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Settlers of America – Trails to Rails - Board Game Box Shot

Settlers of America – Trails to Rails

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The 19th Century has arrived and America is heading west. Wagon trains form on the frontier. Settlers seeking fresh lives and opportunities strike out to tame wild lands and build new cities. These new cities rely on young railroads for vital goods. Trails become rails and create great wealth.

While the crowded East still offers options, its resources dwindle. Look west to make your fortune. Smart money seeks rich, unclaimed land and hungry new markets. Finance your settlers as they head west to build capitals of tomorrow. Link these cities with rails of steel. Operate your railroad to supply the townsfolk with goods. Go west. Settle the wide, open land. Claim your destiny!

Settlers of America, Trails to Rails utilizes the simple, fun Catan hex-tile grid to map the young United States. Collect and trade resources in order to purchase and move settlers, build cities, lay rails and acquire and move trains. Create rail links to acquire gold, which lets you buy resources and use opponents’ rails. Use trains to distribute goods to rival cities. But, as your settlers populate the West, they deplete the resources of the East. Still, your options always abound.

Settlers Of America game in play
image © Mayfair Games

User Reviews (7)

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It's All About Me
74 of 81 gamers found this helpful
“Updated Settlers for the Avid Gamer”

Like many board gamers, Settlers of Catan was my introduction to the hobby. My group played the heck out of it – we’d never seen anything like it: a game with negotiation and trading, where you made real decisions along the way and felt like your wins were earned more than lucked into. Of course, it doesn’t feel like that now, but when all you’ve played are game like Life, Payday and Pictionary, Catan is pretty revolutionary.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve got into the hobby big time. Compared to favorites like Agricola and Container, Settlers of Catan just feels too light and luck-based (though it does teach a harsh, valuable lesson about probabilities). When a friend introduced me to Settlers of America, I was a little reluctant. I found the game to be a pleasant surprise, however, as it fixes some of the quibbles I have with its predecessor while still feeling familiar.

First, it retains that Catan feel so it shouldn’t scare any fans of the original game away. As soon as you sit down you’ll see hexes, numbered discs, dice and little wooden houses. You’ll also notice that all of the numbers are in the east, and the west is barren. That’s because everyone’s starting settlements have to placed in the east, and as players builds settlers (little wagons) and move them out west, they create new settlements. As this occurs, you start moving those numbered discs away from the east and bring them out west, which is a neat mechanism.

The game still produces resources based on dice rolling, with the hexes that match the number rolled producing resources. There is now a consolation prize as well – if you don’t produce any resources, you get a gold token. 2 gold can be exchanged for 1 of any resource, plus since the gold is a chit instead of a card, it doesn’t count against you for the robber. Yes, the robber as you know him is in this game as well – when a 7 is rolled, people with more than 7 cards must discard half. Well, he’s not quite as deadly thanks to another welcome change: at the end of each player’s turn, every player has a chance to build. This means no more getting a huge windfall of cards then losing them to an untimely robber attack before you’ve had a chance to use them.

These changes mean that, while there is still luck in the game, things aren’t quite so feast-or-famine anymore. The other major change in the game is the win condition. Gone are victory points. Instead, each player has a certain number of goods cubes to deliver; the first to deliver all of his cubes wins the game. Each settlement on the board has a spot for exactly one cube to be delivered, and you cannot deliver cubes to your own settlements. Cubes are delivered via train, which requires tracks to be built (much like roads are built in the original game). A twist here is that you get rewarded with gold when you connect a new city up to a network of track, and opponents may use your tracks – if they pay you gold to do so.

The result is a game that gives me that same nostalgic tingle I get from Settlers, but offers enough meat on its bones to satisfy my current, mid-to-heavy eurogame tastes. When and where to expand is key. If you clump your settlements together you may find it faster and easier to branch out, but you run the risk of making it easy for an opponent to deliver to your cities in short order. Some of those early game settlements might get you some good resources right away, but those production nodes will dry up when the westward expansion starts so do you accept the swing in resources or play it safe with hexes that will always be productive?

It’s not the heaviest game out there, but it’s a nice mid-weight game. It did what I thought was impossible: it made me excited to play a Settlers game again. Like its predecessor, Settlers of America is something I’ll only play as a 4-player game, and it tends to take right around 2.5 hours. If you have fond memories of Settlers of Catan but feel like you’ve outgrown it, I highly recommend giving this game a long look.

