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How to play In Great Western Trail, you'll play the role of mid-1800's-era ranchers traversing the American west in order to trade cattle and develop the area leading west. You'll do this by moving along the trail, taking an action related to the space you end up, and restocking your cattle. Periodically you'll arrive at Kansas City to make a bigger trade and develop your abilities even further. This is a game containing a mix of deck building, tile placement, and engine development. Players earn points based on their cards, buildings placed, the deliveries made, how far their train can reach, and various other measures. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!

Game Anatomy

The central board and the area immediately around it consists of:

  • The game map, with the trail itself appearing as a dotted line.
  • Various buildings showing the different actions that can be taken. Gray buildings are neutral and can be used by all players. Buildings of a specific player color can only be used by that player. Square outlines are spaces that can be built on by a player later. Other tokens are hazards and require a money cost to move through.
  • The delivery track, along the top edge of the board. As you complete the trail, you can place discs on here for points and other bonuses (or penalties).
  • The train station, appearing just under the delivery track and continuing along the right edge of the board. You can upgrade the stations along this for additional points and bonuses.
  • The worker market, along the left side of the board. This shows the workers available for hire. It also shows the approximate game progress - if the marker along the right side of it is scrolled off the board, the game will end shortly after.
  • The cattle market, shown under the board. This allows you to purchase more cattle.
  • The objective display, shown under that. This allows you to pick up new objectives.

Each player has their own board, which also shows:

  • The overall turn structure, shown along the top of the board. This shows your movement, actions, and cleanup parameters, which can be upgraded as the game proceeds.
  • Auxiliary actions, shown on the left side of this board. These show various actions you can take - if the disc next to the action has been removed, you can take this action.
  • Your workers, in the center of your board. The number of cowboys, craftsmen, and engineers are shown here, along with bonuses for hiring these workers.
  • Your certificates, represented by ribbons along the right side of your board. These can be spent in order to get a higher value hand.
  • Your buildings still left to build, represented by tiles of your player color.
  • Your cattle cards. These can be spent on various actions for money, or taken to the end of the trail for a delivery.
  • Your objectives. You can complete these for extra points.

What To Do On Your Turn

A turn of Great Western Trail consists of three phases: a movement phase, an action phase, and a cleanup phase, performed in that order. So in general, you will move some number of spaces, take an action related to where you moved to, and replenish any spent cards during your turn.


During your movement phase, you can move up to your movement rating, which is listed on your player board. You don't have to move all of your allotted movement, but you do have to move at least once. You can only move forward along the trail, never backwards. One move consists of touching any building or token on the board - moving through empty space is free.

Some spaces have a toll to cross, represented by a hand symbol. If you touch here, you must pay money - if it's a hazard on the board, you pay to the general supply, but if it's from another player's building, you pay them the money. However, if you don't have enough money, you just pay what you can and move ahead.


If you ended your movement on a neutral building or one of your color, you can take actions for the spaces you are currently on. Alternatively, you can also take one of the auxiliary actions on your player board.

Auxiliary Actions

These actions can be taken regardless of where you stop on the board, and can sometimes be taken as part of another building's action, frequently as a double action (i.e. take the same action twice). However, these need to be unlocked as the game progresses (the first two of these start the game unlocked). - Gain 1 coin. - Draw a card from your deck, then discard a card. - Pay 1 coin and move your train back one space to gain 1 certificate. - Pay 1 coin to advance your train 1 space. - Move your train back one space to permanently remove one of your cards from the game.

Building Actions

These are some of the common building actions. Note that all of these actions are optional and can be performed in any order.

  • Discard a card for money. The tile will tell you which cards to discard and how much you will receive for it.
  • Go to the cattle market.
    • For each cowboy you have, you can take a certain number of actions - these actions are listed along the bottom of the board.
    • In general, you can use some number of cowboys to acquire a card of a certain number at a specific cost.
    • When you buy a card, it goes to your discard pile (where it will return to your draw pile once you have run out of cards to draw).
    • You may use these available cowboys in any combination of purchases, including taking the same purchase action twice.
    • You can also use 1 cowboy to add 2 more cards to the cattle market. Note that you will earn points just for having these cows in your deck.
  • Build a building.
    • Buildings are restricted based on the number of craftsmen available.
    • Each building will tell you how many craftsmen are required, and for each craftsmen used this way, you will spend 2 coins.
    • Alternatively, you may remodel an existing building by paying the difference in craftsmen, but the old building is permanently lost.
    • Note that you will earn points just for having buildings on the map.
  • Move your train.
    • When you move your train, skip over any occupied spaces (this also applies if you ever have to move your train backwards).
    • Some of these actions will be dependent on the number of engineers. You can also use these to move to the stations - if you end your movement there, you can pay to place a disc on the station, gaining points and another ability.
    • You can also trade a worker for the stationmaster tile, also gaining a one-time bonus and some conditional victory points.
  • Hire more workers.
    • The cost to hire is based on which row the worker is placed on.
    • Only workers above the round marker are available.
    • If hiring a worker covers an action on your board, immediately perform that action if able.
    • Workers in the 5th and 6th column of your board are worth extra points.
  • Trade with the natives/outlaws.
    • Pick up the native/outlaw tile and gain coins based on its position.
  • Clear a hazard.
    • Pay money, then pick up the hazard tile.
    • These will also award points at the end of the game.
  • Take auxiliary actions.
    • These will let you take any of your unlocked auxiliary actions, usually twice.

Other similar actions may exist on your building tiles.

Actions in Kansas City

If you end your move in Kansas City, instead take the following actions:

  1. Add one tile from each of the three columns to the board. These will contain hazards and workers.
  2. Discard your hand. Gain coins equal to its numerical value, but ignore any duplicate cards - only unique cows are worth anything here! You may also spend certificates to add to this value.
  3. Place one of your discs on a delivery space up to the value you received in the previous step.
    1. These discs will unlock auxiliary actions or improve your movement, hand size, or maximum certificate.
    2. If there are any train crossings between your train and the space you're placing a disc, pay 1 coin for each of these.
    3. Note that the white bordered disc spaces can only accept white bordered discs (unless none are available), but black bordered spaces, which usually unlock stronger abilities, can accept either type of disc.
  4. Return your player marker to the start of the trail.


During the cleanup phase, draw until you have 4 cards in hand (potentially more if you've removed the discs to increase your hand size). Any cards that were previously in your hand are kept.

End Game

End game is triggered when a player places a worker tile onto the last space of the job market, moving the job market token off the bottom of the market. They finish their turn, and each other player has a last turn.

Then scoring takes place:

  • 1 VP per 5 dollars
  • VP from tiles on the board
  • VP from disks on the city crests
  • VP next to train stations with disks on
  • VP from hazard tiles
  • VP from all cattle cards with VP's on
  • VP's from all objectives in the deck, moving them to personal objective area.
  • Subtract VP's from unfulfilled objectives
  • VP's from station master tiles.
  • VP's from workers in 5th or 6th row
  • VP from certain locations on the player card
  • 2 VP for the job market token.