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In the late 18th century, the fast-growing population of the emerging United States of America showed an increasing interest in the Wild West. Millions of poor immigrants were arriving from Europe, and the population of cities on the East Coast swelled enormously. Endless plains and huge mountain ranges -- thinly populated by Native Americans and rich in game, farmland and minerals -- started luring large numbers of them. Settlers travelled in wagon trains and established themselves even further west until they finally reached California and the Pacific Coast.
The players are shrewd businessmen who benefit from passing wagon trains, continuously moving westward across the North American continent. It is divided into huge regions of land: New England, the East, the Great Plains, the Midwest, the West and finally California.
Leo Colovini has been somewhat hit or miss with me. I really enjoyed his games Cartagena and Carolvs Magnvs, but others such as Bridges of Shangri-La and Clans have left me cold. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached playing Go West! (Phalanx and Mayfair Games, 2005 -- Leo Colovini). The theme sounded good, the components were great, and the person teaching me was enthusiastic. All of that seemed to point to a good game.
But alas, it was not to be. Go West! was not only a game that didn't excite me, I actively disliked the game. The game consists in a bunch of turns where the player is trying to set up scoring opportunities. However, scoring usually helps all the players and not the active player enough to matter. Basically, you have to hope that someone helps set you up for a higher score, and I just don't find that very much fun.
A board is set up on the table, depicting the United States, divided into six regions: New England, East, Great Plains, Midwest, West, and California, respectively. The middle four regions have a track of eight circles above them each. A black partition pawn is placed in the top-left circle of each. Players take all the pieces of their color: a scoring pawn (which is placed on the "10" spot of the scoring track), thirty tokens, one double move token, and a pile of scoring cards with the lowest placed on the top of the pile. A deck of eighty action cards is shuffled, and seven are dealt to each player. Twenty wooden wagons are placed in the New England region, and the game is ready to begin, starting with the oldest player.
On a player's turn, they can either score the board, play an action card, or sell an action card. When playing an action card, a player must pay the cost of the card by putting a number of tokens equal to the number of coins on the card (0-6) into the box. If a player doesn't have enough tokens, they can't play the card. Each card allows a player to do one or more actions.
When a player "sells" a card, they discard the card and take tokens from the box back equal to the card's coins. Players may also pay victory points at any time to substitute for coins.
If a player scores the board, each of the four territories is scored. Points are scored for the number of wagons in the region. If the wagons exceed the tokens in the territory, all players get one point for each token. Otherwise, players take points, one at a time, with the player having the most tokens getting the first point, etc. Players can only get as many points as they have tokens. Ties in number of tokens are resolved by the player whose tokens are closest clockwise to the partition token winning. All players' scoring pawns are moved accordingly. To initiate scoring, players must pay the price on their top scoring card (prices are 1,3,6,10,15,16) and then discard the scoring card. If a player has used all their scoring cards (I bet this never happens), they can't score.
Each player can only do ONE action on their turn, unless they use their double move piece. The player places it in the box and performs two actions. The double move piece is lost until all players have used them, at which point they are all returned to their owners. After a player has taken their action, they draw a card, and play passes to the next player. The game continues until one player has reached fifty victory points, or there are no wagons in New England or the East (one final score occurs). The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
When a game looks as pretty as Go West, it's a real shame when the mechanics are this mind-numbing to play. The game is a classic Colovini dry flop for me. I wanted to like the game -- the title intrigued me, and I've played some very interesting Phalanx/Mayfair games. But the fact that I had to count on others to set me up/ not trash my situation on their turns to score even a few meager points just doesn't enthrall me. Sadly, Go West will Go Someplace Else.
"Real men play board games."