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Oil Exploration Games
Tom Anderson
United States
Waxahachie
Texas
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No annoying Jed Clampett tune lyrics, no wargames based in the Middle East, no Bush-era politics, and no stock trading where one of the companies just happens to have "oil" in it's name -- just games truly based on oil exploration and production.

I thought it was time to provide a new Geeklist with this subject. The one from 2004 by skelebone (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/3570) is getting dated and wasn't limited to my criteria.

The one from 2006 by Champion Eternal (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/14564) started getting silly by including Pit and Popeye. I am an oil exploration geologist as a profession, so I admit I'm picky, but I wanted a Geeklist of games that at least tried to simulate the exploration and production functions, plus of course the economics, as there has to be sales of oil to make it all work.

Some definitions: The oil industry is broadly divided into "Upstream" and "Downstream", where Upstream includes Exploration and Production, and Downstream includes Refining, Transportation, and Marketing. So my Geeklist is limited to Upstream only -- no pipelines, supertankers, or gas (petrol) stations, unless the Upstream functions are also included. A classic case is McMulti, which has refineries and gas stations, but it also has drilling derricks and oil pumps.

In the Upstream oil business we refer to the "Oilfield Life Cycle":
Reconnaissance -
Prospect Generation -
Discovery -
Reservoir Delineation -
Facilities -
Primary Production -
Enhanced Recovery -
Acquire/Divest

The first three are in the "Exploration" phase, the next two are "Development", and the last three are lumped as "Production". A good oil exploration game should include most of these, and absolutely must have drilling/discovery. With that background in place, let's proceed to my narrow criteria for a game to be included on this Geeklist:

1. MUST HAVE: drilling (usually by including one or more derrick bits)
2. Should have: leasing and production
3. Will NOT include:
- primarily economic (acquire properties, produce oil, buy/sell crude, ONLY)
- stock trading (company with "oil" in its name only)
- Monopoly-like roll-and-move (only)
- wargames (based in Middle East or other OPEC hot spot)
- downstream only (pipelines, tankers, refineries, gas stations)
- other types of oil, not petroleum (such as olive oil)
- any other not listed above where oil is only remotely related to the theme

I have applied these criteria using "rejection codes" to all the games listed on the two previous Geeklists mentioned above to exclude those by name that don't fit, IMO. Any interested BGG user that is geeky enough to want to see this, just send me a PM and I'll email back an attached XLS spreadsheet with all the gory details. That spreadsheet also lists (on a second sheet) for the included games below, numerous comments and classifications by map type, mechanics, and game bits.

A note on Monopoly clones -- several games that made my list use the familiar around-the-perimeter track of properties and a roll-and-move mechanic, but they also have an interior "map" with drilling locations (or a separate added board) and a mechanic to drill and discover oil deposits. Games that are simply Monopoly with the properties being oil-related, but no drilling, didn’t make the list.

One criteria I've used to define these games is map type, with these categories: abstract (grid); made-up (fictitious country, island, or continent); United States (or portions thereof); world (or portions of world or continents); and North Sea region.

The list below is roughly listed in my ranking order, of how they best fit the goal of exploration simulation, starting with the top two BGG-ranked games. First, a disclaimer -- I've only played these top two, and tried to categorize the rest based on BGG descriptions, images, forums, reviews, and files posted. I haven't actually played any of the rest, at this time. So let's get started.

Note: feel free to add to this list if you find something I missed, but please respect the criteria I have listed. Thanks.
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26. Board Game: Oil Rush [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Tom Anderson
United States
Waxahachie
Texas
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No images, little information available. Polish game, can be played with just paper and pencil. Players act as oil companies. The board is 8x8 for 2 players, 9x9 for three ones and 10x10 for four players. Each player has 6 money units at the beginning. The active player points at a spot on a map and puts the bid he wishes to pay for it. The players in clockwise order may overbid each other. When the high bid stands - the winner loses the declared amount of money and becomes the active player since then.

Dice are rolled to determine if oil is present. A sum of 9 or more is required, modified by immediately adjacent production, which increases the odds. If the oil is not present, the field is marked as empty, but if it is present it is marked as an oil field belonging to the active player, and the active player receives 1 money unit for each point he rolled over the required minimum. Game ends when all the fields are checked. Each player receives 10 points for each oil field he owns and one point for each money unit he has got at the end of the game. The player with most points wins.
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27. Board Game: Oil Drills [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Tom Anderson
United States
Waxahachie
Texas
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A new Print-and Play set of files (map sections in color or B&W, tables, tokens, markers, and rules) uploaded this year (2009) to BGG by the designer, Gilad Yarnitzky from Israel (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/ycyclop). It is listed here at the end, not because it ranks last, but because it is so new and different.

