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Subject: Strategy musings of a novice rss

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Kristian Karlsek
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Hi fellow herders!

I've been itching for a strategy primer or some meatier strategy discussions for this great game. But sometimes to receive you first have to give, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and maybe get some discussion going. In no shape or form am I intending this to be a primer, but hopefully it might inspire or encourage one of the more experienced players to write one. (For the record I have about ten games played.)

My primary intention is to detail what I consider to be my main strategies, and what I look for at the start of the game when I'm trying to decide what to go for. I've limited myself to looking at the board, but obviously decisions of other players matter greatly, not least what workers are contested.

As it's not really a primer, I'm keeping it fairly general and am not delving to much into details, but please feel free to add details of your own, or point out where you think I'm wrong. (I probably am.) What other strategies do you like, and what do you look for after setting up the board? Do you have opening moves not tied to a specific strategy that you like? Like putting down a taxation building in front of "D" if it's a pivotal location? Do you go straight for the worker of your choice, signalling to other players to stay away? Do you ever go straight to Kansas as soon as possible in order to start the next lap with as much money as possible?

In my mind GWT encourages focus, so you should probably try and choose a source of points to be your main. I believe there are four point sources that are strong enough to consider as a main strategy; cattle, buildings, stations and deliveries. The other point sources I see as supplementary, but if someone has a hazards focused strategy or an objectives strategy, I'd love to hear them!

Cattle Strategy

As has been mentioned on this board, this is probably the most straightforward strategy, and the one that I've personally seen win most games. The main goal is basically to buy as many cowboys as possible, and use them to buy as many points in cattle as possible. As a natural effect of beefing up your deck, you should be able to squeeze out a few good deliveries as well. For that reason, you're probably incentivized to increase your hand size at the first opportunity.

This strategy should be extra enticing if:

* Buildings 2a and/or 4b are out
* The cattle market is located near the start of the trail (ensuring you have money on arrival)

Train Strategy (Station Strategy)

The focus of this strategy should be (I assume, since I haven't had much success doing it) to work your way to the end of the train track, and preferably get as many of the far end stations as possible. It seems quite enticing to pair this with a building strategy, since building 9a/9b in particular lets you capitalize on your train movement. In a competetive game however I doubt you'll be able to both reach the end of the track and use resources (mostly time) on high-end buildings, so you should probably decide early on which to go for. If you want to make the end of the track I would personally ignore the station master tiles, unless you have non-engineers to spend or unless you're unlocking a particularly strong bonus on your player sheet. You will need some sort of supplementary income, since your deliveries will probably not be great and stopping at stations can be pretty expensive. I think both sides of building 5 are pretty helpful, in theory at least.

This strategy should be more enticing if:

* The train spaces are spaced not too close together on the rondel.

Delivery Strategy

This strategy seeks to make as many high-end deliveries as possible, preferably multiple San Francisco deliveries. In my opinion the bare necesities of this strategy is one cowboy, and a single cow of each denomination (3/4/5). You also need to maximize your handsize asap. The rest is a little bit up to preference, you can try trashing cows to thin out your deck, or you can focus on filtering your hand to get the most optimum deliveries.

This strategy should be more enticing if:

* Buildings that allow non-blind filtering are near the end of the rondel.
* There is at least one San Francisco delivery objective available. (The 3/4/5 cattle objective is nice as well, but might be taken by the cattle player, so you may want to take it fairly aggressively.)
* The "worker market" is awkwardly positioned. (Near the end of the track, or after one or more taxation buildings.) Of all the main strategies in my mind, this one requires by far the least workers to be effective.

"Maximum" Building Strategy

This in my opinion is the most skill-intensive strategy, but also quite powerful. I have divided the building strategy into two strategies. For the first I would say the main goal is to device a strategy around the available 10 building, and rush to it. 10a is probably more suited for a building-delivery hybrid strategy and 10b for a train-building hybrid. Make sure you maximize the effect of the discount given by your fourth and sixth craftsman slot. With the correct mix of buildings, you might even go for a train-building strategy using nothing but your buildings to advance your train. (And you can use your craftsmen to take station master tiles and reuse the discounts.)

This strategy should be more enticing if:

* The "construction hall" is located near the beginning of the rondel.
* There is a hazard chokepoint.

