Full disclosure: A review copy of Venice Connection: Mint Tide was provided by Nice Game Shop.
Alright, another expansion! This one’s the expansion for Venice Connection, the tile-laying Nim variant that I didn’t really like last week. That happens sometimes; can’t like every game, no matter how pretty it is. It’s not a particularly big expansion. Either way, this expansion adds some new content, so let’s see how that shakes out relative to the base game, shall we?
In Venice Connection: Mint Tide, you realize that the waters are starting to take you in a different direction. Literally, there’s a fork in the road and you need to decide which way you’re going to go if you want to build your ideal canal. Sure, you can ignore them, but it seems more fun to branch out a bit and see where that leads you. Will you be able to complete your circuit of canals? Or will you end up stuck in a completely impossible loop?
No real setup here, either. Just set out the new tiles. They have a T shape on one side:
And they have a corner or a straight on the other:
They go by the main deck; you’re good to go!
Fundamentally, this plays similarly to the base game. This time, however, you may also take some of these T-shaped pieces, which will cause the pathway to branch. If you play them, you may choose which side you play them on. You may still call “impossible” if you don’t feel like the route may be completed, but now the circuit may be more complicated as it branches.
As usual, take 1 / 2 / 3 pieces and add them to the canal in a straight line, for your turn.
The player who completes the circuit wins!
Player Count Differences
None; still only two players.
- Keep an eye on those T pieces. I mean, I’m giving expansion-specific advice, and this is the only major component that’s been added for the expansion. It changes the way you should be approaching some of these problems, especially since you can cause a branch to form somewhere where it wasn’t expected. In the right circumstances, you might be able to fool your opponent into thinking that something is solvable when it most certainly is not, which is great. They move, you call impossible, you win!
- Playing a bunch of T pieces at once can confuse your opponent. This is the primary way that I go about doing this, honestly. Play a ton of T pieces to generate a bunch of possible paths facing in a ton of different directions; see where that gets you. Make sure it’s hard to complete them in one turn and you’ve got yourself a plan going. Just, as is always true in Venice Connection, make sure it doesn’t backfire in your face.
- Try to waste one of the T pieces by using it as its other piece. That’s a good way to throw off your opponent if they’re not paying attention. Though, being especially real, if they’re not paying attention they’re already in for a bad time; this is the exact kind of game that you need to be paying attention for at all times. It’s too tight of a game for you to get away with messing around too much, I think, especially if you happen to lose track of a piece that isn’t terribly common. That’s a quick way to lose.
- Don’t put all the T pieces on the table at once. You should mete them out, I think. If you place them all at once, then the game is still pretty much solvable, just with extra steps. While there’s still at least one in the supply, the game is in a variable state and you can still really change it up. Plus, adding a new T piece can really extend out a path if you’re not careful. If you add them all, then it becomes really easy to go back to doing the math again; there are just extra holes that need to be connected.
- If there’s not an even number of T shapes, the canal is unsolvable. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader, but you should 100% call impossible if you ever see a situation where there aren’t any T shapes remaining, but there’s an odd number of them on the board. That’s a slam dunk.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the coloration. The mintish teal is a really good look, even if it doesn’t match the other pieces. It gives the whole canal a bit of additional character, and I’m a big fan of it. To be fair, I was also a big fan of the base game’s art, so not much has changed.
- Still very portable. Four tiles and a mini-rulebook; that’s basically nothing, which is awesome.
- Still very easy to learn. It adds an interesting layer of strategy to the game, since you can choose to include (or not include) those shapes, but it doesn’t … really increase the complexity of the game, any. It’s just additional shapes. Never a bad move.
- The canals look more interesting with the T-shapes. It’s a nice look; makes me wish there were more shape types, honestly. I wonder if you could add enough to make it feel less Nim-esque.
- Still plays very quickly. Most games are done in 5 or 10 minutes; I can’t imagine it taking much longer unless both players are agonizing over their various turns, which sounds hellish.
- If all four T-shaped pieces are on the board, the game kinda reduces down to the base game. Like I said, it’s unfortunate because then it’s really easy to quickly do the math again and see whether or not it can be solved. I generally like getting one or two out there and then seeing whether or not I want to add a third one later on in the game.
- Doesn’t fit in the base game box or come in a box of its own. I’m really worried that I’m going to lose it (and am kind of afraid I already have; I haven’t seen it in a while). It’s probably in a box somewhere, but being able to tuck it into the base game’s box would have been a much nicer alternative to just throwing it somewhere.
- At least in my copy, the pieces are not particularly well-printed. There’s noticeable gaps on them, which is a bummer; it looks like the art was printed in the factory off by maybe 1/8″, which is kind of a messy way to print the tiles. The art’s pleasant, so it helps a bit, but it looks weird (as you can tell in the photos) since the tiles don’t match up with other tiles. I wonder what happened, honestly, but oh well, it’s just how it is.
- The game is still pretty much Nim. Yeah, unfortunately, I don’t think this adds enough layers of strategy to meaningfully change how I feel about the game. It makes it marginally more interesting, so I’d recommend picking it up if you at all like the base game, but I still find the base game kind of fundamentally uninteresting? It’s a tough thing, because it makes it very hard for me to figure out how to rate it. Oh well, when all else fails, just … wing it? So that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
So, weirdly enough, I think I’m going to give Venice Connection: Mint Tide a pretty high rating. My general problems with it are the print job, which I’m hoping is kind of limited to just my particular set, and that it doesn’t fix all the things I don’t like about the base game. That said, I actually do think that if I did like the base game, I’d want to have the expansion pretty much all the time, so in that sense, it’s a good expansion? It’s a weird mood. That puts it pretty firmly around an 8, but, I still don’t really enjoy the base game, so, I’m not sure what to do with it. Hence, a 7.75. I think it’s a very well-made expansion, especially for its size, but I don’t think it can do enough on its own to pull the game up to something I actually want to play. That said, if you really enjoy the base game, I’d highly recommend this one, but I think I’m going to call my recommendation there. Venice Connection: Mint Tide is a thoughtful and interesting expansion on an underwhelming game, but at some point the core game is eventually what everything boils back down to. Oh well; that happens, sometimes.