Become one of the leading mint making companies and dominate the market in Mint Control.
What Is Mint Control?
Mint Control is an abstract area control game for 1-4 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about 25 minutes to play. It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, and a pledge of $10 will get you a copy of the game.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Mint Control Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality, though much of it is very close to what it will look like in the finished version.
Like the other games in the Mint Universe, Mint Control comes in an tin modeled on the ones Altoids come in. Inside the tin, you’ll find:
- 12 Location cards
- 5 Action tiles
- 20 Influence tokens, in 4 colors
- 20 Mint tokens
- 1 Starting player token
- 1 rule sheet
One of the things I teach in graphic design classes is how constraints can lead to better design. The Mint games are a great example of this concept: because of the constraint of needing to fit in the tin, the components are simple and to-the-point.
The location cards are, well, tin-sized. They pack a lot of information into a small space. In the top left corner is the name of the location which has no bearing on the gameplay itself. Below that is the key element of the card: the cost to play Influence here, and how many total Influence can be played on the card. The bottom has information on the what happens when players are ousted from the card, and what happens when they have influence on the card. Each of these areas is illustrated with simple icons that, once learned, are easy to remember.
The Influence tokens in the prototype are cardboard counters printed double-sided with icons that match those on the cards (resembling a wrapped piece of candy) in each of the four player colors. According to the Kickstarter page, these will be replaced by custom-cut wooden tokens in the final version.
The Action tiles are likewise cardboard, printed on one side with the action (see details below) and on the other with the game’s logo.
The Mint tokens are small white wooden discs that closely resemble Altoids.
How to Play Mint Control
The goal of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game. Points are gained by controlling locations on the table.
Shuffle the Location cards and deal enough face-up so that there are at least 5 Influence icons showing per player. This will result in between two and five locations for a two-player game, three and seven locations in a three-player game, and four to eight locations in a four-player game. The exact layout of the locations isn’t important. The remaining Location cards are returned to the tin and will not be used in this game.
The five Action tiles are laid out face up on the table. All five are used in every game. Each player takes two Mint tokens as their starting capital, and the rest are placed in a pile near the locations as a supply. Each player also takes the Influence tokens that match their chosen color.
According to the rules, “the player with the freshest breath starts the game with the Starting Player Token.”
The starting player begins the game by selecting an Action token of their choice. Each token has two sections. The top is the Action, and the bottom, the Perk. The player who selects the Action first performs that action, and then they perform the Perk. Then, each other player, in turn order, may perform the Action if they choose to, but only the player who selected the token gets the Perk.
The five Actions are:
- Influence. The player who selects this can pay to place one Influence token on a Location of their choosing. Each Location has a cost to play Influence (between one and five mints). The Perk of choosing this Action is that the cost of playing that Influence is reduced by one, so it’s possible the player choosing this can play an Influence for free on one of the Locations with a cost of 1.
- Earn. The player selecting this token gains 1 Mint, and as the Perk, a second Mint. Each other player gains one. Note, however, that the supply of Mints is limited, so it’s possible in three- and four-player games (and even later in two-player games) that the supply will be exhausted, in which case players simply don’t collect.
- Presence. When this action is chosen, the player gains the Presence effect on each Location where they have Influence. In other words, for each Location where the player has at least one Influence token, they may gain some kind of effect, which is printed in the lower right corner of the card. However, four of the Locations have no Presence effect at all. Another four Locations simply give the player a Mint. One, the Reducer, causes the player to lose a Mint. The other two are a bit different. The Presence effect at the Supplier location lets the player add an Influence to a Location, and the Real Estate Office lets the player pay three Mints to trigger its Oust effect. Each player will have the opportunity to perform the Presence effect, but the Perk is that the action allows the player who chose it to also play the Oust effect from one of their Locations.
- Oust. The Oust Action lets the player who selects it gain a Mint, but then as their Perk, they can pay one Mint to remove another player’s Influence from a Location. Then, they can choose to pay three more Mints to remove a second Influence token. This second token does not need to be from the same location or the same player as the first. The player being Ousted will always gain some effect, mostly Mints. Each other player simply gets an additional Mint–only the person selecting this action gets to Oust someone.
- Scavenge. The player who selects this action either gains 1 Mint from the supply or can steal 1 Mint from another player. This action is unique in that it only has a Perk, so the other players do nothing when it is selected.
It’s important to keep in mind that the player who chooses the Action completes it in its entirety first, playing both the Action and the Perk. Then, in turn order, each other player gets to perform the Action completely. This will matter as control and influence could change as each player performs the action, and the supply of Mints may increase or decrease.
Once everyone has performed the selected Action, the next player chooses one of the remaining Action tokens and completes it, and then everyone else does. This continues until there are not enough Action tokens for everyone to choose one. In a two-player game, this means that each player will select two Action tokens each round, while in a three- and four-player game, each player will only select one.
When there aren’t enough tokens to go around, everyone returns the Action token they chose, and the Starting Player token in passed to the left, starting a new round.
A few of the Locations also have an effect. Three of them grant extra abilities to the player who currently controls the Location. One, Gallery, grants extra points to everyone who has Influence there, while Lotto allows players to pay less to complete the Oust action at that Location.
The game ends when, at the end of an Action, a player has placed all five of their Influence tokens on Locations. Players score points for each Location where they have a majority of the Influence. It there’s a tie, the Location does not score. If the Gallery happens to be in play, players score bonus points for that. The player with the highest total wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the most remaining Mints wins. If there’s still a tie, the player with the most Influence placed on Locations wins, and finally, they player whose age is closest to 42.
The Kickstarter page for the game says that it will have a Solo mode, but the prototype I was sent did not include the pieces or the rules for that.
Why You Should Play Mint Control
Mint Control manages to pack a whole lot into a small footprint. This is a game that can be carried and played almost anywhere. It’s small enough to even play on a plane.
Yet unlike so many other micro-games, Mint Control involves some real strategy. It really is a deep area control game, and while there are only five actions available at any time, those five give players a lot of strategic decisions to make.
Because the point of the game is to get your influence markers on the board, it seems obvious that every turn the first player should grab the Influence tile and play it, so that they can benefit from its Perk and play that marker at a slight discount. Yet, when my wife, my son, and I played, my wife never once took the Influence marker. Instead, she mostly focused on the actions that gave her income, figuring out pretty quickly that if she was bringing in enough money, she wouldn’t need to care about the discount, and since she got to play influence when my son or I draw that tile, she could still get those pieces on the board. And in the end, she not only won, she won easily. Admittedly it’s a sample size of one, but still, it showed that the obvious solution wasn’t in fact the guaranteed winning solution, which in my eyes is the sign of a good game.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Mint Control Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.