I’ve never played Oregon Trail on the PC because I grew up in the UK, so when this game was announced I didn’t really have any impetus or reason to play it. When someone brought it to game night I was up for playing it though because everyone seemed so excited and nostalgic about it. Even my wife, notoriously apathetic about baord games, seemed rosey-eyed about this one. She didn’t play, but she was interested to watch us all die. They said the PC game was lethal and unwinnable, so I went into this one expecting to have a really tough co-op. My favourite kind of co-op.
Just like the video game, you play as a band of pioneers travelling from Missouri all the way to Oregon, you have to follow an extremely long trail full of trials, disease, and mishaps. The game is an almost identical visual replication of the old 8-bit game, so there’s a unique style to the cards, which helps to lend it that retro feel.
Publisher: Pressman Toy Corp.
Time: 30-60 min.
Will you and your band of pioneers make it through the trail to the promise of a better life on the west coast? Brave the elements, starvation, and everything else in between to test your mettle and survive the Oregon Trail!
Players take it in turns playing a trail card from their hand that must line up with the previously played trail card. In doing so any text on the card must be fulfilled before proceeding. Fording rivers requires a die roll, or calamity cards must be drawn and then overcome.
Each turn moves very quickly, so even with a 6-player game like we had your turn comes around quickly. The more people you play with the more resources you will have available. If someone dies there’s more people to share the load with. Bear that in mind, the fewer players you have the harder this game becomes.
If a calamity is not immediately resolved, or a river not instantly crossed, then it falls to the next player to try and rectify the issue. Much of this is done on a die roll, odds vs evens, so a coin toss essentially. As such,the game is very random and unforgiving. Hopefully the dice gods smile upon as you blaze the trail.
Sometimes your turn is simply to play a supply card of a particular type in order to remedy a calamity, and if you don’t have the right one you can always trade in two for one in the shop. A very expensive prospect. But out on the trail you have to do what you have to do.
The cards are great quality, nice and thick, and the artwork is iconic for what it’s supposed to be. That being said the trail cards are quite bland,just black with a green line on it, whereas the supply cards and town and fort cards have a good vibrancy and cool details. Again, the artwork represents the original IP, and in doing so does it’s job. But for someone with no prior knowledge of it, the trail cards were just uninspiring.
The rules leaflet is decent enough, but at times was seemingly vague. When we played a river card and wanted some extra clarification on what should happen with regards to a failed die roll and the players turn ending, the rulebook simply stated the following:
I don’t want a 50 page rulebook, but be specific with an extra clause that states the player’s turn ends and the next player must give it a go.
I don’t want to play this again, I’m not nostalgic for it and the game was lackluster at every turn. We played almost every single card in the deck in order to get to Oregon, so the trail deck will just be more of the same. The calamity deck is where the replayability will come in. Whilst there’s not a ton of different calamities there’s a good number of them. We used maybe 50% of them, and on second glance there were a few that we never saw come up, but had duplicates of others.
Play a trail card, or if unable to, draw a card. Or if you are feeling generous play a supply card to remedy a calamity. That’s about it. The mechanics are entirey this simple, if a card says you die under certain conditions, then so be it.
There’s almost none in the game. The only strategic decision in this game was which trail card to play, but mostly that decision was made for you because it must line up with the previous one, and rarely will you have multiple cards that fit that bill. And if you do, you just play the one with less bad stuff on it. I died on my very first turn of the game, because I drew the dysentery card which has no stipulations and just puts you out of the game. It was lame, but I get that it’s a throw back to how the real computer game was, which in turn reflects the real life struggles on the Trail. Ironically I didn’t actually care that I died, because I didn’t miss out on much, watching the rest of the game play out. Plus we arrived, so we all won together, even me, that contributed nothing except for a funny epitaph.
Final Thoughts: 8/20
It might seem like I’m bitter that I died, but I’m not, trust me. There’s a reaason this game was on sale for $10 at Target, it’s not good. I had no expectations going into it, other than it was hard, but it’s not even hard, it’s just random. The players consistently rolled evens to cross the rivers with ease and the game progressed to the end. It’s also way too long for what it is. I get it, the length makes it even harder to win (read: more calamities and die rolls to encounter) but it was a waste of game night. If you are inclined to try it for nostalgia’s sake, go for it. But it’s pretty pointless and utterly lacking in any kind of reward for winning. If anyone can change my mind on this feel free to try, I just saw very little merit in this game.