The map has railroad tracks as well, and trains, trucks, and pipe. The rules also refer to "mining heads", and "diamond heads", where the more common term as used in the industry is "drill bits" (there are different types such as hardened steel tri-cone bits, carbide button bits, and diamond bits used). A hole drilled for oil is called a well, not a shaft, which is more of a mining term. "Oil drills" as component pieces should be called "drilling rigs" (or derricks, in popular usage).
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28. Board Game: Petropolis [Average Rating:5.28 Overall Rank:9556]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Well, this one borders on the edge of being monopoly-like, but it was at least somewhat educational as it taught you the names of those Middle East oil rich countries, places like Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, both of which I had never heard of. Came out in the 1970s, in the middle of the initial oil crisis when the OPEC cartel really starting flexing is muscle.
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29. Board Game: Schwarzes Gold [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:7132]
Tom Anderson
United States
Waxahachie
Texas
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Something new for 2009 -- uses old Giganten components. From the description on the BGG entry:
A short tactical game about the first oil rush in Texas. In the basic game players roll dice to determine a position on the game board where they can then place either one of their own oil drill towers or a neutral oil marker. In phase 2 players decide in which order the drill towers score points for adjacent oil markers (which are removed from the board after scoring). The player with the most points wins the game.
The game will include at least two variants (and a second game board) to add more complexity. In addition, several fan rules will be published on the homepage www.schwarzesgold.com

Schwarzes Gold is the winning title of the author's game competition 2008/2009 by www.spielmaterial.de. The task of the competition was to create a new game based on the game pieces of 'Giganten' (Kosmos) after those were bought in large quantities by www.spielmaterial.de (an online shop for game components).
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30. Board Game: i9n [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:7466]
Founding Fathers: try your hand at being President.
United States
Bay Area
California
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Use your information and find out all characteristics of the decreasing oil in place all over the world.
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31. Board Game: Ghawar [Average Rating:5.70 Unranked]
Founding Fathers: try your hand at being President.
United States
Bay Area
California
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32. Board Game: Oil Quest: The Game of Energy and Excitement [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Founding Fathers: try your hand at being President.
United States
Bay Area
California
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get your drilling rig on the board, drill for oil and if oil is struck, replace the rig with a pump jack

1988
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33. Board Game: Brent Crude [Average Rating:7.88 Unranked]
David Ells
United States
Baltimore
Maryland
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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Design in progress ...
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34. Board Game: Petróleo S.A. [Average Rating:6.49 Unranked]
David Ells
United States
Baltimore
Maryland
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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Portuguese game of oil exploration & refining.
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35. Board Game: Wildcatters [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:1912]
Tom Anderson
United States
Waxahachie
Texas
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We have a new one to add to this list:

"Wildcatters is a tactical and strategic board game set during the booming business of the 19th century oil industry!

"The players are oil barons who develop oil fields; bid for oil rights; and build rigs, oil tankers, trains, and refineries. Your goal is to deliver more oil barrels to the continents than the other players while also collecting more shares and money then them.

"The game lasts seven rounds with four players, and the game set-up is the same for each player, with three rigs, two trains, one tanker and one refinery being placed on the board. The game board features a world map divided into eight areas where you can find oil. Players choose an open area card and get money to build rigs, tankers, trains and refineries, after which they can buy oil actions. The players work together in an oilfield to find oil at a lower cost. The players transport oil together to the refineries, using trains and tankers from other players to deliver oil to the refineries – and all with one purpose: deliver more oil than the other players by the end of the game."

I played it at BGG.CON 2013 and my main comment is that it is more of a global economic game and I didn't really feel like I was exploring for and producing oil. It qualifies for my geeklist because it does have drilling and production. It also includes some "downstream" activities such as refining and transportation (rail, tanker ships).

The global map is very generalized with no country boundaries and continents are from one to four regions: Europe, Africa, and Australia each a single region, North and South America are each divided in halves, and Asia has four regions. Very little connection to places that actually have oil, for example there is a spot for production over Minnesota (USA), which has none in real life. This is one reason it feels to me like a strategic economic game, one step abstracted from the real world.
 
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36. Board Game: Black Gold [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1163]
Chris Handy
United States
Turlock
California
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37. Board Game: Oilfield [Average Rating:8.32 Unranked]
Paco Yanez
Spain
Madrid
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I see it is an old post... but just wanted to add my game to the oil family here

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