Like so many who live in NYC, I commute via train to get to my (day) job. And one day, my lovely wife and I were walking to the subway station, only to see a line of people, literally hundreds deep, loitering outside the subway entrance and looking more than a little angry – the result of a very out-of-order train pile-up. Jess and I looked at each other, called into our respective offices for vacation days, and went to have breakfast at a local diner. And as we waited for our pancakes, reveling in our impromptu date, Jess casually mentioned that she wished we had a game to play.
Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse, the latest offering from David Miller and subQuark, is practically the definition of ‘microgame’. Miller’s previous efforts at game miniaturization, Mint Tin Aliens and Mint Tin Pirates, compressed set collection and card battling into tiny tin boxes, but with Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse (whose name is almost literally longer than the game is large), he has created a real-time dice-chucker that fits in an absurdly small box.
The basics: MTMA is a fast-paced game for 2. Each player will control a group of lilliputian survivors, fleeing for safety in the face of an oncoming giant monster (read: regular-sized meeple). In order to be safe, you need to get as many survivors as possible into the fallout shelter. You will also need to scout for supplies, because who knows how long you’ll be stuck in there? And of course, the shelter only fits 7, so you may wanna get in there before the other team manages to get its act together…
Setup is incredibly simple – dump out the game, lay down all but one of your meeples, grab your dice, and get to rolling (in a brilliant act of physical game design, the tin itself is the fallout shelter everyone is trying to occupy). There are only a handful of actions you can take in the game, which include:
- Stand up a fallen meeple
- Move a standing meeple into the shelter
- Shove an opposing meeple out of the shelter
- Send a pair of meeples out looking for supplies
- Bring back a box of supplies
- Slam the lid on the shelter (must have 4 of your team inside) and win!
Now, in order to take any actions whatsoever, you will need to roll a ‘7’ on your two dice. There are no turns, so players will simply roll as fast as they can, taking an action each time a 7 comes up. It is frantic and random and a whole lot of fun.
Depending on the difficulty you have selected, at some point the monster will activate. Once activated, it is only a matter of time (and unlucky dice rolls) before it arrives and kills everyone, so you’d better have that shelter closed before then. If you can manage to get at least 4 of your meeples into the shelter along with a box of supplies and close the lid, you win! If not, well, there’s always next game.
Andrew: MTMA is a race, pure and simple, with tons of luck thrown in. We love it because of how incredibly portable it is (I literally carry my copy everywhere I go), and as long as you have a flat rolling surface and around 3 minutes to kill, it provides a delightful little nugget of gameplay that is absolutely perfect for what it is. I love how manic it feels- we instituted a rule where you had to say ‘Seven’ before you took your action, and it added such great pressure every time you heard your opponent come one step closer to winning!
Amazingly enough, there are actually a bunch of variants and even a tiny expansion that add to the game’s replay value, including a manhole cover to act as a projectile to knock down opposing meeples. There are even rules for solo and 3-player variants (with one person acting as monster)! It’s kinda amazing just how much game there is in this tiny, tiny tin.
Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse can be purchased directly from subQuark games, along with Miller’s other titles. You can snag the basic version of the game for under $15, or, if you prefer a little more aesthetic, you can go with the ‘deluxe’ version; the cityscape mat adds a neat touch, the journal is fun for scorekeeping, and the extra manhole cover lets you come up with your own variants (we’ve experimented with ‘coin flip’ mechanics and the like). Of course, the extras aren’t nearly as portable, but they’re still nice to have.
Jess: Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is a game built around a gimmick, it’s true. But the gimmick is a really smart one – who wouldn’t want a game they can take and play basically anywhere? And its value goes beyond just ‘being really small’ – there’s actually a game in here!
Andrew: Heck yeah! It’s incredibly light and totally based on luck, but, honestly, as a ultra-quick real-time filler, it’s just plain fun. And I can’t overstate how pleasant it is to have a game that I can literally keep in my hip pocket, just in case!
(Thanks to subQuark for providing our copy of Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse for review. Their generosity didn’t influence our opinions)