Mint Works Review

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Mint Works is a curiously strong worker placement game designed by Justin Blaske and published by Five24 Labs. The game plays 1-4 players in 10-20 minutes and is suitable for players 10 and up. The objective is to score the most stars for the buildings you have built in your neighbourhood.

Setup

Getting Mint Works out of the tin and onto the table is quick and will have players rolling in very little time.

  1. Place 4 core Locations on the table
  2. Place 2 Deed locations on the table with the “”closed” side up
  3. Shuffle the Plans and make a deck
  4. Draw 3 plans from the deck
  5. Give each player 3 mints and place the remaining mints in a pile
  6. Give the start player token to the first player

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The game comes with a variety of additional locations that can be added once players have played a few games and want to change up the strategy and options presented.

Game Play

Each round has 2 phases Development and Upkeep. During the Development phase players will make one of 2 choices:

  1. Place a mint on an available action and perform that action
  2. Pass

That is the extremely simple view of Mint Works, essentially on your turn you are trying to accomplish 3 major things

  1. Get more mints
  2. Get a Plan
  3. Build a Building

Getting mints is relatively simple as long as the producer or leadership council actions are open but the other two require a little planning. To take the Supplier action which allows you to take a plan you must play the amount of mints indicated on the plan you intend to take. In order to build you need to first have a plan in hand and then place on the Builder action space. Getting buildings built in your neighbourhood is key since this is not only how players score but certain buildings will grant the player bonuses during the upkeep phase.

Once everyone has passed they complete the upkeep phase:

  1. Check if anyone has reached 7 stars, if so move onto scoring
  2. Refill the plan supply to 3 plans
  3. Check each players buildings for upkeep effects and resolve them
  4. Check if any played on a deeded location, if so pay the owner
  5. Return all played mints to the mint pool
  6. Each player takes 1 mint

If scoring wasn’t triggered during upkeep play another development phase until the end game is triggered. Once the end game is triggered the player with the most starts in her neighbourhood is the winner.

Components

Mint Works is really well done. The embossed tin looks great and fits nicely in your pocket or back pack. My only minor quibble was that the instruction booklet didn’t pop out of the tin as smoothly as I would like due to its square corners when the tin has rounded corners, this was quickly resolved by trimming the corners. The mints are lovely little wooden bits and even the start player marker is wood. The location and plan cards look great and have a good weight. The overall presentation is excellent, its cute, its functional, and is extremely portable.

Conclusion

Mint Works is the perfect introduction to the worker placement mechanic, it boils the system to its purest form and makes it extremely accessible. It sets up, teaches, and plays quickly. The solitaire option is an excellent addition with several AI opponents included that can prove to be fairly challenging.  The price point and play time make this a great little game to carry with you at all times and I highly recommend looking into this pocket sized power house.

Rise to Nobility Review

In this magical land of heroes, villains, and adventurers, a fragile peace has been brokered between the Five Realms. Five years have passed since the evil Lord Dranor escaped from The Cavern Tavern. The Elf Princess Tabita Orestes has taken her rightful place as the High Queen of the Five Realms and has built a new capital: the white-walled city of Caveborn.

-from the Rise to Nobility rule book

Rise to Nobility is a worker placement game from Final Frontier set in the same world as their previous title Cavern Tavern. The game has a standard worker placement feel where players send workers to gather resources, so they can fulfill goals to score points but the way they control the amount of workers players can use every round is fairly clever.

In Rise to Nobility, players take the part of characters vying to become lords and replace Berk the Clerk as the city’s town clerk. You can earn the High Queen’s favour by attracting settlers, training them in the various guilds, and bribing stone council members. The player who scores the most victory points will earn the position and help the High Queen mold the future of Caveborn.

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Setup

There are 3 boards in Rise to Nobility the score board, your personal player board and the main board. On your personal board you will track your reputation, store and build houses for the settlers, store unused worker, and build community building. The main board is where you send your dice to take all the main actions. The score board as you may have guessed tracks players scores.

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There are basic setup steps for every games as well as a set of setup cards that will guide you through configuring the game for your player count. I found the overall setup to be a bit fiddly especially the stone council but nothing that we as board game players haven’t encountered before.

Each player will get a pool of 5 dice, a player board, one house, 8 gold, one settler, and a character card. The Character card will give the player 2 special powers, one that is available immediately and throughout the game, the other is a one time benefit that is unlocked when they reach the lord level on the nobility track.

