The Board Dame Reviews: Pipeline

“The refinement of oil has long been part of the government-controlled energy sector. Amassed with an incredibly complex and inefficient system of refineries, the government has felt the severe pressures of worldwide demand and the ever-increasing global standards for refinement. Unable to keep up with demand, the government has only one option: privatising the oil industry.”


Box Game Length: 60-120 Minutes/30 Minutes Per Player Actual Playtime: 30-45 Minutes Per Player

Setup time: 10-15 minutes

Player Count: 2-4 Players

Game Mechanisms: Action Selection, Tile Placement, Network Building

Game Weight: 3.84/5

Thematic Integration: High – The theme of the game ties directly into the mechanics. You’re building pipelines, their length specifically relates to the type of oil that can be refined. The higher the quality of oil means it’s worth more for contracts, orders and at the market place. Really elegant integration.

Objective: Your objective is to build the most efficient pipelines as a start up oil company by selling oil at the marketplace, through orders, and by fulfilling contracts. The most profitable company at the end of the game wins!

Game Round Summary: Each round is comprised of a work phase and a machine phase. In the work phase you will select an single action from any of the 10 possible choices. If you select one of the actions in the centre cross area, you can pay an additional 10$ to also do the second action on that same arm of the cross.


1, 2, and 3- Refined Markets: In the three different refined markets, you will be able to purchase and sell refined oil. Each refined market will have two preferred types of refined oil that you can sell (or purchase) for a large amount of money, the third oil type is crude oil and will be available to buy (or sell) for a small amount of money.

You can always buy or sell any oil types in any of these markets, however, you wouldn’t really want to sell to a market that doesn’t have a demand for that type of oil, selling crude oil isn’t super beneficial, but in a pinch you definitely can. Keep in mind, all selling must be done before purchasing.

4- Crude Market: The crude market works the same as the refined markets, you may purchase/sell any of the three types of crude oil available.

5- Contacts and Loans: Here you can grab any of the available contracts for free, they will each require specific kinds of oil at a certain level of refinement. They need to be completed at the end of each year or you will suffer a penalty and the contract will be removed from the game.

Loans give you an immediate 15$, however, you also receive a penalty. At the end of the game, penalties will remove funds from your total net worth, think of these as fines.

6- Tanks and Pipes: Here you will be able to purchase tanks and/or and of the pipes in that shop. Pretty easy huh?

7- Machines and Pipes: Same as tanks and pipes, only you buy machines and pipes in this shop.


8- Upgrades: Upgrades are cards that you can purchase that represent experts in various fields. They will optimise your pipeline in 5 different sectors and offer benefits that others don’t have. No one may purchase a card from the same sector in the same year and you can purchase up to two in a single action. On top of that, you may also shut down purchasing in an other sector when performing this action so it’s really easy to block people from this spot, denying them an upgrade, and making it very difficult to get to the third level of a single sector. You’d basically have to be able to buy one in each of the three years of the game and so turn order is even more important if you want to purchase a card.


9- Government Pipes: Here you can purchase up to 5 pipes. Why 5? Because the pipes you purchase have to be orthogonally adjacent and only 5 pipes can ever be orthogonally. Once a pipe is purchased, it opens that market. Only 2 of the 4 markets can be opened during the first year, the third will open in the second year and the fourth will open in the final year.

10- Manually Run Pipes: The last action you can take is to manually run your pipes. Select a single tile in your pipeline and run the colours of pipes that run through that tile. You cannot manually run pipes if you have a machine attached to that pipe anywhere in your pipeline. Running pipes allows you to send a single cube of oil through the pipe to refine it, thus making it a higher grade of oil depending on the length of the pipe. Higher quality oil means more money!


Artwork: Ian O’Toole, need I say more? Ian’s style is distinct and fabulous. It just goes to show that a good graphic design can take a game to new heights. If you love modern and simplistic design, you will love the look of this game.

The only thing I kind of laughed about what the design choice for the personal player boards. They look like football fields and it’s a bit weird haha.

Components: Component quality is good in the retail edition. The card stock is high quality and thick, colours are rich and the printing is clear. It’s nothing over the top, or premium, but what every retail game should have as a standard.

You could have opted for a Kickstarter edition to get the premium cubes, they are metal instead of wood. It also has a different type of counter used to indicate the level of each pipe you have, but I don’t know that those are worth the additional cost to be honest.

The retail cost for this game is around 60 dollars and is great bang for your buck. There’s tons packed into this game both game play and component wise.

Scales Based on Player Count:

2 Players – As with most games that have a limited supply of items, playing at a smaller player count is always going to be slightly less restrictive.

Most of the spots on the board do scale for smaller player counts, ie, tiles are removed based on player count, however, the government tile area will always have the same amount of pipe tiles no matter the player count, so there’s less pressure to get there quickly at this player count.

Also because there are less people buying from the various markets, you will have more opportunity to access crude oil at cheaper prices.

3 Players – This player count seems ideal to me in my various plays, you have the right amount of tension to get to places quickly without it being too punishing to go last, particularly the pipe tiles. Your success in this game will be based on your ability to refine oil and to do that, you need the right pipes.


4 Players – This player count feels a bit too tight to me, it’s not bad, but you definitely need a different strategy than other counts. Your pipes are much harder to make work at 4 players and your actions are sometimes less efficient.

You’re often forced into spending more on pipes in the different shops to get the colour you need or spending more on crude oil in the various markets. Money and actions are really tight and so having to spend more money or time on anything can be very punishing.

As the last player, I will usually take the opportunity to go to the upgrades area and grab myself a couple upgrades that give me pipes and tanks for free.

Replayability: Everything in this game is modular, the pipe tiles, the length of pipe needed to refine your oil, the end game scoring cards. This means that each game will require a different strategy to be successful. You need to be able to gauge the different markets and be flexible in your plan because nothing will work out how you want, and someone will get to the spot you want before you get there.


Overall Thoughts: Pipeline is shaping up to be one of my favourite games of 2019. It has everything I want in a game, tightness, deep and thoughtful strategy and it’s fun. With such a limited amount of money and actions, you really need to think about each an every action you take, how much oil you buy, when to sell and when to buy. Ugh, so good!

On top of that it’s got great replayability, and even though it seems like it’s quite heavy, the rules itself are easy to teach, this means as a heavier game, it’s a bit more accessible to a larger spectrum of gamers. I can’t recommend this game enough if you like economic euros.




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