Family Board Game Review: The Oregon Trail

Publisher: Pressman Toy

Players: 2 to 6 Players

Age range: 12 and up

Play Time: 30+ Minutes

MSRP $12.99

Style: Card Game

Have you ever thought that life would be easier if you were born in an earlier time? Have you ever wondered if life would be great without the never ending distractions of the whirs and rings and cacophony of modern electronics? Wouldn’t we all be healthier and more fulfilled without the baggage of modern life? Oregon Trail might convince you otherwise. Play with your friends did family and learn about the struggles of a society very different from your own.

Introduction

The Oregon Trail card game is based on the 1980s video game of the same name. Oregon Trail was an edu-tainment videogame that attempted to teach the history of 19th-century pioneer life when traveling by covered wagon across the country. This new game is basically the same game (right down to the artwork and commands) in a card game format. The only difference is that this game is a cooperative game designed to be played socially instead of playing by yourself on a computer.

Contents

  • 58 Trail Cards
  • 32 Calamity Cards
  • 26 Supply Cards,
  • Laminated Wagon Party Roster,
  • Erasable Marker,
  • 1 Die
  • Illustrated Instruction booklet

Gameplay

Each player’s name is written on the laminated board as part of the wagon party. The back of the board has tombstones to move deceased players names to when they inevitably die off tragically.

Cards are then shuffled with their respective type and each player is dealt 5 Trail Cards and a selection of Supply Cards based on the number of players. The remaining Supply Cards are organized to create a shop that you can purchase from later in the game.

You then take the Start (Independence, MO) and Finish (Willamette Valley, OR) cards and place them 3 feet apart.

On your turn, you must do one of the following

Play a Trail Card: In order to play a trail card, it must connect with the existing path when placed evenly against the previous trail card. You may rotate the card to make this connection if needed. If your trail card has instructions on it, you must immediately follow the instructions on the card (more on that later). If you have a trail card that does not connect or you run out of trail cards, you must draw a new trail card and pass the turn.

OR

Play a Supply Card: Supply cards are used to remedy specific calamity cards. Supply cards can be played on a turn instead of a trail card. The supplies cannot be used immediately after a calamity is drawn.

Trail cards include

  • Forts: This card allows you to collect two supply cards
  • Towns: This card allows you to collect one supply card or remove a single calamity card.
  • Basic: These are one of the best kinds of trail cards, you progress without any event.
  • River: These cards will require you to roll a die in order to progress. A failed die roll will sometimes result in a supply card being lost or you drowning. (We found some ambiguity on some of the river cards and haven’t been able to find a consensus on how to play it so we came up with their own house rules)
  • Press the Spacebar: these trail cards trigger a calamity and make you draw a Calamity card.

Once you’ve resolved everything to the best of your ability on your turn, play passes to the left. When 5 trail cards have been placed they are then collected and stacked with the first card played going on top. The next trail card must connect to the top card.

The game is over when everyone in the party is dead OR when 10 sets of five cards is completed with at least one person still living when you get to Willamette Valley.

Is it a Family Game?

The box states that the game is best for players 12 and up. This is definitely not accurate. We have had seven and eight-year-olds play the game and have quite an enjoyable time. Gameplay is fairly simple once you get over some of the unclear instructions. Keep in mind, the game is designed to teach a little bit about history. You may be discussing some unfortunate things like measles and dysentery and other calamities that happened often in the 19th century.

Also, some of the calamities immediately cause your character to die with absolutely no recourse. This can happen very quickly and happens frequently. Calamities can take players out of the game on the first round and since the game does that last at least 30 minutes, you may have players that or upset and board by the player elimination mechanics.

Collecting 10 sets of five cards does take a while especially with bigger parties. We have made the game go quicker but choosing to collect five sets of five cards (25 as opposed to 50). In addition to making the game shorter, this does make it easier to win. This might be a house rule that you want to incorporate when you are playing with younger players

Conclusion

We purchased this game purely for the tug of nostalgia. It certainly has the look and feel of the game from the 1980s that we were all so fond of and familiar with. Dying of disease and failing to ford a river happen often enough in this game that we feel satisfied. However, some of the more educational aspects of the 1980s game were removed from the card game testosterone enanthate. The decision to remove things like the roles of the players in the party, proper trip planning, and some of the decision-making regarding supplies and speed of travel simplified the mechanics of the game and made it more accessible to many players. Unfortunately, this leaves the game feeling slightly watered down and it relies way more on luck that it does on strategy and skill.

The MSRP on this game is very reasonable. If you are looking for a game that has a neat nod to nostalgia, then this will make for a fun evening. Because this game does not require a lot of player skill or strategy, your more experienced gamers might be bored or frustrated by the random luck in this game. Overall it is great icebreaker and a fun game to relax and socialize while playing. It does spark some discussion about history and while it is not as educational as the 1980s video game, it’s still a fun experience.

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2 Responses to “Family Board Game Review: The Oregon Trail”

  1. Dave
    January 16, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

    Agreed with your review! Our kids love it, but it’s definitely lacking many components of the original video game. Our 6 and 8 year olds can play the game just fine, there isn’t too much strategy involved.

    I added a link in this comment to a review of the game on my blog.

    • Stephen Duetzmann
      January 17, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

      Thanks for the support there Dave! We definitely enjoyed that one when we got our hands on it. Glad your kids are enjoying it too!

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