Mint Works is a quick game that comes in a tiny tin, but contains plenty of decision-making.
The game is named for its resemblance to a tin of sweets, but when play begins you’re actually developers building your own neighbourhoods and doing so by assigning workers (the mint tokens, of which everyone starts with three). Three Plan cards are laid face-up and the rest remind as a draw pile. A few Location cards are laid out centrally where you will assign tokens to take the action on that card. You might get some more tokens (helpful for getting plans and building them), get a Plan card (take one from the display), build a Plan card (turn a plan card face-up in front of you – this is your neighbourhood) or grab the starting player token, which will give you first dibs in the next round: helpful when spaces on the Location cards are limited.
After everyone has either placed all their tokens or passed, there’s an upkeep phase. The Plan card display is replenished, everyone gets at least one mint token, but you may get more depending on what buildings you have in your neighbourhood. Many of the buildings give some little in-game rewards, and many of them have stars on. The stars are points, and as soon as one player hits seven points the game will end!
There’s nothing in Mint Works that hasn’t been used in many other games elsewhere, but then originality isn’t its M.O. – it’s all about packing a decent game experience into a highly portable – it really does fit in your pocket – and short-play package. And decent it really is: many games that set out to be portable tend to feel compromised in some way. With Mint Works there’s a genuine game here: brief and simple, but with crucial decisions to be made during play.
Mint Works feels to me like a proof-of-concept – can you make a playable strategy game that fits in a tiny tin. It turns out you can, but it raises interesting questions for me about how much theme, artwork and ceremony you can take away from the board gaming experience and still have well, a board gaming experience. I have only played once, but it didn’t make me want to go back and play more particularly – there didn’t feel like there would be interesting strategies to explore and exploit in subsequent games. I often find myself making food or drink comparisons with games, and this to me is like a expertly-produced peppermint essence – slightly pointless without something delicious to put it in.
There's a little. Spaces on the Location cards are limited so you may find yourself blocked out. But nothing here to feel got at about.
Low...ish. Mint Works is a quick game, but a scatter-gun approach won't win it for you.
Plan cards come out randomly and there is some variation in the location cards too - there are four always present, and two extra random ones. Not always a vastly different playing experience, but it does offer some depth to play.