Gameplay

Like I said in my introduction the way you play Rise to Nobility is nothing new to players familiar with worker placement games. On your turn you take on or both of the following actions in any order:

  1. Use one of your dice to take an action
  2. Complete a settler card

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The clever part comes in when determining how many dice you can use each round. At the beginning of the round players roll their dice and they can use as many of the 5 dice as they want as long as the sum of the dice used is equal to or less than their reputation level. Combined with the fact that the worker spots on the main board require  certain numbers to activate it, there can be some tough choices that require careful planning.

The main game board offers players the following choices:

  1. Cavern Tavern where players get new settler cards
  2. Construction yard where players get houses for the settlers
  3. Guilds where players gather resources and place meeples to leave as apprentices who will earn income
  4. Guild Hall where players can purchase buildings to place in the Guilds or on their player board
  5. The port where players can sell goods
  6. The clerks office where players can gain modifier tokens to adjust their dice or change the available settlers and buildings
  7. The stone council where players can bribe Councillors to earn victory points
  8. The White Castle where players can improve their reputation

Planning really is key in Rise to Nobility. Many of the actions have dependencies. For example to complete a settler card you need the appropriate resources but you also need a house on your player board or to build a workshop in a guild you need to have an apprentice in that guild. The real meat in Rise to Nobility lies in the planning of actions and calculating the dice and reputation required to get it all done as efficiently as possible.

Conclusion

Rise to Nobility is a good game but I think it will get lost in the crowded worker placement market. It’s a game I enjoyed playing and would play again if someone brought to the table but not one I would suggest. I found some bit tacked on, like the stone council action, in what seemed like an effort to add options or complexity. I did really enjoy the way that the reputation level and dice selection worked and think that this is the highlight of the game. In the end Rise to Nobility is a good game with nice art and a clever little twist but I don’t think it offered enough to stand out.

here’s To Die for Games’ video review for more thoughts on the game.

To Die For Games goes Crowd Surfing

If any of you aren’t regular Dice Tower viewers you may have missed the premier episode of Crowd Surfing. This show focuses on Kickstarter news, another exciting aspect of the show is that it features our contributors Mandi, Caryl, Stéphane, and Tracy!

Here’s a breakdown of the games that our crew featured on the show:

Stéphane and Tracy 

Cytosis

A cool looking game about how our cells function by John Coveyou of Genius Games. 

Dicey peaks

A push your luck dice based mountaineering game from Scoot Almes and Calliope Games

Mandi and Caryl

Cross Talk

In this party game players try to get their team guess a keyword while the other team ease drops. 

The 7th Guest

Based on the smash 90s video game this spooky puzzle game has been featured right here

Check out their segments and tune in each week to see what we’re backing over at To Die For Games. 

Deep Space D-6 Review

Deep Space D-6 is a solitaire worker placement game published by Tau Leader Games. Designer Tony Go has put together a nice little game here that really gives players that sense of space survival and of being over run by threats.

The very first thing that caught my eye about Deep Space D-6 was the box art, I was a huge fan of choose you own adventure books as a child and the tip of the hat to that aesthetic grabbed right away.

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The cover was enough to get me to look into the game but what really prompted my purchase was the theme and mechanics. I love worker placement and science fiction so I knew I had to try this game.

Setup & Gameplay

Setting up a game of Deep Space D-6 is simple.

  1. choose a ship.
  2. setup the threats and threat deck
  3. place the shield and hull markers on the board

voila! You are ready to face all the harshness of space!

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Now that you are ready to roll (pun intended) you can start a round of play. Each round has 6 steps:

1. Roll Crew Dice

Crew dice are you workers. The face rolled indicates what that worker can do whether it’s fire the weapons, repair the hull or shields, or revive lost dice. Different ships will use the workers in different ways.

2. Scan for Threats

If the scanner area is filled with scanner dice you must immediately reveal a new threat from the threat deck. If you reveal a new threat the dice in the scanner area are released otherwise they are locked and unusable to you until the scanner fills of you use an ability of another worker dice to free them.

3. Assign Crew

As with the majority of worker placement games this is the bulk of the round. You will now take you available workers (those not locked in the scanner or infirmary) and use them to execute the tasks required to maintain your ship and eliminate the threats currently menacing your ship.

4. Discover new threats

Draw the top card or the threat deck and place internal threats to the left of the ship and external threats to the right in the slot according to their hit points.

5. Activate threats

Roll the black Die and activate all threats that match the face of the Die. Resolve threats from top to bottom starting with internal threats. Follow the directions on the threat cards to determine the impact they will have on your crew and/or your ship.

6. Gather up crew

Gather all the dice that are not in the infirmary, scanners, or locked by a threat affect.

