Monday, January 26, 2004


This new "big box" game from Aaron Weissblum and Alan Moon (published by Uberplay) has potential to be a very big hit. I had a very interesting experience with this game.

The first time I played it, it was in essentially finalized prototype form. I really enjoyed the game until about part way through when I realized I had scored no (or almost no) points. The scoring is the product of two numbers and while one of my numbers was quite reasonable, the other was zero. For the rest of the game, I tried desperately to get the other kinds of scoring markers, to very little avail. I was crushed. I didn't think I had done anything wrong. I may not have played brilliantly, but I thought I played reasonably. I found it very unjust that through my unremarkable but tolerable play to get so completely trounced. I wanted to like it for the experience of the first half, but had a very hard time. I knew I'd give it another chance.

Tonight, I played the release Uberplay edition, which to my memory is the same as the version I played before. I did something different and right. I enjoyed the game all the way through the end, and not just because I won, although that didn't hurt. In any case, the problems I had with the game before may still hold (see below), but they may not, in which case the game is outstanding. The core mechanic is "offering" cards which other players then choose from. The order the sets are chosen determines the order in the next round of who gets to pick first. The cards let you build stuff and get scoring multipliers. Oh, and there are really nice wooden camels. Maybe not quite as nice as Durch die Wuste plastic camels, but very nice camels all the same.

The game seems to allow for a few different strategies as well as some interesting tactical play. There is a fair bit of luck in the card draws, but it doesn't seem to be overwhelming. It has nice player interactions and good decisions without lending itself to analysis paralysis. Overall, definitely recommended, though see the caveats below.

*But,* I need to play it a few more times. I've only played it twice. I worry that the luck factor may be more substantial than it seems at first, unduly hurting some players. When luck benefits one player disproportionately, that's not good, but it's usually worse if it particularly nails someone. Further, while most games I enjoy whether I win or lose, some very few are fun to win, but really irritating to lose. Kahuna for example. Winning Kahuna is quite satisfying, but losing Kahuna ends up feeling like you had no control whatsoever (and it's not just me). I worry Oasis may have this problem. But, I *really* enjoyed the second play and the first half of the first play, so I hope this stands up to more playings. It will certainly get more.

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