Great Western Trail was one of the "cult of the semi-new" games I picked up recently, and I really love it. It's a mid-heavy-weight game about traveling along the eponymous trail with your cattle and selling them, over and over. It's a euro where the theme could be anything, and some links are extremely tenuous, but fun and gives you a bunch of interesting decisions.
Last night was only the third time I've played (other than a brief experimentation with a solo variant).
I don't remember the scores of the first game, but I do know I won game 2 by a wide margin.
Game 3 was also the first time we used some more of the random setup elements (neutral building placement and A/B sides of private buildings)
Last night I was not so lucky.
Early in the first run from the geographically-unclear ranch to Kansas, I was presented with this:
If you know the game, you will know that this is the worst possible hand of cows you can draw.
When you reach Kansas City, your reward is based on having a variety of cows. Not only are these all the same, but they are the lowest value.
Effectively, upon arrival in Kansas, this hand full of Jersey Cows would be worth $1, with the only possible place to "sell" them being Kansas City itself, which gives you -6VP.
... But it also gives you +$6. Remember that for a moment.
Since my hand of cows was lousy, and I was a few steps in toward Kansas City, I decided to move slowly, through spaces that could (relatively inefficiently) cycle bad cows out of my hand.
This turned out to be a huge mistake.
I lost so much momentum from moving slowly, and couldn't get an economy going so it became a self-fulfilling defeat. All in the name of trying to sell my cows to a further-up city for potential long-term gain.
The end score was 81-80-56-49. Guess which one was me?
Looking at a spread like this, -6 VP doesn't look so bad when it also gives you +$6 and a full hand-cycle that guarantees itself to be worth at least 1 more. If I had "galloped" to Kansas City quickly with my crap hand, I may have built up to some strong followup turns.
I will remember this for next game. Which will hopefully be soon (whether in meatspace or on Tabletop Simulator). Will see what happens with a strategy of an early Kansas City rush.
My goal this year is to focus on quantity of plays of games I've already got, more than looking at shiny new squirrels. I won't completely be blind to the Cult of the New, but I always feel sad when I play a new game with substance only once or twice before being able to formulate strategies and see a game for what it truly is (or be able to appreciate its expansions). I want to spend a lot of time on GWT and Terra Mystica, primarily, and we'll see what else pops up.