The goal of the game is to deplete the threat deck and survive. If at the end of step 4 you cannot draw a new threat AND their are no currently active threats then you have survived and you win! Space is a dark, dangerous and brutal place for humans however so if at any point in step 5 your hull reaches 0 your ship is destroyed and you lose, if at the end of step 6 you cannot gather up any dice to roll in the next round you lose. Such is the harshness of space exploration!

Components

The single greatest component of Deep Space D-6 is the box and not simply for the glorious cover but it is solid and I am a sucker for a magnetic clasp. The rest of the game’s components are good. The graphic design and artwork are minimal and functional. There are 4 ships included in the game and this allows for some longevity and variability. The dice are nice and feature distinct colourful icons on each face. The cards are sturdy and easy to read.

Conclusion

Deep Space D-6 will not blow anyone away but I have gotten a lot of fun out of this little unassuming box. I find that I really get quite anxious and tense as the game rolls along and I start losing crew members and the threats pile up. I also really enjoy the simple mechanic of having stronger threats come out higher in the queue (on the right of the board) and moving down the line as they sustain damage until they finally drop off when destroyed. It was fun to zap the baddies and how them drop out of site.

Considering the small footprint and relatively small cost I think Deep Space D-6 is a good purchase for solo players especially those that have ever watched and enjoy any of the Star Trek series. The game definitely has a strong feel of boldly going where no one has gone before.

Rob Landeros

When I was in my late teens I built my first PC. I did many crazy things like put in 16MB of RAM and a 400mb hard drive but the nuttiest thing I did was install a CD-ROM drive. I sold the idea of a CD-ROM to my parents by showing them that the ENTIRE encyclopedia Britannica was stored on a single disc, but my real motivation was The 7th Guest!

Released in April of 1993 The 7th Guest was like nothing I had ever seen. It was so different from all the video games I was used to playing. The game featured video clips of actors and pre-rendered 3D graphics that were truly mind blowing at the time. The gameplay was simple yet completely immersive and fascinating. You play “Ego” and you wander around a haunted mansion solving puzzles and games in order to unlock video footage that advanced the story.

Jump ahead 24 years and game designer Rob Landeros is bringing the world of The 7th Guest to the table top with a board game adaption of this landmark video game. The board game will have players taking on the role of one of 6 house guests working their way through the mansion trying to solve puzzles in order to reach and solve the final puzzle before the others. The game will feature 300 puzzles ranging form riddles to logic puzzles to spatial puzzles and more.

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I wasn’t alone in the To Die For Games crew to be very excited by the announcement of this game and I was quite pleased when Rob agreed to answer a few questions for us about the game and the drive to create it.
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What Boardgames inspired you to go into bringing the 7th Guest to the table top?

Actually, it was Matthew Costello, who wrote the 7th Guest story and helped design the structure of the original game, who prompted me to get off my ass and make the board game version.

But as far as inspiration or models, I kept it in the manner of simple, classic board games. Although I certainly have enjoyed playing some of the more complex and strategic, resource management and development board games, or epic games like Diplomacy, I’ve always mostly been a casual gamer. I find that the average person isn’t surrounded by a coterie of hardcore gamers ready to get together at a moment’s notice or on a regular basis to learn new, complex games that take hours to play. Most folks will suggest to their friends, how about a game of charades, or poker? Or standards like Balderdash, or even Monopoly. Something familiar or friendly and easy to learn. I most certainly and deliberately set out to make a game whose rule book didn’t require more than one page of instructions.

So I think minimalism still has a place in games and gaming. It was Mies van der Rohe, the famous architect, who popularized the aphorism, “less is more”.

Did you approach designing the tabletop version in the same manner as the video game?

Actually the design of the board game was very much dictated by the design of the video game. So in that respect, it was exponentially easier than coming up with something totally different from the original video game or any other board game.

I feel it is my job and duty to protect the 7th Guest brand and IP. And that involves retaining the essence of the back story, the characters, the look and feel, and the gameplay. There are an untold number of people who remember playing and enjoying the game. They all enjoyed it for various reasons, but over the years I have learned that the elements that remain indelible and immutable in people’s minds are the puzzles, the villain Henry Stauf (who is mostly a vocal presence), and not least of all, the environment of the mansion. In fact, you could say the mansion was the main character of the video game.

And I would also point out that the video game was quite minimalist. The puzzles themselves may often have been difficult, but the overall game was easy to learn and play. There was no elaborate manual or complex set of instructions. You weren’t even told how to play the puzzles. It was pure point and click. You were guided by a set of animated cursors that let you know, in a purely binary way, what you could and could not do, and where you could and could not go. (But if you did need help, Stauf would be there to give hints. There were also clues to be found in the Library) So in a sense, the board game could be said to be a bit more complicated than the video game.

