Wednesday, August 10, 2016

R.I.P. Trevor (The Oregon Trail Card Game)

Dear Diary,
We've been out here for 1 month, but it seems like years since we left Missouri.  Jane seems to have come down with Cholera, and I just know that William will end up pushing our oxen too hard.  We already don't have enough grass for them out here as it is, they'll surely die.  But I have faith we'll make it Willamette Valley, and all of our suffering will be worth it on The Oregon Trail.

BACKGROUND:  The Oregon Trail was a computer game published in 1971 by Broderbund and The Learning Company. The idea was to teach children about the misery and suffering the pioneers went through when traveling west.  The game ended up being a smash hit, spawning four direct sequels, and several remakes.  The objective was to get a small party across the U.S. to Oregon, and in some later games, continue on to Salt Lake.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Oregon Trail Card Game is designed for 2-6 players, and published in August of 2016 by Pressman Toy Corp as a Target-exclusive purchase.  Players work together to avoid Calamities and progress to Oregon before every player dies.

SET-UP:  Players may place the starting and ending cards of "Independence, MI" and "Willamette Valley, OR" any distance away to determine game length, with the recommended distance being about 3 feet apart.  All players begin with 5 Trail Cards, and a set of Supply Cards.

TRAIL:  Trail cards are black with green pathways that can lead down the middle, or on the left or right.  Each turn, a player must attempt to play either a card that matches an existing trail, a Town or Fort, or an appropriate Supply card. Trail cards can be played upside down or right side up, but the pathways must line up.  A Town or Fort card can be played along any path, and any path may also be played after a Town or Fort.  There are 3 types of Trail cards: blank, River, and Press Space to Continue (draw a Calamity card).

RIVER:  River cards are a special form of Trail Cards.  When a River card is played, the player rolls the die once, then will follow the cards text.  Any even rolls will allow you to ford the river.  An odd roll will, in most cases, cost you a supply card.  If you roll a 1 on certain cards, you die.

CALAMITY:  Calamity Cards are special cards that are drawn on certain Trail Cards.  These can have varying effects, such as instant death, catching a sickness, having your wagon break down, or go hunting.

SUPPLIES:  Supply cards are used in response to Calamities.  Certain Calamity cards require you to immediately discard or reveal a certain card in your hand to avoid that Calamity.  Other players may also have a chance to discard a Supply card for their turn to help that player out.

PROGRESSION AND DEATH:  When a set of 5 Trail cards are played, stack the cards together with the first Trail card played on top.  This signifies you have completed that part of the trek.  Play continues with the next player, until enough stacks of 5 have reached the end of the trail.  However, if any player dies, their name is placed on a tombstone, and play skips them from now on.  If at least 1 player makes it to the Oregon, then the players win.

CONCLUSION:  This is a brand new game, coming out just a couple weeks ago from when this blog was written.  When looking at a game like this, a few things should be considered.  First, was it thematically strong?  Well, having grown up on these games, I can say that it got the theme down pat.  The cards and rules fit the original game, with unfairness and random chance abounding.  Next, does the game play well, and are the rules written clearly?  Ehh, this could use some improving, especially with the river cards upon first play.  It plays alright, but again, it's REALLY heavy on chance.  Third, was it enjoyable?  I can say, without a doubt, yes.  This is a simple game that ruthlessly plays against you.  There's more strategy then something like Zombie Dice or Loonacy, but that means little when strategy can be thrown out the window for pure luck.  It's a game that, going in, you should expect to lose.  It's a game for the nostalgic that plays pretty well for the asking price, but can frustrate and anger a lot of players.  But, it was definitely enjoyable.  This is a simple party game that is meant to make you laugh at its ridiculousness.

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