McMulti (Hexagames)

McMulti is another German game designed by an American. It was originally published in America, long ago, under the name of Crude. Its release coincided with a paper shortage, which drove its price up and killed it as a product. Hexagames has revived this fascinating game. Now its components are made of plastic instead of paper. There may be a moral to this story.

McMulti is about oil exploration and production. Each player owns an island, which is actually a 6x6 grid. Players buy drilling rigs (which search for oil), pumping stations (which produce crude oil), refineries (which turn crude oil into gasoline), and gas stations (which sell gasoline to the consumer market). Each of these "installations," as they are called, are placed the island.

On your turn, you throw two dice. All of the installations in the row and column indicated by the dice operate--there may be an oil strike, or you may produce some crude oil, or you may refine crude oil (if you have any) into gasoline, or you may sell gasoline (if you have any) to the consumer market, and actually make some money. Interestingly, the board is laid out so that you and your right- hand opponent share columns, and you and your left-hand opponent share rows, so every time you roll the dice two of your opponents may profit as well (and vice versa).

The game provides you with a series of challenges. You have to plan out your investment in capital equipment. You have to juggle your inventories of crude oil and gasoline, buying and selling them on the spot markets to make sure you have enough cash and inventory to best take advantage of the rolls of the dice. (The spot markets and consumer market in this game employ one of the most perfectly designed game elements that I've ever seen.)

You also have to plan for shifting economic conditions. Every time a player rolls doubles, the overall economic condition changes. A depression will do nothing for sagging prices on the consumer market (the consumer market is the tail that wags the dog in this game), but a boom, or prosperity, will send prices sailing up. You do best if you make capital investments during hard times and sell product when times are good.

This game's components are wonderful. The board is a little garish, but the blue and black plastic models of drilling rigs and gas stations are a big improvement on Crude's carboard counters. The nightmarish painting on the cover is great.

There are two unfortunate problems with this game. The first is its name. McMulti is, simply, a dumb name for a game. Maybe it means something to the Germans that it doesn't for me. The "multi" part is supposed to connote "multi-millionaire."

The second problem is much more serious: there's a catastrophic error in the translation of the rules. (In general, Hexagames's English rules are error-ridden approximations, not translations.) If you buy this game, you will find it incredibly tedious and depressing if you don't know about the error. As I did, you'll play for four hours and nobody will stand a chance of winning.

Here it is: when the economic condition changes, the price of gasoline on the consumer market does not move up as many point as the number on the economic condition card. It moves up as many red points as the number on the economic condition card. Translating "Rotpunkt" as "point" was criminal.

Copyright 1994, Bob Rossney.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell