As part of The Gam, once per turn, oil-rich players may attempt to spend a little extra to steal away a treasured sailor from a competitor, or indeed simply to attempt to pay for that sailor, for the purpose of draining the oil resources of that same competitor.
The first major influence of this mechanic comes from the reading of Moby-Dick as allegory of the particularly American capitalist system. Burgeoning industrial capabilities are put into perhaps the ‘wrong hands’ in mad Captain Ahab, and some unspoken economic desire to conquer and extract capital from all of nature leads the allegorical ship of the nation toward ultimate destruction, self or otherwise.
The actual tangible cost of bribery in our game was influenced by the differing percentage share of profit sailors of differing abilities were offered when signing up for a whaling voyage (see The Lay). A sailor’s strength seemed like a good way to judge his worth, and certain sailors are unable to be bribed, due to either their nature or to the fierce loyalty demanded of any man serving under Captain Ahab himself.