While in Target the other day, I came across a box for an “Oregon Trail Card Game”. The price was reasonable, and it featured some pretty sweet pixel art on the box. When I flipped it over and saw that it included dry erase tombstones? Sold
How it plays
The goal is to reach Oregon with at least 1 player still alive, which is no easy task. Setup involves giving each player gets a hand of trail cards and supply cards (things like bullets, food, and clothing). The rest of the supply cards are then sorted face up into separate piles with one player acting as the shop keeper. On a player’s turn, they can either play a trail card, play a supply card, or draw a trail card if they have no valid cards to play. Trail cards are used to signify progress made along the trail. They must be played in the same orientation, but can be rotated 180 degrees if necessary. The ends of the trail card being played has to match the card before it. A Town or Fort card matches with any trail card, and allows the player to draw extra supply cards. At anytime, two supply cards can be exchanged with the shopkeeper for any one available supply card, and supply cards will be necessary to deal with the various Calamity cards that pop up during play.
Some trail cards, have actions that take place after being played, a common one is “Press spacebar to continue. Draw a calamity card Now”. A Calamity card is drawn, and placed in front of the player who drew it. Resolving calamities requires different supply cards, two medicine supply cards are required to cure Cholera for example, or Spare Parts to fix a broken axle. If a calamity isn’t resolved in a timely manner, it can result in the death of the player, or the death of the entire party. After 5 trail cards have been played in sequence, they are combined in to a single stack and play continues. The party must form 10 stacks (approximately 3 feet of table space) of trail cards to reach Oregon.
Turns are fast which nice, because death is frequent. A few of the calamity cards (which are randomly drawn) aren’t preventable and just result in instant death, and it’s not much fun to get killed off on the first turn. In the future, I was thinking I would try to mitigate that by randomly shuffling those into the bottom half of the deck, or even just removing a few of them. The trail cards seem varied enough to present some interesting choices and trying to avoid drawing calamities seems like it should be a valid strategy. You have to play a trail card if you can though, so there isn’t much that can be done to avoid dysentery forever. At least the game plays fast, so you aren’t left out for long.