Fostering an “open” game culture

posted in: games, mini apocalypse | 0

Hmm, that title is funky and what I’m trying to accomplish is having Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse be a bit of an “open” game system.

By open I mean that its play can be modified by gamers and that its components can be used in different ways.

One of the ultimate open game systems in the world is a deck of cards. There are thousands of games possible with a deck or a subset of a deck.

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse will never be that versatile but it would be nice if gamers felt they could make their own variants with its game components:

  • 5 blue meeples
  • 5 yellow meeples
  • 1 green monster meeple
  • 2 blue d6s
  • 2 yellow d6s
  • 1 green d6
  • 1 fallout shelter

Expansion components:

  • 1 game mat
  • 1 manhole cover (maybe 2 depending on your feedback)

This “open” perspective started with this week’s shift of the “deluxe” Kickstarter reward game mat going from a themed dice rolling mat to being a true game component.

The game mat was simply a top view of Meepleton, the game’s setting. But with a slight modification, the mat can turn into “zones”. At first I thought about numbering these, but that constrains what you can do or at least tends to create a linear path (1 to 2 to 3, etc).

If these are zones are named buildings and access points to the sewer, does that make the game more open?

For example, in the original incarnation a simple T intersection divided the mat into my side and your side. We place our meeples down and roll the dice like mad.

With a zoned mat, would people do things like:

  • one of my players is in the Bob’s Burritos and two are in Mary’s Smoke shop
  • one of yours is in Cat’s cafe and two are in the Cinema Magic
  • rescue your team and get them to the shelter, grab the manhole cover and use the sewer to bypass the school and get directly into the fallout shelter

It’s not a huge departure from normal play but it would be your own variation. The more conditions you place – like getting more meeples out of zones, placing the supplies in a zone (rather than just in the street from a crashed truck), getting the manhole (which takes time but possibly provides an advantage) – the more likely it is that the monster will win.

You could also do things like place the monster in the sewer and require it to bust through the manhole cover . . .

I know it’s hard to envision (lol, it is for me) but this is kind of what I mean by open.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, it would be great to have a community driven expansion to the base game.  =)

Twitter | Facebook

Thanks and have an awesome weekend!

Ready, Set, Hold on . . .

posted in: games, mini apocalypse | 0

I’m was all set for the Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse Kickstarter and the game itself has been ready for months.

I got obsessed with offering a “deluxe” reward of a mini game mat and a boxtopping-style score journal and those were ready for July 14th and for reviewers (albeit they’d only get it 2 weeks before the Kickstarter) but now I’m pushing that into August.

So why the delay?

I blame serendipity and passionate game video blogger ExcalibursZone. =p

I’ve not been 100% happy with the mini game mat design and was tweeting about it yesterday to which Excalibur tweeted back

If you did multiple mats as stretch goals, each with different objectives/missions/rules/etc. based on the environment.

Creating full-on missions and rules for this now would mean pushing the KS back a few months because new missions and rules would need lots of playtesting. It’s a phenomenal idea and one I’d like to pursue (and maybe the game community will come up with their own too).

However, a tiny change to the game mat graphics could move the game mat from being a “deluxe” thematic element to being a true expansion. As an expansion, the core game doesn’t need to be modified (lots of playtesting has led to the base game being simple yet fun while allowing for different strategies).

Plus, Nick Shaw has really fun solo, 3 player, and 4 player variants already created (to which I’m doing soundtracks to support Nick’s timed variants).

Making a small change to the mat extends the game now, and in the future, creating more playability. Win-win!

But . . . the Imitable Kate chimed in at dinner last night and said “what about adding a coin?”

She knows I’m obsessed with these US-minted brass tokens. =)

Within a few minutes, we came up with the coin being a manhole cover and part of the expansion.

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse Manhole Expansion!*

The $19 US reward doesn’t go up in price but it now adds the coin as a modest stretch goal.

More importantly, the “deluxe” level becomes a true expansion and adds real game value.

This means adding (and editing) the expansion rules to the score journal and designing the coin, thus pushing the KS back. A benefit is that it also gives reviewers more time.

