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Cracked LCD- Rogue Agent in Review


If Panic Station was Belgian designer David Ausloos’ homage to films like Alien and The Thing, then his new game Rogue Agent (just out from Stronghold Game in a special limited edition) is clearly his love letter to Blade Runner and 1980s-era cyberpunk noir. Complete with miniature agents that looks unashamedly like Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard character and an “android” gameplay mode that aims to create some of the “is he or isn’t he” suspicion from the film, it’s really mostly a cops-and-robbers game where you gather resources, track criminals and bring them in for bounties back at the Rain City police HQ. And speaking as someone who once owned one of the only 100 copies of it ever made, it is a far better representation of the theme than the legendary Blade Runner game was.

Like Panic Station, the game has been met with mixed reviews, including one from Lord Tom Vasel and a general “kiss of death” sub-seven aggregate user score at I have to admit- again, like Panic Station- that I did not like this game the first time I played it. In fact, it crashed and burned so hard with my group that it almost got the ultimate penalty for an ill-favored game- to be swept back into the box without sorting for storage. I felt like the theme was muddled, with this odd bomb defusing thing going on and lots of dice-rolling to find gas or bullets, which basically means to bump a cube up one of your agent’s resource tracks. I really do not like “roll to find” mechanics in general, so this game was sticking it to me from the get-go. The rulebook, while not as messy as Panic Station’s, still baffled us and I’m not sure anyone defused a bomb correctly in that maiden outing.

So I started to think “oh man, I’m going to have to throw this one under the bus too”. But something about the game stuck with me and I found that I wanted to go back to it. For one thing, I wanted to try it with the android rules, which are effectively a variation on the Cylon/hidden traitor mechanic. But for another, I wanted to look at the game from a different perspective. Because Rogue Agent is not, come to find out, quite the highly detailed adventure game that you might think it is.

With measured expectations (and a couple of different players), I came to realize what Mr. Ausloos was aiming to do with Rogue Agent. Despite the very clear nods to Blade Runner and similar antecedents, Rogue Agent is really pitched more as a medium-weight Eurogame where resource management is balanced with some risk-taking, a little dice rolling, and some surprisingly nasty opportunities to interfere with other players. What’s more, I actually found that the higher degree of abstraction and lack of reliance on flavor text and background fluff actually made the overall setting feel more successful in some ways than Kevin Wilson’s Android. You have to work out on your own why your guy got busted up searching Rico’s Gas Station or why he completely flopped an attempt to bring in Eyon Six or Lola Bruise.

This is a much leaner and more direct game than Android. Your character’s only story is what he has to do his job, what criminals he brings in, and his record at defusing those bombs. You’ve got a resource tracking card that shows how much ammo, gas, information and so forth you have as well as what upgrades to your weapon and armor you’ve achieved. There are some simple mechanics that create a sense of environment. Precinct tiles have skull icons, indicating the degree of low-level thug activity. Unless the Police Squad miniature is there, you either take damage or you can spend bullets to shoot your way out of the bad neighborhoods. Or maybe you’ve got an informant on the streets there that gets you through safely. Criminals make the bombs tick down faster, and assassins will actually break out of their proscribed movement pattern to attack you or your hapless informants you’ve stationed in a precinct.

There is no overarching mystery to solve, all opposition comes from the “datastream”, a bag from which you draw tokens representing criminals and assassins that move automatically through the city and bombs that count down until they explode unless someone manages to get to them and disarm them. Over the course of the game, you’ll move through square tiles representing Rain City to accomplish “Justice” actions. These might be revealing and attempting to subdue a criminal, arresting a subdued criminal to take them in, searching the area (and rolling those search dice that I really don’t like), using information to look at an unrevealed criminal’s card, fighting an Assassin token or hijacking another player’s collar so that you can take him/her/it in for the bounty.

The goal of the game is to be the agent with the most influence (a really rather poor nomenclature for victory points) at the end, based on how many of the game’s diverse bad guys you busted, assassins you thwarted and bombs you deactivated. There really is not much of a cooperative angle here, apart from in the android mode where the android players are working at cross purposes with the agent players.

I really liked playing the basic game with more aggressive players that realized that intercepting bounties was a good way to get other players to do the heavy lifting before effectively stealing their collar. With more passive players, the game does feel less interesting and the shifting of cubes up and down the resource tracks feels more grinding. But the android mode is, I suspect, the way that most folks will want to play it and a couple of extra rules pay off nicely. The thing I like the most about the android rules is that you’re not given an identity at the outset. The android tokens you get only increase the possibility that you will be revealed as an android. So true to the Blade Runner theme, you’re not really sure what you are when the game starts. This is brilliant.

As an android mode game progresses, you might be forced due to game effects to show one of your identity tokens to other players and you can choose which to show. If at any point you’ve reveal two android tokens, you’re a dirty skinjob and your role is to attack agents and damage city locations. You might also have to reveal identity tokens if you are cornered by another agent and subjected to a scan action to reveal identity tokens. Blade Runner fans will recognize that as a Voight-Kampf Test. “Whaddya mean I’m not helping?”

So it took a good three games for me to come around to Rogue Agent. The first was a disaster, the second I had adjusted expectations plus a more aggressive group of three other players and in the third we did the android mode game and had a really good time with it. But I still feel there are some rough spots and over-complications that I really wish had been ironed out in development. The bomb defusing sub-game is an interesting concept, somewhat similar to the kinds of mini-games that were in Mansions of Madness, but it comes down to good or bad luck on big die rolls too often. The end game scoring is needlessly complicated, with players getting bonus points for having multiple members of one of the game’s syndicates. Some criminals have effects that trigger if they have been investigated by a player, others have effects if they have not been investigated. But neither state really adds to the story or gameplay.

I keep coming back to a Panic Station comparison, which was also a compelling mix of thematic mechanics that were near-brilliant and overcomplicated elements that were counterintuitive. But I think that, after just three published games, it’s pretty clear that this is very much the Ausloos style and it’s apparent that the Ausloos style can be pretty divisive. What it comes down to for me is that what I really like about this Ausloos style that is on full display in Rogue Agent is that he completely commits to a thematic vision and tries to make mechanics work with it, logic and sense be damned. Sometimes that’s awkward, sometimes it’s overly complex and kind of just makes you confused. But other times- when his games are really working, you kind of just give into his directorial concept and let it just work in the context of his rules and the environment he creates.

Cracked LCD- Space Cadets Dice Duel in Review




What if Star Fleet Battles, one of the most notoriously inaccessible and complicated games in all of the hobby, were a real-time party game best played at full volume by a large group of rowdy, not-shy-at-all tabletop hooligans? The answer is that it would probably be something like Geoff and Sydney Englestein’s Space Cadets: Dice Duels. In this new title from Stronghold Games, two teams of two to four players each are tasked with commandeering spaceships that looks an awful, awful lot like the U.S.S. Defiant from Deep Space Nine. The high level concept is that each team member manages one or more command stations on their ship, using power generated and distributed by the Engineering officer to accomplish the particular tasks assigned to their post. The goal is to maneuver your way into (or out of) firing solutions and torpedo the crap out of the other team’s ship. The ship that deals out four points of damage to the other wins the game.

As expected since it’s a follow-up to the original Space Cadets game that was released in 2012, the concept is similar but the original brilliantly combined social interaction, an often hilarious sense of personal responsibility, and puzzle elements to describe the Englesteins’ notion of spaceship management. But since this is effectively a duel, they’ve done some very different things with it that generally work quite well- provided you have the right kind of people involved and enough of them.

The gameplay is very straightforward and to call it “immediate” is an understatement since it mostly goes down in real-time. The player in charge of Engineering has a pile of standard D6s that they can roll and reroll as many times as they’d like until they get the results that they want. Each result corresponds to one of the Bridge Stations- the Helm (movement), Weapons (torpedo preparation), Sensors (torpedo lock-on and countermeasures), Shields, and Tractor Beams. When Engineering activates one of these stations, the player controlling that station then gets to roll as many specialty dice as were assigned to them. These dice are faced specifically for each station, so the Helm has arrows to control movement around a grid-based board, the Weapons station dice shows torpedo parts with which that officer assembles and loads munitions by matching a warhead, body, and tail. Like the Engineering station, the Bridge stations can all roll and reroll all they want until they lock in what they want and then return dice to the Engineering pool- effectively cycling power throughout the ship. Managing the flow of power quickly and efficiently is a core competency for successful crews.

When I read the rules, I thought “this is not much of a game” because of the endless rerolls. It read like a messy dice-rolling race. But in play, you realize that the time pressure of another team rolling dice and cycling power through their ship is where a lot of the friction, drama and excitement occur. You might have your Weapons man frantically rolling to load up torpedos and your Sensors officer trying to get the lock- all while the other ship is rolling to move and raise shields. Since this is all in real-time, there’s a genuine sense of tension and fluid movement- no impulses, phases, or IGOUGO here at all. But there will be yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.

It’s not exactly chaos. Everything stops when a torpedo is fired or a tractor beam, both actions requiring some simple resolution that effectively pauses the game. And it’s definitely not every man for himself, because ach team has a Captain that kind of coordinates everything. A good captain in this game will make the most of the Captain’s chair by doing their best Kirk/Picard/Adama/Ackbar impression, shouting “fire!” when everything is set and ordering everyone to do their job- which may include harassing teammates that can’t get the right results in a timely fashion. The captain’s role should definitely be handled by the most outgoing person on a team, because it’s almost a passive role- you can order folks around and holler for the Tractor Beam to shove the enemy ship, but you’re not engaged as much in the actual gameplay.

In some ways, the Captain role is indicative of what could be not necessarily a flaw but a particular weakness of this design. It requires this almost light roleplaying approach because the players are really kind of in charge of building the social construct around the otherwise repetitive dice-rolling to make it work. If this fa?ade of theme drops then the game suddenly doesn’t work. You’ve got to buy into what it wants you do 100% or you’re going to see a Captain that is foolishly not bombarding the other captain with trash talk and Wrath of Khan quotes or an Engineering officer that fails to bellow “Captain, she canna tek much morrathis!” In this game, that can be worse than missing a rule.

I like this game and I think it’s a fun design, but there is definitely a 20 story tall warning that should be applied to it because of the significance of the social and narrative constructs the players have to create around it. And that warning is that YOU MUST PLAY THIS GAME WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE AND WITH AS MANY OF THOSE RIGHT PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. This game is not a beardscratcher’s delight, it is not even really a strategy game. It’s a social action game and expectations should be coordinated with this description. Players that complain about it being “just dice rolling” need to excuse themselves to another table. Players that want to introspectively shuffle pieces through the walled garden of an individual player mat to generate points should have enough sense to steer clear of it. But players that dig the concept and get engaged with how this game wants you to play are going to have a good time. It’s pretty short too, about 30 minutes. Expect at least one rematch so that the defeated team can attempt revenge.

The player count may be a significant issue for some- including me. This is definitely, 100% a game that should be played by eight players and if you’re worried about what the “optimal” player count is, it’s eight. No exceptions, no qualifications. A four player game is entirely possible and you can have fun with it, but with only two members on each team the social dynamic suffers. I’ve only managed to muster six players for it and we definitely enjoyed it with three players per ship but I definitely felt like we were missing out by not having two more people on board. Solitaire is impossible. If you’re really crazy and have 16 people, you can combine two games to do a battle with two fully crewed ships per team. I bet that would be fun.

The Englesteins are doing some very interesting work going back to the very underrated Ares Project and I think this is a great example of their sort of outside-the-norm thinking about design. It does feel like a refinement or revision of the original Space Cadets (which I really prefer over Dice Duels), but this game is working in a much more social space. There have been a few games over the past couple of years that have done the real-time thing (Space Alert and Escape: Curse of the Temple most notably) but this game isn’t cooperative and it doesn’t require any kind of timer. The pressure is organic, coming from direct and concurrent competitive action. I’d definitely like to see games in the future follow on with this really quite innovative concept.

Merchant of Venus Review

Merchant of Venus box shot

In this glorious age of reprints, there are very few remaining classic titles from the eighties that haven’t seen a rebirth in some form or other. Of those left stranded in the past most of any consequence were by designer Richard Hamblen. Known for his intricate and fiendishly detailed designs, one game in his oeuvre was relatively simple and short and cherished fondly for those exact reasons. And now Fantasy Flight Games has brought it to join the ranks of the resurrected.

Thanks to an amicably resolved licensing dispute between Fantasy Flight and another publisher, Stronghold, Merchant of Venus actually offers two games in one box. One is the original version, re-skinned with lovely new components and some minor rules tweaks and the other has been worked over by Fantasy Flight’s design team. The differences are not minor. While they share the same theme and inspiration the bulk of the components used are distinct even down to providing a double sided board.

