Great Western Trail – Kansas City here I come!

Great Western Trail - Kansas City here I come!
Great Western Trail

Great Western Trail

I may not ride a horse any more, but I was born a cowgirl, so I was very excited when our friends Robyn and Dave suggested Great Western Trail. I even got to play it twice at Atlanta Game Fest!

Great Western Trail is a medium to heavyweight Euro game. It took about half an hour to set it up and go through the rules – luckily our friends Dave and Robyn had played before.

So the idea in Great Western Trail is you’re a cowboy goin’ to Kansas City – repeatedly. Along the trail, you’ll be able to acquire cattle; construct buildings that will provide you with more or better actions; hire Cowboys, Builders and Engineers; encounter and/or clear hazards and Indians; move your train;  acquire new goals; and perform other assorted actions.

At the end of the trail – Kansas City – you’ll add some new hazards and/or tepees to the board and make some new workers available for hire. Then you’ll show your hand of cattle cards – you only get credit for one of each different breed – add ’em up, get paid, and place one of the discs from your player board in a City along the Railroad track (equal to or less than your income) to mark where you delivered the cattle. If that’s further along the track than you’re train, you’ll have to pay the bank a bit to make up the difference. Then it’s back to the trail again.

Setup Variability

Great Western Trail game board

Great Western Trail’s  game board

The grey neutral action tiles that all players can use are randomly placed during setup, making the trail different every time. The first game I played, the high score was over 100. The second game, our setup was brutal with lots of hazards taking money away from us early on the trail, the cattle market midway along the trail, and money making and help hiring towards the end. By the time we got to the cattle market we were usually well and truly broke, so none of us were able to buy many cows. Neither were we able to complete many goal cards, only 1 or 2 each. The high score was just over 50. It was a very different game!

The player boards also have some random setup. Each player has a set of 12 double-sided building tiles. One player shuffles and turns his tiles then sets them up in order above his player board with some tiles A side up and others B side up. Then all the others players set up their tiles to match his, so everyone has access to build the same buildings during the game. Because you only use 12 of the 24 buildings, this is another way every game is different.

Hard Choices Everywhere You Turn

Great Western Trail player board

Great Western Trail player board

Your player boards depict auxiliary actions, some available at the start of the game, others you’ll uncover during the game when you place a disc in a city along the Railroad after going to Kansas City. So, there’s a whole other layer of strategy here, deciding which actions or bonuses to uncover first. Which action would you want to double first: take a coin; draw 1 card, discard 1 card; pay 1 coin and move your train back 1 space to increase your certificates by 1; pay 1 coin to move your train forward 1 space; or move your train back 1 space to remove a card in your hand from the game? Or maybe you’d prefer a larger hand size, greater number of moves, or higher certificate potential?

Ahhhh! So many decisions! It’s wonderful! I like games that provide new or different challenges every time. Great Western Trail has this in spades. I can’t wait to play it again!


Great Western Trail has already garnered some awards & honors:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *