Great Western Trail is one of the most popular and well-respected modern board games. This is a Euro-style game from designer Alexander Pfister, published by Pegasus Spiele. Up to four players take on the roles of United States cattle ranchers in 19th century. You herd your cows along the ‘Great Western Trail’, terminating at Kansas City. There’s a train waiting to transport your moo-moos off around the country…
There’s a delightful number of mechanisms that dovetail in Great Western Trail. At the heart of things lies deck-building and hand management. You start with a default, low-value hand of different cattle types. The aim is to manipulate your hand so that when you reach Kansas City, you have a hand of unique cattle. That scores you cash, and it also determines how far you can ship them on the train line. You’ll want to deliver to unique destinations, for the top end-game benefits.
The board is like a giant rondel in some ways. On your turn you move along the trail, in a point-to-point fashion. You execute the action on the spot you land on. Some places let you buy more cattle from an open market. Others let you hire cowboys (to buy better cows), craftsmen (to place buildings on the trail) or engineers (to move your own train along the track). Some places let you add your own buildings to trail. This lengthens the route to Kansas, but provides passive and active benefits to you!
The more times you drop cattle off at Kansas, the more features you unlock on your player mat. The further along the track you progress your train, the better your train deliveries. There’s so much to love about Great Western Trail – no wonder it’s ranked as the 10th best board game of all time*.
*According to boardgamegeek.com at the time of writing
Player Count: 2-4 players
Time: 75-150 minutes