When I first played Great Western Trail, I had mixed feelings. I really loved the game, I thought this is a real, open, sandbox-style game. But the railroad part, when we transport our cattle to the cities was not always fun. Half of the time a liked it, half of the time I felt that it is too much. Although the more I played with the game, the more I enjoyed the whole.
In 2018 the expansion of the game, Rails to the North was published. It mostly, but not completely changed the way cattle is delivered.
The expansion brings a new table to the game. If you connect it with the original board, you'll get new railway lines. There are different sized cities on these new lines, with extra actions, bonuses, station upgrading, and new cattle destinations for the players.
But to reach these cities, the players have to build their branch lines. There are little auxiliary action boards in the expansion, with 15 branch buildings for each player. You can build these branches as an auxiliary action after discarding a value 2 cattle.
This mechanism fundamentally changed the game for me. Before the expansion, the game felt like a sandbox action selection, followed by a very strict unimaginative cattle transportation. But with the new branch line and destinations, I can freely decide where to transport my herd. Some destinations on the new board even have new actions, which you can use besides your buildings or the neutral ones.
Besides this huge change, there are two smaller „modules'' in the expansion. The first is two new buildings for each player. Now, you can build from 12 buildings, not 10.
The second module is the exchange tokens. You get these as bonuses, and you can use them any time, even during your action, or in the opponents' turn. If you discard one, you can draw a maximum of 2 cards, and then discard the same number.
Rails to the North is one of the best expansions ever for me. It expands, perfects a dominant mechanism of a very good game. By the way, in this case, it makes a nearly totally open sandbox game perfect. In this game, limited only by the theme and the core mechanism,
I can do whatever I want. I feel the love and devotion of Alexander Pfister for his own game. He perfectly nailed how to expand his already great game.
Great Western Trail: Rails to the North
Alexander Pfister: eggertspiele