few hours. If you’ve opened the box and feel a bit overwhelmed, saddle up because this how to play will get you moo-ving in no time!

The Setup

The setup is the longest part of the game, especially for new players. Here is my step-by-step guide to get you started.

Players choose their herder and dress them in a coloured hat. Each player then picks up their player board, wooden circular disks, certificate marker cube, train engine, building tiles and own deck of cattle cards in the corresponding colour. (The player cattle cards are marked with a star at the bottom and a dot of the players colour inside.)

Any orange simmental cattle cards are for a variant of the game and can be put to one side. Shuffle the remaining blue, red, white, brown and purple cow cards together to form the cattle market deck.

Depending on your player count, draw cattle cards and put them at the bottom of the board:

  • In a 2-player game: Draw 7 cards.
  • In a 3-player game: Draw 10 cards.
  • In a 4-player game: Draw 13 cards.

Place the beige objective cards at the side of the board and place 4 face up.

Next, set up the main board. In the grey squares with the building logo, place 7 neutral buildings with a grey border. The first time you play, use the letters to tell you where to place each building.

Fill the three numbered bags with the worker and hazard tokens, by matching the numbers on the bag to the back of the tiles.

Choose 7 tokens from bag 1 and place these on the board. Outlaw tiles go in the spaces at the centre of the board in ascending numerical order. Hazard tiles are placed on the board in their matching section.

Place workers into the job market section. To do this, place the round job market token into the designated space on the second row, and then place random workers from bag 2. Fill the number of columns to match the number of players. Start at the top row and fill from left to right until you reach the last space before the job market token.

Nearly there now (I did say it was a long setup!). Next, you need to put 5 blue rectangular station tiles into the spaces below the train track, at the top of the board. Place the players trains at the start of the track.

Individual players then set up their own board by covering the rectangle at the top with a player count tile which adapts the gameplay to the number of players.

Each player then puts their certificate marker into the square hole on the certificate track next to 0. Then fill all the circular holes with round disks.

Each player takes one grey backed objective card at random and one exchange token. Then, take coins and draw a hand of cards from their own deck of cattle cards:

  • 1st player: 6 dollars, 4 cards
  • 2nd player: 7 dollars, 5 cards
  • 3rd player: 8 dollars, 6 cards
  • 4th player: 9 dollars, 7 cards

Finally, place the remaining coins and exchange tokens in the centre.

Gameplay & Basic Actions

The main aim of Great Western Trail is to score as many points as possible. These are indicated on cards and tokens by a yellow shield with a number inside. Each player moves from the blue starting tile in the bottom right corner, along the path to Kansas City cattle market. Thankfully, a turn is more straightforward than setup. Players simply move up to three spaces, stop, and complete the action shown on the building. One ‘space’ is counted as a jump from one building to the next. Landing on a space with a green or brown hand will mean you have to pay a fine, either to another player if they own the building, or to the bank. The cost of the fine is at the top of the player boards.

Each building has a number of possible actions. The easiest way to learn these is by using the appendix booklet to look them up as you go. It explains what every building does and is much simpler than trying to remember every symbol before you start.

The most challenging part of the game is that you cannot do everything which means you need to make some difficult decisions! You need cows to get money, you need money to get workers and you need money and workers to get cows. Choosing one action means you have to miss another and your choices will alter the game every time you play! Here are some of the main actions you can take on your go.

The main actions you can take are: moving your train along the track; changing your hand; picking up coins; buying new cattle; placing buildings or hiring workers. You can also pick up bonus cards throughout the game which add new objectives to help you score points. Be warned though, these can also lose you points if you do not meet the criteria by the end of the game.

Moving your train: There are 2 actions you can take to move your train. You can pay to move your train or you can move your train as many spaces as you have train workers. Moving your train can help you score points in several ways. Your train can move into one of the sub stations and you can pay to upgrade it. If you do this, you can move one disk from your player board and put it on the station marker. Not only will this free up an action on your board but you will also gain the station bonus shown. You can also put one of your workers into the station which will award you with the station master tile. This tile will have a permanent bonus which will help with end of game scoring. Lastly, the further your train is, the further you can deliver cows when you get to Kansas. But more on this later.

Moving the certificate marker: The certificate system acts as a cash bonus when you sell cows at the market. For each certificate you have, you can add one coin of profit when selling. To gain this bonus, you have to move the certificate marker on your individual board one space forward. This action is beneficial to take when you have low scoring cows in your hand as you can up their price. However, once you have cashed your cows in, you’ll need to reduce your certificate marker back to 0. You can gain permanent certificates, but these are bought through station upgrades.

Changing your hand: This is useful as you earn money for each unique cow in your hand when you reach Kansas City. Duplicate cows don’t earn points, so you want as many different cows as possible. Some tiles also give you money in exchange for discarding certain colour cows. This means you will want to change your hand often as you traverse up the board.

Coins: You can earn money throughout the game by picking up coins from various tiles you land on. Coins will be used to buy workers, buildings, and cows. All these things will give you points at the end of the game.

