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On the Oregon Trail, hardship can strike at any time.
GAME ON

In the age of the smartphone, Oregon Trail is coming back as a card game

By Kira Bindrim

The stakes may be high in poker, but a royal flush has nothing on dysentery.

Thirty-plus years after The Oregon Trail swept home computers and classrooms across America, the popular video game is staging a comeback—as a tabletop card game.

After a Reddit user posted photos of the game on sale at a Portland, Oregon, Target location, the retailer confirmed that as of Sunday (July 31), would-be pioneers will be able to purchase it at Target stores nationwide.  

The Oregon Trail was first created in 1971 by three teachers to give students a fun way to learn about the travails of 19th century pioneers. Two decades later, an entire generation of American kids were accustomed to electronically losing their friends and family to dysentery, measles, snake bites, and cholera.

Over the years, the game has seen 15 editions (the latest in 2012) and several comeback attempts. A cell phone version was first released in 2008, and hit iTunes in 2009. Palm and Windows added it to their mobile devices in 2010, and in 2011 the game was released on Facebook. 

The latest iteration is created by Pressman Toy Company, whose president, Jeff Pinsker, outlined the rules of the card game in an instructional video that feels like it, too, was plucked from 1980.

“There’s a deck of trail cards, a deck of calamity cards, and a deck of supply cards,” Pinsker says. “We also give you this cool pixelated die, a laminated roster, a wipe-off pen, and we’ve even given you instructions that fold up just like a map of the Oregon Trail.”

Pinsker assures players that Pressman did its best “to build in all sorts of gruesome, 19th century ways for you, your friends, and your family to die.”

That’s really all we ask.