Oil War Review

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Oil War

Oil War American Intervention in the Persian Gulf

Review by David Lent

Oil War is an old SPI game about a hypothetical invasion of the oil producing countries in the Middle East by the United States, Israel and Europe. The game consists of ground and air combat. While there are landings by the Marines, there are no ship counters in this game. Oil War was released in a folio, boxed and Strategy & Tactics magazine version. This is a review of the Folio version.

The allied goal in Oil War is to control at least 15 oil facilities and 1 port for a marginal victory. A decisive victory occurs if the allies control 25 oil facilities and 3 ports. The Arab player gets a marginal victory if the allies control 10 to 14 oil facilities and at least one port. If the allies only control 0 to 4 oil facilities or no ports, the Arab player gets a decisive victory.

There are 3 scenarios in Oil War, so there is sufficient re-playability for a folio game. Most folio games only have one scenario, so this is a definite plus.

In the first scenario, the Arab countries put an oil embargo on the United States and Europe for supporting Israel. The United States, Europe and Israel attempt to capture oil fields and ports to end the embargo.

The second scenario has an oil embargo being placed on the U.S. and Europe for political reasons. Israel is neutral in this scenario and does not participate.

Iraq and the United States fight Iran in scenario 3. Iran caused this by interfering with the Kurdish people in Iraq. The U.S. is worried that Iran will prevail and take control of the Persian Gulf oil fields, so they enter the conflict.

Sequence of Play:

U.S. Turn
1) Land all US aircraft
2) Allocate air transport points
3) Pay air transport points to keep U.S. units in supply
4) Air transport phase
5) Movement phase
6) Air combat phase

Arab Player Turn
1) Land all Arab aircraft
2) Reinforcement phase
3) Movement phase
4) Air combat phase
5) Ground combat phase
6) Advance game turn marker

Most of the rules in Oil War are a mutation of what I would call, “Standard Wargame Rules.” However, the supply and air transport point rules need some explanation.

Air transport points are printed on the turn track and each turn the American player has a different number of them. They are used to pay for moving units off map onto the map and to pay for supply. The numbers of ATPs needed to transport a unit depends on whether you are transporting it to a garrisoned airbase, unoccupied airbase or to a clear hex. When ATPs are used to supply American units, the cost depends on whether the unit can trace a route through a transportation line to an airbase or if the unit is not on a transportation path. It’s 1 ATP to supply on the transportation path or 3 if supplies have to be parachuted to the unit.

Arab supply is completely different than American supply. Arab units need only be able to trace a path to a hex in their home country that is not in an enemy zone of control. Unsupplied units may only move at ½ speed.

Oil War is a very tense game. There is a ton of air combat and air to ground attacks. What’s interesting is the Arab nations have a reasonable supply of aircraft and the United States air units spend a lot of their time trying to destroy the enemy air units. However, the United States has more and better aircraft, so much of their combat power is from air strikes. It is wise for the Arab air units to concentrate on trying to destroy U.S. air units.

On the ground, the Arabs have more ground units than the allies. However, the allied ground units are generally more powerful. The problem for the allies is that they usually have around 14 units and most of those get squandered controlling oil wells and ports. A ground unit can control any oil wells or ports in its zone of control, but it has to be in control of them at the end of the game to get the victory points. To make matters worse, an allied ground unit has to garrison each friendly air base or allied planes cannot use it. I found myself complaining that there were not enough allied ground units and mumbling under my breath, “Why can’t the Air Force garrison their own air bases?”

In a typical game, the US player will quickly take control of the oil fields and airfields in Bahrain and Qatar. This will allow them to spend less bringing in new forces to garrisoned airbases. However, most of the allied forces are still off board so the Arabs need to counterattack quickly and try to neutralize US air power, before it gets more powerful. The US player will probably quickly take a lot of oil wells the next few turns, but will have very few units to continue the attack as the new oil fields taken will have to be controlled with ground units. Near the end of the game, the Marines will be available to land and can be used to either quickly take some oil fields in Kuwait or invade Iran to try and get the Iranians to panic and run back to Iran and relieve pressure on the other front. The last turn is used to try and keep as many ports and oil fields in your zones of control as possible (assuming the Arabs don’t conduct a massive counter-attack and send your forces running away with their tail between their legs).
I found this to be a fun game to play, but very tense. One of the best aspects of this game is that the forces are balanced and the Arabs can actually win. In many Middle East War games, the Americans or Israelis nearly always win. The Arab armies are formidable in Oil War and should not be underestimated.

Overall, I enjoyed this game and recommend it if you can find a copy.

See Len’s thoughts on Oil War in the video below:

Buy SPI Games with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2DHRi7B


  • Easy to learn
  • Multiple scenarios
  • Balanced. Either side can win.


  • The setup wasn't well explained in the rulebook


Rulebook Clarity - 7.5
Fun - 6.8
Originality - 6
Component Quality - 7
Replayability - 7.5
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  1. Thanks for taking the time to read this review! Please feel free to leave any comments here.


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