*My only complaints with the components is the tracks. The trains will not sit on them and must go next to them instead. Actually, this doesn’t bother me. You cannot have more than 2 trains using a piece of track at a time, so the trains go next to the track (one on each side) rather than on top of it. This seems to irk the people I play with, though.

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I play green
74 of 81 gamers found this helpful
“A great addition to the Catan settlement...”

This game has to be my favourite of the various additions to the Settlers of Catan collection. This game was my second purchase way back when I first started board gaming on a regular basis and with my friends who I regularly play with, I’ve definitely got the money worth out of this game.

The idea of the game is to drop off all cargo you have in your area to other players cities by building a rail network. Starting in the east, the idea is to gradually move west, where you can prosper with the resources available and take resource tokens from the east side of the map. The game is essentially split into two halves. Staying east at the start can be worth it, to build up your resources for buying settlers and being able to move them around to settle in new cities. However, going west early can be advantageous for later on in the game when you need the resources to join up cities using your rail system. It’s a fine balance, and strategy is key on where to settle in order for what resources you need. Of course, when the luck of the dice roll comes into play, anything can happen.

Starting off, in player order clockwise, each player places a house on a purple marked city. Then when that is done, it goes anti-clockwise, then clockwise again so that everyone will have 3 houses down on the board to start the game. Players receive the resources from their last house to place which is your starting hand. Everyone then places a single rail and train down by one of their cities in a direction of their choice.
Of course, when placing houses, on many occasions you might take a city that someone else was wanting. There’s nothing wrong with that, however, expect that to happen later in the game when you’re trying to get as quickly across the board to settle in the west and someone snatches a city that you were eyeing up.

The game then starts and the turn order goes as follows. With the first player, the dice is rolled. Everyone receives resources if they have a city which is connected to the number which is rolled. If you do not have any, you receive 1 gold. This gold can be used towards purchasing resources, which is a nice addition that isn’t in the original game. As with original Settlers, if a 7 is rolled, then the robber comes is used by the player who rolled the dice. He/She places it on a chosen hex, blocking any further resources to be collected from that space until the robber is moved and then takes a resource randomly from the player(s) that they blocked from.
From here, the player then can use their resources to purchase what they wish, from settlers to development cards or moving their settler or train. The items that they purchase must be used immediately (unless it is a development card, which they cannot use until their next turn) and cannot be stored. Generally, there is never any need to store items, as you need it straight away. Players are allowed to trade resources with other players if they wish and if negotiations are met.

After all actions are taken for the player who rolled, the game then opens up to the other players for an added ‘Extraordinary Phase’. In this phase, since the game can be so long and other players may acquire more than 7 cards over time before their go, all other players are allowed to purchase settlers, rails, trains or development cards. They cannot trade in resources or move their settlers or trains. You may choose not to build anything, though there is the moment when you are running the risk of rolling a 7 and it’s the only number that you don’t want to come out. Many moments have my friends including myself ran the risk and got bitten by it. For everyone else, it’s a roar of laughter, for you, it’s head in hands or a face palm. If that is the case, you have to half down your cards, rounding down.

This is a basic turn order for each player on every turn. What you do on your turns is up to you, but scenarios will appear when you need to connect rails together to connect to another city to be able to take your train to that city and drop off the cargo.
When you connect two cities together, whether or not it is occupied by another player, you get a gold bonus for the shortest route connected by rail. If two or more players have the shortest route, the gold is split by the number of railway track that is placed by each player. As an example, if you have 3 to other players 1, you’d receive 3 gold and the other player 1 gold.
To drop off cargo, you need to go to a city which IS occupied by another player, using your train to get to do so. The train doesn’t need to come from a specific place or city, as long as you can get to the city of another player which hasn’t already got cargo delivered to it. If it does have cargo there already, you can’t deliver cargo there.

The only rule to dropping off cargo is if you have less houses than you have cargo left. What I mean by this when you move your settler around and land on a city, you replace the settler with a house, taking from your pile in your turntable in front of you. When you remove a house to put it on a city, you open up an available cargo to deliver. The idea is to go settle west with your houses, open up the amount of cargo you are able to deliver and from there try and drop off the cargo to the other players.
The game ends by the player who has dropped off all their cargo first.

