After the Oil

After the Oil is the working title for my newest game design project. It’s going to be a strategy game about a regional civil war in a post-oil, post-climate changed eastern United States.

I know what you’re thinking. “Post-oil. This is a riff on The Road Warrior, right?”

Well, my buddy George and I were playing Axels & Alloys 2 when I  came up with the idea, and I was talking about The Road Warrior as a major influence on the afore-mentioned game at the time, but that’s where the comparisons end.

I mean look at these classic shots from The Road Warrior. What’s wrong with this picture!?! I thought this was a post-oil world? Where are these guys getting all the gas to fuel “the last of the big-block Chevy V8s?” You’re going to say “They’re fighting over it – that’s the whole point of the movie.” Except what kind of post-oil strategy is it to drive around and around and AROUND in circles outside the walled compound you have under siege? Even at age 12 when I first saw the movie (and loved it – then and ever since) that NEVER Made sense to me.

Well, the post-oil world isn’t so far off now. Hopefully we’ll make a successful and peaceful transition to that world, but if we don’t, if violent conflict is part of entering that new era, to the right is what the soldier of that future will look like:

And he’s the one lucky enough to have a gun, ’cause most of ’em will be fighting it out like the guys below. I mean, where would firearm ammunition even come from!?! Modern mining, manufacturing, distribution – it all runs on oil. There’s not all that much stockpiled, so in a crisis situation it’d all run out damn fast and we’d be headed to any battlefields to joust on bicycles (The horses would be busy pulling plows in the fields so we’d have food to eat.)

After the Oil imagines that post-oil future. Without modern transportation and telecommunications, the US has become a loose federation of bio-regions. These regions are linked by an extensively restored canal system that has been helped by sea level rise but at the same time is under constant assault by the new climate conditions. Resurrected culture clashes and new political tensions have divided north and south again. When these reach a breaking point, a new American civil war erupts.

In After the Oil, each player will make decisions about:

  • Resource production – Do you grow food to supply troops, process biofuel for transportation or manufacture materials for your more sophisticated technologies?
  • Spending resources – Do you levy more troops, research new weapons or repair the transportation infrastructure you need to reach your strategic targets?
  • Army composition:  quantity or quality? – Do you amass simple foot soldiers or upgrade them to bicycle troops? Are hot air balloons sufficient or do you develop a sail plane glider air force?
  • Strategy – Do you secure transportation hubs to restrict your enemy’s ability to move, invade specific regions to deny him critical resources or capture his last remaining modern scientific and manufacturing centers to prevent him from developing weapons to defeat you?
  • Chaotic weather – Will the highly unpredictable hurricanes and typhoons hit where you’ve just planted your crops or will they devastate your opponent instead?

To win, you’ll need to capture your opponent’s territory and deny him or her the ability to wage war at the same time you manage an uncertain resource flow, attempting to make it last long enough to carry you to victory. In a post-oil world, every war is a war of attrition.