Meetup

OTK Meetup 26/10/2012 – Crude, the Oil Game

Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 26/10/2012 – Crude, the Oil Game
By jack208

EXCERPT
The third Essen new games to see first play in Malaysia was CRUDE THE OIL GAME, a reprint of the much sought after MCMULTI one of the old school Euros. Find out how we rate this game where you get to become the CEO of a multinational oil business.

Gamers: Zharif, Jeremy, DWolve, Caleb, Ken, Lester, Ivan, Laurence, Thomas, Kelvin, Alvin, Sheng Yeong, Chee Ho, Boon Khim, Hiew, Kareem, Heng, Waiyan and CK Au.      

Games: The Great Zimbabwe, Crude the Oil Game, Samurai Sword, Villages, Seasons, Small World, The Big Badaboom.

Location: OTK Cheras | Google Map | Lat-Long: N 03° 06.179′ E 101° 44.237′
Date/Time: 26 October 2012 (Fri) 3.00 PM – 5:00 AM

ESSEN SPIEL 2012 PLAY TESTING STARTS NOW!!

If you have yet read our sessreps of the first play of the following games in Malaysia, feel free to flip to the following sessrep pages before resuming here for a look at Crude, the Oil Game a reprint of an old classic that’s better known as McMulti.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Samurai Swords
BGC Spiel 2012 - The Great Zimbabwe
Samurai Sword, a re-implementation of Bang! Better game? (sessrep)
The Great Zimbabwe, the latest gem from Splotter (sessrep)

CRUDE, THE OIL GAME is what you would called an old-school Euro and a game that’s almost 38 yrs old (yes even older than Settlers of Catan). “Old school” as in the use of dice which does introduce some element of luck to the game and won’t be seen as a pure strategic game as the newer Euros like Caylus and Agricola.

Most gamers assumed this game was first published as McMulti by a German publishing company called Hexagames as that’s how this game is more widely known as. So you might be surprised to find out the late James St Laurent first published this game in America in 1974 as “Crude” but without any plastic components. It’s release coincide with a paper shortage in America which drove its cost up and prematurely stalled the game as a product!

Hexagames was the German company that revived it in 1988 as McMulti and it did quite well in terms of sales. It then went OOP and became a highly sought-after game in the secondary market; some units going for more than USD150 in eBay.

Stronghold Games recently acquired the rights to republish the English version of this game as “Crude, the Oil Game” and we managed to get an early copy in Essen 2012 for a play test at OTK last Friday. Let’s find out what we think of this old classic!

Above: The box cover of the 2012 German Edition published by Pegasus Spiele as McMulti.

Note: Pegasus Spiele is the company licensed this year to reprint a German 3rd edition keeping to the name “McMulti”. The Hexagames 2nd Edition McMulti remains a highly sought after collector’s edition. If you have a good copy and think it’s taking up unnecessary space on your game shelf, do PM me! 😛

CRUDE THE OIL GAME

This first play is based on the 2012 3rd Edition (see below) of CRUDE THE OIL GAME from Stronghold Games. Some rules differ from the earlier editions of the game.

CRUDE / McMULTI is a game about the oil business. As a CEO in an oil & gas company, you decide how best to invest your initial $200m capital; right from the upstream & speculative oil drigging to downstream activities such as selling to the consumer market via gas stations.

You can focus on the upstream (drilling rigs to search for oil), midstream (refineries to process those crude oil into gasoline; and trading to the local & foreign markets) and/or downstream (selling direct to the consumer).

Just like in the oil business, you can choose to specialize in any of the streams or you can diversify and hope to cover all your bases. You need to understand the present state of economy and hopefully can time your asset purchase or exit to capitalize on any change in the economy. The first to reach a net worth of $750m wins the game!

GAME ONE – Laurence, Thomas, D.Wolve and Waiyan

While the main table was occupied with The Great Zimbabwe, four other players started a game of CRUDE. I’d wanted to run thru the rules with them but was too absorbed in my Zimbabwe session. :S Not to worry though since there are seasoned gamers in that group and they quickly sort out the rules themselves and got started with the game.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

From left: Kelvin (non-playing banker), Laurence, D.Wolve, Waiyan and Thomas – the first four gamers to play the latest edition of CRUDE

Each player owns a (square) section on the mapboard and in this section, you place the assets – drilling rig, oil well, refinery, gas station – you have invested. Your choice of which types of asset to purchase would depend very much on your “business strategy” whether you wish to focus on upstream (in which case you’ll want to invest in lots of drilling rigs with the hope of striking oil early and in as many places as you can) or midstream (then oil refineries are your thing to process crude oil into gasolines) or downstream where you sell direct to the consumer (gas stations).

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

The assets are activated (for production) by a matching die roll… ie in the picture above, for the player on the bottom left of the board, a roll of 4 on the red die will activate the (red) oil refinery which basically allows the player to process one barrel of crude oil into gasoline (which is sold to the consumer market). A roll of 5 on the black die will also activate the same refinery.
A double hit ie roll of 4-Red/5-Black would allow the player to process 2 barrels into gasoline. This is how assets (buildings) are activated for production in this game. While this may remind you of Monopoly, rest assured this game is NOT Monopoly. 😛

In a sense, you might think of Catan and it’s production dice roll. And you might favor those high-probablity numbers like 7, 8, 5 etc. However that’s not exactly in alignment here since an asset is considered as activated with any of the matching red or black die roll. Both a “1” and a “6” has an even probability of 1/6 here (unlike Catan which works on the sum of both die roll).

