#228 – Mint Works

Box

Base price: $10.
1 – 4 players. (I don’t really cover the solo mode; sorry.)
Play time: ~15 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy directly!
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A review copy of Mint Works was provided by Five24 Labs. 

Okay, so I finally figured out what worker placement games are. It took me a few years, but I’ve arrived. One such game that really helped me along that way is Mint Works, the first game in the Mint series of games (I previewed Mint Delivery last year) from Five24 Labs.

In Mint Works, you’re working to build nice neighborhoods in the city of Mintopia (which, you succeed, since it’s still around by Mint Delivery, so good job!). The only problem is that really only one neighborhood can be the nicest neighborhood, so … which one is it going to be?

Contents

Setup

Setup is pretty trivial. You’ll want to dump out the mints:

Mints

And put the six Location cards in the center:

Basic Locations

Two of those are Deed Cards, so they should be the other side up. There are other Location cards (Remover and Team Builder), but those are promos — you can find them online (BGG Store, usually) or at conventions and such.

There are a few other cards that you can mix in, if you’d like, but don’t do that in your first game. They’re in the box.

If you do, shuffle them and add two.

Next, shuffle up the Plans:

Cards

Add three face-up to the play area. Give each player 3 Mint Tokens and you’re ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

This is a super-simple super-streamlined worker placement game in which you place “workers” (your Mint tokens) on locations to do actions. You do actions to take (and build) Plans which give you Stars. The first player to 7 Stars triggers the end of the game, and at the end of that round the player with the most stars wins!

Naturally, I’ll go into more depth, but that’s a good overview.

Each round has two phases: Development and Upkeep. Let’s cover each.

Development Phase

The Development Phase is taken as a series of turns until all players have consecutively passed. On your turn, you may place one or more Mint tokens (as a stack) on any one spot on any one open location (meaning if there are already Mint tokens on a circle, you cannot place there), or you may pass your turn and wait until later. If you pass, you are not out of the round; you are simply skipping your turn. You have the option to place or pass again on your next turn. If every player passes, however, the Development Phase ends and you move straight to Upkeep.

Each Location does something different:

  • Leadership Council: You can take the Starting Player token and gain a Mint token if you place one of your Mint tokens, here. It’s essentially a no-op but you get to go first next round.
  • Producer: Gain 2 Mint tokens. You basically come out of here with net one extra Mint token.
  • Supplier: Gain a Plan from the Plan Supply by putting Mint tokens here equal to the Plan’s cost. Keep Plans face-down in front of you. Plans are not worth anything until they’re built, at which point they become Buildings. Do not refresh the Plans until the Upkeep Phase.
  • Builder: Place 2 Mint tokens here to build one of your Plans, turning it into a Building. That’s always nice. Again, to note, Plans and Buildings are distinct and separate entities. Some card effects refer to Plans and some refer to Buildings; they are not the same thing.
  • Wholesaler: This is one of the Deed Locations, meaning that the Wholesaler Building must be constructed before this location can be used. Once it is, you may place 1 Mint Token here to gain 2 more Mint tokens, just like the Producer. Unlike the Producer, however, whichever player has the Wholesaler Building in their Neighborhood gains 1 Mint token during the Upkeep Phase if someone used this Location.
  • Lotto: Like the Wholesaler, the Lotto Building must be constructed in order to use this location. Place 3 Mint tokens here to gain the top Plan from the Plan deck. If it costs more than 3, well, congratulations! You got a deal. If it costs less, well, that’s why they call it the Lotto. The Owner of the Lotto gains 2 Mint tokens during the Upkeep Phase if this location has been used.

Now for the Advanced Locations! Use at most 2 of these in any game.

  • Crowdfunder: Keeping true to their roots, if you spend 1 Mint token on this Location then you gain 3 Mint tokens; however, every other player also gains 1 Mint token. Kind of reminds me of something…
  • Recycler: Spend 1 Mint token, and then you may take any Plan or Building in your Neighborhood and place it on the bottom of the Plan deck. You gain Mint tokens equal to that Plan or Building’s cost and star value combined. The rules say you can do this to Buildings; the card does not. Either way, strategically, it seems inadvisable.
  • Remover: You may Spend 1 Mint token to move a Plan from the Supply to the bottom of the Plan Deck. You then gain 1 Mint token. Useful if you’re trying to play Mean Works. …I don’t think that’s a very good pun. Oh well; leaving it in.
  • Swap Meet: You may Spend 2 Mint tokens to exchange a Building or Plan in your Neighborhood with one from the Plan Supply. Note that if you do this with a Building you still only take the Plan as a Plan, not as a Building. Just so we’re clear.
  • Team Builder: You may offer to build a Plan in another player’s Neighborhood. If they say yes, you build that Plan in their Neighborhood. You also may build a Plan in your Neighborhood, for free, too. If they decline, then you gain 2 Mint tokens. It’s not a bad deal.
  • Temp Agency: Pick an occupied location, and then spend 1 Mint token + that location’s cost. You can use that occupied space. Naturally, this doesn’t work if that location has no occupied spaces; you’re not allowed to just waste money (and that’s bad strategy).

Anyways, like I said, you place on those locations until you are either out of Mint tokens (in which case you pass by default) or you choose to pass. Once everyone’s done that, go to the Upkeep Phase!

