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Subject: TootyBonture's Ratings Review - Great Western Trail edition rss

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Dano Fish
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This is a concept I just came up with today and immediately decided to give it a try. I have done an in-depth rated-comments review. I have read through all the ratings of Great Western Trail that include comments. Then tallied and sorted every instance of keywords or impressions when they pop up.

I have tried to give a fair accounting of how this game is being recieved/reviewed in the BGG ratings. Hopefully this will give more meaning to the numerical ratings while condensing many opinions into gameplay attributes that can guide members in their purchases.

Disclaimer: this is no way scientific!
Constructive criticism on how to make these more clear or helpful is always welcome!!

**********************************************************************
Great Western Trail

Let's start off with sentiments which were generally agreed upon by all commentors without going into the pro and con opinions just yet. These are the aspects of the game that I encountered repeatedly in both positive and negative reviews and I would categorize as being close to objectively true.

According to the comments this game:

Is long

Incorporates a lot gameplay mechanisms

Has minimal player interaction

Has a lot of rules/steep learning curve

Has a million ways to score points/point salad



This game was most frequently compared and contrasted to the following games:

Mombasa, Caylus, Hansa Teutonica, Dominion, Russian Railroads

As to whether this game is superior to or inferior to Mombasa seemed to be much a matter of opinion without an overwhelmingly clear consensus. A sentiment repeated several times however was that Great Western Trail plays like a more streamlined Mombasa.



Descriptors most frequently mentioned in comments:

long, too long, complicated rules, unique, multiple mechanisms, complex, improves with additional plays, point salad, multiple paths to victory, smooth, repetitive, minimal player interaction, luck/chance, balanced, unbalanced (heh heh go figure), good set-up variability, good replayability, interesting decisions, weak theme, refreshing theme


************************************************************************

Alrighty I'm now going to break down the aspects of the game that dominated the comments and try to parse out the general positive and negative reactions people had regarding it. Let's begin!!

1. Length of game.

Overwhelming consensus is that this game is LONG. Many reviewers, including those rating it at 7 or 8 complain that the game is simply too long for what it is. The game was too repetitive and the 2+ hour gametime made the last third of the game drag on much too long. it felt unnecessarily, or unjustifiably, long. Gameplay feeling repetitive was in and of itself a complaint that cropped up very frequently.

Those giving 9 and 10 ratings say that after the second play the game will go more quickly. Also it was said a few times that the board changes subtly every trip, which keeps players engaged and focused so the time flies by.


2. Incorporates A Lot Of Mechanisms

This point was one that seemed divided about 30/70, the majority in approval of how numerous mechanisms are integrated in the game.

Many people felt like this game just took a whole lot of Euro mechanisms and tossed them together in a way that felt clunky, hodge-podge, slapped on, etc. Several people complained of incentives/cards/situations that cropped up which just didn't seem to make a lot of sense, almost as if the game was sending them mixed messages about how to formulate their strategy.

However a lot of players claimed that the mechanisms are brilliantly integrated. The method of their employment felt unique, clever and modern. Positive comments often proclaimed the gameplay as feeling smooth and streamlined.

From what I observed the clunky impression came more from those playing only once, while the unique integration impression came from those having played several times. However there was acknowledgement and a few rueful comments on the luck aspect by some with a high rating or multiple plays.

3. Minimal Player Interaction

There's not much in way of counterpoint here: interaction in this game is pretty small. Some said that it is a bit more than the average Euro, however. Interaction seems to come mostly from subtle or indirect actions that cause opponents to work around the resulting obstacles, rather than from direct confrontation or competition.

4. Lots Of Rules/Iconography

Everyone agrees this game has a rules problem! Whether it is annoyance with fiddly rules, feeling overwhelmed by the extensive iconography, hesitation when facing the ordeal of trying to teach a new player, or pure frustration from a very user unfriendly rulebook-- I gather the rules, or the rulebook at least, is a sore spot for a lot of people who have played this game, including many who rated it very highly.

