Great Western Trail, expanded

Alexander Pfister’s masterpiece Great Western Trail is still a rather good game. Last Wednesday, we played it with four players, which was a rare treat for me – I usually only play it as a two-player game. The four-player game is a good experience; the game flows so fast with experienced players, there’s hardly any downtime.

We used a couple of updates from the new second edition. One of the neutral buildings got moved one step earlier in the path because that crossing spot for buildings is just too good for players to have. I haven’t seen that problem in my games, but I agree it’s a nice touch.

We also used the second edition starting rules where players later in the turn order get bonus money and bonus cards at the beginning of the game. That also sounds reasonable.

(I now went and read a list of all the changes in the second edition, and most of that runs so deep in advanced strategy that I’m not terribly interested in it. On the other hand, some of the changes seem reasonable and I might consider upgrading my copy, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it with my current play rate.)

Rails to the North box cover

Anyway, we also used the Rails to the North expansion. I’ve played it once before, so it was nice to get another go at it, even though I was initially somewhat reluctant about it.

I still think the new rail building action is somewhat dominant. I ended up building all my branchlets. It sure makes other auxiliary actions seem relatively worthless in comparison.

We did see a nice variety in strategies. One player got a ton of cows, scoring about 50 points from cows alone. That was a ton, considering all other players earned a total of 60 points or so from the cows. Still, not enough to win.

I am still not completely sold on the expansion. I won’t mind playing with it, but I’m not going to get it myself. We’ve played Great Western Trail four times this year; that’s not enough for the expansion. But all this talk of Great Western Trail sure makes me want to play it more; it’s a fascinating game with lots of different strategies to try out (and it also seems to be very prone to groupthink).

Great Western Trails board with the Rails to the North expansion board
I’m playing red, as usual.

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