"Specialized" Building Strategy

There are a number of buildings that seem to advocate quite specialized strategies to take advantage of them. 6a and 7a are prime examples in my mind. Can you device a strategy specifically around them? If there's an "Objective Strategy", I assume 1b would be involved somehow. In fact going for some combination of 1b, 4a, 7a and 8a and going for objectives and station master tiles that synergize seems like a quirky and fun strategy to try out... I really wish I had more opportunities to play this game!
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Chris Nash
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There are few things I love more than discussing strategy for Great Western Trail.

Lots of interesting points here, which I'll hopefully get a chance to reply to fully at some point.

Just two quick points:

- While it's more difficult, I find the building strategy can feel more 'fun' or give a great sense of achievement. In one game I made it almost to the end of the train track, built in a station for a great return of points, then used the 10 building allowing for a special delivery for a San Fran delivery, rushed round the trail and did it AGAIN. My train was near the beginning again, but for 18 points, who cares?!

- On a train strategy, I wouldn't always ignore the stations. If you're focusing on a train strategy, your herd value will probably be lower, so permanent certificates are huge. Plus, for a train strategy, you need engineers, and they're the only worker which ALWAYS gives a recruitment bonus.
So I'll often use the engineer for my train strategy to take a permanent certificate station tile, and then just recruit an engineer to replace them and get the bonus again. If the hire workers action is near the start of the trail, this is ideal, because on the last push train action, I get rid of the engineer, but I can recruit another before I ever move my train anyway.
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Kristian Karlsek
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Nashman88 wrote:

- While it's more difficult, I find the building strategy can feel more 'fun' or give a great sense of achievement.


For sure! It's the strategy I enjoy the most right now, but I'm forcing myself to vary my strategies.


Nashman88 wrote:

- On a train strategy, I wouldn't always ignore the stations. If you're focusing on a train strategy, your herd value will probably be lower, so permanent certificates are huge. Plus, for a train strategy, you need engineers, and they're the only worker which ALWAYS gives a recruitment bonus.
So I'll often use the engineer for my train strategy to take a permanent certificate station tile, and then just recruit an engineer to replace them and get the bonus again. If the hire workers action is near the start of the trail, this is ideal, because on the last push train action, I get rid of the engineer, but I can recruit another before I ever move my train anyway.


I just feel like you lose so much momentum (if your goal is to reach the end of the track), and picking new engineers up isn't necessarily easy or cheap. Could be that I'm letting my latest game color my opinion too much. In it I picked up two quick engineers only to use them straight away for the first two station master tiles. We weren't halfway through the game before I regretted it. I topped out at four engineers as another player moved in on them as well.
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Joseph Cochran
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ShogunCharlie wrote:
Delivery Strategy

This strategy seeks to make as many high-end deliveries as possible, preferably multiple San Francisco deliveries. In my opinion the bare necesities of this strategy is one cowboy, and a single cow of each denomination (3/4/5). You also need to maximize your handsize asap. The rest is a little bit up to preference, you can try trashing cows to thin out your deck, or you can focus on filtering your hand to get the most optimum deliveries.


There is also the delivery strategy that I've had great success with: racing to Kansas City as quickly and often as possible. You have to pick up some 3/4/5 cows to avoid running out of steam as you rush endgame, but essentially step increase is as important as hand increase in this.

You also don't mention this, but in ANY delivery strategy, temporary certificates are hugely important to help you round up to the next city when you need to (or store them for the next loop if you can), and can make up for a cow hand duplicate. Also aiding with temporary certs are the post-hazard building tracks. If you have your step limit increased and aren't running a lot of money, you can make a lot of use out of a building (or two if you have one that chains to the next) with card discards for temporary certs along that trail.
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Jay M
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I've been liking "Early Cowboy, then Train/Engineer."

Assuming the worker market and cow markets are favorable, recruiting cowboys early. Buy at least 3 good cows, up to 5 if possible.

Then shift more to recruiting engineers, and start moving the train.

When you can, unlock the "kill cards from your hand" upgrade. Work on getting it down to the good cards coming up all the time.

Move your train and upgrade stations. Turn in the cowboys for station tiles. Move your certificate so you can achieve the valuable Kansas City turn-ins.

Turn the corner on the train. Finish the game with San Francisco cow deliveries, and upgrading all those stations on the side of the board.

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Jimmy Hensel
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Kristian,

Thanks for starting the thread. I don't get nearly as many plays of this as I would like either (less than your 10), and I have enjoyed reading all the replies.

