Full disclosure: A preview copy of Mining Colony was provided by Dr. Finn’s Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Alright, we’re back with more reviews; this is another Kickstarter preview! I think there’s an ongoing issue emerging where I see more than two Kickstarters a week and yet, only have two review slots, so a number of games are getting pushed back. This is how I ended up doing four a week for most of last year, which, very taxing. Anyways, we’re working on getting through that queue and some other exciting games, all a good time. This week, one of the title’s we’re looking at is Mining Colony, another title from Dr. Finn’s Games, who also made Nanga Parbat (previously reviewed). Let’s dive right into that one!
In Mining Colony, players are tasked with collecting new resources to send back to a home world running low. It’s not the nicest planet that you’ve been sent to for collecting, but it does have a lot of stuff, so, that’s also fun. Naturally, this means that you have to be the best at collecting resources in the hopes that you can leverage that success in order to never have to leave your planet again. Lofty ambition, but very reasonable. Will you be able to carve out a place for yourself on this rock?
Give each player a player board in their color:
The standard side has all the tiles in a row; the advanced side has them all in a diagonal. Start with the standard side; either way, all players should use the same side. Also give each player a set of Excavation Cards in their color (same color card backs). Set the game board in the center of the play area:
And shuffle the resource cards, placing them in a stack:
Shuffle the tiles, organizing them by size and placing them in their respective spots on the game board:
Use X outposts of each color per player, where X is the number of players – 1:
Same with the Science Stations:
This means in a three-player game, you should have 2 of each. You should not be limited on workers or ships:
You should also set aside the crystals:
And the credits:
And you should be ready to start!
A game of Mining Colony tasks players with collecting resources to build various buildings to help resupply their resource-starved home planet. By building up your sector, you’ll score victory points that will ultimately translate into a victor.
A game lasts 10 rounds, as players bid for resources to build up their own colonies. Each round works as follows:
During the Discover Phase, one player reveals the top resource card from the deck and fills the corresponding zones on the player board with the indicated resources.
Only fill zones equal to or less than your player count. In a three-player game, you’ll fill zones 1, 2, and 3. Once you’ve done that, remove the Resource Card from the game.
During the Excavate Phase, all players draw three cards from their private decks. If you do not like the cards you reveal, you may spend 1 credit to put those three cards on the bottom of your deck and draw three new cards. Choose one of those cards and keep it face-down until all players have chosen a card. Reveal it, and return the other two cards to the bottom of your deck in either order.
In order from highest card to lowest card, players may choose one zone on the board and take all the resources in that zone for themselves. Do so until all players have taken the resources from a zone.
Finally, you may develop your colony with the resources you received. At the top of each player board there is one Crystal Storage Unit, one Landing Pad, and one Housing Dome. These are not part of the colony; these are considered to be a “staging area”. You score no points for things here, but you can move them into the colony on later turns.
You’ll earn tiles, crystals, and tokens: here’s how each work.
For tiles, you must place them next to already “developed” spaces (these spaces are darker). Each player starts with six developed spaces; on subsequent turns you must still play adjacent to a developed space. Tiles may not extend past the edge of the grid, and you cannot cover tiles with other tiles (including starting spaces).
For crystals, workers, and ships, they each have a location where they have to go. Crystals go on Storage Units (either multicolor units or units matching their color); workers go on Housing Domes; and ships go on Landing Pads. When you take one, you may place it on a matching space on your colony or on your staging area. Once you place something in your colony, you may not move it again. Each building can only hold one item.
If you cannot or do not want to take a tile / crystal / worker / ship, you may discard them for credits. Crystals, workers, and ships earn you one credit, and tiles earn you one credit per square in that tile (a 5-square tile will earn you 5 credits). Keep in mind, however, that you can only keep 5 credits at the end of a round. If you’d like to spend credits, you may use them to buy build-over tokens. These allow you to place buildings on developed spaces (including over other buildings, if nothing’s in them).
At certain times, you may build structures! Structures are special buildings that are worth extra points. There are two kinds: outposts and science stations.
- To build an outpost, you must build a ship and a worker of the same color with exactly one empty (but developed!) space between them. If you do, take an outpost of the same color and place it between your ship and your worker.
