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.

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.

Barbarians: The Invasion preview

Enter the mysterious World of Fenian, a place where barbarian clans rule the wild lands and corrupted civilizations live in their decadent cities. A place filled with powers gifted from ancient gods and treacherous demons.

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Barbarians: The Invasion is a game from Tabula Games and Hyperborea’s designer Pierluca Zizzi coming to kickstarter on april 26th . The game features glorious high fantasy art from Ivan Cavini and some nice looking miniatures. Pierlucca has been working on and perfecting the core mechanics of the game for years before he settled on a Barbarian/Fantasy theme that worked well with the system. The art and Miniatures caught my eye with this project but what really got me interested was the fact that it’s a Euro style worker placement game which is not what I was expecting from the title and art style.

I have not played Barbarians but I have been provided some promotional materials, background information, and a rough copy of the rulebook so I will share my impressions.

The main game board features a large volcano that is made up of 3 concentric rings with spots to place your warriors to take various actions such as gathering resources, constructing buildings, or send your troops into combat. One distinct design choice that Pierluca made was that he didn’t want direct player combat so the combat is conducted on a map separate from the main game board and is done to conquer lands rather than hinder an opponent. The main game board also features a couple of tech trees that players use to discover knowledge and tactics.

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The game will last 7 rounds or end in the round when a player reaches 100 points. Each round has 3 phases:

1. Maintenance

  • restore spent cards.
  • activate buildings to gain the resources indicated.

2. Action

  • In turn order, place a warrior on an action space of the volcano and perform the indicated action.
  • your first warrior goes on central wheel, the 2nd on the middle wheel is a space linked to the first warrior, and finally the third warrior goes on the outer wheel in  a spot linked to the second warrior.

Some of the possible actions are Gaining Resources, Erecting Buildings, Invoking a God, War, Knowledge Tracks etc…

3. End of round

  • Recover warriors from the volcano
  • In turn order, players resolve this rounds Demon or Event card

Event cards offer the players a chance to pay to gain victory points, you can choose to pay or to do nothing. Demon cards offer players a bonus if they sacrifice something like a troop, resource, gold but unlike the events if a player has the requested item they must pay if they do not have the requested item they lose victory points.

There are a lot of things that have me excited to try Barbarians: The Invasion. First and for most I am a sucker for worker placement games and one that offers me that with miniatures and gorgeous art is going to be high on my list. I am also intrigued to see how the volcano wheels will affect my choices of actions. If a few actions I need to accomplish what I want each round aren’t linked how do you mitigate that? I think this mechanic could offer up some interesting choices. This project definitely has potential and I believe that the combination of a popular mechanic, great art, and nice miniatures is a recipe for a successful Kickstarter and one I will be watching out for when it launches in a few weeks.