Board Game Review: The Oregon Trail Card Game
What Is the Oregon Trail Card Game?
The Oregon Trail card game is, as you might have guessed, based on the older computer game. You take a family on a wagon with supplies and push through the wilderness in order to get to Oregon, all while doing your best to avoid certain death along the way. It has a very unforgiving difficulty level and you'll be sure to lose quite often. But what are some of the pros and cons of the card game?
Oregon Trail Card Game Review (Pros and Cons)
- Nostalgia—fans rejoice for a faithful recreation of the old computer game
- Well worth $12 (at Target, not online from random sellers)
- Quick, easy to set up, little to no strategy
- Very, very difficult and unforgiving
- Best played with a maximum number of players (5 or 6)
I've never played the original game, so basically this is a game where everyone (2–6 players) gets a hand for supplies and a hand for roads. You have to play roads to progress the game and each subsequent card must match the one prior (paths touch the end of the cards either at the left, the right, or the middle). However, most of these cards have a kind of consequence to them. Some require you to roll the die to cross a river. If you pass, nothing happens. If you don't, you might have to lose a supply or simply die.
You will die of dysentery or a snake bite, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Worse, there are cards that force you to draw from the Calamity deck which does terrible things such as killing your oxen (which will cause you to die next rotation if not replaced), contaminate your water, give you Typhoid, and so on. Four of the cards are either Dysentery or Snake Bite, both which kill a player immediately without any way of protecting yourself. You may also find a Hunting card, where you can exchange bullets for a lot of food. Some road cards will also take the form of Forts or Towns, allowing you to resupply your inventories.
How to Win
You need to play 10 sets of 5 roads in order to make it to Oregon, meaning you have to play 50 road cards. You'll definitely find plenty of bumps along the way. And most importantly, players will all want to work together. There is no prize or race, so one player has no need to look out for numero uno. All players win if one player makes it to Oregon. As with the original game, this iteration is utterly unforgiving, so you'll need as much teamwork as you can get.
The Good: Why People Will Like This Game
This game is good for a couple of reasons. For some, there's nostalgia. For everyone, there's that sheer difficulty and randomness. It's very, very difficult and if you get tired always crossing the finish line in Candy Land with ease, this will give you a wake-up call. While there is some strategy to this game, it's not enough to make you sit and waste minutes thinking about it. It's pretty clear what you have to do, so that's nice for when you want to play a game but not have to mentally work your way through it.
It's Easy to Set Up
Despite the different components, it's also really easy to set up. All cards are easily shuffled with their own, clearly marked by their own color, and there are many duplicates of the same card meaning you don't have to be a great shuffler in order to make sure the deck is varied. It's practically as varied as it's going to get.
Also, it's more of a microgame. It's easy to pick up, set up, and is really quick to play. The path is pretty obvious on how you need to go so no player should be holding up the rest of the group.
How Many Players Are Optimal?
The answer? All of them. My wife and I played this game and died out relatively quickly, only about 30% of the way through. This happened again when we reshuffled and played right after. We played this game with another couple (4 players total) and were able to make it about 80%, repeating the same results in a second game.
If you really want to get 10 stacks of 5, you'll want 5 or 6 players. For those playing with fewer people, I advise you to lower the requirement, or simply make a record and see how far you can go. Just know the randomness can really, really suck sometimes. It's terrible when one person passes on their supplies to the next after dying to Dysentery, only for the last player to draw a Calamity and be killed by a Snake Bite.
Winning Points of This Game
Having never played the original game, do I enjoy this one? Definitely! My wife and I now have a small collection of microgames so we can shuffle through which ones we want. The advantage of this game is that it's pretty quick and more or less satisfactory. Sure, it's difficult which may make it shorter, but it's exciting to get close to the end of the game or when you're the last player alive.
There's not a lot to it, which may sound like a complaint but it's really not. You can figure out pretty easily what kind of game this is and whether you want it or not. For $12, it's definitely worth it.