is a new scenario for The Settlers of Catan
Playing Time: 1-2 hours
Summary of the Components
Oil Springs contains a 4-page rulebook and a single sheet of cardboard tokens.
Quality: The cardboard sheet feels a bit flimsy at first, as it's somewhat light cardboard, but once it was all punched, it was perfectly stiff. I was somewhat surprised that the rules for this small scenario are full-color and glossy. 4 out of 5.
Beauty: The rulebook is very attractively produced. The various cardboard bits are all OK, but not particularly exciting. 4 out of 5.
Usability: For a game usually huge on usability, Oil Springs takes a big misstep by not creating any sort of player aid to tell you how to use oil and how to make a metropolis. Instead, you have to lay out the back of the rulebook on your playing surface. The various victory point tokens and oil spring tiles fit into the general usability design of Catan itself. 3 out of 5.
Theming: Oil Springs is half Catan scenario and half educational tool. As such, it does a great job of simulating the potential use of oil. On the one hand you have big benefits from using oil, but on the other hand you have the possibility for big deficits — such as the flooding of the coast and the destruction of resource production. It's the sort of thing that should really make you think, which means (in my mind) that the theming has been excellently applied. 5 out of 5.
I don't often comment on the price of a game, but here I think that $5 for a scenario that really can shake up your Catan game is an excellent value. So, that improves the Style rating (and makes me hope Mayfair will do more like this). On the whole I've given Oil Springs a strong "4" out of "5" for Style.
Summary of the Gameplay
Oil Springs is a typical game of Catan with one addition: oil.
Producing Oil: Oil is produced from three hexes on the board. You'll get 1 or 2 units of oil when that hex is rolled. Though the oil comes as tokens, they count in every way like your resources held as cards.
Oil Limits. Oil is a very limited resource. In a typical 3-4 player game, there are only 15 units of oil available, and it's easy for that total to decrease notably over the course of a game.
Using Oil: You can use oil in two different ways. First, you can turn an oil token in to get two of any resources. Alternatively, you can use use two oil, one brick, one grain, and one ore to turn a city into a metropolis.
Metropolises. Hexes next to metropolises produce 3 units of resource rather than 1 or 2.
The Disaster Track. Whenever you use an oil token, you push the disaster track (which goes from 0-5) up by 1. You can never move the track past 5 on a turn, which acts as a limit to the total amount of oil you can use on a turn.
Oil Disasters. Using oil isn't without its dangers. Every time 5 oil is used, a disaster occurs. The active player rolls the dice, which have one of three effects:
- If it's a 7, the coast floods, removing all settlements on the coast and reducing all cities on the coast to settlements.
- Otherwise, a random hex of the appropriate number is selected. If it's an oil hex, three units of oil are removed from play, otherwise, the production number is removed from the board, meaning that hex no longer creates resources.
Ruining the Island. If five production numbers are removed from the game, it immediately ends and everyone loses!
Sequestering Oil: Instead of using oil on your turn, you can sequester one unit of oil, taking it out of play. Every time you sequester 3 units of oil, you earn 1 victory point. In addition, whomever has sequestered the most oil gets the Champion of the Environment token ( 1 VP). In the case of an ecological disaster, the Champion of the Environment earns a "pyrrhic" victory.
Ending the Game: Barring ecological disaster, the game ends when someone hits 12 VP.
Relationships to Other Games
Oil Springs is, of course, an expansion for The Settlers of Catan. It's labeled as one of the "Catan Scenarios". There were previously two others -- The Fishermen of Catan and The Great River -- now collected and updated in Catan: Traders & Barbarians along with three more. As a fairly constrained scenario for the original Settlers game, Oil Springs feels somewhat similar to The T&B scenarios in how much it changes in the game.
(There were also some historical scenarios available in the German market in days of yore, but they were much bigger affairs, with new maps.)
The Game Design
Overall, I found Oil Springs to be a very clever expansion for The Settlers of Catan which meets one of my prime criteria for game supplements: it really changes up the game.
There were also lots of interesting tactical decisions. For example, the decision to sequester oil was a tough one, because you had to weigh the possibility of future reward against the fact that your opponents would be reaping great rewards from oil while you did so. (I said earlier that the oil system overall felt like a great simulations of the benefits and problems associated with this sort of damaging resource, and this was just one example of that.)
Many other decisions came out of the oil system, such as whether you were willing to build on the coast (where you might lose your settlements and cities) and how you were going to actually collect oil, which became increasingly important as your opponents got their hands on it.
I also found the metropolises to be a nice addition, not because they were particularly innovative, but because I haven't had the opportunity to play with "super cities" in any other Catan game and they were cool.
Though I feel like some of the Catan variants over the years have dragged, this one played surprisingly fast. Oil kept things moving quickly from the beginning, and then things turbo-charged when metropolises started to appear.
My only complaint with the game is that the danger of using oil can vary greatly with the number of players. In my 3-player game, we got a little lucky, and so by the end of the game there was no tension that we might accidentally ruin the island of Catan, whereas a 4-player game would likely have been tighter.
Overall, I feel like Oil Springs is a great variant, an interesting simulation, and a good educational tool. I've given it a full "5" out of "5" for Substance.
Oil Springs changes up the game of Settlers of Catan in an interesting ways, providing a new and original look at the classic game.