4: Materials and Process Assignment Research

Petropolis: the Power Game – design process

The original games: Petropolis 1976

Petropolis 1976

Description on Gamegeek

An exciting game about the fortunes of oil: From 2 to 7 players compete for the thrills of being an oil tycoon. The object of the game [is] to acquire concessions in the petroleum producing countries, control them and operate them. The player who obtains the largest number of petrodollars is the winner of the game. This “roll the die and move” game is strongly reminiscent of Monopoly, with petrol-producing countries replacing the streets, telex messages replacing “Chance” cards, and oil platforms and derricks replacing houses and hotels. Visually, it is a stunning game, with beautifully crafted components: 1 board; 27 concession titles; 25 telex messages; 7 playing markers; 2 dice; 34 derricks; 14 oil platforms; 390 petrodollar bills.

The Dutch HEMA edition was slightly different – 30 derricks, 12 platforms and 430 bills. According to the Dutch rulebook the game is designed for 3-7 players.

Elaboration of the rules by a blogger

Here are the rules I've discovered [I've edited the form a bit from
the comments posting so that it may be easier for you to read]:


TAKE OFF/LANDING (=Geneva Airport) is on the midfield and the game
goes counter-clockwise! 27 countries are spread over the strong game
board, each of them having 1 oil consession to give away. From the
airport on the spaces are:

RED: Venezuela/Argentine/Ecuador
LIGHT BLUE: USA/Canada/Telex/Mexico
Go To International Court
Refuel/Pay $ 100,000
DARK BROWN: Indonesia/Brunei Malaysia/Australia
OPEC meeting
DARK YELLOW: Libya/Algeria/Nigeria/Gabon 
YELLOW: Falconry in the desert
International Court
LIGHT GREEN: Iraq/Kuwait/Egypt
DARK BLUE: Sjarjah/Dubai/Abu Dhabi
Throw Dice Again
Go To International Court
BEIGE: Oman/Telex/Bahrein/Qatar 
YELLOW: Lost in the dessert
BLUE GREEN: Saudi Arabia 

Subject to the number of players the consessions are to be distributed
amongst them at the start of the game; the remainder must be bought.

The oiltycoons always move over the board by plane. Over or on TAKE
OFF you receive P$ 500,000.

There are 8 molded "gold" tokens representing:
Storage tank
Bar of gold
(The German and Dutch tokens are but plastic "emblems on a base").
They are stored in a black vinyl pouch wilth "gold" draw-strings.
There is a black dice shaker felt-lined inside.

Typical for this edition is the keychain/timer, to set the game up to
60 minutes. This is a clever item because the game is fundamentally
played from time. The course of the game is divided into 3 stages:

STAGE 1: The opening, playtime 10 minutes. In this stage those
oilconsessions who were not distributed amongst the players in the
first instance must be bought from the Worldbank now.

STAGE 2: Trade and auction, playtime 5 - 10 minutes. The still unsold
oil consessions must be sold or auctioned anyhow. Next the players can
trade together in order to complete color groups.

STAGE 3: Main match, playtime 60 minutes. The oiltycoons can now open
up their properties by building drilling-rigs (instead of houses) and
finally oil-rigs (instead of hotels). For the rest the game works out
according to the usual rules.

All property cards are made of thick vinyl with gold lettering for
prices and interest rates.  The money consists of clumsy tiny (45 x 75
mm) but good looking
plastic laminated Petrodollar banknotes from the Worldbank. In the
centre is a circle with a dromedary (or camel?) with "IN OIL WE TRUST"
over it!

The bills are in the amounts of P$1,000 - 5,000 - 10,000 - 20,000 -
50,000 - 100,000 and P$1,000,000 denominations.

Instead of Chance and Community Chest cards there are 25 Telex cards,
consisting of black paper with gold lettering. The instructions are

"The radar of your private jet is out of order. You miss a turn." 
"You must appear in front of the Tribunal of The Hague - President of
the Tribunal."
"Heavy storm: important repairs on all the oil-rigs - Pay P$100,000 for each one."

The card "Your political influence has helped to prove your innocence.
Keep this telex - President of the Tribunal." correspond consequently
with "Get out of Jail free".


Petropolis – the Power Game: Designing my adaptation

The aim of the game is for players to develop strategic alliances to best promote the interests of their country – playing off east and west.


  1. Board with map and squares. Each country has a number of specific squares that have different instructions eg you are caught by the secret police, you win a big contract etc or you have to convince a key player to let you leave etc. Then there are linking squares along the trade routes: collect x amount of money, you have a conflict with x – you must negotiate and pay them off, you are diverted to x and have to make alliances to get out and so on. Some are also particular contract cards that can be taken up or traded.
  2. Game Booklet: Main issue, background and Rules
  3. Country portfolios: Iran, Saudi, Oman, UAE
  4. Ally cards: one page presentation of key actors. These are clearly colour-coded by country/ies of initial affiliation, but can move between countries and change allegiance – at a price. All the players are up for auction at a negotiated price – depending on their money/ethical track record and power status. But these are decided and negotiated by the players as they go along – using the information on the cards to persuade the others to part with cash, or enhance/risk their reputation by association.
  5. Player tokens
  6. Telex cards
  7. Deal cards: these have different balance of money and ethics. But these values are negotiated and agreed between players in the game as they go a

Stages of the Game:


  • Country profiles: the four country profiles are places in a pile, each player is blindfolded and picks a profile: Oman, Saudi, Iran and UAE. The players are give their respective token and place this on the start point of the board.
  • The ally cards are shuffled and half are distributed between the players. The rest are put in a pile. From the cards they receive, each player decides who they want to be (they place that card face up so others can see), who they want to keep on their side (these they can keep secret), and who they are prepared to sell to the other side in order to get the best team (these they reveal as up for negotiation).
  • The deal cards are shuffled and distributed.
  • The money notes are shuffled to mix their values and one quarter is distributed at random – so each player will have a different start amount.

STAGE 1: Initial trading of allies and deals – players are given the opportunity to offer money to the other players to increase their team using the money they have. They can also decide to sell deals that they do not think they will be able to take up – bearing in mind that in Stage 2 they may be able to trade up the value. Players can decide at this point what balance of ethics and money they want to aim for.

STAGE 2: Main game – players roll the two dice and move around the board – landing on the squares and following the instructions associated with each square. Some of these involve negotiation and buying and selling of allies and/or contracts. This can be timebound – minimum 2 hours.

STAGE 3: Final assessment – who wins and who loses on money? on ethics? Each player has to justify and explain their final position to the others. In terms of both money and ethics. The others then vote. The player with the most votes from the other players wins.

2 replies on “Petropolis: the Power Game – design process”

Dear Michael,
Just saw this now. Yes I would be interested. My assignment has now gone to my tutor for comment. But I will be completing for assessment in April.

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