So, yes, I approached the design of the game with the goal of staying as faithful to the original as I possibly could. And I think, if nothing else, I achieved that. At least, I have yet to hear differently from the fans who have visited our Kickstarter.

Why did you start designing games and why do you continue designing?

I fell into it, really. I started out as a lowly computer graphics artist, pushing pixels at Cinemaware for games like Rocket Ranger and Defender of the Crown. When CD-ROM technology became a reality, and it was time to make something for that platform, somebody had to come up with an idea that suited it. So my partner and I took it upon ourselves to do so and we sat down and first decided to make a game that took place in a closed environment… one from which you couldn’t escape. Some of our favorite movies, such as Die Hard, Alien, The Shining, would all be examples of that. So we decided on a haunted house. Then it was a question of what you do in a haunted house, and of course, the goal was to survive a night in it, while needing to solve the puzzles and secrets within its rooms in order to escape alive. Or at least, with your soul intact.

But going even a little further back in time, prior to getting into the computer games industry, one of my favorite things was to get my monthly copy of Games Magazine which contained dozens of puzzles of all kinds… crosswords, mazes, logic,  hidden words, chronological sequencing, spatial relations… you name it. I would make it my goal to work my way front-to-back of every issue, solving all the puzzles.  It was epic. Later, I came across a little known game called Fool’s Errand, that consisted of a wide variety of word and logic puzzles that you could solve non-sequentially, but with each solution you would be rewarded with a piece of a map that you would have to put together so that the Fool (you) could make his way to his ultimate goal. So that simple scheme was really the foundation of The 7th Guest, 11th Hour and now, manifest as a board game.

What inspires you to design games?

Fun.

The 7th Guest the video game had such an incredible atmosphere, how well do you think this translated to the tabletop?

It would be nearly impossible to translate the atmosphere into the board game. The best I could do was include faithful renditions of the house and its rooms, and to maintain a mood with the illustrations of the cards and other components. On the Kickstarter page I include a soundtrack of scary music and sounds to try to put our potential backers into the proper mood as they learn about the project. I think it would be best to play the game by lowering the house lights, throw some cobwebs over the overhead lights and put on some scary Halloween music. And if you can get somebody to be the master of ceremonies, they could read the puzzlers in their best Henry Stauf impersonation. 🙂

By the way, we have considered a virtual component in the form of an app to complement and enhance the game. Perhaps even a VR or AR component. That would be cool. But that goal is much farther down the line. First things first.

Is there something you were able to do with the Board Game incarnation of the 7th Guest that you weren’t able to accomplish with the digital game?

Actually yes. We are able to offer three times as many puzzles and brain teasers as were included in the 7th Guest and 11th Hour combined., with the possibility of creating expansion packs for special interests, age groups and demographics. And of course, rather than just a challenge for solo play, in the board game you compete head-to-head against fellow guests, friends and family and so it is much more social. Although I do know – because many people have told me so – that many played the video game collaboratively with a friend or a parent or their child. And the way I have most enjoyed playing the 7th Guest board game is collaboratively with a partner. Because two heads are better than one. I think it was Chang and Eng Bunker who said that. 🙂

I spent many, many hours wandering the digital world created by Rob in The 7th Guest. I have great memories of racking my brain against the infection puzzle with friends and family calling out tips. I look forward to having a similar experience once again on my dining room table and against friends and family.

I you want to help this project come alive head over to Kickstarter and hit that back button. Find the project here: The 7th Guest Kickstarter.

Old School Cool : Zooloretto

Après un mois qui m’a gardé occupé avec la famille et une fin de semaine de jeux à Montréal, me revoilà avec un autre vieux jeu.

Zooloretto est un jeu de Michael Schacht en 2007, basé sur le jeu Coloretto et présentement distribué en Amérique du Nord par Z-Man/Filosofia. Le jeu fête son dixième anniversaire cette année.

C’est un jeu de type “set collection” ou chaque joueur tente de remplir les enclos de son zoo avec le plus d’animaux possible sans en avoir en surplus.

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Le jeu inclus:

  • 5 plateaux représentant un zoo
  • 5 plateaux d’expansion
  • 5 camion de livraison
  • 112 tuiles carré:
    • 88 animaux (11 x 8 animaux)
    • 12 kiosques de vente (3 x 4 types)
    • 12 pièces
  • 12 tuiles ronde de progénitures (2 x 8 animaux)
  • 30 pièces
  • 1 disque marqueur de ronde
  • 1 sac

Chaque ronde, les joueurs doivent remplir les camions de transport qui amènent les animaux au différent zoos pour ensuite sélectionner le plus intéressant pour leur propre zoo.