It is pretty well acknowledged by all that there will be a steep learning curve to this game. There were complaints of the iconography being too extensive and small-- while this may be the case, it was mentioned by several that the iconography IS logical and makes sense. Those who gave it a second chance (or more) say that the first game can be admittedly painful but it is well worth the effort as later games flow nicely.

Many people made the point that while the rules governing how all of the mechanisms interact can be a little fiddly, each person's turn is actually based on very simple and straightforward choices.

5. Multiple Ways To Score Points

Not much to say here. It's a point salad. Either you like that or you don't!

Less Prominent Aspects That Are Also Worth Mentioning:

Theme: The theme here is refreshing, but feels a little tacked on. It works for the most part, but not everything here is going to transfer to the theme perfectly.

Wide Open Choices: This game gives the player a lot to think about and doesn't provide much direction. It's a sandboxy type game that wants you to figure out how to get where you need to go for yourself.

Engine-Building: The engine here is fun to grow, appealed to people, even those with lower ratings. Timing and pacing of engine growth is a critical component of playing successfully.

Set-Up Variability: Many compliments all around for set-up variability, not frequently mentioned, but always positive when it came up.

Turn Speed: A bit all over the map here. Some people said individual turns are pretty quick, others complained of downtime being way too long. I suspect this probably boils down to AP players being at the table or not, but can't be sure!

I had a hard time fitting some things into a clear category as they seemed more objectively contradictory, less a matter of opinion, and more this-is-either-accurate-or-it-is-not. These include contradictory impressions of whether the game is balanced, whether there are multiple paths to victory, and whether at times luck/chance can completely throw the game**. I have lumped all of these together into a single category as I believe there is really only one way of determining which claims are true-- and that is by actually playing the game a bunch of times. And so for the last aspect frequently mentioned, I give you:

6. This Game Improves With Additional Plays

A lot of people on their initial play suspected that the game was not balanced and that there was a particular strategy that would almost always give the win. Along with this was the complaint that the game was too random, and sometimes in a way that was drastically detrimental to one player, perhaps even powerful enough to cost them the potential to win.

Others proclaimed how well balanced this game was and how the game was so ripe for exploring various paths to victory.

This apparent contradiction cleared up, in my mind, as I moved into the higher rated reviews. Several people who had begun with the same suspicion that the game might not be balanced came to reverse that feeling after multiple plays proved otherwise. This game seems to reward more plays with more insights into the depth and complexity of the game, slowly revealing more subtle strategies that can overpower the one that people intially latch onto as being too powerful.

Those with multiple plays felt that the game was slowly opening up to them-- that the game had a lot of replayability and that increased plays would increase enjoyment. The fiddly rules learned, the iconography out of the way, the game itself began to shine through with lots of decisions to make and options to explore.


If you want to find out for yourself, get your game on!





**(Obviously the desired prevalence of luck in a game is a matter of opinion. However, the ability of luck or chance to cause dramatic swings beyond the game's ability to mitigate those swings is not a matter of opinion. You may not be able to prove that luck is overpowered in any given game without hundreds of plays, but it is either that powerful or it is not.)**
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Jimmy Mero
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One issue I see with this type of aggregate is that many people won't comment on things that work that they take for granted. Like a solid rule book. I think Great Western Trail has a good rule book but I'm unlikely to mention that in a one paragraph review. So you're much more likely to only get negative or super positive comments on certain topics.
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Dano Fish
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First off, thanks for reading and replying!

Your comment on rule books surprises me a bit because it was something commented on repeatedly about this game in the ratings. I wrote about it in this review. Maybe I didn't make it clear that the rulebook itself was mentioned repeatedly as being poorly designed?

I agree on how this type of review has it's limitations. People definitely do focus almost exclusively on the best and worst parts of the game. But that is also kind of the point. These are the things that are most likely to cause a person to LOVE or HATE the game. The stuff that no one is talking about is unlikely to be a reason a potential player just can't stand the game, or loves the game wholeheartedly.