- A science station works the same way, but with two crystals of the same color with one empty (but developed) space between them.
Note that structures are finite; if there’s a conflict where more players want structures than there are structures available, the player who played the highest card this round gets to go first.
End of Round
After you’ve finished developing, each player removes their excavation card from the game.
End of Game
After 10 rounds, the game ends! You score points equal to a few things:
- Structures: 2 points
- Resources (Ships / Workers / Crystals): 1 point
- Credits: 1 point for every 2 credits
- Unplayed Cards: The player with the highest pair of unplayed cards scores 6 points, the next highest scores 3 points, and the third highest scores 1 point.
- Undeveloped Spaces: -1 point per space
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I think the game scales nicely with a variety of player counts. Even though the bidding gets more contentious, there are more spots available to pull from, so you’ll be able to access a wider variety of options to build up your colony. The one thing I’ll mention is that the number of Special Buildings (towers + outposts) does scale with player count, so there’s always one fewer than the number of players. This makes it pretty intense at two players, since if you miss out, you lose it, but at higher player counts there’s a distinct incentive to go deep in one color and create chains of the same specialized building. Which is also fine, just, a different energy. I think it’ll take a bit longer at higher player counts just because there’s more information to process and plan around, but not so much that I see it negatively impacting my enjoyment of the game. I don’t think I have a strong player count recommendation for Mining Colony; every count I’ve played it at I’ve enjoyed.
- Figure out which rounds you can afford to underbid. You’re not going to be able to win every round, even if you consistently had the best draws (due to how the cards are distributed). As a result, you should keep an eye out for rounds where it doesn’t matter if you get the “worst” option because it still gives you something you need or something you can use to get a lot of points. There’s also the case where you’re pretty sure what everyone else is going to take (players don’t always take the Most Valuable Spot), so you might be able to bid low and get rid of a low-value card and still get something useful.
- Try to set yourself up for combos. You really need to go wide enough that you can lock down some of the special buildings early in the game to start pulling from that shared supply. The more that end up on your board, the less that will end up giving bonus points to your opponents! And we hate giving points to our opponents if we can avoid it.
- Knowing the card distribution can help a fair amount. It snakes from 1 – 48 so within certain bands you’ll usually have one high and one low card, making it impossible for any one player to win everything. This is pretty crucial to remember, as you also want to keep certain high-value cards for the end of the game so that you can score those bonus points.
- Keep an eye on what your opponents might want. This is generally critical in a lot of games, but it helps here to be able to plan around what your opponents are looking to get. Do they have one blue worker, a blank space, a launchpad, and a blue ship in the Resource Zone? They’re probably going to go after that. If you imply you’re going to play a high card, you may be able to convince them to overbid for it even if you don’t want it. Just be careful; if you overplay your hand, you may cause them to throw off and keep a high-value card for later, which will likely not be great for you.
- Never tell your opponents what you want. If they know what you want, they can manipulate how you might bid. Keep that information to yourself, or at least as much as you can given that everyone’s board is public information.
- Keep in mind that spaces without tiles are negative points at the end of the game. You don’t just want to always take the smallest tiles; covering the area of your board is also pretty important. Taking large pieces can also give you blank spaces that can be covered with special buildings or tokens to give you more flexibility.
- I recommend against placing pieces too quickly, since you can’t move them again. Use the staging area to your advantage. This is a fairly common problem with new players; they really want to place pieces immediately, but that locks them into a certain strategy that can reduce their flexibility. And this is definitely a game that you want to be flexible for.
- Strongly recommend only buying extra buildings at the moment you need them. You’re less likely to waste your money that way. I think, mostly, unless you’re in need of placement for items, you should generally avoid buying buildings that you don’t necessarily need to place straight away. If you lock those in too early, then you have to deal with those constraints later and you might miss out on the special buildings you need for additional points later on.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The theme is fun! I really like space games, a lot! You’d think that that would mean I’d like Terraforming Mars more, but, it’s a bit heavy for my tastes. You know how it is. This one is a nice weight for me, though! I taught it to my new-to-gaming housemate with pretty little fanfare, though I did tell her after the fact that she should likely stop telling me which zone she wants. It’s a process; we’re learning a bunch of new games.