À leur tour, chaque joueur peut choisir une seule action parmi les suivantes:

  • Ajouter une tuile à un camion, si il reste de l’espace
  • Effectuer une action monétaire: déplacer des tuiles, en acheter aux autres joueurs, acheter une extension, etc
  • Choisir un camion pour ajouter à leur zoo, en autant qu’il y aie au moins une tuile

En choisissant un camion, le joueur met fin à sa ronde et doit attendre que tout les autres joueurs aient choisi un camion.

Le jeu se poursuit jusqu’à ce que toute les tuiles aient été choisies. Les points sont ensuite calculé en fonction de l’agencement des enclos, kiosques et animaux en surplus. Le joueur avec le plus de points gagnent, évidemment.

Le jeu a la particularité de pouvoir être combiné avec Aquaretto, un autre jeu de Schacht dans le même style, pour faire un méga zoo avec aquarium.

Malgré que Zooloretto est une adaptation thématique de Coloretto, c’est justement la thématique qui rend le jeu très attrayant et fun. C’est aussi ce qui en fait un jeu familial, puisque les interactions avec les joueurs sont relativement minime ce qui peut éviter la frustrations chez les plus jeunes.

Zooloretto est un des premier jeux que j’ai essayé quand j’ai commencé à m’investir un peu plus dans les jeux de société ce qu’il fait qu’il gardera toujours une place spéciale dans mes jeux préférés.

13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a micro game  that distills the excellent 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis which is a distillation of the masterpiece Twilight Struggle.  I hope I haven’t lost too many of you with my meta discussion but I wanted to lay some groundwork with readers that maybe familiar with the two games that this games a lot to.  The game is a head to head strategic game of balance where players must make good and sometimes the least horrible choices, like it’s older siblings, but I think it still offers a fresh take on the premise.

Setup & Gameplay

13 Minutes packs a decent amount into a tiny box that contains only 13 cards and 26 cubes. The setup is quick and simple. Place a card face down between the two players. This will represent Cuba. Next players take a number of cubes from their 13 influence cube allotment and bid for the chance to decide who plays first. Once this is decide the players drawn two cards and take turns playing one card. A card can be used for one of two actions:

  1. Command action: place the number of cubes illustrated on the card onto a single battleground.
  2. Event: if the card played is a neutral UN card or for you superpower, you can use the event power of the card.

Cards are played either into the neutral area in between the two players or into that   players “sphere of influence” which is the tablespace between him and the neutral area where Cuba begins the game. The cards on the table become battlegrounds where the two players will place and remove cubes to fight for influence in this areas. The player with the most cubes on a battleground controls it and will score it at the end of the game. When cubes are placed onto a card, now a battleground, the battle ground moves. It moves towards the player when adding cubes and away from the player when removing cubes. Having a card in your sphere of influence can be good as it breaks ties if both players have the same number of cubes on a battleground but can also lose you the game if you have 3 battlegrounds with the same colour DEFCON symbol.

Players will go back and forth playing one card until they each can no longer draw a card. When each player has one card remaining you add up the following to determine who wins:

  1. 1 prestige per battleground the player controls
  2. 2 prestige for controlling Cuba
  3. 1 prestige for controlling the most military battlegrounds (Orange DEFCON symbols)
  4. Reveal the remaining cards and add up the cubes for each superpower. The superpower with the most cube images gets 1 prestige.

Unless someone has started a nuclear war by having 3 DEFCON symbols of the same colour in their sphere of influence then the player with the most prestige is the winner.

Components

13 minutes comes in a sturdy little box and features the same graphic design as 13 Days. The font and historical photos are the same which makes a nice consistent look. The cars are well laid out and easy to understand. The quality is good. I really like the overall look of the game.


Final thoughts

I will confess that it was going to take a lot for me not to enjoy 13 Minutes. I love 13 Days and Twilight Struggle is one of my top 3 all time favourites so the theme had me right away. If you don’t like political themes or the Cold War theme in particular then it may not appeal to you but I think it’s abstracted enough as to not be a major factor. I loved the mechanic of moving the battlegrounds back and forth as a physical representation of the political struggle you are playing out on the table. I think this game will make an excellent filler, from set up to take down you can play a game of this in under 20 Minutes easily. I found that I still had decent choices to make and there was a good amount of tension. Overall I think this is a must buy filler for Twilight Struggle or 13 Days fans that still deserves some consideration from people that might be turned off by those bigger games.