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Michele Quondam


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Quite daringly, Michele Quondam has taken the War in Iraq as a topic for his new game, but instead of creating a somewhat outdated pure wargame Michele has instead presented a snappy persiflage which focuses on the gaining of oil. An interesting angle, and already the derisive cover art of the gamebox suggests that the game might be quite unusual.

Three to five players may participate in the game, and it is split into 12 to 15 rounds (depending on the number of players). Each third of the game is played under a different heading: Invasion, Guerrilla and Transitional Government. So, at the beginning all the players will receive is a stockpile of troop markers and 10 $ which they may use to finance their campaign against an "independent oil-producing country".

During each turn of the game the players will have the possibility to chose two actions: purchasing troops, constructing buildings, investing in the Mass Media or in Influence, producing Oil, taking money, levying taxes, moving troops and Logistics, becoming next starting player etc. However, some of the actions are limited, and beginning with the starting player each player first choses one action and performs it before each player choses and performs his second action. Also, the first player(s) to chose an action always will be better off than later players since the actions will get less powerful the more players have used them in a round.

Troops and Logistics can be purchased with money, and the troops then may be sent on a mission of conquest, invading the target country by crossing its southwestern border. Entering the different provinces of the target country, the troops of the players first will be faced with defending national army units, their number depending on the oil-production capabilities of the invaded province. In addition, during the Invasion phase of the game the old government of the target country still is in a position of relative power, and so during this phase the defending troops will receive an additional bonus which is determined by the roll of a dice. Battle then is decided by calculating the quota between attacking and defending troops, rolling a dice and cross-referencing the result on a battle chart in order to find out how may units of both sides have been destroyed. Thus, during the course of the game the players will slowly gain control of the 17 provinces of the target country by moving their troops and logistics into position.

Since the players have taken the roles of different nations who have formed an Alliance to bring down the government of the target country, no direct combat is allowed between the forces of the players. Instead, they may move freely through the provinces controlled by each other, and they may even agree to form multinational forces to free some of the stronger provinces.

The more troops a player has on the gameboard, the more people will join the Pacifist movement in the player's home country. Thus, the gameboard features a scale for Pacifism which will be increased if a player acquires new troops, if troops are lost in battle, if a terrorist bombing is successful or if a player decides to levy additional taxes to finance his campaign. The number of troops a player may keep without rising Pacifism can be counterbalanced by investing in the Mass Media, but even this will not fully prevent a full rise of Pacifism. Here a recurring harmful effect is that, at the end of a round, each player will have to pay a penalty depending on his current level of Pacifism.

Once a province is under control of a player, he may start to produce oil if he has enough units of Logistics present in the province. As said, each province has a capacity for producing oil barrels (ranging between 1 and 5), but to make use of the production a player also has to move in a certain amount of Logistics. Only if the required number of Logistics is present the province will start to produce oil, and during each turn in which oil is produced one unit of Logistics will be consumed. Here the provinces are structured in a way that the players first will have top invade provinces with a low Logistics-for-oil output-quota, whereas the provinces with the better production rates will be reached in later turns.

Two barrels of produced oil may be taken to a player's personal stockpile each turn, whereas the rest of the produced oil needs to be stored in the province where it was produced. Normally, a province only can store one barrel of oil, so that any excess barrels will be lost. However, here another usage of Logistics becomes important: the construction of Military Buildings. Four kinds of Military Buildings are available at different costs:

  • The Warehouse increase a province's maximum storage capacity by four.
  • The Police Station gives a bonus against terrorist bombings in that province and neighbouring provinces.
  • The Pipline allows a player to take an additional barrel from that province to his personal stockpile.
  • The Oil Refinery decreases production costs in a province by one unit of Logists and increases the Oil production by one.

It is important for a player to collect Oil in his personal stockpile, since only Oil from this pool may be sold at the international market. At the beginning of the game the Oil price starts on the lowest space of the price scale (0.5 per barrel), but at the end of a round the players will have to check whether the Oil price is adjusted. So, the Oil price will rise by one if no player has sold Oil during this round, but it will drop by one or more spaces if one or more players have sold Oil during the round. Also, another use for the Pacifism scale of the players becomes visible, since the player with the highest Pacifism score now will have to check his scale for the speculation level of the current Round. The higher the Pacifism level is, the more the Oil price will go up due to increased speculation.

During the Guerrilla phase of the game each player will receive a unit of rebels which will enter the target country over the northeastern border. These units of terrorists will slowly gain strength, and the players may use them to sabotage the actions of each other by bombings. A successful bombing may result in the loss of Logistics, troops or even Military Buildings of the victim player, and with this the victim will have to increase his level of Pacifism. However, such an attack will get more difficult if a player has invested in building Police Stations. Also, when making purchases a player may opt to remove one units of Logistics in order to gain Influence with the population, and the more Influence a player possesses the more difficult it will get for the rebels to make a successful strike. On the other hand, the presence of a massive amount of troops in a province offers more targets, and this will make a strike somewhat easier. And just like players may combine their troops in order to attack a province, players also may opt to unite their rebel units against a common target in order to ensure success.

The final third of the game runs under the heading Transitional Government, and in this phase the end of turn sequence is extended by an additional production phase. In this phase each player must produce Oil in all of his provinces, and half of the Oil produced will be given to the Transitional Government of the target country. If a player cannot produce Oil in a province, he will lose an Influence point (or pay a monetary penalty in case his influence level is zero). The Oil gained by the Transitional Government will be distributed at the end of the game, and here the level of participation of each player depends on his Influence level and the number of provinces he controls.

As said, the game automatically ends after the last round of the Transitional Government phase, and now all players convert their remaining Oil reserves (on and off-board) into cash for the last current Oil price. Some specific bonus is added, and a Penalty must be paid according the each player's Pacifism level multiplied by 10! The player with most money then has won the game.

Phew, the game definitely offers a lot of fine-tuned interactions between its different elements, and players certainly need to get used to the playing mechanism before they fully can enjoy the considerable playing depth which can be found in One more Barrel. This also makes the game difficult to explain to newcomers, since a good handling of the rules is mandatory to make the right use of the different options available to a player. Thus, I also checked out the rulebook to see how well the rules were presented there, since last year the rulebooks of the new GIOCHIX cardgames did contain some ambiguous passages which left a few questions open. However, with this new boardgame the translators have done a better job, and while it is true that the general structure of the rules is a bit cumbersome at first, all needed information can be found (somewhere….) .

As indicated, the gamebox offers a quite daring graphical design, and overall all the components come at a very high production standard which make it difficult to distinguish this game from a product of a major producer. The plain wooden disks which serve as troops put emphasis on the level of abstraction, but I am sure that players who like a bit more realistic playing pieces will make use of figures from either Memoir '44 or Axis & Allies

Overall, Michele Quondam created a tough strategic boardgame for serious hobbyists, and to my estimation experienced players will find a good challenge in the task to become the nation who is most successful in this "war for profit". And in the end, the rules could not find a better last sentence: Play Games, Not War!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany