Billabong Boardgamers


Publisher: Kosmos
Players: 3-4
Reviewed by Doug Adams
Reproduced here with kind permission from Funagain Games.

I've played a few hundred different European games over the past three years, and will readily admit to getting just a little blasť after game upon game full of beautiful components. I wasn't expecting anything I hadn't seen before when I opened Giganten, but boy, was I surprised. The production values in this game are stunning, from huge board, attractive cards, to detailed plastic game pieces.

The theme here is oil. You prospect for it, drill for it, transport it, store it, and finally try to sell it - all for that elusive commodity, cash! Game turns follow these steps in a rigid sequence of play, turn after turn, until the end of the game. The critical phase of any turn is selecting your action card for the turn. Several are revealed and each player claims one. This card drives the upcoming turn for that player, describing how many movement points they can use, how many sales licenses they are picking up, as well as any special actions they can perform.

Movement points are used in two ways - driving your little pickup truck across the board prospecting for drilling sites, and moving your transport locomotive along the outside edge of the board. The trucks move across a grided board dotted with face down oil well chips. The underside of the chip may be examined to determine if this oil well is worth developing because some are much better than others in terms of oil yield. To transport the oil off the board economically, your locomotive must stay level with, or move beyond, your oil wells. Thus movement points must be carefully split between truck and locomotive movement.

After movement is performed, players get the opportunity to purchase oil wells. Oil wells yield 1 'barrel' of oil per turn per well, and these barrels are transported off the board for storage in holding tanks in one of three oil companies.

Oil sales are handled via bidding with license cards, which are picked up when you claim your action card for the turn. Only one player can sell oil from each company each turn, and must win the bid in order to sell. Bidding can be very cagey, as the license cards can be of value '1' or '2', and bluffing is allowed. It is a perfectly valid tactic to drive up a bid at one company to weaken a player's hand of licenses. The winner of the bid may sell their oil for the current price at that company (these prices drift from turn to turn via a special dice roll, or via the action cards).

During the game, a special black locomotive is busy chugging along the outside of the board. This serves two functions; one as a potential oil transporter for players who have their locomotive lagging behind their drilling sites; the other as the end of the game trigger. Each turn the black locomotive will advance a variable number of spaces, and when it has travelled the length of the board the game ends immediately. Players are then paid out for oil wells/barrels still on the board, with bonuses based on how far each player advanced their locomotive. Most cash held wins the game.

This game rates three stars for me, with a bonus star for the components. It is a solid design that plays well with no obvious faults. By far the most important decision a player will face during a turn is which action card to choose. This drives the strategy for the rest of the turn, and to be honest it's fairly obvious what you'll be doing. I have no hesitation in recommending the game, but be prepared for the rather regimented turn structure and light game play.

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