For those of you who remember playing The Oregon Trail, the top image may be all too familiar to you; and for some, whether for good or bad, may be all you need to know about Pioneer Days from TMG (Tasty Minstrel Games).
That said, here’s a little more detail …
Pioneer Days is a 2-4 player game, with each player is leading a wagon train on a four week (rounds) journey out to the American Old West, encountering some of the many disasters (disease, famine, raids and storms) that may occur along the way. The players can recruit townsfolk, expand the wagon train and gain gold, supplies and cattle in order to avoid the effects of the disasters and still try to have the most victory points at the end of the game; with bonus points each round by completing the objectives of the small towns you pass along the way.
The game is played over four rounds, referred to as weeks, and each week is broken up into five days (turns) with the week ending in visiting the local towns for the weekend.
Each day, the starting player will draw a number of dice equal to the number of players plus one and each player will draft one of the dice to perform an action. At the end of the day, the remaining die will be used to indicate which disaster track is increased and the process starts again. When the dice bag is empty, you know you are playing the last day of that week. The players are then given the opportunity to score points for meeting the needs of the town, for cattle and resolve any card effects.
Repeat this for the remainder of the four weeks and the player at the end of the game with the most points wins.
In essence, as with Oregon Trail, Pioneer Days is a game of balancing the points gain of your wagon train with the bad effects of the impending disasters, whether you aim to make sure you have the suitable resources to surrender to survive the disaster, or whether you are willing to take the hit because you see more benefit in increasing other resources to meet the upcoming town needs is up to the player; but if you can fulfil the requirements of the disaster, you must.
I found there is a range of strategies involved in this game, ranging from collecting the best townsfolk (for you) to forcing the last die in order to trigger a disaster sooner because you can see you are more prepared than other players.
I was a big fan of the Oregon Train when I was younger and, maybe with some nostalgia for it involved, really enjoyed Pioneer Days and the similarities between the two. The theme is there, predominantly in terms of artwork; and personally, I like the way it all fits together.
Overall an enjoyable game, especially when you start to see the look of panic at an imminent disaster, although from experience I feel it plays best with a full complement of players. The game time is estimated at 45-60 mins, which isn’t too far off, although I’d say it’s more like 20 mins per player and generally speaking there isn’t a lot of downtime between each turn.
I only wish I could get it to the table more often.
Find this game at one of these many retailers.