The Oregon Trail Game: Journey to Willamette Valley Review

Theme and What is it?

Hitch up the wagon and load up with supplies because you and your family are headed across the country to Willamette Valley! Players should wisely prepare because along this dangerous journey, you could face disease, rattlesnakes, starvation, hypothermia and more. If you successfully arrive in Oregon with the most money, you win! The Oregon Trail Game brings all the fun and excitement that you experienced in the original video game in the eighties and nineties.

Gameplay Mechanics

The goal for the players is to have the most money at the end of the game. You can obtain money throughout the game by selling supplies that are not needed. Players will also receive money for how healthy their family is when they arrive to Oregon.

Players start by selecting a wagon and loading it with their four family members which have 5 health points. They start with two supplies of meat. At the end of every turn, players have to feed their family or they starve and lose health points. Players also start the game with one pistol which can help them hunt for more meat. Players are given two tiles to use at the start of their turn and will draw back up after placing.

The game board is a 12×4 grid. The game will start with one tile per player in the first column. At the start of their turn, players place tiles which include forts, towns, rivers, etc. These will make up the journey to Willamette Valley. There are also roads on the tiles, but players do not have to connect the roads when initially placing the tile. However, if the roads are connected players can move along the road for free action on their turn. Players cannot start placing tiles into the next column until the previous column has at least two tiles.

After placing their tile(s), the player draws a calamity card. Most of these cards are not in favor of the player and will list a way to avoid them by the end of the turn. However, some happen immediately and cannot be avoided. If you are lucky, it may be something to benefit your journey.

After drawing their calamity card, the player can perform three actions. These actions will depend on what type of tile the player’s wagon is on or moves to. Players can move their wagon to tiles that are not connected by roads, hunt if their wagon is on a hunting tile, buy supplies if their wagon is on a fort or town tile and sell supplies if their wagon is on a town tile. There are also winter tiles. If a wagon moves onto a winter tile at all during its movement, the family freezes and they suffer a health point unless the wagon contains winter clothes. Players can also pick up hitch hikers from towns. These hitch hikers only have one health point but can bring in more money if they are dropped off safely to Willamette Valley. If a family member dies along the way, their headstone is placed on the tile in which they died.

At end of turn, the player must resolve their calamity card and feed their family. If any supplies were sold on their turn, the top market card is discarded and replaced.

The end of game is triggered once a wagon moves to Willamette Valley or there are no more tiles to play. The round is completed so that all players have equal turns. Players then receive money for family members, hitchhikers, etc. Then, they lose money if they did not reach Oregon. The loss depends on how far away their wagon is from Oregon. Then players lose money for funeral expenses if they have any dead family members. This amount varies depending on how far away the headstone is from Willamette Valley.

Initial Impressions

I played the video game when I was growing up so I jumped at the chance to try this one. The box art grabbed my attention because it looked nothing like the video game or the card game that was previously released a couple of years ago. It appeared that a lot of effort was put into the board game as opposed to just getting something on the shelves quickly with the Oregon Trail name. I was hoping it would have the nostalgic feel of the video game but within a board game setting.

Game Build Quality

The game has various components: the game board, player boards, cards, wooden wagon meeples and supplies, and the tiles. All of these components are well made. The insert is nothing major but holds everything in one place and there were some baggies included.

Artistic Direction

Most of the artwork is on the calamity and hunting cards. A majority of the calamity cards are going to be something to slow down the player but the art on the card brings comic relief. The hunting cards show different types of animals which bring a various amount of meat for your family.

Fun Factor

My group and I enjoyed this one. For me, it brought back a lot of memories of playing the video game when I was younger. The board game brings most things from the video game to the table and you can now share this experience with your family.

Age Range & Weight

Pressman suggests the starting age at 14. I think children in middle school and above should be able to play this game. The video game was in elementary schools in the eighties and nineties. Although the video game is more controlled, the board game is the same concept. I believe the mechanics are easy enough to pick up that this could be played by a younger audience.

Conclusions

The Oregon Trail does not fall short in bringing the nostalgia back from the video game. In my opinion, it brings the game back to life but in a way that it can be enjoyed by multiple players at the same time in a social setting rather than being glued to a computer screen. There is some strategy to the game but it isn’t super heavy. The game is supposed to be lighthearted and comical. You have to laugh at your calamities as they arise as well as the other players. Did a thief come steal your supplies during the night? Did your wagon get sabotaged?  Did your family member die of typhoid? These are all possibilities! And beware of ties! If there is still a tie after the tie breaker, all players die of dysentery and there is no winner!

Art
Manual
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Gameplay
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Average
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Our Score
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Manual
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Components & Box Insert
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Gameplay
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Theme
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Average
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