15 July, 1868: We have arrived in Virginia City at last. My decision to take an alternate route was, I think, vindicated, since we suffered no losses to person or property throughout the journey. At the start of the week we encountered a grizzly bear, but I shot it before it could do any harm. We were also forced to detour due to the danger of rockslides. However we found a safe path fairly quickly.
Stats at the end of the journey:
- 83 people in the expedition, trail boss not included.
- 20 wagons.
- 72 pairs of oxen.
- Food for the expedition for 14 weeks.
- Morale is 27.
- Gros Ventre and Eastern Shoshone are chastised – add 2 to their roll to see what they do.
- Score was the maximum possible – 300.
Observations on the rules: This is the shortest journey available, and it seems like the journey length has too great an influence on how hard the game is. Perhaps the starting morale, available rations etc should be less for shorter journeys. This might be less of a problem in a game with two or more players, since the ‘race’ factor would encourage you to take risks.
It might also be interesting to have the possibility that getting lost moves you into a new hex (as it does in D&D). This might not be very realistic, but the rules admit that they’ve made the game unrealistic anyway (there are more Indian encounters, and less disease, than were likely to happen in real life, and the rules state that in real life Indians generally only fought in response to overwhelming provocation).
With regard to Indian encounters, I’d also like an option in between combat and being allowed through: they tell you to turn back, giving you the choice of losing MPs or fighting. This might also make a given tribe more hostile to you in future encounters.
A final problem is that you often have to roll several dice in a row, without making any choices. This would be fine in a computer game where the ‘rolls’ are hidden anyway, but it doesn’t work well in a pen-and-paper game.
On the whole, though, it’s a pretty fun game. One thing it has over d6 Shooters is that every decision the player makes is a decision that a trail boss would make. In d6 Shooters the main mechanism is choosing which dice to re-roll, which has no obvious link to any ‘in-game’ decision.
The setup, where you’re an ‘adventurer’-type but you’re responsible for a lot of ‘NPCs’, is more interesting to me than the default D&D scenario where you’re rootless wanderers. It could easily be transferred to a fantasy setting, and in fact I’ve been thinking about a game along these lines set on a sword and planet-style Mars.
EDIT: I also liked that in Oregon Trail, unlike d6 Shooters, you have a ‘character’ with different starting attributes which effect the game.