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The Oregon Trail Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Didn't expect much. Got less than expected. rss

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Sceadeau D'Tela
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Greensboro
North Carolina
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Oregon Trail the card game: Come for the nostalgia, stay for the ...

I can't complete that sentence. The game has nothing to stay for.

The rules of this game are relatively simple, but the rulebook leaves out a lot of rules needed to actually play the game. You get to open it up, read the rulebook, play the game, and then make rulings on the fly to complete the game.

That's not really OK. The rules are dense -- any playtest with a new group of players reading the rulebook for the first time would have shown the holes in the game. It feels unforgivable, considering the game is rather simple at its heart.

On your turn, you either play a trail card from your hand (that needs to line up with another trail card on the table), or play a supply card from your hand to resolve an event. The trail cards come in 4 flavors:

Play
Play and resolve a calamity card
Play and get something nice (Town card)
Play and wonder what you are supposed to do (badly worded river cards)

Some cards have no text, these are the best cards. You play and pass the turn. A lot are "press spacebar to continue" cards, which cause badly worded calamities to show up.

Make no mistake, most of the calamities are badly worded and require some sort of minor adjudication to resolve.

Then you have town cards. You play these and get something. Huzzah!

The river cards are just terrible. Some are "roll a die, on an EVEN roll, ford the river, on an ODD, lose a supply card." These seem to set a precedent that you roll once, and the card is resolved. Sometimes it wants even, sometimes it wants odd, and that's just annoying.

But then you come upon river cards with this wording "On an EVEN roll, ford the river. On the roll of a 1, die." What happens when you roll a 3 or a 5 are never explained. So we made a ruling that the next person also has to roll until someone rolls an even number or a 1. But then we felt like we played the EVEN/ODD cards wrong. Then we gave up caring.

Let's talk supply cards. You use supply cards to resolve calamities, except maybe in the case where they just want you to prove you have the card when the calamity flips -- no clue. Again, make a ruling and just forge on.

Also, the rules explicitly want you to keep what supply cards you have hidden, despite the fact that the game is cooperative and you have to make decisions based on what everyone has. I don't even know what I am allowed to say to my fellow travelers while playing the game. Rules unclear, make a ruling, stick with it.

We played twice, once with 2, once with 4, and the game doesn't seem balanced around the 2 player version. The 4 player version was super simple, though it could be harder depending on how your group rules to handle some cards/situations.


Overall, the game gave us close to no decisions, and we spent most of our time coming up with rules to make the game playable rather than doing the tiny microaction we got to take on our turn.

Keep your memories in tact and skip this game entirely.

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Kim Williams
United Kingdom
St Just
Cornwall
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Sceadeau wrote:

Also, the rules explicitly want you to keep what supply cards you have hidden, despite the fact that the game is cooperative and you have to make decisions based on what everyone has. I don't even know what I am allowed to say to my fellow travelers while playing the game. Rules unclear, make a ruling, stick with it.


I haven't played the game, so don't know how this works in this particular co-op, but it is a fairly common approach for co-op games to have cards you aren't allowed to show to other people, despite being free to discuss exactly what you've got. For example, in Shadowrun: Crossfire you're not supposed to show you're cards.

Usually it's an attempt to stop alpha player just telling people what to do, keep things a little trickier, possibly for thematic reaasons and to keep everyone talking.

Obviously it's a problem if the rules don't make it clear whether you can or can't talk about your supply cards, but I think I'd assume you can, and that the rule about not showing is just their for one of the above reasons.
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That about mirrors my experience. Highly random, low on skill, vague rules, difficulty changes based on the size of your group.

For what it's worth, I contacted the company and they confirmed that all river crossing cards are resolved by one die roll -- if you fail, you take the penalty and move on. I got the impression that the player loses a supply card if they roll 3 or 5 on the "roll 1 and die" variation, but even the explanation they gave me felt a little vague and incomplete, and there's nothing to indicate this either on the card or in the rules.
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Michael Ptak
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Livermore
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A part of me wonders if this game was never meant to be played. When I think about it, it's a party game. You're supposed to decide among yourselves which resources to ditch, and each player decides what resources to grab when they get stuff from towns or forts. There's no strategy in which resources to get other than in which supplies you lack. The game touts letting players die to spare resources, but spare resources for what?

I managed to do a full four-player game the other day and the one hangup we ran into was depleting the full trail card deck and no card could connect to the last card played (center). Is this an auto-fail? I just rotated the card and played from there for a win, but we had three players die to the stupid insta-kill cards that no amount of prepping can prevent.

And yet in spite of all this, my girlfriend has more than once requested the game to play with just the two of us, balancing it out by kicking out the insta-kill cards.

I think it could work if a revised rules set (or at least FAQ) was put out to cover the holes. But again, I don't think this was made for serious gamers. In fact I don't think it was even playtested. The design works for being so light that it doesn't need a lot of work, but a single game would have brought so many issues to light that the designer would have tried to fix.
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Joseph Betz
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Hamburg
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Thanks for the review. This pretty much confirms my thought that this seemed like a very bland game and was not sure why everyone was getting so excited about it. I understand a lot of people grew up playing the computer game but I still do not need to add a subpar game to my collection just for memories sake.
 
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Andrew Brenycz
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Sceadeau wrote:

We played twice, once with 2, once with 4, and the game doesn't seem balanced around the 2 player version. The 4 player version was super simple, though it could be harder depending on how your group rules to handle some cards/situations.


Isn't that true to the spirit of the computer game? If you set out on the trail with a party of two it's very hard to make it to the end.
 
