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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.
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Est. time to learn: 20-30 minutes
Weight: 781 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
- 1 game board
- 80 playing cards:
- 56 action cards
- 24 scoring cards
- 20 wagons
- 120 tokens
- 4 scoring pawns
- 4 double move pieces
- 4 partition pawns
- 1 rules booklet
Average Rating: 2 in 1 review
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.
- Move wagons: The player may move wagons total spaces equal to the number of wagons on the card. For example, if a card shows three wagons, a player can move one wagon three spaces, three wagons one space each, etc. Wagons can only move from east to west and cannot move once they reach California.
- Place tokens on the region tracks: The card shows one region, and either no number (which means that the player places only one token in that region); a "2" (which means that the player places two tokens in that region), or a "+1" (which means that the player places one token in that region and one token in a region of their choice.) When placing a token, it must be placed on the track in the first empty clockwise position from the partition marker. If no spots are freed, then the partition pawn is moved clockwise one space, giving the token back to its owner, and the player moving the partition token places a token of their color in the open space.
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...
- Components: The game is very beautiful, with typical Phalanx production values. The board looks very "Western", and the shades of brown and other colors add to the theme of the game. The wooden wagon tokens are really neat and are yet another unique "meeple" to add to my collection. The player tokens are all round wooden discs and certainly provide a stark contrast to the board. The cards are a bit bland looking but are functional and are very easy to tell what they are used for. Everything fits in a smallish box with more western artwork on the outside.
- Rules: The rulebook is an eight page booklet that has full color illustrations and examples. It's formatted well, although comes across a little too "stiff". Somehow, though, the game seems to be an easy one to mix up the rules on -- especially about the scoring. While scoring makes sense from the rules in the book, it's just not intuitive; and it's not so easy to explain to new players. The only way I've had success is to actually show players how the scoring works. Actually, the whole game, while it works well, just isn't easy to explain, because players have to set up their moves in advance; and that's a difficult thing to wrap one's mind about.
- Scoring: The scoring mechanic gives me the same problems that Fifth Avenue does. I don't like games that force me to continue to set up scoring opportunities for myself and then wait for someone else to accidentally trigger scoring. Go West alleviates this to a degree by having the double action tokens, but they can be quickly taken out of the game if one player refuses to play his. At the same time, scoring rarely (never in the games I've played) helps only one person. Your best bet is that you get more points than anyone else, and this isn't very satisfying for me. I want to see my score increase in a game, and not everyone's, and mine only one more. It's also rather difficult to know when to score, as the scoring cards get ridiculously expensive as the game goes by.
- Action cards: The mechanic of using a card for actions or money is a neat one, as well as the multiple things that cards do. In theory, this sounds like it makes for some fun decision making. But in reality, players are scrambling to get pawns in the places they want; but if the other players opt to screw them, there's really nothing they can do. In one game I played, one player continually moved the wagons out of another player's territory. Even with the double move token, the affected player was only able to score a few points. It wasn't a very fun game for either of them. The cards also have a random factor about them; and while that didn't bother me too much, some of the players I gamed with couldn't stand not getting the cards they wanted.
- Strategy: After multiple playings of the game, I'm still not sure what a player should do. Should they concentrate on one territory, or all four? How fast should you move the wagons across, and when should you score? Frankly, I couldn't figure out any of these things; and since the game became a drudgery to play, I didn't want to put any of the time needed to solve these dilemmas. I don't mind when a game has hidden depths and strategies that can't be solved in the initial play, but I want to have some kind of clue, at least! Either way, it appears that a player's best laid plans can be foiled by the other players, anyway, so I don't know that strategy is important in the game.
- Fun Factor: For me, Go West was absolutely no fun. The person who initially taught it to me enjoyed it, and one other player stated that they could see potential, but all the rest of the folk I tried it with just were bored in a very unhappy fashion. I suppose that the game will attract some people who like abstract games with not a lot of payoff, but it was a dud for me.
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."