Back This! Mint Works, Justin Blaske

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Meet Justin Blaske, a designer from Nebraska, USA. I originally spied Justin’s latest game Mint Works on Instagram and I was really drawn to its quaint low key design and quirky name. I thought it looked super cool and wanted to find out more. Mr Blaske kindly allowed me the PnP, which I did indeed print and play. I’m happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did the other players. For me this is an absolutely lovely and beautifully designed little gem. A cute filler and perfect travel game, easy to teach for new gamers but enough strategic decision making and minty rewards for more experienced players to get their teeth into. Yes I loved Mint Works, and hope very much to get a finished copy arriving on my door step in the near future. It went live on Kickstarter today, it’s a great campaign (I love the promo video, it’s perfect) and you can find the link at the bottom of the page. 

I’ll leave it to Justin to tell you more…

What was the inspiration for Mint Works and can you tell us what it’s all about?

Well, this game came about very differently than my typical game ideas. Mint works ended up being created in response to a design contest on BGG. The contest, run by R4D6, was to create a game that, with all of it’s components, would fit within a mint tin. When I saw the competition, I thought it was really neat, but had no ideas what I could do for that. So I subscribed to the thread to see what came of it, and moved on. A few days later while I was relaxing around the house the idea came to me. Why not make game that used the mints themselves as components! From there, worker placement seemed like a good direction to go. That’s when I locked the name “Mint Works” down, since your mints were doing your work for you, ha! From that point, I started throwing together ideas, realized I could make it simple enough that it could be a gateway style game, and being pocket sized in a little metal tin made it even better for that idea. People could carry this around in their pocket and the game wouldn’t get damaged!

Is this the first game you’ve designed and what lead you up to this point as a games designer? 

Nope, My first game was Area 1851, and I was lucky enough to get that published! It’s had pretty mixed reviews so far. Some people love it, some people think it’s ok, and some people hate that it exists.  If I look at my projects listing Mint Works is my 7th design. Which now that I look at this list, kind of blows my mind how many different projects I have going.

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How did you find creating the campaign? 

Well I had created one campaign before this, for Area 1851, and that was a bit of a mess. I had no idea what I was doing, both in term of Kickstarer design, or the game design industry as a whole. So it’s a good thing that it failed initially, I think – it gave me time to get a better context for Kickstarter and game design as a whole. The Mint Works campaign I think will be much better, and I dare say successfully fund. My abilities as a graphic designer have improved over the years and I’ve done a lot more research into creating a campaign. Not to mention actually being a part of the gaming ecosystem now for several years. When all is said and done, When you buy a copy of Mint Works from your FLGS store you’ll find a ton of fun, in a tiny little tin. The final graphics haven’t been submitted to the manufacturer yet, so it’s possible for things to change a slight amount, but what you see in the campaign page, and in review videos will be pretty close to what you get at the end.

Have you got anything else in the pipeline for Mint Works such as expansions or any future games you’re working on?

Mint Works is so small and compact, I’m not sure what would be a good expansion or addition to it. I struggled to come up with meaningful stretch goals for the campaign, that would still fit in the tin!

I’m not opposed to expanding on it, introducing more advanced concepts and leading new player deeper into this wonderful hobby we all enjoy. However, I don’t think it would work well in the mint tin form factor, an expansion for Mint Works would likely be a little bigger box, that accepts all of the original mint works components. As for other games, yes there are lots in the pipeline, and having my buddy Mel join up with me has brought even more creative engergy to the mix. We are pitching a game we initially called “Dungeon Town” during the publisher speed dating event at GenCon this year. I’m also working on a few other projects to potentially release from Five24 Labs, as well as projects directly with other publishers.

 

I love the simple but attractive illustration and design, was this all created by you?

I wish it was! The game’s initial layout was my idea, and a friendly BGG user by the name of Felix (BGG user ID skoll) offered to do some layout/design for a small project for a geek gold donation. I messaged him and he came up with what became the final design/layout. After that, I’ve made a few tweaks here and there. All of the central images on the cards are from the amazing artists over at Game-Icons.netI’ve attached an image to show you the evolution of the cards from initial PnP to near final design.

