Rostherne Games, David Watts, £6, 1/5.

Anyone who has played Railway Rivals will know that David Watts is capable of designing excellent games. Since that fine game appeared, David has been trying to produce another just as good and Slick! is his latest release from Rostherne Games to that end. Slick's theme is the refining and marketing of oil in the U.K. and the players aim to make the most money by buying shares in and controlling the seven fictional oil companies.

Slick comes in a cardboard tube and the components consist of a plastic coated map, a single rulesheet, counters, event cards, game money, share certificates and accounting sheets. The standard of the parts can only charitably be described as basic. The map isn't bad but most of the parts are hand drawn and coloured and it really only reaches the standard of school teaching kits. Only the rules are well printed on two sides of A4. What we have is a game made to a price, a very reasonable price indeed, but I can't see how Rostherne expect to compete with the professionals on presentation.

If Slick doesn't compare on looks, then it has to be an extraordinarily good game to make it a success. Sadly, it doesn't cut it here either. The short rules are quite clear and explain the game system which is roughly as follows: players move their counters around the board buying and selling shares as they land on the relevant company markers. When a player holds two shares in a company he becomes a director and when he owns a controlling interest he becomes the Managing Director. Directors receive a fee and decide what the dividend paid to shareholders is. Once the companies have built refineries and are under way refining oil, the rest of the game revolves around delivering the refined oil to marketing areas on the map. Event cards throw in a few curveballs but that is basically it. The player with the most money at game end wins.

The game involves each player in running one or more companies and the parallels with 1829/30 are obvious. There are elements of these games in the share buying, company control and dividend payments but it feels as though the rules have been bolted on to the basic game system almost as an afterthought. The game, unlike its railway cousins, has a lot of record keeping on the sheets supplied to keep track of oil sales, income and expenditure. I am no fan of bookeeping during games and this is one of the worst I've come across, but that is a personal quibble. The game simply drifts along, the players felt as if they were going through the motions and what play decisions the game has are very limited. There is no spark to make the game exciting and little encouragement in taking risks. Even doing nothing seems to be a reasonable option.

It is the most difficult thing to remain objective when reviewing a game designed by as nice a man as David Watts but I fear, Railway Rivals aside, he is still looking for that next winner. Given the way Slick looks and plays one has to ask where Rostherne's target audience is. Certainly it isn't going to sell on the shelves as a professional game so it must be reduced to specialist sales to committed game players or the education area, where it would be ideal. If this is where Slick is aimed then the game is acceptably packaged and priced but this does not explain the uninspiring game system. If anything more commercial is sought then Slick needs a lot of work.

Mike Siggins.

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