The Settlers of Catan, today's poster child for strategy board games, is no stranger to being used as a social tool. In Settlers, players actively gather, trade, and consume finite resources such as wood, sheep, brick, wheat, and ore, but now a sixth resource with a dangerous downside is being added to the mix: oil.
Releasing today as a .pdf download and later this year as a fully-printed expansion, Catan: Oilsprings will provide all of the new rules and components necessary to add in this sixth resource. Mayfair Games posted a short announcement on their website describing how the newly-expanded game will play:
Oil can increase resource yields and allow a settlement to grow much faster than normal. The bad news is that players need to monitor the damage their oil use does to the environment and will eventually have to contend with global climate devastation which can result inall players losing the game!
Oil tiles are added to the board in an early play test of Catan: Oilsprings
The addition of such a double-edged resource has some serious meta-game implications, though. When it comes to gaming, first place is the only winner. There is no trophy for second place, so how do you convince players not to make increasingly risky moves as they fall further from the lead? Causing an all-out loss will earn you few friends at the table, so Catan Oilsprings will have to add a stateful layer where players manage their reputation for resource abuse.
This predicament is not far off from the actual sociopolitical global atmosphere this game aims to model. The scary truth when it comes to fossil fuels is that developing nations, not the big guys, are leaning on these energy sources to get a leg up. How do you convince a country to take the high road when they are trying to catch-up with the global powers? Even the realization that developing countries are the least equipped to handle the effects of climate change does not provide enough of a deterrent, making this quite the dilemma.
Early versions of the game seen at playtest events in Washington D.C. provided two ways to benefit from oil: one in which players gained points for stockpiling the resource until the game's end, and another where oil could be used to increase the production of other resource tiles. Every use of oil advanced a natural disaster tracker, though, and every fifth spot triggered rising sea waters. The resulting floods had the power to wipe away coastal settlements.
Developed in conjunction with the Worldwatch Institute (a sustainable society think-tank) and the Goethe Institute (a German cultural outreach institution), more information can be found on the expansion's official Twitter account, @CatanOilSprings, or it's website oilsprings.catan.com.