Oh how I wanted to love this game.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. First, it’s inexpensive. It was impulse buy worthy for me. Normally I do my research, but I dropped just over $10. Second, the graphic design is great. Well done pixel art and theming is right in line with the old computer game. Everything is well organized and easy to set up. Third, the nostalgia factor… I saw this on the shelf and it triggered the memory of actually making it to Oregon in my 5th grade elementary class on the Apple IIE, complete with black and seasick green pixel art.
(Image from pressmantoy.com)
Seriously… just take a look. Pretty cool, right? You even get a dry-erase pen with a laminated board with your party members’ names on the front and tombstones on the back when they die of a snakebite or dysentery or drowning or cholera… which WILL happen. A LOT. In fact, I never made it to Oregon in the few sessions I played through. There’s just no skill involved in this game. Just the luck of the draw and the roll of the pixelated die. There are cards in this game that will kill you. Period. Nothing you can do about it. You can cure cholera or the measles, but a snakebite or dysentery? Nope. If you draw either of those cards from the “Calamity” stack (which you will do often) it’s game over for you. “Here Lies Taintiez” (Thanks Co-Optitude!). Yeah, the rest of your party can continue to play, but the fewer people that are alive in the wagon, the less of a chance it will be to get to Oregon. I can see a 6-player game making it with a couple of people intact, but 2-4… not likely. Plus it takes no less than 25 Trail cards (5 stacks of 5) to make it to the end of the game.
I certainly do not recommend this game, even at the low $11.99 retail price. Again, the theme and design are great, but the gameplay is really lacking. It’s unforgiving to a fault. I’m all about a good challenge, but I feel like this game just laughs at me like Nelson from the Simpsons when I try to play. Instead, I’m gonna grab my copy of Elder Sign and fight off the minions of Lovecraftian darkness.