In both versions players take the role of intergalactic traders seeking to explore the newly-opened galactic cluster 5632 and look for opportunities to turn a profit. Although the routes for movement around the board are fixed, each game sees a new random distribution of cultures across the planets, each of which buys and sells different types of goods and technology. The setup not only gives the game a fun exploration element, but also means that optimal trade routes will vary between games preventing tried and tested strategies from becoming stale.

The other significant common element between the versions is that movement around the board is dice-based and strewn with hazards. Roll-and-move has been abused sufficiently in other designs to make some gamers immediately suspicious of it, but the version here is full of added choices and subtle nuance and works extremely well, adding variety and uncertainty while leaving players largely in charge of their own destiny. The encounters on your way largely take the form of cash penalties in the classic version, or skill-based dice checks in the new version but both feature some other random variety mixed in.

The original is one of the few feted older games that I had never played, and I what I discovered about it surprised me. It’s a pick-up and deliver game, a well-worn genre that has stubbornly resisted most attempts at injecting theme and excitement into the mix in spite of the obvious possibilities for doing so that it offers. But Merchant of Venus is not only richly varied and exciting but strikes a wonderful balance between advance planning and terrifying entropy. Much like the economics it strives to emulate. And that path down between the two extremes is an electrifying ride.

Merchant of Venus in play

The two rule sets use wildly different mechanisms to achieve a similar end result of market variability. So not only does the random setup mean that profitable trade routes will be unique to each game but during play the value of any one shipment will fluctuate up and down. The game can quite suddenly turn from pick up and deliver to what’s basically a nail-biting race, as players compete to be the first to fulfil demand which then, governed by the iron laws of economics, vanishes into the vacuum as quickly as it came leaving the winner gloating over his credits and the loser with a cargo hold full of junk.

Sadly that’s about the only point of player interaction in the game. The newer version features events that allow players to hit one another with “infamy” points which detract from their end score, and a variant is provided to maximise opportunities to do this but it doesn’t add a whole lot. Mostly you’ll be navigating the vast reaches of outer space alone, which seems appropriate in a thematic way but prevents the spice of player interaction from being injected to enliven the occasionally plodding pace of play.

But those dull moments are the exception. The meat of both games is a tapestry of agonising risk versus reward decisions cloaked cunningly in a narrative of high adventure amongst the stars. And mostly it works like a charm, bewildering would-be profiteers with an array of ways to make and spend money. Buying and selling goods is the bulk of it, but you’re constantly challenged to evaluate whether ship upgrades, passenger charters or buying spaceports for a cut of the profits could be valid ways to recoup your investments while the same mechanics add seamlessly to the unfolding tale.

Merchant of Venus setup

The story and theme are where the considerable changes Fantasy Flight made to the original game engine really show through. Fans of the original have recounted the differences in excruciating detail elsewhere but they boil down to the addition of a great deal of variety. No longer are you constrained to be just a trader. Now you can mine asteroids, fight pirates and complete missions for fame and profit. This does create a lot more choice and flexibility for the player, but mechanically this is offset by a hugely increased reliance on random dice and cards. What’s left is not unlike a translation into board games of the long lineage of space trading video games stemming from Elite.

But there’s a cost, which is considerable extra play time, rules and administrative overhead. And there are aspects of the Fantasy Flight game that reek of insufficient playtesting. The much wider range of new alien technologies you can plug into your ship doesn’t seem to have consistent cost benefit ratios. Amongst these are the Fuzzy Dice which give a considerable score boost based entirely on a dice roll right at the end of the game, a mechanic so obviously atrocious it makes you wonder if it was dwelt on at all. There’s a challenge-based solo variant which is fun but some of the challenges are so random as to be pointless.

Both versions offer considerable charm. I think I prefer the classic rules but it’s a close thing, and those of you who are not time-poor parents may well find the considerable richness added by Fantasy Flight is worth the extra effort and the occasional badly-balanced session. I’m certainly pleased to have both in the box. And I’m even more pleased to have had the opportunity to play this excellent game which, old as it is, doesn’t feel out of place amongst modern hybrids of demanding strategy and exciting randomness. Lack of interaction is unfortunate, but it’s often the first casualty when thinking and thrills are squashed into the same box. And it’s a price I’m happy to pay for another bite at this delicious Venusian cherry.