- The art is also pretty nice. It’s a bit generic-spacey on the tiles, but the card art and box art are amazing. I think Marius Janusonis did an awesome job! Hope to see more in the future.
- The bidding system is great. It’s simple enough that most players can understand it, but still leads to an interesting ebb and flow. I think this is really the crux of what makes the game interesting, so I’m going to wax a bit about it. The distribution is pretty fair, yes, but I think that this is a much simpler bidding game than most players will have otherwise experienced, because your bids are somewhat randomized! You can have no chance in a round and you might not even know! So it really comes down to “do you want to spend the best card you have or are you okay with whatever’s left”, which is informed by looking at how other players are playing and what they want. I think it’s a good way to build up an awareness of how other people are playing, and it helps players develop skills that will serve them in subsequent games. I think it’s really good! I especially like that you can earn bonus points for saving the highest cards, which is a nice catch-up mechanic and it creates interesting incentives as the game approaches its end. All in all, a pretty rock-solid mechanic; I think it rules.
- I also like that the resource allocation cards have an ebb and flow to them as well. There are definitely High-Value rounds and Low-Value rounds, and I think that’s also pretty smart. It means that you might get unlucky, but there are enough that your stars should be able to align often enough. Worst case, the game is short so bad luck can only work out so well.
- The solo game is pretty fun. I was impressed by it! I tried the game at 1, 2, and 3 players and they all were enjoyable, but the solo game plays pretty nicely since you compete, again, against a roughly randomized heuristic. I think it was pretty well done!
- Relatively low complexity. Like I said, I taught it to a basically new-to-board-games person and they picked it up pretty quickly. Two rounds had gone their way instead of mine and they would have won! I think there’s a lot happening in the game, but ultimately each of the many things going on has its own simple process, which is overall pretty good.
- Plays pretty quickly. Each round moves at a pretty good pace; maybe a minute or two each time? This means you really can get a game finished in ~30 minutes or so, if you know what you’re doing. I was pleasantly surprised by the game’s entire flow. It works well!
- I wish the outpost pieces were a bit more well-defined. They’re a bit blobby; this is something a screen print could help out a lot. I’ll be interested to see if they end up doing anything with them.
- I hope the game comes with an insert of some kind. It’s kind of an organizational nightmare right now with all the tiles, gems, tokens, and other pieces that could really use their own spots in the box. Having an organized spot for the tiles especially is going to be critical.
- Randomizing that many tiles is also fairly difficult, which adds to the setup time. I can’t easily shuffle these tiles and I’m pretty good at shuffling, so this means that I just kinda … mix them around and hope for the best. It’s not pretty and it’s certainly not ideal.
- You really can build yourself into a corner; it makes me wish the game were larger so it were easier to build inside of areas you’ve already built around. I mean this as a literal corner, not a figurative one; you really can make it hard to place pieces without knocking everything over. This is worse, in my mind, than Nanga Parbat, because knocking stuff over is relatively low-consequence in that game. In Mining Colony, you can really mess up your boards if you’re not careful. I think if the game were just … larger, it would be easier to fix things up.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Mining Colony is a lot of fun! It’s a nice title for a wide variety of players of various skill levels since so much of the game relies on that player interaction informing who gets what resources. I like that a lot! It’s not directly negative, since I can’t work to spite you beyond “I’ll play my best card”, and there are too many cards to track who’s played what and therefore what they have available. I’m a big fan of tile-laying and general building games anyways, so I would already be excited about that alone, but adding in that player interaction to determine resource split is fun while avoiding the I-cut-you-choose mechanic that I like less. Add in some fun art and I think you’ve got a solid title going! I will say that, similar to Nanga Parbat, I wish the game were larger so that I could better place the pieces, but I think for this particular game it’s a bit problematic since the game is so small that inserting pieces to the game board is decently difficult. That’s my major complaint, actually. A bigger game with an insert that makes it easy to organize and shuffle the titles would make it even easier to get to the table, set it up, and play it. I’m into that. In the interim, though, I’m excited to see what they do with the game when it hits Kickstarter. If this one sounds appealing to you, I’ve quite enjoyed it, so I’d recommend checking Mining Colony out!