Your assets can also activated by your neighbouring players’ dice roll. Again in the same example above, the bottom-left player’s roll of 4-red would also trigger the (green) gasoline station of the player on his left, while his roll of 5-black would trigger the (green) gasoline and (red) refinery of the player on this right.

When “activated”, it meant the asset can also process crude into gasoline (if refinery is activated) or sell one barrel of gasoline to the Consumer Market (if gasoline station is activated).

A key part of the game is 1) deciding which stream(s) you are going to focus on (specialize vs diversify), 2) investing in the appropriate assets that align with the stream strategy you have chosen, and 3) placing them strategically on the board to ensure you maximize your “activation” opportunities both from your own dice roll, and those of your immediate left & right neighbours.

The Domestic and Foreign Oil Markets

There are three active markets that you can trade in… the Domestic Market, the Foreign Market and the Consumer Market. The Consumer Market buys only gasoline but you can trade both crude oil & gasoline in the Domestic & Foreign Markets.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

The Domestic & Foreign Markets work in a similar manner to POWER GRID’s resource market and players can freely buy & sell their own produce to these markets on their Market Phase. The only constraint is that you trade in only one market for each turn.

In this first game, Laurence and Thomas mentioned there’s not much volatility in the trading markets in their game to make Market Trading a viable strategy. I guessed one of the reasons is all of them were diversifying their portfolios evenly hence everyone has a finger in each pie (up-, mid- and downstream) which effectively canceled each other out.

The Consumer Market

For those who chose to focus on the downstream business, this is where you’ll (hopefully) get to reap your profits; supplying (processed) gasoline to the various gas stations who in turn feed those car drivers hungry for fuel.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

Newsflash!!

In addition to simple supply/demand markets, there are News Event cards that are triggerred based on dice roll (you need to throw a double to trigger these). You have two event cards face-up and most of these events are negative events that will tax your already low cashflow (especially at the beginning of the game).

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

While the timing of these event cards are “random” (since they depend on doubles being rolled), both cards are shown face-up so you’ll be able to make sure you have a mitigation plan for the events in case they trigger. Some of them can be nasty… paying hefty taxes on your assets, and if you do not have the cash you may be force to sell them (and still have to pay the original tax!) Always good to have some “cash” ready for such contingencies.

Economy Change

The last element in the game is the Economy Cards which depict the state of the economy at any particular time of the game. The game always starts in the Recovery state, where the price of everything (assets) are at (almost) their cheapest level.

Each card also tells you what’s the economic forecast like; whether the market will be bouncing back up or more likely to be depressed further. A positive UP forecast on the economy does not however guarantee the market will bounce up (like in real life, ya?) as there’s always a 1/6 chance the market could swing the other way. Oops.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

The change of economy is triggered by a counter that is moved based on the differential value between your dice roll for eg if you rolled a 5 & 2, the counter is moved forward by 3 steps. An economy change happens whenever the counter has moved 8 (or more) steps so every dice roll would nudge the economy closer to the change-point (unless you happens to be rolling doubles all the time).

There are seven economy states – Recovery, Expansion, Rapid Growth, Prosperity, Downturn, Recession and Depression – each of them affecting the asset prices and change in consumer demand (which moves up or down the price of gasoline in the Consumer Market).

Items
Recovery
Expansion
Prosperity
Depression
Drilling Rig
$5 ($3)
$9 ($5)
$16 ($12)
$4 ($2)
Gas Station
$48 ($24)
$66 ($32)
$100 ($60)
$32 ($18)
Refinery
$64 ($30)
$96 ($60)
$160 ($120)
$50 ($24)
Forecast
Up
Up
Down
Up

Note: The price in bracket is the Liquidation Price which is applied when you are selling the asset.

A quick scan of the asset prices in the above table will quickly tell you one way to make money is to time the acquisition and sale of your assets. However do remember you are selling on Liquidation Price and as with all assets, the moment you installed them they have already depreciated significantly for eg in the Recovery state, acquiring a Gas Station costs you $48m and as soon as it’s installed, it’s only worth $24m should you chose to liquidate it. You’ll need the economy to reach the Prosperity state before you can liquidate the asset for $60 – and make some money from your acquisition price.

Buying & selling of assets is still a viable path to churning your cashflow, but in this session they read the “Asset Sale” rule wrongly where they could “freely” sell all their assets during the Asset Phase. The correct rule is that only assets that were activated (hit) that turn can be sold.

With this rule played wrong, the game thus changed into an exercise in asset stripping timed with economy change – instead of the original intent of the designer. 😛

Note: Have to say that beside the misplayed rule above (which did significantly affect the game), this group actually got all the rules right in their first run at the game! 🙂

GAME TWO – David, Thomas, Kelvin and CK

There were some active discussions going on between Thomas, Laurence and Kelvin on their previous session of CRUDE so I quickly offered to get another session going since I would like to get a play on this game (after our GREAT ZIMBABWE session ended).

