Brand new from Mayfair Games is Settlers of America: Trails to Rails, the most recent in the Catan Histories series. Like a combination of the original Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder, the game requires players to collect and trade resources in order to purchase and move settlers, build cities, lay rails, and acquire and move trains.
The game’s look will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played one of the Catan games, as it uses the hex-tile grid to map the continental United States. Luck in the dice rolls is balanced somewhat by the addition of Gold, so that if his throw nets a player no resources, he still gets some reward (Gold can be traded for resources at a ratio of 2:2). The addition of rail lines, trains, and train movement (all of which require resources) is required in order to deliver goods cubes to one’s opponents, which in turn scores Victory Points for the player.
This is an interesting twist on the classic Catan game mechanic, as the players “relive” the westward movement of the early American settlement. Resource depletion on the eastern seaboard both entices and, eventually, forces players to seek unclaimed land and markets hungry for goods in the western half of the continent.
Playing time is about 2 hours, so there’s definitely a larger time commitment required here than for a game of Settlers, and it’s recommended for ages 12 and up. Three or four players only.