Doc Stodden
United States
Illinois
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I just picked up the Oregon Trail Card Game today after looking for it in the Targets around here since it came out, and played it with my 10 year old son.

Let me say, I know my son had a blast, especially with the instant death cards, and I suspect that this is the value of the game. 10 year olds aren't hard core games, and I don't think this game is made for hard core gamers. Everyone saying how the game is too simple, or too hard or not really good, or whatever should put themselves into the mind of a kid, and think: here is a game with a cakewalk of a learning curve, which any kid can play and enjoy and giggle about dysentery... What more do you want? (We all named our wagon leader Asshole at least once when we were in 6th grade, remember... And my son's favorite epitaph today when my guy died of dysentery was "Here Lies Bill. Call him Shatner.")

But we even created a house rule before we had played through the game our third time. And I can imagine some more balances which would really benefit play.

Variant 1: Selecting Supply Loadout
We put in a variant which I think made a LOT of difference in the "fun" factor. We played the game through a few times, and died, of course. But we decided that we would start the game by selecting a supply load out. It was neat to watch my boy think "Ok, what were we missing last time..." and then select supplies based on what he thought we would need this time. He picked 2 medicines, and I picked two wagon parts and then a mix of the other parts.

To me this greatly enhances the realism, because even in the videogame you know, we selected the supplies we wanted to buy. Sometimes we were too stupid to pick the right stuff and then we learned and we played the game differently the next time.

Variant 2: Reducing Calamities
I like what others have said about making insta-death be based on a 1-4 roll. I would do that too. But I would also reduce calamities all together. Next time we play through, I am going to propose that if we play 3 calamity trail cards in a row, we ignore the third one, and treat it as a "plain old trail card". That way, at least we will get further along the trail than 23 cards. After all- it seemed that most days in the original OT video game, you were not suffering snake bites, dysentery, and broken wagon tongues...

Variant 3: Hunting
I want to try to introduce hunting at will into the game, just like in the video game. Instead of playing a trail turn, you can play a bullets supply card into the store and spend your turn hunting. For each bullets supply card you burn, you take 5 shots. You hit on a 6, and 1-5 is ignored. For each hit, you get a food supply card. This will potentially give you a source of new supplies while on the trail which you can use then to trade for needed materials. This variant will also make Bullets more valuable, and you will likely pick more of them up when you get the chance. If you want to make it so people don't just select a 5 bullet card load out, you could say hunting can only happen for the Party once every 5 cards, that way you have to use the cards strategically. But calamity cards will quickly teach you that you will need supplies other than bullets to survive the trail and at the normal 2:1 trade ratio, even if you hit all 5 times, you won't survive long.

I think these little changes will keep to the spirit of the game, and can be easily implemented to balance the game and make it a bit more fun. Especially with small groups. You can still very easily die on the trail, but it will make the game last longer, and will allow for some additional little aspects which would increase the likelihood that the players won't get bored getting creamed every time.

Good Luck and let me know how these work out for you if you have the time.
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allen m
United States
Texas
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Thanks, for the tips. I got the game for myself just for fun. I used to play this on the computer in school and thought it would be fun to play without a computer sometimes. Have to say I really like the idea of hunting being added back in. I've been playing a solo version where every five trail cards, I collect one random supply card to help out. That and I decided to just play trail cards in the order I draw them. Seeing as I was playing solo, I just used the tombstone side as my life counter and after 6 hits it was game over.
 
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John B.
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These are nice suggestions. I am also working on a "patch" for the game based on my experiences playing this game on the old Apple machines in my town's library growing up. These include getting "lost" on the trail, as well as reducing calamities by using the die.
 
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