Game Review: The Oregon Trail Card Game

The Oregon Trail Card Game, By Pressman (2-6 Players Ages 12 and Up)

This game is precisely the sort of card game that I find appealing.  For one, I am part of the target demographic of the game, namely someone who grew up playing the extremely difficult computer game and who has a great deal of interest in the Oregon Trail by virtue of living in Oregon and being generally interested in history [1].  When this card game first came out I sought to get it at various Portland-area Target stores, where it is sold, but found much to my annoyance that the stores in the area either sold out of the product before I had gotten there or did not have their act together when it came to putting the product on the shelves.  This is a case where there was likely an underestimation of the true market for this game–it seems as if the maker of this game thought that they were making a niche product only of interest to a small group of people and did not realize just how many people had feelings of nostalgia about the immensely difficult computer game that this card game emulates remarkably well.

Recently I had the chance to play this game with a few friends of mine who live not far from the end of the Oregon Trail, at least one of whom was with me as my mum and I explored the Oregon Trail during her time here this past summer.  Upon playing the card game, I found it was as difficult as I had remembered the computer game to be.  The gameplay is somewhat different in the card game than in the computer game, in that the computer game has more or less a fixed route (or at least a series of fixed routes) and the card game relies on rolling a d6 (or standard 6-sided die) to address the concerns.  Also, money is not as much of an issue and instead players are given a certain number of supply cards depending on how many players are playing.  The game is also fairly cooperative in that if one or more players make it all the way to the Willamette Valley of Oregon after having laid down 50 trail cards among them that make a continuous line across rivers and through forts and towns while surviving the various calamities along the way, all of the players win.  Both of the times I played the game I died, once of an instant death by dysentery and once by instant death by a snakebite.  This is not an easy game to win, although the second time I played it with others our party was able to win after I died fairly early in the trail.

This is the sort of game that likely works best for either those who are fond of the difficult computer game and enjoy playing with a few friends with whom they are willing and able to cooperate in order to solve the common difficulties faced by people traveling across the Western United States in search of a better life and land and a new start.  As someone who came to Oregon myself looking for a clean start after a particularly unfortunate and tragic situation, I can relate a lot to the sort of intense struggle that leads someone to risk their lives in order for what appears like an opportunity to start again.  I feel a certain sense of kinship with earlier migrants to Oregon, despite my lack of family history in the area, given our shared desire for a clean slate and the opportunity to live a better life.  If this is the sort of thing that appeals to you–a game of chance where the odds are stacked against you, a love of cooperation with others in the face of immense challenges and difficulties, and feeling of nostalgia for the computer game that this card game is based on–this is the sort of game that is likely to provide hours of enjoyment and amusement.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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