When I heard Target was releasing a card game based on my old elementary school favorite, “Oregon Trail“, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, the game and I have had a love-hate relationship. I went to pick up a copy on the release day, but was told they were still in the back and they wouldn’t sell it to me. Upon going back the next day, I received the same answer. By the 3rd day, they were sold out. It took a few weeks before I was able to obtain a copy. If it’s this popular, it must be good, right?
The Oregon Trail card game allows 2-6 players to try to survive the harsh conditions of traveling in the 1800s , while also reliving childhood memories of playing the 1980s computer game. Each player is dealt 5 Trail cards and a varying amount of Supply cards depending on the number of players. Each turn, you place a Trail card, and if needed, use Supply cards to remedy a variety of calamities.
The odds are greatly stacked against you, so it is possible to die on your first or second turn. I know that this is part of the novelty because traveling on the Oregon Trail was harsh, but in a card game, it loses its luster pretty quickly. On the plus side, everytime someone in your game dies, you can write them a funny tombstone with the included dry erase marker.
Essentially, you want to place enough Trail cards to get from Missouri to Oregon, which is a total of 50 Trail cards. This may be possible with 3-6 players, but doesn’t seem feasible in a 2 player game. The majority of the trail cards have calamities associated with them, which either instantly kill you or kill you by the following round if no one has a Supply card to remedy the situation.
As an actual example, in one game on my second turn, the only Trail card I could play said to roll the die to cross a river. Rolling a 1 meant instant death, which I naturally rolled and died 2 minutes into the game. I was able to “will” 2 of my Supply cards to my wife, where she was then able to play 2 more Trail cards before getting bitten by a snake and dying. That was the entire game. 5 minutes to setup, less than 5 minutes to play.
On a positive note, with such short games, you can play a few games in 30 minutes. On the negative side, the novelty wears off quickly and you probably won’t want to keep playing again and again. Also, some of the calamity cards can be confusing on what to do. The rule sheet doesn’t explain anything in too much detail, it mostly just tells you to read the cards.
The components are what you would expect from a card game. Nothing too extraordinary, but nothing feels too cheap, either. It’s definitely marketed toward nostalgia and mass-market versus tabletop game enthusiasts, so nothing stands out.
Check out my unboxing video here. I apologize for the quality, this was my first video that I recorded and was trying to configure the best setup for microphone placement.
Overall, Oregon Trail may play much better with 6 players, but I personally can’t foresee finding 5 other people who would choose playing this over any other game in my collection. Once the novelty of being based on an old computer game wears off, you’re left with a bland card game. I’ll give it a few more tries based on the subject matter, but this won’t be a game that I’ll play often.