Table of Contents
|Name||Mint Works (2017)|
|Accessibility Report||Meeple Like Us|
|Complexity||Medium Light [1.65]|
|BGG Rank||709 [7.10]|
|Artist(s)||Felix Janson and Thomas Tamblyn|
While Mint Works deserves credit for packing a full worker placement game into a tiny mint tin, in our view the game has little to recommend itself to your attention beyond the gimmick. It definitely works, but ‘functions adequately’ isn’t likely to find itself on any promotional literature any time soon. Probably. I don’t know – the Amazon product descriptions for games are super weird. I don’t know how and why those prominent lines are selected but it always seems like a better job could be done of the selling points. I honestly wouldn’t blink an eye to see ‘A game that works’ written there.
Mint tin games are interesting from an accessibility perspective because the idea argues strongly for component and aesthetic compromise – making the most efficient use of components is not always compatible with aiming for the greatest accessibility of a game. Let’s find out if Mint Works will uphold our expectations, or subvert them in a refreshing way.
We begin with good news here – colour blindness isn’t going to be an issue for play. The action cards are mostly two-tone and there’s no colour information on them at all. The different categories of cards are instead indicated by icon.
There’s a similar story for plan cards – while the palette chosen could have been more accessible (see the Obelisk versus the Gardens for example) there is no use of colour as the sole way of telling cards apart. Each comes with an icon and realistically there are so few cards in play that it’s not even going to be relevant except when it comes to playing with one of the solo AIs. Those have a preference for particular icons but other than that there’s very little impact of different categories. Where it is necessary, icons do the heavy lifting. .
We strongly recommend Mint Works in this category.
The cards in Mint Works have erratic contrast, varying from ‘very high’ to ‘troubling low’. Fonts for ‘payload’ information are perfectly appropriate for readability but flavour text is written in cursive.
All the information a player needs though is presented in a well-structured way – icon and name across the top, cost underneath, an icon for the card that permits ease of differentiation with familiarity, payload effects and then the victory point total at the bottom. There will only be a handful of these in play at any time, and the whole set could be memorised by a player with enough experience of the game – there are only 21 of them in the tin.
The location cards that permit actions are broken into three categories – core, which are always present; advanced, of which only half will be in play; and deed, of which only two will be present. It means that in a full game, with advanced locations laid down, only eight possibilities need to be visually parsed and the whole state lends itself easily to verbalisation.
There’s a degree of tactility here when it comes to playing mint tokens, but it’s not tactility that can be leveraged in a useful way. The cost of taking a location action is written onto the card, and players lay down the appropriate number of tokens on that card. It’s not actually required to do it this way, and I’d probably recommend players don’t – just lay out a single token and discard the rest to the supply. The presence of the token is useful in showing when a location has been used but there’s a fragility of placement that wouldn’t lend itself well to physical inspection. You could tell if two mints had been placed for example, or only one. Based on touch alone I’d be skeptical that a player could reliably tell if the single action on a card had been taken based on its central alignment. Simply checking would nudge the token to the point of ambiguity.
That said, there’s so little game state in here that Mint Works could likely be played through verbalisation alone – each player will have only a few buildings in play and there’s only a preventative reason for you tracking another’s buildings in the first place. The game ends at seven victory points which is often as few as two or three cards. There are only three plans to consider for purchase, and no danger in playing a hand open since everyone already knows what you’ve bought.
There are two different kinds of mint tokens in the game, and no way to tell them apart except for visually. Usually this is unlikely to be an issue because mints recycle rapidly into the supply and you only occasionally have use for the five-mint red tokens.
We’ll recommend, just, Mint Works in this category.
Mint Works eschews almost all of the sophisticated interrelationship of elements that defines a worker placement game and replaces them with – well, nothing really. The only thing on which you need to keep on top is timing – there’s an inevitability to everything else that alleviates cognitive load.
The fact that the provided AI automata can play the game so effectively shows how straightforward the logic is – focus on wealth, then building, then buying. That will take you 90% of the way to competence. As such the cognitive complexity of playing well is low, because it can be handled with a few simple rules of thumb. I doubt that’s likely to be very interesting to anyone though. As a cognitively accessible worker placement game it’s about as straightforward as can be expected with few ways for other players to seriously undermine progress. Game state is rarely very complex, with the largest cognitive cost being in assessing the few synergies permitted by cards. Those in turn have diminishing value because you don’t get a lot of time to make use of them.
However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the concept of worker placement is built on the idea of creatively blocking opponent activities and stopping them from doing critical things at critical times. The incredibly abrupt nature of wins in Mint Works makes this more of a short, sharp shock rather than a slow accumulation of advantage. It’s possible for someone to win largely out of nowhere if the player ‘downstream’ of them isn’t doing their job in getting in their way. That requires some understanding of the incentives of other players, but it’s still considerably below what would be expected of other games in this genre.
There’s a need for literacy during the game, and a requirement for numeracy. Neither of these require particular sophistication even if the language used is occasionally a little non-standard for a regular vocabulary. Particularly in the names of locations and plans.
