(The Board) Games People Play: #23, Offshore Oil Strike

The fun of drilling your way to millions in an obscure board game

Sunday 16 January 1983

Gawd, I hate Sundays. Such a boring day, apart from one thing: homework, bathtime, and bed before school on a Mondays. The only interesting diversion I had was this weird dream last night. I dreamt that oil had been found in Mossley. I imagined Hartshead Pike forming part of a drilling platform with roustabouts calling in The Colliers Arms for a quick pint.

Perhaps it must have been that BP advert I saw halfway through Metal Mickey. The one which looked like a knock-off of Star Wars or The War of the Worlds.

Back in the early 1970s, North Sea Oil was seen as a salvation for our moribund economy. As was joining the European Economic Community in 1973. Coincidentally this was the year when an oil themed board game hit the toy shops.

Offshore Oil Strike

The wonderful world of offshore drilling. Back when it used to have the air of James Bond as well as Margo MacDonald and Anthony Wedgwood Benn. Offshore Oil Strike, published by Printabox, is a trading game for two to four players. You could either be British Petroleum (Hull), Amoco (Bergen), Mobil (Dieppe), or Chevron (Rotterdam). Your aim, as well as delivering the black gold to our sceptred isle, is to make $120 million.

Sounds easy? Well, your progress can be scuppered by natural disasters, storm damage to your drilling platforms, a blow-out, and clean-up costs. There are hazard cards, strike cards and block cards. The board shows a map of Northern Europe with grids for each drilling zone (almost like a real life plan).

A Strike Indicator shows you how successful your oil strike was. If a red circle is seen, you have struck black gold. If blue or green, no joy whatsoever. The latter circle being a hazard.

Real life mirroring art

In July 2010, Offshore Oil Strike came back to haunt BP plc. It was claimed in some sources that it pre-empted The Gulf of Mexico disaster. A copy was donated by a private collector to The House on the Hill Toy Museum in Stansted. Its owner Alan Goldsmith said the parallels between the game and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill “are so spooky”.

It is also worth noting that BP was a different animal when they endorsed Printabox’s board game. Before 1979 they were in the public sector, and BP stood for British Petroleum. Gradually, the government sold off its stake from 1979 prior to its privatisation and share issue in late 1987.

With their endorsement, a case of getting the Great British Public on the side of BP. Not least the benefits of North Sea Oil which were squandered in the late 1970s and early 1980s (that’s another story). A modern day equivalent, if it existed, could be Ineos’ Professional Fracking Simulator.

S.V., 23 December 2017.

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