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Lastly I’d love some advice as an aspiring designer myself, any hints, tips, and ways not to go mad in the process? 

I guess, my best advice is, make things you love playing, or wish you could play. If you aren’t enjoying the game, it becomes much more difficult to finish the project. Also, don’t be afraid to collaborate and worth with other people. Participate on design forums, both on BGG and Facebook – there’s a lot of people out there doing a lot of neat things. Do a competition or two as well, the constraints can really bring out neat ideas.

Most of all though, just stick with it – and if you find yourself in a rut, shelf it for a bit, maybe it isn’t as amazing as you thought it was, maybe it is. Coming back a few weeks/months later will really shed fresh light on on it. Also, if you plan on going to Kickstarter, read Jamey Stegmaier’s book and blogs, and James Mathe’s blogs as well. Really crucial stuff in there to at least see, even if you don’t want to follow it to the letter.

Thanks to Justin for talking to me, and take a look at the finished product here!

Kickstarter Games I’m Sad I Missed; Part 1, Tavarua.

I was fairly late to Kickstarter. A few years ago I was aware of this word floating around but didn’t quite know what it was all about, and it was only in the last year I started actually looking into it and getting myself up to speed. I was initially put off by a few bad stories, some negative experiences people posted about, but overall I mainly see great looking games, happy gamers, a good sense of community around it and other gamers saying ‘wow this looks neat’- ‘yes I backed it on Kickstarter, you might be able to get it in 18 months!’ Jamey Stegmaier of Viticulture/Scythe termed  it ‘the shopping mall of the future’. Which I actually really like.

I’m probably the poorest I’ve ever been in my life right now, so I don’t back often and can never back anything too pricey (goodbye Anachrony & Days of Ire Budapest 1956, I’m in a world of hurt.) So every now and then I thought I’d write a post about successful Kickstarter games that I’ve missed and look great, and hopefully one day I’ll still be able to play (forever the optimist!) This weeks choice is….Tavarua!

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Image totally nicked from the Kickstarter page, link below.

This is an awesome looking game by Cody Miller who also designed the Xia: Legends of a Drift System (which I haven’t played either yet much to my distress. I clearly have a lot of board gaming cherries to pop) and it’s themed around surfing. Surfing! I’ve never been surfing which is ludicrous really, as I love activities and being in the water, but for whatever reason the closest I’ve come to surfing is watching Point Break fifty times (unbelievable, another classic is being remade but that’s another topic!) and there is something here that appeals to me. Maybe it’s that I’ve never played a sports related board game before (again with the cherries).

When Tavarua appeared on my Instagram feed the other day I immediately thought was ‘how has this been done?’ What mechanics can you use that work with a surfing theme?’ So I went and checked it out. Initially I thought wow this looks very cool, lots going on, dice, surf board meeples, words like ‘barrel’ and ‘stoke’ and ‘catching the break’ (images of Lori Petty and Keanu Reeves dancing in my head right now). I’ve read the rule book and watched some play throughs and it looks really interesting and like something I’ve never played before! Which is great! So your competing in a surfing competition, the players ‘paddle out’ on the board to catch waves (represented by dice and wave tiles, the dice change and you have to get them in the right spot to ride them) and players use action cards to perform tricks that will score points, and when you catch the waves you use the wave cards that interact with your surfboard (which is like your player card). If you  haven’t heard of this one please pay it a visit here, I don’t think I can do it justice by rehashing the rule book/BGG blurb when I haven’t played it myself.

I’m gutted to have missed this. Hopefully they’ll be a retail release next year. As for Kickstarter I will definitely be looking to be a backer for a few more games I have my eye on (more on that coming soon!) even if I can only put in a small amount. Now I need to go surfing. Or maybe I’ll watch Point Break again.

 

 

 

Rococo: Jewelry Box Expansion Review

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I acquired two new games last week, Broom Service the card game and the Rococo Jewelry Box expansion. I decided to write about Rococo and make a little video on Broom Service (coming later this week). As I mentioned in my post a few weeks back I absolutely love Rococo, its a beautiful Euro and up there in my top ten.

