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Because companies have realized that cynically mining the nostalgia of millennials is big business, there is now an Oregon Trail card game. The game is based off of the original computer game (well, actually the 1990 version that had COLOR) and all the cards feature retro pixellated art. But though they got the visuals right, the game completely misses everything that made the computer game a classic and ends up feeling hollow and unfair.

The computer game was full of decisions and though some may have been shallow, there were a large number of them. Should you buy more food or spare parts? Let the sick rest or keep pushing down the trail? Take the ferry or caulk and float? Each of these decisions added up to a unique experience and gave you a sense that you were controlling your destiny.

The card game removes nearly all of these decisions. Supply cards are randomly dealt out at the start of the game. There's no way to rest, no way to trade for supplies, no ferries. It's like someone played the computer game and all they came away with was 'u die a lot lol', then designed a card game around that.

That's basically all the game is—different ways to die. In the computer game, there was a time element and most negative events would simply cause delays. The card game removed the time aspect, so negative events all cause either death or losing the game. You can't cure disease by resting, you must use medicine or die. Cold weather never goes away on its own, you must use a clothes card or die. If there's no grass on the trail, you must use an oxen card or lose. In fact, the card game commits one of the cardinal sins of bad game design—instant death. You can't do anything about it, if you draw a snakebite or dysentery card you die, period. And in an average game you'll draw 3 of them.

This one dimensionality gives it about the same level of strategy as tic-tac-toe. Yes, you theoretically have a choice in tic-tac-toe but when the alternative is 'do x or lose' there's really no decision at all. Even worse, the game is almost entirely determined by random chance—the luck of the draw or the roll of a die.

I've played this with my friends at least a dozen times and we haven't ever gotten past the halfway point. It's good for a giggle the first few times just to see how you die, but the entertainment isn't enduring. You're better off just buying some alcohol and playing the original as a drinking game. It'll be more fun and way cheaper.

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