"L'état, c'est moi."
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Caution: May contain wargame like substance
Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse
A game for 2 players designed by David Miller.
Don't let me down boys
Don't let me down tonight
No don't let me down tonight”
― Snake Eyes, by Alan Parsons Project, from their Turn of a Friendly Card album
Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is the third game in David Miller's series of small portable games intended to provide entertainment at a moment's notice.
Imagine this scenario. You're in a café and before your friend can finish saying "I'll have a tall double skinny with a shot of hazelnut", the game is set up and you can let your accommodating companion take the first move while you order your plain drip coffee. Before the waiter reappears with your porcelain cups to serve your afternoon refreshment, your first game is already done and you have sworn revenge.
Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse (MTMA) is a game about a disaster happening in a small town. A monster arrives and starts rampaging about town. You and your opponent need to get to the fallout shelter and get your meeples in before the monster catches on that the snacks are getting away to safety.
MTMA is a live-action dice rolling game. The pace is fast and frenetic, and there are even seven minute soundtracks available to accompany your adventures in monster avoidance.
Full disclosure: After having reviewed both of David's previous games, Mint Tin Aliens and Mint Tin Pirates, he asked me if I'd like to review this game during the Kickstarter campaign. I said yes, and he sent me a preview copy of this game.
As you might have easily surmised from the title, the game comes in a mint tin. However, it's a smaller tin than either the previous SubQuark efforts! This is in part because of the components, which consist of 10 mini meeples in two colours, a pair of dice for each player, a regular meeple representing the monster, and a die for the monster. There are also two white cubes representing supplies.
Not pictured: The game also includes instructions and a manhole cover token.
That's it. Oh, and instructions. A word on the instructions. You're in a café. Your opponent just rolled his dice a little too hard and they're on your side of the table. He spills his tall double skinny with a shot of hazelnut and it's all over the rules! Fear not! The game's instructions are printed on Revlar synthetic waterproof paper. You can wash them off and they won't be any worse for wear.
An optional deluxe play mat is also available if you want to have a playing surface. It doesn't fit in the tin, but could double as a snazzy mouse pad between games.
Dinosaur not included
The objective of the game is to get four of your five meeples into the fallout shelter with a box of supplies either before your opponent or before the monster eats you both.
How do you do this? You roll a . A lot of . Because a 7 is the lifeblood of your team. And you want to avoid doubles.
Oh, you weren't ready? All right, fair enough, I'll explain. You begin the game with your five mini meeples. The big event, the big kaboom that signals the monster has arrived, has just happened. One of your guys is standing, and the others are all prone. Maybe they're practicing the classic duck and cover manoeuvre. It's time to make a run for the old fallout shelter.
The monster in the base game will be standing next to a .
You're all set.
When the signal is given, you start rolling. And rolling. And rolling some more. Aha! A 7!
What can you do with your lucky 7? Well, you can do any of the following things.
- stand a meeple up
- move a standing meeple into the fallout shelter
- knock an opponent's meeple down (including part of a recon pair)
- evict one of your opponents from the fallout shelter (but you need someone in there to do it)
- send out a recon pair of meeeples to forage for supplies
- drag a box of supplies into the fallout shelter
- if you have four of your meeples and a box of supplies (no matter who brought it in), close the lid of the shelter FOR THE WIN!
You can see that rolling a lot of sevens will be necessary for you to win.
So what about the monster? Eh? Eh? Where's the monster?
Well, the monster sits on the board starting with a face value of 6. It's busy picking up a bus and throwing it down while he wades through the buildings towards the centre of town.
In the basic game, the monster sits idle until it becomes active. It becomes active when someone picks up a supply box. Once that happens, any time someone rolls doubles, if the doubles match the value of the monster, you turn the die down by one (a 6 becomes a 5 and so on). Once it hits 1, if you roll snake eyes, well... bad things happen. Your meeples, all of them, become helpless people in a fallout shelter, screaming bug eyed as he looks on them and snacks on them. Game over.
It's actually a touch more complicated than that. The monster has several modes, which players can agree upon before the game begins. In general, the monster will be slow to act and take a long time to become dangerous, unless you opt for the "cra cra" mode, where you can use one of your sevens to move it closer to chompville! I
Om nom nom!
If you like to ratchet up the tension and make the monster super active, I heartily recommend cra cra mode. I also heartily recommend tweaking the monster rules to suit your particular preferences. 'm going to tinker a bit too since I like monster on meeple action, and try out reducing the monster number any time someone rolls doubles greater than or equal to the current monster value.
There are two options I haven't touched on in this review.
One is the manhole cover expansion, which provides a little extra chrome and entertainment without a lot of rules overhead. It gives a little bit of an advantage and potential protection from the monster, and can also potentially stave off elimination by being used to pry open the shelter and prevent your opponent from winning.
Two is a scoring system for a campaign game. Now, I use the term campaign very loosely here, but it effectively gives you a points system that makes the decisions a little more interesting. Great if you're planning on having a series of games, or a best score after three rounds, say. Or maybe you want to have a monster chomping championship season. Think NASCAR, but with a healthy dose of Death Race 2000 meets Godzilla.
Before I get to my conclusions about the game, I have some comments about the project. Kickstarter has been used extensively as a funding engine by professional board game companies, often with many stretch goals, raising sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars and shifting the burden of risk from the company to the backer.
David's first campaign for Mint Tin Aliens and Mint Tin Pirates appealed to me because it really was a project in the spirit of the system - a creative person has an interesting idea and wants to share it with others, and wants a little help getting it off the ground. He's even gone as far as sourcing all the parts for this game, from the deluxe version play mats, to the tokens for the manhole covers, to the tins themselves from the United States. He's going to assemble everything by hand on his dining table just like he did last time.
Now to the game.
Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse has a great theme. I can't help but think of Blue Oyster Cult's epic song Godzilla. By the way, makes a great soundtrack for a session.
I come from a long tradition of playing all kinds of games in all kinds of situations and settings. I love a big meaty game that can take hours to play. I love games that take an hour and aren't overcomplicated. I love games that don't take themselves too seriously, provide some entertainment, and wrap up in the time I have for a cup of coffee at work. There is a place on my gaming table for all of these.
I'll be frank. Real-time dice rolling games are not my favourite. The few I've played have left me cold. And yet, I find myself at the end of a game of Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse thinking about what I might do next time. A large part of this willingness to play this game is that it's so short. I roll a pair of dice a bunch of times until my guys make it into the shelter and I can slam the lid of the tin shut, my opponent beats me to it, or the monster eats us both. Ten minutes, tops, and by then my first course has arrived.
And let me tell you, those minutes fly by. You get engrossed in the race to get to the shelter, especially if you dial up how quickly the monster becomes active. I'm already thinking of a variant where it could eat individual meeps, in a "last meeple standing" kind of way, and it wouldn't take much to tweak the rules to make it work either.
When I want a game that takes a short amount of time, has a small footprint, and is fun to boot, Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is a game I'll be reaching into my pocket for.
Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.
Among my favorites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph and Unhappy King Charles!
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Excellent as always. Thanks.
Les Coteaux, Que.
Merci Roger. Your reviews are always a great joy to read. J'attends d'autre