The last 18 hours have seen an awesome “value add” worthy of a new Kickstarter date of August 11th.  =)

* – LOL, I’m such a little kid that I leave “cover” out of the name to be sophomoric! derr! =D

While the mat doesn’t fit in the tin, the coin actually does! \o/ for serendipity! =)

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse vs. Mint Tin Pirates

posted in: games, mini apocalypse | 0

Part of our Kickstarter project consideration is assembling the game itself. Especially since were all “maker movement”, “sourced local”, “100% US vendors”, and all that feel good blah, blah, blah. =)

We don’t figure any hourly labor rate into this, however game assembly needs to be realistic.

For Mint Tin Pirates, there’s a video online showing most steps:

  1. Inspect each tin inside and out, and test hinges.
  2. Spray each lid, peel label, place jig, apply label, squeegee label, wipe label, and let dry overnight.
  3. Inspect each meeple (7) and bag (all must lay flat).
  4. Inspect each die (2), inspect cubes (3), and bag (must be in one row).
  5. Inspect card deck shrink wrap and place deck in tin.
  6. Fold meeple baggie with 3 on one side and 4 on the other, place in tin.
  7. Roll up cube/dice baggie, place in tin, close and place tin into 4 mil baggie.

Mint Tin Pirates – total active game components: 13

Pretty involved but not so bad and it works out to 20 games per hour for one person.

For the upcoming Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse we have a huge space challenge. We wanted the game to fit in a mini tin which is less than half the volume of a normal tin. o_O

Here’s are the assembly steps:

  1. Inspect each tin inside and out, and test hinges.
  2. Position tin on arbor press, emboss lid, and remove.
  3. Peel and apply game sticker to tin bottom.
  4. Inspect each meeple (11) and sort into bags.
  5. Stretch Goal: stamp each monster meeple (one side).
  6. Inspect each die (5), inspect cubes (2), and sort into bags.
  7. Stretch Goal: stamp each cube (one side).
  8. Print, score, cut, fold, and place instructions in tin, close and place tin into 4 mil baggie.
  9. Bag the mini game poster poker card.
  10. Place all bags into one larger bag.

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse – total active game components: 19

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse has more components to inspect and the components have to be precisely arranged to fit in the tin. Meeples have to stand or or be stacked two deep on top of each other – this adds significant time to a longer process than assembling Mint Tin Pirates.

I’d like to use that time, hopefully, for the “maker movement” stretch goals.

Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens each Kickstarted for $14 with US shipping and Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse will Kickstart for $10 with US shipping.

Add the Kickstarter a “deluxe” version and Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse becomes a bigger game to manage.

After much lamenting, we made the decision not to assemble the final game for two reasons:

  1. Time. We want to get at least 1,000 out early like our first Kickstarter.
  2. The second came from consultation with Nick Shaw – the Mint Tin Games’ master variant creator. He brought up a good point – in Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse the “game box” is also an active game component – it’s the End of the World Shelter (EWS).

With Nick’s perspective in mind I thought about one of the things I like to do with a new game – punch out cardboard and organize.

While I am rationalizing the assembly time, I do like the thought of people setting this up in their own way and making it their own – there are countless possibilities how you can arrange the bits in the box. =)


DIY games and more

posted in: games | 0

I’ve written before about publishing your own game and believe it’s something that many people can do. Years of giant established “gatekeepers” who decide what you will like are quickly falling by the wayside. They will try to keep hold of their places (and profits) and make it seem that anything less than “real” published games are somehow inferior.

Thank goodness YouTube changed that for many incredible musicians. And Kickstarter has done this for musicians, authors, and game designers.

There will always be a place for these gatekeepers but, thankfully, they aren’t the only conduit between creators and individuals.

Today, if you want to share your music, your books, your games, and whatever else, you have the ability to do so. And if your stuff resonates with others, you’ll find success. You could be the next Catan or you could be very happy being out there to a few hundred people. Either way, I think creators and individuals win.

All of this to say: if I can do it, so can you.

