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Usually my reviews are written after many plays in many different situations, but because there are no reviews yet for this scenario, I think it's worth jotting down some quick impressions. Obviously, my opinions may change with more experience, but that's the nature of the beast.
New Years was a gaming extravaganza, and one guest is from Alberta (Canada's oil country for those outside our borders) and received this scenario for Christmas. So we pulled out Settlers and sat down for a 5-player game. House-rule note: everyone in our group was in agreement that the special building phase sucks, so we just expanded the allowable hand size to 9 instead. Others may find this sacrilegious, but it worked for our group. Also, we missed the rule that states you can only use OR sequester oil on a given turn, so we ended up playing with a slightly more "open" set of rules where players could do both. This is actually a variant presented in the rules.
Theme: Very thematic, and very well thought-out. Each mechanism in the game, from the value of oil to the limited quantity available, to the sequestering option is strongly based on the concept of the scenario. The fact that the theme and mechanics are well integrated is great for gameplay. A word of warning however: this scenario has a very strong environmental message. It's completely valid, and well-executed, but if you are playing with people in the oil industry then they may not like being painted as the "bad guys." (Note that there are instances in the game where you really need to use your oil, and I think that this is true to life: sometimes it's just the resource available to you, and you can't get ahead without using it.)
Randomness: The disasters are randomly assigned (which is a good fit with the theme) but this can cause some game-changers. For example: an early leader in our game had built on the shore and had his settlement washed away twice before abandoning the spot and building somewhere else. And then a very strong leader in the mid-game had her primary hex numberchit removed, which only affected her. So avoid this scenario if you have a group that would get too frustrated if all of a sudden their situation got much much worse.
Shoreline: By the end of our game, only one player was building on the shore, and she was fully investing in metropoli. I think that this scenario would benefit from being paired with shoreline-encouraging mini-expansions. Next time I play this scenario, I'm definitely going to add the fishing expansion (no lakes) to keep the game exciting with players on the shore. Also, I think it's worth adding the harbourmaster, and maybe possibly increasing it's value to 3 VP (maybe).
Oil-free Variant: One thing that our group talked about was having other victory point opportunities for players that didn't build on any oil hexes. We had one player who chose not to build on the oil, and that did put her at a disadvantage. But she managed to steal oil from other players using the knights, and we thought it might be interesting (and appropriate) if she got double the victory points for sequestering oil and for being the environmental champion. We didn't add this to the game, because we wanted to play the scenario as written, but it would be worth considering for future plays.
I am going to pick up a copy of this scenario for my own Catan collection, and I think the $5 price tag is great value. I would recommend this scenario for people who enjoy different set-ups for their Catan games, and are looking for something with a great theme.
I think we're all bozos on this bus.
An apt review of the mechanics and some of the strengths and weaknesses.
The one interesting aspect of it is that when a disaster strikes, you roll 2d6 to find out what number gets removed. This means that people who build on 6s and 8s will be the most likely ones affected. I liked the impact of that.
On the whole though, I found that it added a tremendous amount of chaos to an already luck-heavy game.
$5 is a decent price point but I would never buy it since I would never want to play it. If you're a Catan Completionist or just like playing Catan themed games and are fine with knowing that the outcome will be based almost purely on luck -- This is the game for you.
Picked up Oil Springs today as an impulse purchase at the FLGS; I wasn't previously aware of it. (BGG newb) We played it with 3 players tonight.
While the chaos is certainly luck-based, it uses the same (2d6) formula for causing harm as the game uses for paying benefits. So I think it provides a bit of balancing effect. Sort of.
I mean, if disaster knocks a 6 or 8 off the board, the player(s) there were counting on that hex for significant production - and had likely benefitted from it for a while before the disaster. So it brings them back toward the pack.
If a disaster knocks off a 2 or 12, anyone with a settlement there was not really counting on lots of production anyway, so the loss is not that great. A poor player who got stuck on the 2 is not losing very much.
I guess I'm saying that the effect being luck-driven shouldn't bother real Catan fans, who are used to the primary rewards being significantly luck based.
We'll play it a few more times at least. It's certainly better than the Great River, IMO. For the low price, Oil is a variant worth having in your kit for a change of pace.