There’s some memory burden in that the plans available in the deck are occasionally things you will want in order to build simple synergies in your neighbourhood. Knowing the deck can help when determining when these are likely to appear. The manual comes with a list of plans that could be made available to alleviate this issue. Playing with hands open doesn’t do anything to the game state that wouldn’t already be permissible for someone with a good memory.
We’ll tentatively recommend Mint Works in the fluid intelligence category – it’s still a worker placement game with all the attendant expectation of passive aggression – and more strongly in the memory category.
Despite being a mint-tin game the spaces made available for play are reasonably generous – if you don’t mind everything being slightly outside the very tightly defined action spaces. There’s room in their card compartments for a degree of flexibility although I’d strongly recommend using only a single token rather than a stack to indicate an action has been taken. In that case, you could just as easily discard tokens onto the card itself to show an action has been taken. The space made available for that is largely optional.
Other than this, the physical interactions of play are mostly claiming mint tokens from the supply, collecting plans and then spending them back to the supply.
If verbalisation is required, Mint Works supports it reasonably cleanly. Every plan has a discreet name, every location is unambiguously labelled, and there’s no real danger that comes from everyone playing with open hands. Whether this is what you’re supposed to do isn’t really touched upon in the rules (as best I can see) but you’ll always know what everyone has obtained in terms of plans anyway.
We’ll recommend Mint Works in this category.
Mint Works is about as emotionally un-involving as a worker placement game could be. Yes, other players can take plans you want and block actions you need but they can never actually do you direct damage. The only real worry is that nobody ever really gets much of a chance to get comfortable in the game – it’s over before anyone can do anything interesting and that can be frustrating. Imagine dumping all your mint tokens into a strip-mine that’s going to get you three refreshing mints every turn, and then someone laying down their second plan to win the game before you get to take advantage. Still, you knew going in that you don’t get a lot of time to enjoy what you claim.
That said, it’s not as if anyone has to invest large amounts of time into the construction of their neighbourhood – it’s usually over and done with in about ten minutes. That takes a fair bit of the sting out of the abruptness of the ending.
We’ll recommend Mint Works in this category.
There’s a small need for literacy, but most of the game can be played with reference only to a simple crib sheet. Almost everything written is flavour information and there are only a handful of cards which would need to be translated or explained. There is otherwise no formal need for communication. We’ll strongly recommend Mint Works in this category.
There’s no human art in the game – Mint Works instead uses abstract iconography to represent the locations and plans. The manual makes use of gender-neutral language throughout, referencing ‘the player’ and ‘their turn’.
I got my copy of this via a rare Kickstarter pledge – it was part of the package for Mint Delivery and I fancied taking a look at both for the blog. It can’t be easily bought from Amazon, as best I can tell, but it’s available from the five24labs website at the very reasonable price of $15. However, this is an American company and as such it’s necessary to take into account the eye-watering postage fee of $14 if you want it in the UK, with other costs for other countries. Those in the US will only need to pay $3 which makes it a far more reasonable proposition. Your mileage in this category will thus vary with your geography.
We’ll recommend Mint Works in this category, moving ever closer to a strong recommendation the lower the postage you’ll need to pay.
Mint Works has a relatively clean accessibility profile and there aren’t many factors I can think of that would likely create obvious intersectional problems. For those issues that might exist in other circumstances for other games, playing with open hands creates a very flexible context for accessibility support. Even where communication impairments impact on verbalisation, which is something we’ve referenced often throughout in a number of circumstances, that’s only going to be a partial issue due to the tractability of game state.
I’d say perhaps the only real worrying intersection is when visual impairments and memory impairments come together – a lot of the section on visual accessibility relies on memorising the game state. That’s feasible for even those of us without great memories, but it does require more of a burden there might be justifiable.
In terms of play time, Mint Works is over and done with in about ten minutes, barring accessibility considerations, and it’s small enough that it can be played in reasonably tight constraints. As a result it could be an ideal game for those where the modulating severity of symptoms must be considered and addressed.
The great thing about the way we do things on Meeple Like Us is that every game gets a second chance to shine – it’s only occasionally that our review is wildly at odds with the teardown but I’m very pleased when it happens. I don’t like doing negative reviews for a lot of reasons. I’d rather say nice things. At least this way when a game isn’t for me I can sometimes turn around and say ‘but maybe it is for other people!’
And so it is here with Mint Works. Worker placement games tend not to score very highly in these teardowns, at least in some categories, because of how complex they usually are in terms of strategizing. They also tend to offer some sharp pointy bits when it comes to player competition. Mint Works doesn’t have much of that and as such it’s a worker placement game we can generally recommend to (almost) everyone.
With a two star review we can’t be too enthusiastic about Mint Works as a game. There are few circumstances under which I’d choose to play it and all of them are ‘We’re currently somewhere awkward and don’t have access to our game collection’. That’s a privilege some people don’t have and ‘being accessible’ is one of the best labels we can assign to a game. That’s Mint Works, and it’ll be appearing on our Accessible Game Library on a Budget article when it’s next updated.
A Disclaimer About Teardowns
Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.
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