All in all, the game is a cracker. It is one of my personal favourites and though the game play is around 2-3 hours, on many occasions, even in the early hours of the morning have me and my friends said we should have another game of it. Just one more…
The game deserves to get a lot of praise and is definitely the strongest of the Catan additions. I’ve played many of the other expansions but we all agree that Trails to Rails is the best and favourite amongst our group. It is very much a strategic game but also a lot of fun, or annoying depending if you’re on the receiving end of a dice roll of a 7. A great game, and a great addition to anyone’s board game collection.

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73 of 80 gamers found this helpful
“Settlers of America - My Impressions”

This is another in the Catan series of games, this time with another twist it includes trains and rails.

The components, as always, are high quality wooden pieces with some excellent cards and a well made large board. The only let down for me are the money pieces which seem an afterthought and do not match up with the other parts. This is a minor gripe though and not a distraction from the great game.

There is a lot going on in this game, which plays a lot longer than most Catans but you hardly notice the time when playing. It has a few changes that help both gameplay balance and removing downtime.

The game is played until one player has delivered their last good, goods only being released for transport when you build a city.

On your turn you roll dice as normal collecting resources from hex\’s that match that number where you have a city, if anyone does not receive anything they now get a gold. Trading resources is same as normal Catan except you can now buy up to 2 cards for 2 gold each or trade resources to the bank at 3:1, you can even trade 3 resources for a gold.

There are development cards, now themed to fit the new game so there are a few neat little bonuses. One addition of note is the extraordinary build phase between turns, this helps balance out people building players into a corner. After each players full turn, every other player gets a chance to build (they cannot trade or move pieces) this can be extremely useful, they can also buy development cards. This latter option means, if you get the timing right, you can buy one just before your actual turn and then use it.

To build new cities players first have to build a Settler and move him to a new city site, the settler is then removed and replaced with a city. Each Player starts with one train which can be moved along rails as they are built, players can also build a second train to help then deliver there goods.

As the Railways move from East to West some of the resource number tokens get moved depleting the reserves in the East forcing players to settle elsewhere to maintain a steady flow of precious materials. To deliver you goods you must send you train to another players city so this makes for some strategic choices as you have to pay a toll to use another players rail system.

I like this game a lot, it plays well and so far every game we have played of it has been pretty close near the end. If you like the Catan series of games then this is a must, even if you are not it is still worth a look as it does address a few shortcomings of the original games.

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Gamer - Level 9
Explorer - Level 6
Guardian Angel
32 of 38 gamers found this helpful
“Catan ramped up”

This is the Catan game with some interesting extras added. The basic concepts of Settlers of Catan are here, so if you don’t know the game you might want to look at a review and play the basic game first. The theme is the colonization of America. Players start with 2 settlements on the right side of the board. You can play a pre-setup layout or randomize some of the game. Where the numbers are have fixed resources on the spaces for some of the board but some have an empty space by the resource so the number can be random. At the start the empty spaces on the right side have tokens with numbers on them. As the game progresses the number tokens will be moved to new locations. Once a location loses it’s number token it will no longer produce. You will build trains and wagons to expand with new settlements and build tracks trains and wagons. Every time you build a settlement you will gain a cube that must be shipped to a settlement via train. You cannot ship your cubes to your own locations so you will build tracks(road equivalents) to travel to other cities with your train(s). The board is full of locations and when a wagon arrives at a location you build a settlement there and replace the wagon with a settlement marker. There is no choice when you arrive at a location, but only 1 settlement per location. There are paths your wagons travel on, so you can bypass a location but you will take longer to get across the board. You win the game by having 10 settlements and delivering the 10 cubes. This is an enjoyable variant of the game that is more strategic than the base game but still uses the same luck mechanism(dice rolls) to drive the game. If you have not played a lot of board games or are unfamiliar with the Catan system I recommend playing the base game first, but if you are ready for a challenge or change try this one.

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Rated 10 Games
70 of 125 gamers found this helpful
“Better than the original!”

I like this version better than the original Settlers of Catan. The use of gold to help alleviate poor die rolls along with the changing value of the terrain as players head west both contribute to an experience that is better than Catan. I am impressed with how they took the concept of Catan and fit it onto a map of the US.

Excellent game.

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68 of 122 gamers found this helpful

My entire family loves this game. I particularly like the dual strategies of building settlements and railroads. It is longer and more complex then the other Settlers games but is so much fun you don’t care.

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67 of 125 gamers found this helpful
“Best of the Catan Versions”

It is Catan at it’s core but adds a lot of variety to the basic game. Quite a lot of strategy is involved in this version.


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