Preview: Mint Tin Pirates and Aliens, oh my!

Portability is something that I have begun to value more and more in my gaming collection. When friends invite me over to play games I want to be able to bring a few games for them to choose from, but I can carry only so much. Other times I am out with a friend, grabbing dinner, or something like that, and we want to do something so we don’t have those awkward moments of silence and staring at anything we can find other than each other.

As I write this, and maybe as you read this, you might be picturing the beginning of one of those commercials for some new product where they present situations and say, “Have you ever experienced this? I know I have. Well, there is no need to ever have this situation happen again. With mint tins, you never have to stare awkwardly at someone again.” Or another scenario, where someone is arriving at their friends house with a bunch of giant boxes in their hands trying to ring the doorbell and then all of the games come crashing down around him with all of those game bits being strewn across the ground. Never again does that need to happen! Mint Tin games are here to solve those problems, or at least, that’s what the commercial would say. So do the mint tin games offer anything for your game collection?

I know for me, any time that I see a small game I wonder a few things. Obviously I wonder about the quality of the game itself (I’ll get to that in a bit), but I also wonder about the portability and durability of the container it comes in. It’s one thing to be portable, but if it is going to fall apart on me in my pocket, or in my laptop case, then carrying it around it pointless. I put these games through a couple tests.

Test #1: Can they be easily carried in my pocket?

Mint Tin Aliens and Mint Tin Pirates do come in small and convenient Altoid type tins and clearly that is one of the selling points of these games. So I put them to the test. After I first got these I headed out to town and wanted to see just how portable they were, so I slipped one in my jeans pocket and walked around. I sat down at a table, I walked through town, I drove my car and I almost forgot I had the game in my pocket. I was very impressed.

Grade: A

Test #2: How banged up and mangled are they after being in my pocket?

After carrying Mint Tin Pirates in my pocket for a few hours I decided to see what the damage was. I grabbed the game and I was sure that my keys/phone would have done something to mess up the tin. I checked the top, the side and the bottom; nothing. I opened and closed the tin several times, knowing that something had to be wrong and again…nothing. I was shocked. The label on the tin wasn’t even scratched.  My phone case which is built to protect hasn’t even fared as well as the game did.

Result: A

Test #3: Is there enough in these tiny tins that will get me to carry them around?

Ok, portability is all fine and dandy, but you don’t just buy a game because it is portable, you buy it because it is a good game. (Alright, maybe you do, but you won’t continue to carry it around if it isn’t good.) In order to pass this test each game will have to be discussed separately and judged upon its merits alone. Both games are for two players, ages 10+ and last between 5-15 minutes.

Mint Tin Pirates:The Galleons and Kraken bone dice in Mint Tin Pirates

This game consists of 7 tiny meeples (3 black, 3 red and one white), 2 galleon cards, 2 Kraken bone dice, 1 yellow wooden cube, 4 instruction cards and 58 little playing cards.

I could literally write every rule down and it wouldn’t take up too much space because the rules are printed on the front and back of 4 little cards. That’s it, only 4. There aren’t a ton of rules, so it is pretty easy to pick up, teach and play. The essentials of the play is you can discard up to two cards, play a pair, roll the dice to try to match the numbers on the bottom of the pair, assess the roll and then draw back two replacement cards. That is essentially it, but hidden in this game is some strategy too.

Hand mortar, knives, pistols, cannon and doubloon in Mint Tin Pirates

Let me go into a little more detail about playing the cards, because that will help you understand where the strategy is. The way to win is to hit the other player’s ship with four points of damage or to get rid of all of their pirates (including the ghost pirate) before your ship is destroyed or pirateless.  In order to damage the other ship you have to use a pair of cannons. In order to knock their pirates into the see you can use knives, hand mortars or pistols. There are also more rare cards in the deck allowing a pirate on the opponent’s ship to commit treason and come work for you, or to recover a pirate from the sea.

Treason and Davy Jones Locker cards in Mint Tin Pirates

The strategy comes when you have multiple pairs in your hand, deciding which cards to discard and replace immediately and when to use the doubloon which acts like a wild card. The hand mortars have better odds than knives and pistols, so do you keep them to attack or try to draw for a cannon card, to do some damage? Do you use your wild now or save it a few turns to pair it with a treason card (if you get one)?

Obviously AP is not a problem for a game that only last for 5 to 15 minutes, but there is enough choice in this game to give you a bit of pause before making your choice.

Positives:

Good theme
A good combination of luck and skill
Fast playing
Very portable and durable

Negatives:

The rules being on both sides of 4 cards make it slightly annoying to flip over (only applicable until the rules are memorized).
The rules were not clear about what happens if you cannot make a pair on your turn or if you lose the ghost pirate (which replaces your crew when your crew is gone giving you one last chance to fight on).

Grade: B

Mint Tins Aliens:

This game consists of 20 total merit cards (extra credit, sightings, we’re here, abduction and mind control awards), 40 little playing cards, (moolti-pass (wild), sightings, we’re here, abduction and mind control), 2 saucer d10, 3 tiny meeples, and 4 instruction cards.

Again, the rules are very simple and written on 4 cards. The essentials of play for this game is you can draw 2 cards (one from the face-up row and one from face down deck, 2 from deck or 2 from the row) and then if you have the right combination of cards you can claim a merit card. The moolti-pass can be used as a wild card to help complete any merit card. Each merit card has specific requirements to achieve ranging from 2 of a kind to 4 of a kind. If the player cannot achieve the merit card then you must spin down the d10 one number essentially losing 1 point. The first player to achieve the four non-extra credit awards gets two meeples and if the other player completes that as well they get one meeples (each meeple is worth one point at the end). Once all of the merit cards have been claimed, the game is over and the highest point total wins.

The merit awards and requirements in Mint Tin Aliens

Again, let me go into a little more detail. The game isn’t difficult at all, but there is some strategy for this short little game too. Similar to Ticket to Ride if a wild is taken from the face up row it counts as that player’s two draws, so taking the wild is a risk and reward in and of itself. Also since the game ends once all of the merit awards have been claimed then taking a card from the row that the other player might need to complete the limited merit awards available, can cause them to spin their die down and lose a point.

The cards you collect in Mint Tin ALiens

One of my favorite things in this game is how well balanced it is. At first we thought the first player had a major advantage in completing the 4 non-extra credit merit awards, therefore gaining an extra meeple/point, but the second player gets an extra card to start and that can keep them from having to spin down their die once throughout the game essentially making up for that one point difference.

Positives:

Good sense of humor with the moolti-pass (ala Fifth Element)
Quick play
Great introduction to hand management for younger crowds
Fun for a quick carry with you game that you could play anywhere

Negatives:

The rules on the small cards again

Grade: A

Final Thoughts

Overall I liked both games and they provided a different type of play, so you could own both games and play the one that fits your mood. If you want to go head-to-head and taken down the other player, then play Mint Tin Pirates. If you want to be less aggressive then play Mint Tin Aliens. Each game offers its own strategy and can be played super-fast and can be carried anywhere. If you are looking for portable games that are fun with a little bit of strategy then grab these games when the Kickstarter goes live.

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