Hello, Chaz Marler from Pair of Dice Paradise here. In this world, saturated with mobile devices, entertainment can follow you wherever you go. Whether you’re waiting in line at the DMV, taking your driver’s test at the DMV, or being driven home after failing at the DMV, you’ll always have a myriad of media available to entertain you.
But there’s a side-effect to the ever-encroaching convenience of technology, and that’s the ever-encroaching convenience of technology. Human interaction can now easily be replaced by a liquid crystal display. Human interaction, it seems, is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity.
That’s why it can be nice to keep some ultra-portable, quick little games handy. That way, you can spend those spare moments actually interacting with each other, instead of being constantly distracted by gadgets, devices and… hang on, my phone's ringing... oh, uh, I gotta take this… hey… nah, just filming… yeah, its about how annoying it is when we give our devices priority over people… no, I don’t know the definition of “irony”, why do you ask?
Sorry about that interruption. Ahem.
SubQuark games has developed a couple of ultra-portable, quick little games that can help pass the time without going online. Mint Tin Pirates and Min Tin Aliens come packed inside the little mint tins mentioned in their titles. Which makes sense, and makes me glad that they didn’t go with their original names “Unlaundered Underpants Pirates” and “Bloated Walrus Carcass Aliens”. So, they’ve achieved their first objective of being ultra-portable, but will they turn out to actually be quick, fun games? Let’s take a look at each one, and find out if Tin Min Pirates and Tin Mint Aliens get their wings!
MINT TIN ALIENS
Let’s look at Mint Tin Aliens first. In this particular game, you will take on the role of an alien in training. To complete your training, you’ll need to make crop circles, abduct livestock, subject some puny humans to mind control, and more. This is done by collecting sets of matching cards to complete your training assignments.
Packed inside the mint tin, you’ll find a deck of merit reward cards, playing cards, instructions, several meeples and two ten-sided dice.
To set up the game, sort the merit award cards into piles. Give each player a bonus die with 9 facing up. This represents bonus points, and each player starts with nine. Shuffle the playing cards and deal, face-down, 4 to the first player and 5 to the second. Place five playing cards face up in a row and place the remaining cards face-down in a pile next to the row to form a draw pile.
On their turn, a player starts by drawing two cards. These two cards can come from either the row of face up cards, the draw pile, or one from each. The only exception is the Moolti Pass cards, which are wild, and can be used as any card. If a face up Moolti Pass card is taken, then it is the only card that can be taken by the player on that turn. If a Moolti Pass card is taken from the face down draw pile, then the player still draws a second card from either location (other than a face up Moolti Pass).
When taking cards from the face up center row, immediately replace them with a card from the face down draw pile.
After drawing their cards, the player completes a merit award, if possible, using the cards in their hand. Only one merit award may be completed per turn, so chose wisely.
- To earn a “sightings” merit award, worth two points, discard two UFO cards from your hand.
- Completing a “we’re here” award will earn you three points, but requires discarding two Crop Circle cards.
- Discard three Cows to earn an Abduction merit reward, worth four points.
- And discarding four Humans will earn you a Mind Control award, worth five points.
- Additionally, any matching pair of cards can be discarded to earn one point of Extra Credit.
The first player to collect one of each of the merit awards receives two meeples. The second player to collect them receives the remaining meeple. Each meeple is worth 1 bonus point at the end of the game.
If you can’t complete a merit award on your turn, you lose one of your bonus points by reducing the number on your bonus die by one.
Turns continue until all merit awards and extra credit have been collected, and then the game ends and scores are calculated. When scoring, count the points you’ve accumulated from all the merit awards and extra credit you’ve completed, add to that one point per meeple, and the number on your bonus die. Highest score completes their alien internship and wins the game!
Everything in Mint Tin Aliens is geared towards keeping a brisk pace. For example, if a player doesn’t complete a merit award on their turn, they lose a point, which motivates players to keep things moving. The game is simple, but you still have choices to make. Do I go for lots of small points that require fewer cards, or do I save up for larger sets that earn me more points, but take more cards out of my hand, causing me to potentially lose points on my bonus die?