I like trains. So I tend to focus on moving my train and trying to get the station master tiles. The permanent certificates have been a big plus in my efforts. Also, even if I don't get many bonus points from a station master tile, by taking it I have denied my opponents the opportunity for those points.
 
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Siobhan Beeman
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jsciv wrote:
...in ANY delivery strategy, temporary certificates are hugely important to help you round up to the next city when you need to (or store them for the next loop if you can), and can make up for a cow hand duplicate.

Agreed, certificates are huge. So much so that I worry the permanent-certificate station tiles are unbalanced...
 
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Joseph Cochran
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Fabozz wrote:
jsciv wrote:
...in ANY delivery strategy, temporary certificates are hugely important to help you round up to the next city when you need to (or store them for the next loop if you can), and can make up for a cow hand duplicate.

Agreed, certificates are huge. So much so that I worry the permanent-certificate station tiles are unbalanced...


I've won both with and without them. They're handy, but they're not insurmountable, fortunately IME.
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Chris Nash
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I agree. I love them, and will push for them 9 times out of 10. But if someone else gets there first, I don't think I'm out of the game.
 
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Kristian Karlsek
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Group think is a funny thing. In my group we certainly value the permanent certificates, but not as highly as other groups seem to be. Given the opportunity I take them when I can, but not if the worker I give up offers more.
 
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Chris Nash
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The worker can always be re-bought. And, if he's a worker on a bonus recruitment space, you'll get the bonus again.

Getting to Kansas and being one short of 14 when you've already delivered to 12, 10 and 8 though?

It. Hurts. So. Bad.
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Brad Keusch
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I am yet to see pure buildings win a game, I've tried it and if cattle ropers rush through you just don't seem to have enough time to make it work.
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Melissa
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This whole thread is giving me lots of ideas for my next game (in the far future, I'm suffering cattle burn out right now).

I feel like the train strategy is sometimes the only way to win, and I really dislike it. Has anyone found anything else that's as effective? Or effective against the train strategy?
 
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Kristian Karlsek
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Nashman88 wrote:
The worker can always be re-bought. And, if he's a worker on a bonus recruitment space, you'll get the bonus again.

Getting to Kansas and being one short of 14 when you've already delivered to 12, 10 and 8 though?

It. Hurts. So. Bad.


For sure. But I'm way more inclined to do so in the later stages of the game. If I'm rushing to the 10 building, or to get my train to the end of the track, I don't always feel like I can afford to give the worker up.

Of course if I'm not doing something that's as worker intensive I'm much more likely to trade in my workers.
 
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Alliantie AJ
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I believe that the strategy's are variable within different player groups; it can make something stronger/weaker. And of course depends on a/b buildings and the places on the board etc.

Beside that I like to get my train around the bend, moving forward fast enough to get 2 or 3 station master tiles but that depends if you get a lot of competition for it. The station master tiles can give a small boost on the bonus (but try the permanent certificates) but also to get points through the game whenever they are an opportunity. Mid game a 4 point hazard, the right teepee with money etc.

The train saves good money on delivery and late game you can get some extra points on the stations around the bend or if possible push it forward much more.

Also 2 - 4 objective cards matching as much as possible your strategy.

Mostly buy 1 or 2 craftman to get some easy building going.

2 - 4 cattle

Depeding on the building of others a risk place.

Although you have to focus I think it is good to be flexible about the variables of other players/draws/buildings etc.

So I don't always focus that hard; you have a lot of flexibility and less competition to go for opportunities.
 
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Chris Nash
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Do it later in the game?

People shouldn't be leaving them for you!

As for buildings not winning, I beat my wife on a buildings game yesterday. I scored 137 points, my second highest score. I had 2 points for cows, a single red. It was joint with a train strategy. 9b was out, and I did the special delivery to San Fran twice, plus a normal San Fran delivery, for 51 delivery points.
 
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Chris Nash
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Also I really like building in risk spaces, especially in a two player game. It brings less chance for the right hazards/tepees to turn up to block the route.
 
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No Way
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One aspect that I don't think many realize about train strategy is how necessary it is to get station master tiles. But if you're going to ignore station master tiles, make it the ones later on as you push forward, never the early ones that even those not pursuing trains might be able to nab. Even if they do not give out perm certificates. Because it denies them to opponents, which can be even more important. A cowboy player with the station master tile that gives points for objectives regardless of completion is too dangerous to go to them without a fight, for example. It bolsters their strategy way too much.