Cracked LCD- Article 27 in Review

I’ve known Dan Baden, the designer of Article 27: The United Nations Security Council for years. The man is (or at least he was, before rehab) an insane game collector. In particular, he’s a collector of proto-hobby games like the old 3M bookshelf games, Sid Sackson classics, and I think he has like four copies of Jati- one of the rarest board games out there. So it’s not very surprising to me that Article 27 feels a lot like those kinds of games. And like the designer games from the late 1960s and 1970s, it’s a little mathy and probably too abstract for modern gamers playing under the mistaken belief that “theme” comes from flavor text and artwork. With that said, if it had come out as one of those 3M bookshelf games or under the early Avalon Hill imprint, we’d likely be hailing it as a timeless classic of the negotiation game genre.

Article 27 strikes you as different from the moment you open the box. Aside from the player screens and panels, where bribes and Security Council proposal offerings are tracked, the game comes with a freaking hammer. And yes- you will be pounding said hammer on the table. I can’t say that I’ve ever played a game with a hammer in it before. But I have played lots of pure negotiation games, and this is one of the more fun ones I’ve played in quite some time. It’s quick, fun, and feels quite original while subtly referencing genre classics like I’m the Boss and Intrigue.

The idea is that each player gets to be the Secretary General of the United Nations for one turn. Color-coded issue tokens are drawn from a bag and “tabled”, meaning that they’re up for discussion. Each token also has a symbol that corresponds to secret agenda tokens, one of which is handed to every player before the game. Each player, before negotiations start, also draws tokens to fill a chart behind their screen that designates what value each color (or “issue”) will have. Values can be positive or negative, and multiple tokens can combine for a sum value. This gives the player an idea of what they should be aiming for in a given round of negotiation.

Negotiation is free-form, but formalized. Players attempt to convince the Secretary General to include, exclude, or ignore tabled proposal tokens. Bribes, paid in game-winning influence points, can be offered and recorded on the Secretary General’s proposal panel. A player typically petitions to include certain issues that will earn points if it passes with four “yes” votes from the council, but exclude others that will cost points. Additionally, secret agenda issues that are included in a successful proposal are tracked and provide a bonus at the end of the game.

But one of the key mechanical differentiators that this game brings to the table is the wholly thematic concept of the single veto proposal-killer. It’s straight from the bylaws of the United Nations- if one member from the Security Council (which includes Germany in the game, extending reality just a touch to accommodate six players) lodges a veto, the entire vote is off. It’s an always-on nuclear option, and in a game with only as many rounds as there are players- it can be devastating. It’s a tremendous bargaining chip, and players will use to bluff, threaten, and intimidate throughout any given game- but I’ve played games where it’s never even actually used. The threat of it is what makes it brilliant, that any player can say “if black is in, I’m vetoing the whole thing”. Or they may demand influence points to withhold the veto. The single-vote veto creates some compelling and quite complicated situations between players, with the Secretary General scrambling against a sand timer to satisfy everyone while also securing his or her own agenda. It can get pretty hairy when you’ve got three players out of six all threatening to veto if their demands aren’t met.

So negotiations- once players get a feel for what’s at stake and what they can leverage- tend to develop into these crazy donnybrooks with occasional yelling and constant bartering. All players are involved at all times, and the tyranny of the sand timer- coupled with the inevitability of the Secretary General bringing down the hammer on talks- keep things brisk, lively, and engaging throughout. This is not a game where you’ll be staring face down at a player mat for its duration.

But it is one that has a little more math than I’d like. We’re talking simple addition and subtraction, not long division or anything like that. Since values are numerical and summed, the internal thought process behind negotiation too often falls into the “if this happens, I get X points…if that happens, I get Y” rut. It’s an analysis layer that some players will appreciate more than others, but for my part I’m not a big fan of weighing out X and Y at face value. This dovetails into the other minor issue I have with the game- despite its great sense of conceptual theme, the game falls somewhat short of bringing the subject matter around full circle. Notice that above I referred to the issues as colors. They have specific nomenclature tied to vaguely real-world issues, but no one will ever say “arms reduction” or “humanitarian efforts” during the game. You’ll just call out the colors.

