Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A simple game of fantasy mining that still works

As I’ve mentioned before, Alexander Shen has a gift for making neat coffee break-sized games and puzzles. Making five-minute games might not be as impressive as making six hour epics that break dining room tables but damn if it still isn’t a cool gift.

Take What You Mine is a game where you fill a pack with gems and treasure chests and slime that you dig out of the ground. It has just enough theme to have some quirky charm.

Mechanically, it’s one of those Roll and Writes where you’re filling a grid with symbols. You have a five-by-five grid where you out the stuff you want to get points for. You also have a five square grid (a square with one extra space sticking out) for putting stuff you don’t want in your backpack but those will be worth negative points.

The basic idea is simple. Roll one die, consult the chart and draw the item in. Each item has a different sent of scoring rules (gems have to be in a set, stone has to be an even number) but it’s the slime and the treasure chests that make the game tick.

Slime, excuse me, _pure_ slime is worth a respectable four points. BUT it can’t be placed next to another slime and it renders anything it’s next to worthless. 

Treasure chests take up four squares and their value is determined at the end of the game with a die roll for each chest.  And treasure chests are the worst. They take up a lot of space and the best return you can get is 1.5 points per square. 

The game ends either when you choose to end it after a placement or when you make a roll you either can’t or refuse to make. If the game ends the second way, you lose as many points as that final die roll.

Take What You Mine has some definite limitations. Any Roll and Write that uses only one die limits both what the dice can do and your ability to play with the odds. And Take What You Mine doesn’t have any dice manipulation so you have to cope with what you get.

That said, between the fairly generous placement rules and the discard pack, you do have more control than I was honestly expecting. The game is an interesting balance of being just big enough to offer actual choices while being small enough that the limitations don’t get annoying.

Take What You Mine does a very good job of making an interesting five minutes. If it was even just twice as long, it would need more. However, it’s excellent with a cup of coffee.

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