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

Getting the table set up for a 2nd round of CRUDE. For a change, we’ve Kelvin and Thomas (right) explaining the rules to me. 🙂

Kelvin and Thomas did a good job in explaining how the game works to myself and David, and after a quick set up, the 2nd session of CRUDE was on. Kelvin was intent on trying out his assets churning strategy to see if the game is just all about assets buying and selling.

My initial asset purchase (below) was set up with a plan to focus on the downstream consumer market, basically buying gasoline from the markets and turning a profit over them by selling to the gas stations. I’ve dropped in an oil refinery in case gasoline price went up in the markets and I need to move slightly midstream to start refining crude oil into gasoline.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

Given drilling rigs are cheap at the start (Recovery economy) just $5m each, I dipped into a few just to see if I get lucky and scored some hits! I did.. And you can see one of the drilling rigs (I started with four) converted into an oil well (intersection of Red-3 and Black-6 above) for just another $5m. This oil well is now worth $30m so that was a quick profit for me.

Converting a drilling rig to an oil well is a “difficult” task since it requires a “double-hit” ie both the red & black die roll hitting on the same drilling rig. It does simulate the industry’s conversion ratio of having drilling rigs striking oil! Oil drilling is always a speculative venture, no?

Once you have struck oil, your oil well will produce whenever it’s “hit” by a die roll (yours or your neighbours) so you can look forward to a supply of (free) crude oil, which you can process into gasoline (if you have an oil refinery) or just sell the barrels direct to one of the markets to quickly turn a profit.

The movement of both the Domestic and Foreign markets were non-volatile in this game (as in the earlier session) so I can’t comment yet if there’s a viable winning approach in just focusing on market trading.

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

The Consumer Market can move up fairly quickly based on the Economy Change, and as you can see from the chart above, one barrel of gasoline can fetch you $39m (up from the starting $26m per barrel). That can be a tidy sum if you own the full supply chain and get crude oil from your own oil well to be refined into gasoline.

Our game ended with Kelvin doing brisk sell/buy of all his assets over a few economy changes to reach the target $750m. However we were still playing with the “wrong” rule of being able to sell all your assets voluntarily (and not just those that were activated in your turn). This obviously skew the advantage to assets trading.

I believe with the correct rules in play, assets trading is a viable approach to turning a good profit (if you can time the economy change) but it’s not a dominant strategy since you cannot control how many assets you can strip to maximize the market change.

What’s different between this edition and the earlier Hexagames edition?

Alrite, is there any difference between this 3rd Edition from Stronghold (for the English version and Pegasus Spiele for the German version) and the out-of-print 2nd Edition McMulti from Hexagames beside artwork and game components?

There are some subtle changes in this 3rd Edition that I felt improved the game in particular the way Economy Change is handled. In the 2nd Edition McMulti, you need to throw doubles to force an economy change, and that swing of luck can sometimes be extreme. Basically if none of the players threw a double, there WON’T be any Economy Change and you remain in DEPRESSION or PROSPERITY or whichever economy state the game was in. That can appear unrealistic!

In the 2nd Edition, a Doubles dice roll can also trigger one of the News Event creating a double whammy for players who happened to be on the wrong side of the Economy Change and News Event. :S

BGC Spiel 2012 - Crude Oil

In this 2012 version, the Economy Change is handled by an advancing counter (see the track with the green die above) which moves based on the difference between the two dice each player throws and as such there’s more predictability as to when the economy will change.

You still can’t determine exactly when the economy will change – which should be how it is, right? If one can predict market economy changes with such precision, you should be trading in the future markets and not doing measly selling in the oil & gas business. 😛

The News Event is still triggered by a Doubles dice roll but you have both event cards face-up allowing you to prepare a mitigation plan for the possible eventuation of the event cards. Risk management has always been one critical success factors in the oil business and it should be no different in a game about the oil business. J

Overall I enjoyed the game and felt the experience does match up with the hype from it’s preceding reputation. All gamers should be glad that Stronghold has now made this game readily accessible to us.

FAQ on this game and some misplayed rules in this forum topic

http://community.boardgamecafe.net/index.php?/topic/4178-crude-the-oil-game-faqs/

Crude, the Oil Game will be available from our webstore soon!

TRIBUTE TO THE LATE JAMES ST LAURENT (1940 – 2011)

It is with sadness that Stronghold Games acknowledges the passing of game designer, James St. Laurent. Mr St. Laurent had been battling an illness for some time, although bravely insisted upon being involved in the re-design and development of Crude: The Oil Game, known to some gamers as McMulti.

“In our time working with Jim, we found him to be pleasant, intelligent, and full of good ideas. We couldn’t have hoped for a more rewarding experience, and his input was invaluable to the completion of his project.” Stephen M. Buonocore, President, Stronghold Games LLC.

Mr. St. Laurent leaves behind a legacy of family and friends and a special place in the hearts of boardgamers everywhere. He will be missed.

Above extracted from last page of Stronghold’s CRUDE rulebook.


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