Nice Western Path is my favourite complicated tabletop recreation, a two-hour affair with a 20-page rulebook that manages to hit all the proper notes in a recreation of its size and weight. Gamers tackle the function of ranchers within the Outdated West, increase herds of cattle and a community of buildings to amplify deliveries of cows to Kansas Metropolis. Plan B Video games’ Eggertspiele imprint has been engaged on a brand new version of the unique that may function the primary in a trilogy of video games, and the primary one, merely referred to as Nice Western Path Second Version, might be out at Gen Con in mid-September.
I’ve examined out the brand new version, and whereas it could not supply sufficient modifications to encourage house owners of the primary version to pony up for a brand new one, it’s a greater model for folk new to the sport or trying to attempt a heavier title for his or her tabletop gaming.
Nice Western Path (GWT) incorporates a number of concepts you might need seen in different fashionable board video games, generally referred to as Eurogames, all into one coherent bundle. You begin with a fundamental deck of cow playing cards and can purchase higher playing cards to improve that deck as the sport progresses. You additionally get to rent three sorts of employees to can help you make your actions extra highly effective. You’ll additionally transfer your locomotive alongside a observe on the outer fringe of the principle board, which will get you factors, may provide you with bonus actions, and which lets you ship cows farther alongside the road. The result’s a heavy however pleasant recreation that gives a ton of decision-making alternatives.
Throughout every flip you’ll transfer your meeple, referred to as a herder, alongside numerous paths on the map, taking actions primarily based on the buildings the place you cease. The center of the sport is the deck of cow playing cards that you just try and improve as the sport progresses; by the point your herder reaches the tip of the path (in Kansas Metropolis) you’ll get cash primarily based on the variety of completely different cows in your hand. You then will add up all the values on the playing cards to ship — one presumes this is able to imply beef, though the sport isn’t that grisly — to the farthest metropolis potential alongside the railroad observe, culminating in New York Metropolis. (The best metropolis on this planet, natch.)
You’ve extra prospects to enhance your actions or your card-based financial engine than you may probably obtain in a single playthrough, which is one among GWT’s nice strengths. It pushes you to decide on a method early on. Will you seize probably the most priceless cows accessible, hiring cowboys to allow you to purchase even higher cows? Will you rent extra engineers, so you may transfer your locomotive extra shortly to highly effective improve stations? Or will you go together with a development technique, hiring builders to get as a lot of your personal buildings on the board as potential?
This second version has all-new artwork, and among the modifications are purposeful in addition to aesthetic. All boards now have two layers with areas for tiles and discs to take a seat with out sliding, an enormous profit for a board that will get very busy by the tip of the sport. Some tiles and playing cards have swapped darkish backgrounds for mild, which makes it simpler to differentiate their icons. A few of the colours on the board are brighter and extra interesting, though the personal constructing tiles have extra muted colours for no obvious profit.
By far the most effective change within the artwork, nonetheless, is the elimination of the white males vs. Native American subtheme from the unique. The hazards have gone from teepees to bandits (who’re clearly white), and the employees you rent in the course of the recreation have gone from all white males to a white man, a white girl, and a Black man. Illustration issues, and even this tiny little bit of visible range, mixed with the elimination of the notion of Native People because the invisible enemy, is a welcome improve.
Mechanically talking, the second version introduces three main modifications to the mechanics of the unique model. It provides two new personal buildings to every participant’s set (so every participant has 12 from which to decide on); a solo mode; and a mini-expansion with cows that mature, rewarding you for holding them in your hand. There are additionally some smaller tweaks, notably that delivering to Kansas Metropolis offers you solely $4 as an alternative of $6 within the authentic (with the identical 6-point penalty, so it’s a much less interesting tradeoff to get some quick money).
The personal buildings grant a pair of actions to their builder anytime they land on these areas, whereas different gamers might must pay a charge to go by way of these buildings. They’re all price factors on the finish of the sport — within the authentic, from one to 13 factors. The 2 new buildings embrace a 20-point constructing that may solely be constructed as an improve to an current construction, and one which will get you cash primarily based on what number of engineers you could have or what number of discs you’ve positioned on the board.
The solo mode is tailored from one developed by Steve Schlepphorst, an avid fan of the unique GWT, and it features extra like a timer than a real opponent (or “automa,” as such solo opponents are generally referred to as). The “dummy” participant, Sam, has a deck of 15 motion/motion playing cards that you just’ll shuffle and cycle by way of between your personal turns. Sam will transfer his prepare shortly across the observe, take probably the most priceless hazard playing cards, take away employees from the job market, and infrequently seize a cow or two. He locations a brand new disc on the subsequent metropolis on the road each time his herder reaches Kansas Metropolis. And he takes plenty of goal playing cards, all of which rating as if accomplished at game-end. However he doesn’t get in your method very a lot, which is a combined bag — it makes the solo mode extra enjoyable, however doesn’t replicate the multiplayer expertise that properly. Sam simply retains issues transferring so that you just don’t get almost infinite turns earlier than the sport ends, and provides you a rating to beat. It strikes me as an important observe mode, however maybe too fiddly to play usually as a solo expertise.
The mini-expansion introduces Simmental cow playing cards to the market. These cows come up on the market as calves, with worth one, and if in case you have one in your hand while you attain Kansas Metropolis, you may change it with a Simmental card of worth two. The identical applies with worth two playing cards, upgrading them to worth three, which is their peak. After that, it’s off to the slaughterhouse with you, Bessie. This can be a enjoyable little tweak to the sport nevertheless it shouldn’t considerably change anybody’s technique, not least as a result of these cows characterize a small fraction of the total deck.
One side of the second version that hasn’t improved from the primary is the rule e book, which stays lengthy, crowded, and troublesome to navigate. The reason of the target card scoring is buried within the part on gaining these playing cards, not with the reason of the endgame scoring, the place it in all probability belongs. The brand new board doesn’t make the areas on the railroad observe clear — they’re numbered however not in any other case demarcated — which was additionally an issue with the primary version, and looks as if it might have been a straightforward repair.
In case you are in any respect concerned with attempting out a heavier recreation, or had been turned off by among the aesthetic decisions within the authentic, this second version of Nice Western Path is a much-improved model of what I take into account the most effective recreation in its weight class, and a welcome return to the North American market. It removes among the poor artwork decisions within the authentic with out adversely affecting any of the strategic depth that made the unique so nice. Nice Western Path is a dedication — when you begin rustling them cattle, it’s terrible laborious to cease — however this second version ought to carry much more folks to the desk.
Nice Western Path Second Version was reviewed with a retail copy of the sport supplied by Plan B Video games and Asmodee. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.