I wouldn't personally use ONLY something like this to base a large purchase on. But I think it is a useful tool. A single reviewer giving their one opinion is also has it's limits. I find combining reviews from a couple of people I trust, along with numerous comments across the spectrum of positive and negative ratings gives me about 90% of what I need to know. The purpose of this is just to save everyone else the hassle of reading 300 comments themselves!
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Shane Larsen
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I disagree that the game has minimal player interaction. If you want to win, you should be paying close attention to how you can slow your opponents down while advancing your plans.
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Robert
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thedacker wrote:
I disagree that the game has minimal player interaction. If you want to win, you should be paying close attention to how you can slow your opponents down while advancing your plans.
+1

Examples for player interaction:
- put costly buildings into the path of opponents (ideally place your private black hand building just behind their private money-gain building)
- placement and removal of hazards to a) slow opponents who built on risk locations and/or to b) steer opponents to another path containing your private black/green hand buildings
- taking the worker/cattle/objective card which combines "good for me" with "would have been great for you"
- train engine movement (e.g. avoiding to offer leap-frogging but using your opponent for your own leap-frogging), ideally combined with grabbing station master tiles just the turn before an opponent does
- blocking a station even though you don't want/cannot afford to place a disc there
devil
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John Burt
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DocCool wrote:
thedacker wrote:
I disagree that the game has minimal player interaction. If you want to win, you should be paying close attention to how you can slow your opponents down while advancing your plans.
+1

Examples for player interaction:
- put costly buildings into the path of opponents (ideally place your private black hand building just behind their private money-gain building)
- placement and removal of hazards to a) slow opponents who built on risk locations and/or to b) steer opponents to another path containing your private black/green hand buildings
- taking the worker/cattle/objective card which combines "good for me" with "would have been great for you"
- train engine movement (e.g. avoiding to offer leap-frogging but using your opponent for your own leap-frogging), ideally combined with grabbing station master tiles just the turn before an opponent does
- blocking a station even though you don't want/cannot afford to place a disc there
devil


Yeah, that assertion struck me as odd: GWT has plenty of interaction, for a eurogame. In fact, I think it can potentially be quite nasty, again: for a eurogame. If you think this game doesn't have enough interaction, then maybe you shouldn't be playing eurogames?
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Shane Larsen
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quill65 wrote:
DocCool wrote:
thedacker wrote:
I disagree that the game has minimal player interaction. If you want to win, you should be paying close attention to how you can slow your opponents down while advancing your plans.
+1

Examples for player interaction:
- put costly buildings into the path of opponents (ideally place your private black hand building just behind their private money-gain building)
- placement and removal of hazards to a) slow opponents who built on risk locations and/or to b) steer opponents to another path containing your private black/green hand buildings
- taking the worker/cattle/objective card which combines "good for me" with "would have been great for you"
- train engine movement (e.g. avoiding to offer leap-frogging but using your opponent for your own leap-frogging), ideally combined with grabbing station master tiles just the turn before an opponent does
- blocking a station even though you don't want/cannot afford to place a disc there
devil


Yeah, that assertion struck me as odd: GWT has plenty of interaction, for a eurogame. In fact, I think it can potentially be quite nasty, again: for a eurogame. If you think this game doesn't have enough interaction, then maybe you shouldn't be playing eurogames?

In fairness, GWT does seem less interactive on the surface and even on your first game or two. Experience brings the interactive depth to light.

It brings up what may be a weakness in your approach: First impressions may dominate the comments people make. You might consider filtering by a minimum number of plays, or something like that. Just a thought.
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Dano Fish
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thedacker wrote:
quill65 wrote:
DocCool wrote:
thedacker wrote:
I disagree that the game has minimal player interaction. If you want to win, you should be paying close attention to how you can slow your opponents down while advancing your plans.
+1

Examples for player interaction:
- put costly buildings into the path of opponents (ideally place your private black hand building just behind their private money-gain building)
- placement and removal of hazards to a) slow opponents who built on risk locations and/or to b) steer opponents to another path containing your private black/green hand buildings
- taking the worker/cattle/objective card which combines "good for me" with "would have been great for you"
- train engine movement (e.g. avoiding to offer leap-frogging but using your opponent for your own leap-frogging), ideally combined with grabbing station master tiles just the turn before an opponent does
- blocking a station even though you don't want/cannot afford to place a disc there
devil


Yeah, that assertion struck me as odd: GWT has plenty of interaction, for a eurogame. In fact, I think it can potentially be quite nasty, again: for a eurogame. If you think this game doesn't have enough interaction, then maybe you shouldn't be playing eurogames?

