Wednesday, April 22, 2020


family game night
My kids are currently learning about the country's Westward Expansion through their school history lessons, so were excited when I brought out THE OREGON TRAIL GAME for us to play. When I was their age it was a big deal at school to be able to play The Oregon Trail video game on our classroom's Apple Macintosh computer which was considered a "high tech" educational resource at the time. Who else remembers playing the video game at school as an '80s kid? Pressman's tabletop adaption puts that classic video game to shame and is very fun to play.

Just like in the original video game, THE OREGON TRAIL GAME has players taking on the role of 19th Century pioneers making their way from Independence, Missouri to settle America's West Coast. Your goal is to complete this perilous journey while keeping your family healthy and having as much money as possible in your pocket.  Hunt wildlife and gather supplies to keep your family alive during the trek. You may even be able to pick up a hitchhiker to make some extra money along the way. Beware though because if a family member dies not only will you be grieving but their funeral cuts into your total fortune that determines who wins the game.

board game review

Start off your adventure by loading your ox pulled wagon. Four blocks placed within the wagon represent your family. Each block starts off showing 5 health points. If a family member's health gets down to 0 health points a number is replaced with a tombstone. If your whole family is showing tombstones at anytime during the game you automatically lose. So make sure you keep everyone healthy!

The wagon also holds supplies. Players start off with $300 dollars, 2 barrels of meat, and a pistol. You can buy or sell food and supplies by visiting forts and towns along your route. Your path is determined by blind-drawing tiles that represent the landscape being traveled through. These tiles include forts, towns, rivers, wilderness and winter landscapes that have different benefits and consequences.

tabletop game

For example if a player doesn't have winter clothes stocked in their wagon than each family member loses one point of heath and any hitchhikers DIE immediately if a wagon lands on a snowy tile. On the other hand, winter clothes take up limited room for supplies onboard your wagon and having them with you might mean there isn't room for other things like spare parts to fix a broken wheel or medicine to heal a sick family member. There is a strategic element to stocking your wagon that has risks and rewards during gameplay.

Running low on food? Go hunting when your wagon is in a wilderness tile. Another player draws a hunting card and keeps it information a mystery. For each pistol owned one guess can be marked on the numbers on the target chart of a wagon card. If a shotgun is owned its marker can be placed on the targets on the wagon card counting as a guess for both numbers on either side of the target providing twice the odds of matching the number on the hunting card. Players who don't guess the right number miss their prey.

Guess right though and you hit the animal which is then identified by the opposing player holding the hunting card. It could be as small as a squirrel or as large as a bison. There are six different type of animals to be hunted and each provides a different amount of food that can be added to your provisions. You have to feed your family with a block of food each turn to avoid losing health points so it is important to be well stocked during the journey.

board game review

Oh yeah here is a helpful hunting tip. If you purchase a compass at a town or fort it can be discarded to let you see the front of a hunting card before laying down your pistol and shotgun markers on the wagon card. So you are guaranteed to hit your target during that turn when hunting. That can be a life or death turn of events if your food is running low while traveling along the Oregon Trail.

Hunting and gathering supplies aren't the only challenges of traversing the Oregon Trail. Rivers can be a dangerous obstacle. When players have one blocking their paths, they must either skip a turn to cross it or roll a die to determine if they achieved safe passage across. There is a number on each river tile. A player must roll that number or higher or else they drown while attempting to cross. Is it worth the odds for a quick crossing?


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Beware because there is danger in every turn when playing The Oregon Trail Game. At the start of each player's turn they must pull a card from the Calamity deck.  A card may announce the path is blocked by bad weather, your wagon may have become damaged, or a family member has died from dehydration. Fortunately, most calamity cards provide a way for someone to avoid a negative fate by achieving a specified result during that current turn. For example, reaching a landscape tile with a river on it negates the calamity of someone dying from dehydration.

Avoid calamities while traveling from Independence, Missouri to Oregon's Willamette Valley. We had a fun family game night competing against one another to see who could make their fortune as a pioneer. So this dad blogger is giving THE OREGON TRAIL GAME a Geek Daddy nod of approval in this board game review. It was nice that playing the game got my kids thinking about their history lessons while they were having a good time. I always appreciate it when an experience can combine entertaining and educating my kids at the same time!

oregon trail
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THE OREGON TRAIL GAME by Pressman is for 2 to 4 players. It is recommended for ages 14 and up though my eleven year old twins were able to play the game with minimum difficulty. For more information go to

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