So what does Jewelry Box add to the game and is it worth purchasing? Well you get 28 additional employees, an exam card, jewellery box board and jewellery tokens, and yes I believe it’s worth purchasing (for a vey reasonable £12.50 RRP.)
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So what does it do? Well first off there’s the personal ‘exam’ cards. You take the exam using your apprentice and journeyman cards to meet the three set requirements (same for every player and easily achievable e.g- use an action with your apprentice to buy a yellow or red material) Once you’ve completed the exam you spend an action trading in your standard journeyman/apprentice card and pay the hiring cost to choose one of the special guys. These let you add on a cool free action e.g. – make a dress for free and sell only (instead of placing it in a hall, and hey that extra money is always welcome!) you can take the exams as many times as you like. The jewellery itself is displayed on a separate little board and consists of coloured ring and necklace tokens. You can only purchase these when you make a dress and as the game progresses and they are purchased you can move them along the board and lower their cost. When you buy a piece of jewellery this gives you income every round. If the one that you buy matches the colour of the dress you made then you can pick up a free material. I find this comes in handy because personally I dislike spending too many actions purchasing! Some of the expansion cards are shuffled into the regular deck too so you can snap one of those up as a hiring action.
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In my opinion if you like Rococo you’ll welcome this expansion and probably enjoy it as much as I did. I love that it adds more to an already tough game and makes choosing what to do next even more challenging. I only wish it added on an extra round because this game seems to end so quickly as it is, and you feel like there’s so much more you could achieve if you had just a bit more time. There’s the inevitable ‘check the rule book 500 times to remember what the symbols mean’ but that’s to be expected when you first start playing a language independent game. The jewellery box and the exams seem to give you quite a bit more income to play around with too and can earn you some valuable extra prestige points early on, so it definitely feels like you are gaining more which is always nice.
It’s an all round good review from me, a must have if you own the game and an incentive to give Rococo a try if you haven’t already!
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Empty packet of Revels optional! 

Coming Soon! Rococo: Jewellery Box

I recently discovered that there is an expansion on the way for the Euro gamers favourite Rococo. So stoked for this!  Jewellery Box will add 28 cards with new bonuses to change up the game without changing the rules. As the title  suggests it also attaches a jewellery option accompanied with lovely new tiles and you can receive a master craftsman’s diploma. All for the RRP of £12.95 (in the UK) not bad hey?

Despite its release in 2013 I only bought and played Roccoco this year after a bit of umming and ahhhing. I’m glad I did and could immediately see why it’s a firm favourite. Some games you find just work. The Castles of Burgundy, Suburbia, 7 Wonders, Twilight Struggle, Puerto Rico and Concordia to name a few. They seem to play out smoothly, make sense, are challenging without being horrible excruciating and are just…fun. I find that it’s usually games that aren’t overly complicated, that don’t have 10 million rules that you have to check up every five seconds, then go online to double check and triple check. They cultivate healthy competition without you wanting to reach across the table and strangle another player. They make you think, you strategise, but you don’t have steam coming out of your ears in sheer frustration. You definitely care if you win but won’t be too pissed if you don’t, because you had fun in the process. These games allow the player to gain as they go and feel a sense of achievement. Lastly the theme and mechanics in ‘games that just work’ all meld together nicely.

Roccoco is one of those games. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and on the surface I guess that making dresses for a lavish ball may seem a little feminine, although all the characters (except for the queen) are male. But none of that kind of stuff matters when the game itself is one that works. Everyone can get down with a bit of frivolity and 17th century fashion if the game’s a good one!

Roccoco is a clever take on deck building, there are some tough choices to be made, you are constantly in close competition to your opponents for area control, hiring employees first, nabbing the best monument spots on the board and obtaining the correct requirements in time to make your garments. At the end you are able to reap lots of rewards in the form of prestige points which is always nice (aka not an abrupt ‘is that it then?’ ending) Also, let’s face it the game itself is hella pretty and biiiiiig.

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Having said all this I never win it, ever! My partner clearly has more fashion prowess than me.  I am most definitely looking forward to playing it with the Jewellery Box expansion next month! If you have yet to play Roccoco I suggest you do, it’s a real gem. I’m so corny in my posts sometimes *blush*! More info

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