From a pure beginner standpoint, it is easy to forget how the actions can be taken in any order, which can also avoid you burning necessary train movement when you pull into stations. Example is the action tile that shows engineer train movement and then a double gear. If you're one space away from the station, pay one for a single gear to pull in, drop a disc and worker, THEN engineer out of there.

My favorite shady thing to do in a train strategy is to put out a cowboy in a cheap spot "in the interest of good spirit" and then buy the cowboy myself to use purely as station fodder.
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Kerrin Hardy
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Nashman88 wrote:
Do it later in the game?

People shouldn't be leaving them for you!

multiple people can claim the same station.
 
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alan beaumont
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kerrin wrote:
Nashman88 wrote:
Do it later in the game?
People shouldn't be leaving them for you!

multiple people can claim the same station.
But not the same tile.
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Dave Summers
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OnlyForDownloads wrote:
A cowboy player with the station master tile that gives points for objectives regardless of completion is too dangerous to go to them without a fight, for example. It bolsters their strategy way too much.


I've never picked up this tile as it never seemed a good deal to me. If the objectives are in your area, then they risk scoring negatives. You could lose -2 on 2 objectives and only recoup 3 victory points on the tile. Objectives cards generally are never that attractive to me, unless you get lucky and grab ones that you're working toward anyway. I don't think I've ever completed more than two. They seem too difficult for a usually fairly low reward.
 
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Jimmy Hensel
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DaveSumm wrote:
OnlyForDownloads wrote:
A cowboy player with the station master tile that gives points for objectives regardless of completion is too dangerous to go to them without a fight, for example. It bolsters their strategy way too much.


I've never picked up this tile as it never seemed a good deal to me. If the objectives are in your area, then they risk scoring negatives. You could lose -2 on 2 objectives and only recoup 3 victory points on the tile. Objectives cards generally are never that attractive to me, unless you get lucky and grab ones that you're working toward anyway. I don't think I've ever completed more than two. They seem too difficult for a usually fairly low reward.


Objective cards that you never "play" during the game don't have to be scored and thus won't count negative points for failure to complete. See the note at the end of the objective cards section.
 
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Dave Summers
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pawnpusher wrote:
DaveSumm wrote:
OnlyForDownloads wrote:
A cowboy player with the station master tile that gives points for objectives regardless of completion is too dangerous to go to them without a fight, for example. It bolsters their strategy way too much.


I've never picked up this tile as it never seemed a good deal to me. If the objectives are in your area, then they risk scoring negatives. You could lose -2 on 2 objectives and only recoup 3 victory points on the tile. Objectives cards generally are never that attractive to me, unless you get lucky and grab ones that you're working toward anyway. I don't think I've ever completed more than two. They seem too difficult for a usually fairly low reward.


Objective cards that you never "play" during the game don't have to be scored and thus won't count negative points for failure to complete. See the note at the end of the objective cards section.


I'm aware, but the station master tile only counts objective cards in your area, not in your hand.
 
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alan beaumont
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And I'll have fries with that
DaveSumm wrote:
pawnpusher wrote:
DaveSumm wrote:
OnlyForDownloads wrote:
A cowboy player with the station master tile that gives points for objectives regardless of completion is too dangerous to go to them without a fight, for example. It bolsters their strategy way too much.


I've never picked up this tile as it never seemed a good deal to me. If the objectives are in your area, then they risk scoring negatives. You could lose -2 on 2 objectives and only recoup 3 victory points on the tile. Objectives cards generally are never that attractive to me, unless you get lucky and grab ones that you're working toward anyway. I don't think I've ever completed more than two. They seem too difficult for a usually fairly low reward.

Objective cards that you never "play" during the game don't have to be scored and thus won't count negative points for failure to complete. See the note at the end of the objective cards section.


I'm aware, but the station master tile only counts objective cards in your area, not in your hand.
Yes, but you get to put completed objectives from your hand and deck into your area at final scoring.

It is quite difficult not to score your bonus cards assuming you aren't totally ignoring them! After all, Cows Hazards, Buildings and Stations come with VPs attached and Teepees are usually a cash boost, so the actual card bonus is simply icing or gravy (depending on your chronological age).
 
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