Oasis is a territory building game by Alan R. Moon and published by UberGames for 3-5 players. Oasis is very interactive.
Territories that can be built are oasis areas, steppe lands, stone plates, and camel paths. Players build new territories using square tiles and can claim the new area for points by placing one of their control markers on the new area. Players claim squares on the camel path using one of their camels per square. Players score at the end of the game by counting one point for each camel in their largest group of camels and each territory tile they claim. Players also use territory multipliers to increase their score for each respective area. However, if a player has no multipliers for a territory or camel path, they receive no points for the respective area.
Territory is claimed by playing cards. The cards dictate how much of a certain territory a player can claim, or how many terrain multipliers a player may collect. However, players do not use their own supply of cards – this is where the interactive play comes in. Turn order is very important in the game, and the order changes each round. For the first round, turn order is randomly decided by mixing up the Priority Counters (turn order markers) and handing one to each player. In numerical order, players then take turns making an offer – the cards a different player will choose to claim territory for themselves. After each player has finished making their offer, players then take turns in the same order choosing which offer they want to take (a player cannot take their own offer unless it is the last remaining option)
As mentioned, turn order changes each round. Turn order for the next round is determined by which offers players take in the current round – when a player takes another player’s offer, they pass their Priority Counter (face down) to the player to use for the next round.
For example: In the first round of a three player game, Player A has Priority Counter 1, Player B has Priority Counter 2, and Player C has Priority Counter 3 – the turn order for the first round would be A, B, and C. In that order, each player makes an offer of one to three cards. After C has finished making their offer, the same turn order applies again and A chooses another players offer. Player A decides to take C’s offer and passes their Priority Counter (1) face down to C. B (still using the current turn order) chooses A’s offer and passes their Priority Counter (2) face down to A. C must choose the only remaining offer (B) and passes their Priority Counter (3) face down to B. After each player places the territory acquired through their chosen offers, the players then begin a new round of turns based on the current Priority Counters. The turn order for this round would be C, A, and B. The next round takes place using this turn order.
The majority of the game’s strategy is in the offer. Players want to become the first player to take action in the next round for two main reasons: 1) The first player gets a free bonus action of placing one territory tile of their choice or one of their camels on the board; 2) The first player will always have a larger selection of offers to choose from. A player who has more offerse to choose from will most likely see something that will give them more points, be it a certain terrain tile or multiplier. Essentially (but not always), a player who is not first to act, would want to make an appealing offer to whoever the first player was. If that doesn’t look possible, a player would still not want to be last to act as they would be stuck with less offers to choose from.
As stated before players make an offer of one to three cards. There are advantages of offering different amounts. At the beginning of the game, players are dealt a five cards each to make up their offer stack. A player replenishes their offer stack depending on how many cards they offer per round. If a player offers only one card, they get to draw two more cards to add to their offer stack. If a player offers two cards, they get to draw only one card to add to their offer stack. If a player offers three cards, they do not get to draw any cards to add to their offer stack. Players can never leave themselves in a position where they will have 0 cards to offer for the next round. In addition, players can not look at the cards in their offer stacks - this way, a player won't know what’s coming up next from their own offer stack.
There is a delicate balance in making an offer. Offering three cards could secure Priority Counter 1, however it comes with the cost of not being able to replenish the offer stack, limiting the quantity of future offers. Offering one card will rarely look appealing to the current player with Priority Counter 1 and may end up being the last offer chosen, but will the player would be able to add two cards to their offer stack to increase the quantity of future offers. Offering many cards could also give another player too many points.
The game ends after one of the territory tile sets are depleted (not including camels), or a player cannot legally place a territory tile (according to outlined restrictions). After finishing the last round, players then score each territory they claim with any multipliers they have. However, a player needs at least one terrain multiplier to score points in the respective area, otherwise they receive zero points for that area.
The game is incredibly fun. Unfortunately, the major drawback to the game is having to explain the process to noobs. The first time I played Oasis, I had a vague idea of how it worked – I had read through the instructions mulled them around in my head a few days prior to playing and eventually realized the strategy behind the offer. However, when explaining it to four of my friends, I received blank stares and frustrated remarks. The toughest part was trying to get them to understand the logic behind the offer and the fact they don’t use their own cards. Eventually, the rules and strategy only made sense to them after they had played a few rounds. Another game followed, where they fully understood what they needed to do, and they then loved the game, too.
A slight drawback to Oasis is the three player minimum, but then again I personally can’t see how the game would have the same level of fun with only two players. This is unfortunate though, because when my wife and I are by ourselves, we can’t play it. Some of my friends enjoyed the game with only three players because this allowed for slightly more control over offer strategies. I prefer the larger group of five to keep things interesting and social. I feel that Oasis is one of the few games where the more people that play, the more fun it is.
Oasis will definitely be a game of choice for me, joining the ranks of Settlers as one of the most fun board games I have played. I'd venture to say the game is more interactive than Settlers, and enjoy playing it more than Alan R. Moon's most popular game - Ticket to Ride.