Upkeep

This phase is pretty simple:

  1. Check for Game End. If any player has 7 or more stars in their Neighborhood, the game ends.
  2. Resupply Plans. Refill the Plan Supply to 3 Plan cards. If you cannot (there aren’t enough Plans left in the Supply), the game ends.
  3. Gain Mint tokens. Every player gains 1 Mint token + any Mint tokens they would gain from any card effects, including Locations. If you do not have enough Mint tokens in the Supply to give each player their Mint tokens, just take them from the locations.
  4. Clear locations. Remove all the Mint tokens from the location cards, returning them to the Supply.
  5. Back to Development. Start the Development Phase anew.

Gameplay 2.jpg

Game End

As mentioned previously, running out of Plans or hitting 7 stars in a Neighborhood will trigger the end of the game. When that happens, tally the stars in everyone’s neighborhoods, and the player with the most stars in their Neighborhood wins! Break ties in favor of the player with the fewest buildings in their Neighborhood.

Player Count Differences

I find that the game scales pretty elegantly at higher player counts, though it still sucks to go last, as you usually miss out on a Producer spot. That said, usually the last player takes the first player next round, so it kind of cycles in a nice way. Honestly, it’s a short enough game that I don’t have a strong preference on player counts.

Strategy

  • Pretty much always Produce unless you’re worried about something else. If you have nothing to do, you might as well Produce — it stops other players getting more Mint tokens, it gives you more to work with, and it might help you buy a Plan that might be really good. I haven’t found that it hurts.
  • It’s sometimes not a bad idea to swipe the First Player Token as soon as possible. Going first gives you first dibs at Produce and at the Plans, so you might want to set yourself up for future success even if you have to give up a turn. Can’t hurt, sometimes.
  • Build up your Mint engine … to a point. You eventually want to earn points, not just generate Mints. I once played a game against players where they had 15 and 13 mints at the start of a round and I had 2. I won. They had spent so much time focused on getting as many Mint tokens as possible that they had forgotten that there are only so many actions you can take, even with all the Mints in the world. This happens.
  • Keep an eye on your Plans. You don’t want to build two things that conflict with each other (the Landfill, for instance, reduces the value of other cards), so don’t do that. You should be smart about the neighborhood you’re building or nobody’s going to want to live there.
  • Buying the Wholesaler is pretty good, early on in the game. If you’re getting that when people are just starting to get Mints, it’s a great way to guarantee a steady income. Even better if you use it and get yourself even more Mints.
  • If you buy the Lotto, you should use it. Given that you get 2 Mint tokens during Upkeep, you’re essentially getting a random plan for 1 Mint token. That’s a great deal. Sure, it’s not necessarily all that strategic, but it’s certainly expedient.
  • Make sure you understand how the Vault works. It gives you points for Plans, not for Buildings. Lots of games have gotten wrecked by that kind-of-crucial misunderstanding.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Portable. Yeah you can kind of throw this into your pocket and go anywhere with it, which is pretty awesome. That’s the whole thought process behind this game, though, so it accomplishes its goal pretty well. That’s one of my favorite things about the whole Mint series.
  • Straightforward. It’s a simple game to learn and a basically bare-bones worker placement game. Not in a bad way! It’s a great way to teach the concept of worker placement without any additional complex mechanics, which is always nice. It’s part of a good balanced set of gateway games.
  • Plays very quickly. As you might imagine, it’s short and streamlined. You could probably extend it out a bit, if you wanted, but I don’t think that’s in any way a hard requirement.
  • Nice graphic design. I would slightly prefer if it said X {MINT SYMBOL} rather than showing the symbol a certain number of times, but I figure that’s a preference thing. In general, though, the graphic design is crisp, clear, and looks good. I also like the art style! I’m not exactly sure what the aesthetic is, but I like it.
  • Nice theme. It’s mint-themed because it fits in a mint tin! That’s endearing. I mean, I felt the same way about Mint Delivery but honestly it’s a good schtick so keep going with it. I’m not mad.

Mehs

  • It’s all … kind of snug. I get that that’s how it’s supposed to work, but it’s difficult to get certain parts of the game out without just dumping it over and that’s a fair bit of work to put things back so that they fit.
  • Some people are going to want more than this game offers. Like I said, it’s a fairly stripped-down, simple worker placement game. Some people are going to want more complexity and more to do. In my opinion, that’s fine! This game occupies a particular niche and does exactly what it says on the tin. That’s nice, but it’s definitely on the lighter side.

Cons

  • It’s a shorter game than a lot of people expect, on their first play. This might surprise people in an unpleasant way when you’ve just barely ended the game with 7 stars and they have 0 because they spent their turns building up a terrifying Mint Engine instead of scoring points. This happens! Thankfully it’s a short enough game that you can just … play it again. It might also be the source of some consternation, as it’s totally possible that you may go through the entire game without ever
  • The rulebook’s font is very small. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it’s hard to read text on the images in the rulebook, either. I get that it’s a tiny game, but a slightly larger rulebook might have helped me.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

In Progress.jpg

Overall, Mint Works is solid! I usually take it with me on trips so I can attempt to play it (since it’s so easy to transport) and I’m kind of amused by the continuity between Mint Works and Mint Delivery. Sure, it’s a very simple, very light worker-placement game but that’s great for introducing people to the genre or catching their eye with a game that looks like it SHOULD be a snack but is actually a game! I really appreciate the portability and the sort of size / weight ratio (simple game in a very small box) and I imagine I’ll be taking it with me a lot (it fits pretty easily in a Quiver, if you’re looking for an unsolicited product recommendation). Either way, if you want a super-simple worker placement game, this is a great fit!

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