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AKA: Desert Oasis

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 45-60 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Alan R Moon, Aaron Weissblum

Publisher(s): Uberplay Entertainment

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Product Description

You are the head of a Mongolian family, intent on becoming the most powerful in the land. Use your resources wisely to take control of fertile steppe lands to raise horses, which will bring prestige and honor. Build ovoos to pour the blessings of luck into your life. Raise camels to build wealth. Control the beautiful oases to improve the quality of life for you and your family. The player with the most points at the end of the game will be anointed the Noble of the Oasis.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Strategy Game Nominee, 2005
Spiel des Jahres
Recommended, 2004

Product Information


  • 1 game board
  • 88 tiles
  • 54 playing cards
  • 62 scoring markers
  • 20 wooden control markers
  • 100 wooden camels
  • 5 priority counters
  • 1 instruction booklet

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.6 in 5 reviews

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by Toni G.
How much more fun can you have with camels?
March 22, 2009

We played this game for the first time this afternoon and loved it! It has something of the feel of Carcassonne with a trading game thrown in for fun. The rules are very easy to understand and game play is very fast paced.

There is an element of strategy involved. You can block other player's expansions with your own or you can gang up on a player who appears to be winning. You can strategically pick up a bid, giving that player your turn position. You have to actually pay attention to the tiles and modifiers you are picking up. It can come back to haunt you if you play all 20 camels without picking up at least 1 commodity (rug) tile. If that happens, you get zero points for all of those camels. Balance is good here. Pick one or two kinds of tiles to focus on and their corresponding modifier tiles and you can really rack up the points.

Placement of the tiles is also important. You can block off your opponent to keep them from getting too big of an area of control or you can place yours so that you can't be blocked so easily. But spending too much time building up an area can keep you from getting the modifiers you need to multiply your scores.

This would be a great family game, especially with 8 or 9 year olds. There aren't a lot of complicated rules to remember, placement is easy to understand, and after all, you get to play a game that has camels!

by G.
Has all the good elements
March 22, 2009

Reminiscent of both Carcassone and Settlers with tile placing and bidding. More than one way to win. Good player interaction both positive and a bit of cut-throat. Nice set of components.

Probably the most interesting element is that at the start of the turn each player puts out 1-3 cards as an offer to the other players. You really want to attract the player who goes first to take your offer over the others because that means you will go first next turn. If your offer stinks, you will end up going last. But then again... how much stuff do you want to give the other player to go first? You could be giving them the winning margin.

No set turn limit, the game ends when no more tiles can be placed.

Camel Meeples. Mmmmm...
August 29, 2005

The first way that I saw Oasis (Uberplay, 2004 -- Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum) was in a video commercial by Uberplay via the internet. Whether considered cheesy or not, it certainly didn't tell me anything about the game other than raise my awareness. Camels certainly aren't the most exciting thing in the world, so I didn't think much more about it. Fast forward to a year later, and I finally procured a copy, suddenly noticing that Alan Moon was one of the designers (Ticket to Ride, Capitol, Elfenland). Knowing he's designed some of the best, I resolved to give Oasis a try.

And was I ever pleased! Oasis isn't Alan's best game (that's still Ticket to Ride), but it's a tremendous game; one I enjoyed quite a bit. The theme is dry and boring, but the actual gameplay is interesting and intriguing. It's simple enough that I've gotten lots of people to learn and play the game, but complicated enough that "gamers" have been satisfied with the strategies and replayability therein. The game hinges on players offering actions to others, and as unfun as I initially thought that mechanic to be, it worked out very well.

A game board is placed on the table, broken up into a large grid of squares. The grid is divided into three areas in which players place their tiles, broken up by a "camel path". The three areas for tiles are bordered by either "steppe" (yellow) or "oasis" (green) borders. Each player takes twenty camels of their color, as well as four control markers. Piles of scoring markers (commodities, water wells, horses, and ovoos) are placed near the board, as well as eighty-eight tiles (oasis, steppe, and stony plains). A pile of cards is shuffled, and a stack of five is placed face-down in front of each player; the remainder are placed in a draw pile. "Priority" counters are shuffled -- and one given to each player -- to show the initial turn order. The first round is ready to begin.

The player with the # 1 priority counter makes the first offer, etc. He does this by turning face up the top card of their deck. This card is the player's "offer". They may add one or two more cards to this offer if they want. Depending on how many cards the player has offered, they add cards to the bottom of their stack from the Draw pile (one card offered: add 2, two cards offered: add 1, three cards offered: add 0). A player cannot leave themselves in a position where they have no cards.

Once all players have made an offer, the player with the # 1 priority counter chooses an offer, by giving the counter to the player whose offer he is taking, and carrying out the actions shown on the cards in the offer. The player with the # 2 priority card follows, etc. A player cannot choose their own offer, unless they have no other choice. After all players have gone, the player who received the # 1 priority counter gets one free action (placing a camel or a tile) as a bonus. The next round then begins.

The actions on the cards are these:

  • Place two oasis tiles. When placing these tiles, a player must first place the tile next to an oasis border. After that, the player only need keep all their oasis tiles adjacent orthogonally. A player may have more than one oasis, but their oasis tiles cannot be adjacent to other player's oasis tiles. A player places one of their control markers to claim the oasis (these markers can be moved if they wish). If the player places their oasis next to an oasis bonus tile (one imprinted on the board), that tile becomes part of their oasis.
  • Place two steppe tiles. This is done the same way as the oasis tiles, except that they must start adjacent to steppe borders.
  • Place one stony plains tile. This is done the same way as the other tiles, except that a player can start a stony plains area anywhere.
  • Place two or three camels: The player can place these camels on any open spaces on the camel path. These are the only objects that can go on the camel path - all tiles are banned.
  • Draw three cards: The player draws three cards from the deck and adds them to the bottom of his stack.
  • Take one or two scoring markers: The player takes one or two scoring markers of the associated type and places them face-down in front of him.

When one tile type has been completely depleted (all placed on the board), or if one player must play a tile that they cannot, then the game ends after the completion of that round. Players then score points, using a camel on the supplied camel track to track them. Oasis tiles, steppe tiles, and stony plains tiles are all scored the same way. Players multiply the total tiles of each type they control by the matching scoring markers they have. (Oasis match with Water Wells, Stony Plains with Ovoos, and Steppe with Horses) For example, if a player has ten oasis tiles under their control and have four water wells, they score forty points. If a player has no scoring tiles of a certain type, they score nothing for that type of tile. Scoring for the camels is done the same way, using the commodity scoring markers -- but multiplied by the largest group of camels, rather than all the camels. The player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

  1. Components: While I have said that the theme is bland, the board and tiles do reflect it in an accurate way. In fact, everything looks very nice when set up, and who can argue against camel meeples? The tiles are thick and easy to move around the board, and are double sided. The scoring markers are rectangle markers, about the size of two of the tiles. Each scoring marker matches the terrain and color of the matching tiles -- so they're very easy to compare -- although several players in my game still had to ask which tiles matched which scoring markers. The cards are good quality with simple symbols on them to easily show without text what each one does. Everything fits very nicely in a plastic insert in the box, and a cloth bag is included for the camels and pawns.

  2. Rules: The rulebook for the game is eight pages of full-color rules with many illustrations. I cannot emphasize how well the rulebook is written - it's very clear, and everything is explained in great detail. I understood how to play the game very quickly after reading them and was able to easily explain it to others. At first new players have a hard time grasping the fact that they must give cards away, but they soon catch on.

  3. Tiles: Knowing how to place tiles is crucial. At first, some decisions seem easy, like placing initial tiles next to the bonus ones on the board, to expand one's territory. But after that, decisions are a little more intense. Should one expand their oasis with tendril-like arms, so that they block others from completing theirs? Or should they simply try to maximize their own position, growing it as quickly as possible? Should a player start different types of terrain to have a variety of scoring options, or concentrate on one specific type? Should a player take tiles they know another player needs to keep that player's score down, or take what benefits them the most? These aren't long decisions, but they keep each game fresh and invigorating. Strategically, I would place the game a step above Ticket to Ride, but it's not too much harder.

  4. Giving: The whole giving concept, while not necessarily intuitive, works extremely well. The better/more cards a player gives away, the more chance they have in getting the coveted # 1 priority chip. This not only gives them the bonus tile / camel, but also allows them to choose first on the next round. The downside is that the more cards a player offers, the fewer they have to offer on future turns. And, the other three players can mutually decide to offer scraps in the next round, to minimize the advantage to having the # 1 chip. I have found one small problem (I think) that could occur with this system. If two players are playing in tandem, they could continue to trade the #1 and # 2 chips with each other for the entire game, thus ensuring that one of them would win the game. However, I would refrain from playing with such unscrupulous people -- I only mention it, because it seems as if this rule could be exploited.

  5. Choices, Choices: Keeping the right combination of scoring markers and tiles is crucial. It does one no good to get ten ovoos and then only have two stony tiles on the board. Having six of each ends up with a much better product. Camels also add a bit of intrigue to the game. At first they seem to be inferior to the other methods of scoring -- a player only scores for their largest contiguous group, and there aren't as many commodity scoring markers as horses and ovoos. Yet camels often end up being the tie breakers for games, and it's easy for one player to get a large amount of them, because the others didn't try so hard. In one game, a player scored ninety points in camels alone, because the other players didn't attempt to do much with the camels. On the flip side, it is much easier to mess someone's camel strategy up. The camel path is filled with choke points; and since players can place camels anywhere, it's not too difficult to make the other person's life miserable.

  6. Distribution: The number of tiles, camels, scoring markers, and cards for each type are all different. I'm not sure how exactly the numbers work together, but it's amazing how everything seems equal. There are fewer stony plains tiles but more ovoos to multiply them by -- not to mention that the stony plains tiles can be started anywhere. I have great respect for Mr. Weisblum and Mr. Moon for coming up with the numbers to this game, as they are impressively very even, though they initially look unbalanced.

  7. Time and Players: This game is one of the ones that seems to work best with five, although a four player game is very fun and doesn't seem to lose anything from the five player game. A three player game is okay, but there are only two choices for the # 1 priority counter holder to choose from, causing it to lose a bit of its allure. The game advertises that it takes only forty-five to sixty minutes. With experienced players, this may be the case, but I've found that my games have lasted closer to seventy-five minutes. Still, the game has little downtime, and it's not very long for the strategic payoff.

  8. Fun Factor and Screwage: Players can interact in a multiple of ways in the game, which for me made it fun. Deciding how much to offer the other players, determining to give the other players garbage, blocking others' tile arrangements and/or camels -- all of these allow players to get in a bit of "take-that" in the game. While this was fun for me (it allows you to mess with other players, but not in too much of a negative way), the game can still be played in a very friendly setting, with players not going out of their way to annoy one another. But there's no denying the interaction, which is one of Oasis' biggest strong points.

I highly recommend Oasis for people who are looking for a good, medium-weight game that promotes interaction. It's one of Alan Moon's better games and seems to be a bit unheralded, which is unfortunate. Don't allow the game's theme to detract from your trying it out, as it's quick, fun, with a lot of easy but fateful decisions. After one game, players will usually be intrigued enough to give it another whirl - a mark of an excellent game. And besides, the game comes with camel meeples!

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games."

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