Modern Living: Playing Sheik

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At 29, Baron Arnaud de Rosnay is no run-of-the-disco jet-setter. The dashing entrepreneur already has behind him careers as France's national surfboard champion, a photojournalist, a publicist and a backgammon promoter. Now, like a man who contemplates an ocean and invents the squirt gun, De Rosnay has come up with a parlor game based on the energy crisis.

The game, which has just gone on sale at such stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus and Garfinckel's, is appropriately known as Petropolis. Adapted from the Monopoly formula ("Only I made it more beautiful and up to date," De Rosnay says modestly), Petropolis involves oilfields, rigs and derricks rather than real estate, houses and hotels. The aim of the game is to pile up the most exclusive oil concessions and fattest profits on a board divided into sections named after the 27 most petroliferous nations.

Financed with plastic-coated petrodollars marked IN OIL WE TRUST, the player seeks to control and exploit all the countries belonging to the same color group—Saudi Arabia and Iran, for example, or Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. Aside from the roll of the dice, advances or reverses occur when the would-be oil potentate lands on the space marked "Telex," where a message may order him to return to the Geneva Airport—equivalent to Monopoly's "Go" position—notify him of a crippling tanker strike or tell him to skip ahead to be photographed for a TIME cover.

Petropolis is initially intended, it seems, for people who already have oil enough and time. It comes in a green leather briefcase, and the pieces include 34 silver-plated derricks, 14 gold-plated platforms, a minicalculator to compute royalties and interest and a device that signals a predetermined quitting time. The price of the game: $790 per set.

When the market for these sets shows signs of fading, a less exclusive version will be available in vinyl at around $150. A cardboard set, selling for about $14, is expected to go on the market next year.

De Rosnay hopes that his new venture will enable him to escape Paris for six months a year "on a big sailboat" with three rooms: a stateroom, a library and a room for telecommunications. That should not be too difficult even if Petropolis fails to catch on. De Rosnay's beautiful wife Isabel, 21 (TIME, June 16), is a granddaughter of Bolivian Multimillionaire Antenor Patiño, whose trust is in tin.