In fairness, GWT does seem less interactive on the surface and even on your first game or two. Experience brings the interactive depth to light.

It brings up what may be a weakness in your approach: First impressions may dominate the comments people make. You might consider filtering by a minimum number of plays, or something like that. Just a thought.


I could look into doing that. I do think I'd run into issues though unless it were a game with thousands and thousands of ratings. A lot of people don't log plays, so at first consideration I'm guessing that filter would remove too many comments.

It was a bit strange bc so many people camplained about there being so little interaction, but a few people said they loved messing with opponents plans. in the end the minimal interaction perception was a lot more overwhelming, so that's what I went with!

But yeah, number of plays can have a really big impact on how a person perceives some games, which is why I tried to make that point explicitly in the review. After doing more of these I will have a better idea of how often "improves with additional plays" is real issue in a game. Right now I'm reading through Terraforming Mars reviews and that feeling of being unsure at first but growing to love it after many plays has not come up once in 3 pages of comments.....so the issue may not be equally problematic for every game.
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Jason Williams
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I don't buy the multiple paths to victory consensus.

There's 1 path to victory and it's advancing your train as quick and as much as possible. Sure there are multiple paths to getting points and you can call it a point salad in that regard, but 75% of those paths are netting you a lot less points for a lot higher cost. If you focus on cow cards or buildings and focus less on the train, you have zero chance of winning this game.

I don't know how people think that you can win via multiple paths.
 
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Robert
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GammaGoblinz wrote:
I don't buy the multiple paths to victory consensus.

There's 1 path to victory and it's advancing your train as quick and as much as possible. Sure there are multiple paths to getting points and you can call it a point salad in that regard, but 75% of those paths are netting you a lot less points for a lot higher cost. If you focus on cow cards or buildings and focus less on the train, you have zero chance of winning this game.

I don't know how people think that you can win via multiple paths.
It seems that those people came to think this because they experienced victories of e.g. players using the cowboy strategy against somebody playing the train strategy. Obviously none of them is nearly as enlightened as you are. whistle
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jbrier
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GammaGoblinz wrote:
I don't buy the multiple paths to victory consensus.

There's 1 path to victory and it's advancing your train as quick and as much as possible. Sure there are multiple paths to getting points and you can call it a point salad in that regard, but 75% of those paths are netting you a lot less points for a lot higher cost. If you focus on cow cards or buildings and focus less on the train, you have zero chance of winning this game.

I don't know how people think that you can win via multiple paths.


Please please please can someone make an online implementation of this game? Please?

meeple
 
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Jeff Huter
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verandi wrote:

Please please please can someone make an online implementation of this game? Please?

meeple


I would love to, but for two things.

1) I'd be shocked if I was able to secure the rights.
2) Probably, the biggest show stopper is that I simply don't have the time lately. I've basically gone into maintenance mode for my site and I'm even falling behind on that.
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Fabrice Dubois
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GammaGoblinz wrote:
I don't buy the multiple paths to victory consensus.

There's 1 path to victory and it's advancing your train as quick and as much as possible. Sure there are multiple paths to getting points and you can call it a point salad in that regard, but 75% of those paths are netting you a lot less points for a lot higher cost. If you focus on cow cards or buildings and focus less on the train, you have zero chance of winning this game.

I don't know how people think that you can win via multiple paths.

Initially, soon after the game was out, the first feedbacks were "cow boys strategy" is overkilled and no brainer...
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Togu Oppusunggu
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Thanks to the original OP for this kind of comments overview review. Very helpful summary so that others can comment on the major points of criticism.
 
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