Review: Great Western Trail Second Edition refreshes a modern classic

Excellent Western Path is my preferred complex tabletop video game, a two-hour affair with a 20-page rulebook that handles to strike all of the ideal notes in a video game of its length and weight. Gamers handle the function of ranchers in the Old West, developing herds of livestock and a network of structures to make larger shipments of cows to Kansas City. Fallback Games’ Eggertspiele imprint has actually been dealing with a brand-new edition of the initial that will function as the very first in a trilogy of video games, and the very first one, merely called Great Western Path 2nd Edition, will be out at Gen Con in mid-September.

I’ve checked out the brand-new edition, and while it might not use adequate modifications to motivate owners of the very first edition to pony up for a brand-new one, it’s a much better variation for folks brand-new to the video game or aiming to attempt a much heavier title for their tabletop video gaming.

Great Western Path (GWT) integrates numerous concepts you may have seen in other modern-day parlor game, in some cases called Eurogames, all into one meaningful plan. You begin with a fundamental deck of cow cards and will purchase much better cards to update that deck as the video game advances. You likewise get to work with 3 kinds of employees to enable you to make your actions more effective. You’ll likewise move your engine along a track on the external edge of the primary board, which gets you points, may provide you reward actions, and which enables you to provide cows further along the line. The outcome is a heavy however pleasurable video game that provides a lots of decision-making chances.

The full layout for Great Western Trail: Second Edition includes cloth bags, tiles, and plenty of tiny little trains.

Picture: Fallback Games/Asmodee

Throughout each turn you’ll move your meeple, called a herder, along numerous courses on the map, acting based upon the structures where you stop. The heart of the video game is the deck of cow cards that you try to update as the video game advances; by the time your herder reaches completion of the path (in Kansas City) you’ll get cash based upon the variety of various cows in your hand. You then will build up all of the worths on the cards to provide — one presumes this would indicate beef, although the video game is not that grisly — to the farthest city possible along the railway track, culminating in New york city City. (The best city on the planet, natch.)

You have more possibilities to enhance your actions or your card-based financial engine than you can perhaps accomplish in a single playthrough, which is among GWT’s terrific strengths. It presses you to select a technique early on. Will you get the most important cows offered, employing cowboys to let you purchase even much better cows? Will you work with more engineers, so you can move your engine faster to effective upgrade stations? Or will you go with a building and construction method, employing contractors to get as a lot of your personal structures on the board as possible?

This 2nd edition has brand new art, and a few of the modifications are practical in addition to visual. All boards now have 2 layers with areas for tiles and discs to sit without moving, a substantial advantage for a board that gets really hectic by the end of the video game. Some tiles and cards have actually switched dark backgrounds for light, that makes it much easier to differentiate their icons. A few of the colors on the board are brighter and more enticing, although the personal structure tiles have more soft colors for no obvious advantage.

A player sideboard in Great Western Trail shows hands hired on and the bonuses accumulated so far.

Picture: Fallback Games/Asmodee

Without a doubt the very best modification in the art, nevertheless, is the removal of the white guys vs. Native American subtheme from the initial. The dangers have actually gone from teepees to outlaws (who are plainly white), and the employees you work with throughout the video game have actually gone from all white guys to a white guy, a white lady, and a Black guy. Representation matters, and even this little bit of visual variety, integrated with the removal of the idea of Native Americans as the undetectable opponent, is a welcome upgrade.

Mechanically speaking, the 2nd edition presents 3 significant modifications to the mechanics of the initial variation. It includes 2 brand-new personal structures to each gamer’s set (so each gamer has 12 from which to select); a solo mode; and a mini-expansion with cows that grow, fulfilling you for holding them in your hand. There are likewise some smaller sized tweaks, especially that providing to Kansas City provides you just $4 rather of $6 in the initial (with the exact same 6-point charge, so it’s a less enticing tradeoff to get some quick money).

The personal structures approve a set of actions to their home builder anytime they arrive on those areas, while other gamers might need to pay a charge to travel through those structures. They’re all worth points at the end of the video game — in the initial, from one to 13 points. The 2 brand-new structures consist of a 20-point structure that can just be developed as an upgrade to an existing structure, and one that gets you coins based upon the number of engineers you have or the number of discs you’ve positioned on the board.

The solo mode is adjusted from one established by Steve Schlepphorst, a devoted fan of the initial GWT, and it operates more like a timer than a real challenger (or “automa,” as such solo challengers are in some cases called). The “dummy” gamer, Sam, has a deck of 15 movement/action cards that you’ll shuffle and cycle through in between your own turns. Sam will move his train rapidly around the track, take the most important risk cards, eliminate employees from the job market, and periodically get a cow or more. He positions a brand-new disc on the next city on the line whenever his herder reaches Kansas City. And he takes a great deal of unbiased cards, all of which rating as if finished at game-end. However he doesn’t get in your method quite, which is a variety — it makes the solo mode more enjoyable, however doesn’t reproduce the multiplayer experience that well. Sam just keeps things moving so that you don’t get nearly infinite turns before the game ends, and gives you a score to beat. It strikes me as a great practice mode, but perhaps too fiddly to play often as a solo experience.

The mini-expansion introduces Simmental cow cards to the market. These cows come up for sale as calves, with value one, and if you have one in your hand when you reach Kansas City, you can replace it with a Simmental card of value two. The same applies with value two cards, upgrading them to value three, which is their peak. After that, it’s off to the slaughterhouse with you, Bessie. This is a enjoyable little tweak to the game however it shouldn’t substantially change anyone’s strategy, not least because these cows represent a small fraction of the full deck.

One aspect of the second edition that hasn’t improved from the first is the rule book, which remains long, crowded, and difficult to navigate. The explanation of the objective card scoring is buried in the section on gaining those cards, not with the explanation of the endgame scoring, where it probably belongs. The new board doesn’t make the spaces on the railroad track clear — they’re numbered but not otherwise demarcated — which was also a problem with the first edition, and seems like it would have been an easy fix.

If you are at all interested in trying out a heavier video game, or were turned off by some of the aesthetic choices in the original, this second edition of Great Western Trail is a much-improved version of what I consider the best game in its weight class, and a welcome return to the North American market. It gets rid of some of the poor art choices in the original without adversely affecting any of the strategic depth that made the original so great. Great Western Trail is a commitment — once you start rustling them cattle, it’s awful hard to stop — however this 2nd edition should bring even more people to the table.

Great Western Trail Second Edition was reviewed with a retail copy of the video game supplied by Fallback Games and Asmodee. Vox Media has affiliate collaborations. These do not affect editorial material, though Vox Media might make commissions for items acquired through affiliate links. You can discover extra info about Polygon’s principles policy here.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.