It’s a minor issue, really, and as I stated before it keeps it in line with what you’d expect from an old fashioned game influenced by Sackson and the 3M bookshelf games. It also fits in with the scope of the game- this is a thirty to forty minute game, even with six players. And ultimately, it’s not really about those things, it’s about engaging with and bickering with your friends and family under the strong thematic concept of the UN Security Council. But that extra touch of verisimilitude might have added an even greater sense of high stakes and player involvement in the affairs presented.

Otherwise, Article 27 is another great release from Stronghold Games. I don’t usually review games designed by friends or people that I know personally, but this is one that I think deserves more attention than it may get this post-Essen holiday season. It fits right in with the kind of game that I currently favor- simple rules, short playtime, high player interaction, minimal components, and maximum fun.

Cracked LCD- Crude in Review

Stronghold Games’ new issue of Crude: the Oil Game is a significant reprint- not only because it is the only official reprint of the original 1974 design, but also because it’s an outstanding game that in some ways represents the missing link between early Sid Sackson-style abstract strategy games and more thematic European family games. And it’s also a really fun, compelling business game to boot with big, chunky plastic oil refineries and volatile economic conditions that precipitate the rise and fall of fortunes.

Crude was somewhat obscure during its original release, probably because there wasn’t quite yet a specific market for this kind of game. It disappeared, but in the late 1980s, a German publisher called Hexagames ran through two printings of an unauthorized version of the game that replaced all of the cardboard chits with plastic pieces and the old artwork with a very, very blue color scheme. They called their version McMulti, and that’s the edition that most gamers today might have seen- if they’ve seen the game at all. Prices for copies went through the roof, particularly as the Eurogame explosion happened and Crude/McMulti was regularly cited as a predecessor to Settlers of Catan.

Each player represents an oil tycoon, setting out with $200 million and a 6×6 grid upon which drilling sites, refineries, wells, and gas stations will be placed. The goal is to turn that $200 million seed into $750 million by buying low, selling high, and reacting to market demands. On each turn, a player has the option to buy or sell to either a foreign or domestic market with values automatically adjusted to reflect surplus or demand based on the quantity of oil barrels on each chart. Two standard six-sided dice are rolled, and these give a sort of coordinate to determine which space or spaces are activated. What’s more, the player on the left gets to activate based on one of the dice, and the player on the right does the same but using the die placed on the other side of the grid- see the Settlers resemblance?

So your sites can strike oil if they get hit by both dice, your wells produce black crude barrels, your refineries convert a crude barrel into a red gasoline barrel, and your gas stations let you sell gas barrels to a fluctuating consumer market. It’s a simple process with only two resources- a raw material and a finished product. Crude is one of the first games I know of where converting one resource into another is a defining mechanic.

Purchasing assets is particularly interesting because the values changes. During some economic climates, they may cost more or less. You might find yourself needing to purchase refineries to handle a surplus of crude, but hamstrung by a bad economy that’s made them too costly to be profitable. Economic conditions change based on a die-driven timer that counts the differential between the player’s die roll, so a sudden change can occur before you know it. What’s especially interesting is that each economic climate card is geared toward positive or negative growth, so it’s possible to do a little forecasting and speculation.

Add in some doubles-activated event cards, some of which can have a devastating financial impact on the unprepared players, you’ve got the makings of a simple but challenging business game. It’s definitely a game about gambling, speculating, and taking measured risks. Although direct player interaction is low and it’s a fairly abstract game, the narrative resides in these rising and falling fortunes and both strategic and tactical decision-making. I love that everything in the game can be sold for a profit- it’s even possible to liquidate your facilities if the economic conditions change and their aftermarket resale value goes up. Another thing I love about it is that it’s a game that lets you completely shift gears and try a different approach- adaptability is a key skill.

Crude definitely feels like a descendant of Acquire and a direct antecedent of Settlers or even more complex economic games like Power Grid, and that makes this something of a surprising design for 1974. It was a design ahead of its time, but it remains very accessible, playable, and appealing. Its present availability thanks to Stephen Bunocore and Stronghold Games is enough to earn Crude the highest praise, but the caveats are that the production is probably a little too stodgy-looking, it can be a fairly long (and sometimes repetitive) game, and you really want to have four players to capture the full dynamic of the crossover production rolls and market cycles.

It’s also worth noting that the game’s original designer, James St. Laurent, was directly involved with the new edition of Crude until he passed away last year. He never published another design. Maybe a one hit wonder, but that one hit is a significant one and a great, modern business game that may finally get the wider attention it deserves.