I like the how you have to make this choice in the game. And in every game I’ve played, the final scores have been within 5 points of each other. The way you spend the cards to make sets seems to self-balance the game a bit, preventing a runaway winner.
After looking at Mint Tin Aliens, I turned my attention to Mint Tin Pirates. Now, due to the limited amount of materials its packaging can contain, I was concerned that the two games would simply be different skins wrapped around the same concept. So let’s take a look at Mint Tin Pirates to see if it’s the same game with a different name, or if there’s a complete different game in this tiny tin box.
MINT TIN PIRATES
In Mint Tin Pirates, you’re a salty pirate captain who, along with your stout crew, find yourself locked in a winner-takes-all battle with your seafaring foe. To survive, you’ll need to throw everything you have at your opponent: knives, bombs, cannons, and more. As with Mint Tin Aliens, this is accomplished by collecting sets of matching cards, but the similarities stop there.
Inside the mint tin, you’ll find a deck of pirate action cards, two ship cards, instructions, cubes to track damage and gold, two six-sided dice, meeples for your pirate crew and a g-g-g-ghost.
To set up the game, each player takes a ship card, and places it in front of them. Place your pirates on your ship and your damage cube on the ship card’s damage counter. Place the gold cube and Pirate Ghost between the ships. Shuffle and deal five pirate action cards face-down to each player. Place the remaining cards in a face down pile to create a draw deck.
A pirate may start their turn by discarding up to two cards, and then drawing the same number of cards that they discarded. Then, play a matching pair of cards, if possible, and roll the dice. Each card has a series of numbers at the bottom. If total on the dice matches any of these numbers, the card’s effect is triggered!
Knife, pistol, bomb and cannon cards will remove a pirate off your opponent’s ship and place it in the water beside your own, becoming what’s referred to as a lost pirate.
In addition to removing a pirate off your opponent’s ship, cannon hits will also cause a point of damage to your opponent’s ship, which is tracked with their damage cube. Four cannon hits, and a pirate’s ship sinks, sending them to a watery grave and causing them to lose the game.
A pair of Desertion cards will move an opponent’s pirate from their ship, over to your own, where they become a member of your crew. Ahoy, little pirate!
The Davy Jones’ Locker cards allow you to raise any lost pirate up from the deep and place on your ship where they become a member of your crew. Ahoy, spooky waterlogged previously dead pirate!
Doubloons are wild and may be used as any card in order to complete a pair.
After playing a pair of cards, if possible, and resolving their action, the player draws two more cards and then play passes to the next player.
If your crew is decimated by knives, pistols, bombs and cannons, all hope is not lost! The first player to lose their crew places the Pirate Ghost on their ship and discards two cards, playing the rest of the game with this minus two card handicap. The Pirate Ghost is always the last to be lost if you gain new crew members while in control of it.
Finally, if you roll doubles, you take control of the gold treasure and load it onto your ship. The player in possession of the gold gains an extra card while it’s onboard their ship. If your opponent rolls a double, they take your gold, they draw an extra card, and you must immediately discard a card since you no longer have the gold bonus.
Once a pirate’s ship loses its entire crew, or takes four hits, they lose. The last pirate standing wins the game!
As I mentioned, since the games come in such small containers, with so few components and both center on set collection, at first I was wary that they’d both simply be different skins wrapped around the same concept. But the two games play very differently. I’d really like to see what other fast and simple Mint Tin games SubQuark comes up with.
If the goal of the Mint Tin line is to create light, fast-paced games that you can easily take with you for a 5-15 minute distraction of fellow human interaction, then they have achieved this goal.
If I had to chose just one of the two to take with me, I’d most likely reach for Mint Tin Aliens. I found its play to be a little more streamlined and elegant. Mint Tin Pirates, while also simple and straightforward, still had room for ambiguity in a couple of the rules, which caused questions by some of the players I tested it with. But, while Mint Tin Aliens is my favorite of the two, I’d still recommend them both to someone who is looking for a portable game/distraction/ice breaker. I thought Mint Tin Pirates was good, and Mint Tin Aliens was even better, and it definitely gets its wings.