Monday, June 3, 2019

Mariner - an amusing exercise in card management

2019 9 Card Game Print and Play Design Contest - Mariner

As a lazy PnPer, this contest has been an enormous boon to me. One sheet of components is pretty reasonable as a project, even when I’m low on time and energy. And the returns I’ve gotten from the entries I’ve played have been a great return for the time and materials I’ve put into them. I will admit that I focus on short solitaire games so I’m sure the be missed some gems. But I’ve still had a great time.

Mariner is a tiny little game that was inspired by the NASA missions of the same name. It consists of eight cards you actually shuffle and a checklist of missions. The contest rules banned pencils or pens so Mariner’s rules list cubes to check off missions but I used a dry erase marker.

You draw a hand of three cards. If you have a card in the check list, check it off (the order is Venus, Mars, Venus, Mars, Mars, Mars, Venus + Mercury) Then, you discard one card out of the game and the rest into the staging area, which is really a discard pile that you you get to shuffle when you need to draw.

Three of the cards are Mariner missions, which let you pull specific cards out of the discard pile. That’s the sum total of special powers but we are talking about eight cards.

So, the game is all about constantly cycling through a tiny deck, among sure that you keep from discarding Venus, Mercury and Mars. Because then you’re going to lose, period.

Okay. This is the biggest issue I have with Mariner. It is too easy. Once I had an idea to manage the deck, I’d say I’d win at least two thirds of the time over the course of a couple dozen plays.

But, here’s the flip side. I got In a couple dozen plays in short order. More than that, it has kept in coming out and kept on getting played. Like so many tiny solitaires, it’s takes no time and no space to play but I also like the card manipulation. There’s just enough there to keep my mind rolling along. It would be interesting to see the game expanded to eighteen or more cards.

Oh, and I also like very simple, from-a-science-text-book-from-the-70s art for the low ink version. Very ink friendly but very evocative at the same time.

When I wrote the rough draft for this blog some weeks ago, I ended by saying Mariner is a fair-to-middling game. And I still think that’s true. But I keep on playing it. It’s like a comfy pair of slippers that won’t do for a real walk but are nice to have on.

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