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ANTIDEAD wrote:
Isn't that true to the spirit of the computer game? If you set out on the trail with a party of two it's very hard to make it to the end.


That's the thing. The original computer game was never really balanced to be fair or even to be a good game. It was designed to be realistic. It based its probabilities for disaster on real-world data. The whole point was to give the player a taste of how difficult it was to cross North America in the 19th century.

So this game succeeds at recreating the feeling of a computer game that was kind of broken in the first place. And there's nothing really wrong with that. Butting heads with an unfair, largely random game can still be enjoyable -- just look at the enduring popularity of Klondike Solitaire. But I think a lot of people, especially on this website, are looking for games with more player agency and strategy and not as much random screw-overs.

Personally, I like the game in spite of its kind of shallow nature. For me, personally, the theme is one I enjoy enough that I'm willing to forgive the shallow nature of the game. But even I have to agree that the rules -- especially relating to fording rivers -- could use another editorial pass.
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Mary T.
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Kentwood
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If you want nostalgia, just play the computer game again. It's online. Do a google search.

If you like the theme, I suspect Pioneer Days will have actual decisions. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Corvallis
Oregon
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mevitale wrote:
If you want nostalgia, just play the computer game again. It's online.

If I wanted nostalgia, I'd play the board game: Oregon Trail
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Kevin Elmore
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Dude, right on.

I played this today. I'm so glad I didn't buy this piece of crap. I feel bad that my friend did, but she was really happy to have bought it. Even after the terrible first game, she wanted to play again. I wasn't sure if it was Stockholm Syndrome or justification for having wasted money on this turd.

Some of the calamities were just so vague, and yeah we had to make up rulings for what they did. Then that river card came up with the 1. Since we had seen the previous river cards, we extrapolated that rolling a 3 or 5 meant losing a Supply card, but we don't know.

And the insta-deaths. Nothing like sitting around doing nothing while watching the other players forcibly plaster smiles on their faces as they tried to enjoy the game. At least in a cooperative game like Sentinels of the Multiverse, you can still help out after you've been taken out. In this game, you should go get a beer and a bottle of bleach to wash the taste out.

I'm tempted to rate this game a 1. I never do that. I am trying to find the one good thing about this game. Nostalgia isn't enough. Theme? I'll admit it's heavy on theme. Even the die has heavily pixelated numbers. That might be worth a 2, right?

Complete garbage. Do not buy. If someone gifts it to you, punch him in the mouth.
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Michael Ptak
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Livermore
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That's a harsh judgement Kevin.

Again, I don't think this is meant for *us* serious gamers with exposure to many other different systems. This is for the light party crowd who want to chuckle about dying of dysentery and have fun writing names on the tombstones.

Even with the flaws though, I'd prefer to play this much more over the endless glut of roll-and-move trivia games and Monopoly variants that are out there. Rocky as it is, it's still a decent social cooperation game. I think an FAQ to iron things out could bring the game up to better playable standards we're used to. Introducing a little more player interactivity can make this into a better cooperative experience.

Production quality isn't that bad either. I think the game can be fixed by creating a new rules pamphlet and releasing it online to adjust a few things. The River issue could be fixed with wording in the main rules. The turn order can be expanded to do things like trading cards between players. And so on.

Importantly, people out there are still having some fun with it. In fact, non-gamers are having fun with it. That's got to count for something.
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Norsehound wrote:
That's a harsh judgement Kevin.

Again, I don't think this is meant for *us* serious gamers with exposure to many other different systems. This is for the light party crowd who want to chuckle about dying of dysentery and have fun writing names on the tombstones.

Even with the flaws though, I'd prefer to play this much more over the endless glut of roll-and-move trivia games and Monopoly variants that are out there. Rocky as it is, it's still a decent social cooperation game. I think an FAQ to iron things out could bring the game up to better playable standards we're used to. Introducing a little more player interactivity can make this into a better cooperative experience.

Production quality isn't that bad either. I think the game can be fixed by creating a new rules pamphlet and releasing it online to adjust a few things. The River issue could be fixed with wording in the main rules. The turn order can be expanded to do things like trading cards between players. And so on.

Importantly, people out there are still having some fun with it. In fact, non-gamers are having fun with it. That's got to count for something.


Pretty much this. It's a light game, but the asking price isn't much, and it can be a bit of fun. And look through the Rules and Variants boards -- people are already suggesting fixes and additions for the game.

It's got some solid bones. I've been poking around with it.
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matthew mclaughlin
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Kingston
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Nice review that sums up a bit of the way I feel.

While I thought it was fun, I was disappointed in the game overall. Of course I may have let myself down; because of my fond memories of the computer game, I had really high expectations.

My daughters, 13 and 8 both enjoyed it.

BUT...

Afterwards we played the computer game online - and they LOVED it. We played a few games in a row and have played it each night since.

The computer game really is superior.

Still, we got a night of enjoyment out of it. Hopefully we'll play again. So not a bad $10.99 spent.

Now had I bought it in the secondhand market for $30 or upwards I might riot from MO to OR - I feel bad for the impatient saps who were bilked.
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Dan Mansfield
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Poway
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Played this game for the first time today. Died on my third turn. The other guys were like, "Huh? That's it? We have to keep going while you sit there and watch?" Gratefully, they decided to scrap the game and play something else. We even left the Dysentery cards out of the game on our first play, but it still sucked.

Rule book is bad, bad, bad. So many things left out. Totally random. No strategy at all. Probably not going to play this again. I appreciate my friend giving this to me in the hope that it would be fun for our casual group, but not every game is a hit.

Only way I can see this working is with the maximum 6 players, with other quick games off to the side waiting to be played as soon as people are eliminated.
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