The object of the game is to travel across the Oregon Trail to the Willamette Valley.

General Game Play:

The game starts in Independence, Missouri where you begin by purchasing supplies for your 2000 mile journey by foot along the Oregon Trail to Oregon City. You’ll need to purchase a team of oxen to pull your wagon, spare parts for your wagon, food and clothing for you and your party members, and ammunition for your rifle if you plan to doing any hunting along the way. You need to depart late enough in the season that there is sufficient grass for your oxen to eat but not too late that you get stuck in harsh weather before arriving in Oregon. Once you embark on your journey along the Oregon Trail, you’ll need to balance the pace of your travel against the health your party members and choose the best course of action to navigate various challenges along the way.

Background:

During the middle of the 19th century, the United States experienced one of the greatest westward migrations in American history. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children set out along the Oregon Trail to establish new homes on the west coast. From 1843 through 1854, Willamette Valley land was being given away for free to settlers able to develop and cultivate the land for a minimum of four years. Married couples were awarded 640 acres and single settlers were given 320 until the passage of the Donation Land Act in 1850, when the allotments were cut in half. By 1854, the land was no longer free but it was still extremely inexpensive.

Without modern transportation, the only way to cross the North American continent to the west was by foot via the Oregon Trail. For the most part, the settlers walked the entire distance. Oxen were used to pull covered wagons to transport supplies, but the settlers walked along side the wagons rather than ride in them. Not only would wooden wheels on unpaved ground make for an extremely uncomfortable ride, it was important to put as little extra strain on the oxen as possible. If your oxen died before reaching Oregon City, you’d have no choice but to continue walking the rest of the trail with only the food and supplies you could carry on your back.

The Oregon Trail was a perilous journey that claimed many lives. Disease, accidents, weather, and river crossings were some of the most fatal hardships the settlers faced. A virulent cholera epidemic wiped out huge numbers of Oregon Trail travelers due to poor sanitation and a lack of a clean water. Many others drowned attempting dangerous but unavoidable river crossings.

This game simulates a typical Oregon Trail journey from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. Upon your successful completion of the trail, you score will be tallied based on the health of your surviving party members and any remaining supplies.

Profession:

Many types of people set out on the trail, and many had no pioneering experience whatsoever. When you begin the game, you have the option to choose your profession. Each profession has certain advantages and disadvantages:

Banker – The banker has no special skills. However, the banker is rich. You start with $1600, which is more than enough to stock up on supplies before your departure and still have plenty left over to resupply at forts along the way.

Carpenter – The carpenter starts with less money than the banker, but he is a skilled woodworker. He will be able to repair broken wagons without the need for spare parts.

Farmer – The farmer starts with the least money, but he is an expert at managing animals. As a farmer, your oxen will remain in better health.

Departure Date:

The game takes place in 1848, during the peak of the westward migration. You can choose what month during this you want to begin your travels. If you leave too early, the weather will be cold and your oxen will have trouble finding enough grass. If you leave too late, the weather may be more favorable but you’ll have to travel at a much faster pace so as to arrive in Oregon before winter sets in. To simulate the deadly nature of fierce winter weather, you will have a deadline of December 31, 1848. If you do not reach Oregon by that date, you will be presumed to have gotten stuck in severe snow storms and died.

Supplies:

It’s of great importance to travel as light as possible. Wagon space is very limited and any unnecessary weight will add an extra burden to your oxen. Be prepared though. Although you will encounter forts along the way where you can replenish supplies, scarcity will drive prices higher and higher the further along you are. Each shop sells the following basic goods:

Oxen – Your oxen are like your engines. Without them, you aren’t going anywhere. You should have at least 2 oxen, but you can never have too many. There’s a good chance some of your livestock will die along the trail, drown in a river crossing, or wander off and get lost. Oxen also make for valuable trade goods. If you must trade with other travelers, your money will have little value.

Wagon Tongues – The tongue is the strut that connects your oxen to the wagon. These have a tendency to break on occasion so unless you’re a carpenter, it’s a good idea to have a spare.

Wagon Axles – A heavy wagon puts a lot of weight on the wooden axles. Rough terrain and continued use can cause these to crack. It’s always good to have a spare. Even if you don’t use it, it could prove valuable for trade.

Wagon Wheels – Like the other wooden parts of your wagon, the wheels are also prone to failure. If a wheel breaks and you don’t have a spare, you’ll be stranded.

Food – Without sufficient food, the health of your party will deteriorate rapidly. The amount of food you’ll consume will depend on many factors, such as your rationing, your pace, and the weather, but expect each member of your part to eat 1-3 pounds of food per day.

Clothes – Each member of your party will need at least one set of clothing. In cold weather, having enough clothing is especially important.

Bullets – If your food supplies run short, you may have no choice but to hunt for meat. You’re likely to encounter an abundance of animals along the trail, but you’ll need ammunition for your rifle.

Pace:

Most settlers were able to complete the arduous trek to the Willamette Valley in 4-6 months. You’ll need to adjust your pace based on the condition of your party and the time of your departure. If you go too slow, you’ll end up stuck in freezing winter weather. If you push yourself too hard, your breakneck pace will take its toll on your party’s health and the health of your oxen.

Leisurely – This is a slow and relaxing pace. It makes sense to go slow if someone in your group is suffering from illness or if your oxen are fatigued, but a consistently slow pace could leave you a long way from your destination when winter sets in.

Steady – A steady pace will require decent effort, but it won’t be overly taxing on your oxen’s health.

Grueling – A grueling pace means starting each day early, ending each day late, and making very few stops. Your health will begin to suffer quickly if you sustain a grueling pace for too long.

Rations:

There won’t be many opportunities to purchase food once you begin so it’s important to meter what you’ve got.

Filling – Filling rations let everyone eat their fill without regard for how much food will be needed in the coming weeks and months.

Meager – It may be necessary to conserve your food reserves by limiting your party to meager portions. You may go to sleep each night slightly hungry, but that’s better than starving to death.

Bare Bones – If food is scarce, you may have no choice but to severely restrict how much each person eats. In these dire circumstances, set your rationing to bare bones.

Resting

Taking a few days to sit and rest is the best way to regain your strength. The only drawback to resting is that you’ll consume food while you rest and you’ll use up precious time. Resting in a fort is more beneficial than resting along the trail.

Trading

With thousands of other settlers traveling the trail at the same time, there are opportunities to trade. However, you won’t always be able to find someone who is offering what you need and wants what you have trade. It also takes time away from your travels to look for someone to trade with. If possible, it’s best to be fully prepared so that you won’t get stuck wasting time trying to cut a deal.

Hunting

If you have ammunition for your rifle and decent aim, you can hunt for food as you travel. Hunting does use time though, and there’s no guarantee how much food each hunting expedition will yield.

River Crossings

One of the most treacherous challenges you will face are river crossings. You’ll be able to ford, or in other words, simply walk across slow moving, shallow rivers. To cross deeper rivers, your wagon is specially designed to seal water tight and float like a raft. Although caulking your wagon allows you to cross deeper waters, this is a more dangerous approach as your wagon has a greater chance of tipping over and spilling valuable supplies.

Willamette Valley

When you arrive in the Willamette Valley, your score will be tallied based on the health of your surviving party members and the supplies you arrived with. Five points are awarded for each point of each party member’s health on a scale of 0 to 100, each ox is worth 50 points, spare wagon parts are worth 2 points each, and each unspent dollar is worth 1 point. Your score will be recorded in the Westward Trail high scores list for posterity.

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