Removing Hazards/Outlaws: Some buildings will also let you remove hazards and outlaws. Removing outlaws from the board can give you instant rewards and hazards can earn you money. Furthermore, objective cards will ask you to collect both tokens if you want to fulfil them. Removing them is also beneficial as it will clear paths on the board so you can avoid taxes or gain unique building rewards.

Buying Cattle: Along with your basic deck, you can also add cow cards to your discard pile using the cattle market. These will be shuffled into your hand throughout the game. To buy cows you need lots of money or cowboys to get juicy discounts. Throughout the game you will have to replenish the cattle market by spending cowboys.

Placing Buildings: Some of the tiles allow you to place buildings. The number of craftsman workers you have dictates the buildings you can place. More buildings mean more actions you can take. They can also earn you money from other players if they have the green or brown hand stop symbols on! Be warned, to build the more expensive builds, you will have to build on top of previous buildings.

Hiring Workers: To build, buy cows or move your train you will need workers. The more workers you have the more you can do. But workers cost money to hire from the job market. As the game goes on, workers get more expensive. This means you need to choose the workers for your play style as you won’t be able to buy all of them.

Auxiliary: You can also use the cog symbol to take an action from your individual player board if you don’t like the action listed on the building. This action will be gaining a coin, moving the train, moving your certificate marker, or exchanging a card. These actions unlock as you move disks from your player board onto the main board.

Now we know the goal and the actions, why do we want to get to Kansas City?

Kansas City

When you get to Kansas City, you refill the worker market and hazard tiles. You then score the number of coins indicated on the top of each unique cow card that is in your hand. Any duplicates do not score coins. You also get to place a circular disk from your player board onto the city where you are delivering your cows. This reveals an additional action on your board and gives you the bonus indicated at the top of the train track. Beware though- if your train is before where you want to place the disk, you need to pay one coin for every space in between.

For example, when you get to Kansas City, your cows add up to 12 points. From this you then gain 12 coins. As you have 12 points you can place your disk in any city up to 12 points. In this instance you want to put your disk in Peoria station which is 8. However, as your train is only on space 6 you must pay 2 coins to place your disk here.

Once you have replenished the workers, sold your cows and placed your disk, you then move your meeple back to the starting square. You then travel up the board again and take various actions. Each time you will get to Kansas City and try to place your disk in a new city and earn more money.

The game ends when the job market token is pushed off the board. This happens as each person who passes through Kansas City adds new workers to the market, forcing the token downwards as the rows and columns fill up.

Whichever player triggers this keeps the marker, which is worth 2 points, and all other players take 1 last turn.

End Of Game Scoring

As you can tell from the setup and gameplay rules this game has a lot going on. Because of this, there are eleven ways to score at the end. Ultimately, the person with the highest score wins but how can you earn those points?

Coins – Players will receive 1 victory point for every 5 coins they have left at the end of the game. Its not a huge points earner but can make the difference in a close game.

Buildings – Each building you build can be worth victory points. Only those on the board at the end will count towards your total.

City Crests – Every time you take your cows to market you will have to choose a station to sell them at and place a circular disk at its station. Each city has its own unique bonuses. At the end of the game if any of these include victory points you will add them to your final score. Stations closest to Kansas City will earn you negative points so watch out for them!

Station Upgrades – If you paid the station upgrade cost and placed one of your disks there, you receive its bonus. If this bonus is victory points you add it to your final score.

Hazards – If you remove hazards from the board, you will gain the value of victory points which is shown in the bottom right corner of the tile. The values do differ so make sure you remove the highest value tiles to make the points go further.

Cow Cards – Each cow card you buy which isn’t in your starting deck will have a value. At the end of the game, you add all the cow values you have in your deck together. This includes those that are in your discard pile.

Objective Cards – Objective cards are optional quests which you can do. When you get an objective card, you can choose to play it or not. If you do play the card but do not fulfil it, it will give you negative points.

Station Master Tiles – If you placed a worker into any of the station slots and received the master tile you receive its bonus. Most of these bonus’s are used throughout gameplay but some of these tiles have victory bonuses which you add to your final score.

Workers – As you add workers to your player board, they will unlock perks along the way. Once you fill a row of workers up on your board you receive victory points which are tallied at the end of the game.

Player Board – At the beginning of the game your player board will have actions which are blocked by circular disks. As you get rid of these, the actions will unlock. One action which needs to be unlocked gives you victory points at the end of the game.

Job Market Token – The end of the game is triggered by the job market token falling off the board. The player to trigger this will keep the token which is worth 2 points at the end of the game.

Once all those categories have been scored the person with the highest score will win!

And that’s how you play Great Western Trail. It sounds confusing but at its core, it is about traversing up the board, taking a variety of actions and selling cows. The main goal is earning money so you can score in as many of the scoring categories as possible. So, what are you waiting for Rancher go wrangle some cows!

Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Great mix of deck building, rondel style movement with a great decision space.
  • Multiple routes to points
  • Gameplay has had small tweaks and additions that work well
  • New solo mode

Might not like

  • Too soon for a second edition?
  • No real improvement to components
  • Weak insert