I’m not anything big, by any measure, but it’s been very satisfying to get our games out there and for those of you with that game, book, song, or whatever sitting on the back burner, take another step – it doesn’t have to be world domination and it can be as big or small as you like.  =)

Maker Movement continues for Mint Tin Games with a heavy-duty aluminum DIY game display for our only brick-and-mortar game retailer Diversions in Portsmouth, NH


an interesting box, some sandpaper, high-gloss paint, laminated graphics, and mounting tape make a kitchy display box for Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens for our FLGS of Diversions in downtown Portsmouth


Diversions is a great FLGS and truly part of the local community. They host a zillion events including our game design meetups which is where Mint Tin Pirates truly got launched!

Thanks Diversions! =)

Mint Tin Games – Roller Derby Ref Approved

I am a volunteer ref for local roller derby leagues.

This means that when I show up to officiate I don’t find myself in a big locker room where I can hang my stripes up and stretch out. In fact, sometimes we are lucky to fit us all in where they have us.

Being an official at these games can lead to downtime for us between games and at half-time. It can be 10 minutes to over an hour depending on the events.

Well this leads into me saying how much I love mint tin games.

I have a gear box that I carry everything in. Shirt, skates, gear, extra wheels, tools, basically anything and everything I need in an emergency. So that doesn’t leave a lot of room for me to have some big box board game. The fact that these games literally fit in a mint tin means that I can store them without having to carefully reorganize everything to make it all fit.

Now to touch on another wonderful part and that is the time aspect of these games. There is a very little learning curve which is a plus because I don’t want to spend the whole half explaining this great game just to have to pack it all up.

Also with the rules modified to be able to stop at any time and be able to quickly do some quick addition and have a winner is beautiful.

So for example, this past weekend we were stuffed in a small hallway. Just enough rooms for a couple of chairs and standing/sitting room only. So with the 20 minute half, I was able to set up Pirates, explain the rules, go through a demo turn or two, and have 10 minutes of play which was enough to have the other ref I played win.

Rinse and repeat during intermission between the first and second game. Get the call that we have to report back to the track and it’s just pack it up, throw it back in my gear box, and no worries.

Let me say that this game is a blessing to me and refs in the locker rooms.

Thanks subQuark for the great games!

“Scooby” Drew Ziegler


Game Design Inspiration

posted in: games | 0

This week a tweet asked “What is a game that inspired you as a designer?”

I watched MythBusters’ Zombie Special with Michael Rooker with a segment titled Dead Heat exploring how likely you could “escape the horde” in varying densities of zombies.

I got a sense of angst no zombie movie ever evoked and wondered how I could convey that feeling.

Non-player characters can be programmed in OpenSim and Ener Hax built an excellent representation of Kowloon Walled City, complete with labyrinths and mazes, that would make a great zombie role-playing sim. =)

I sketched out the elements that created my angst and realised it was beyond my tech skills to do this online. Plus OpenSim severely limits who could explore it and costs $100 a month to host. =(

Around that time, I received Zombie Dice and loved its simplicity. I bought a copy for my daughter and made brains from Sculpey clay to use as counters.

That got me thinking about making a board game instead of something online. =)

ZOMBALAMBA was born, laboured over, prototyped, and play-tested.

A nifty “AI” for zombie movement, very little in-game text, hex tiles for the board, and multiple play modes gave it some variety. I was pretty impressed with myself. *rolls eyes* =p

The prototype even fits into a mini prepper camo bug-out bag (ripped off, err, inspired by Bananagrams).

I wanted it produced domestically but my prototype cost is $26 per game!

A Kickstarter and offshore production with someone like Panda is an option but I have issues with my game made in a country with no free elections, no freedom of speech, and possibly some deplorable work conditions. There’s a reason it costs so much less to make products offshore – cheap labour and little regulation.

I’m not terribly bothered that 99% of games are made like this – I just couldn’t choose this for mine.

So I started looking at alternatives to shave costs. There aren’t many US or Canadian companies that can do this, so I decided I could do it! o_O

And why not?

I’m not scared of doing menial labour and am no primo uomo (well, I may be snobby but I don’t mind saying I had to look up that phrase). =p

Rather than $4 for a custom bag, those wide-mouthed gripper jars are 69 cents . . .

Digging deeper into box alternatives, I ran across mint tins and while ZOMBALAMBA won’t fit in an Altoids’ sized one – it was too late – I had the game design bug.

It’s like a zombie bite – I had no choice but to create a game. Must make games!

I had no idea what but serendipity saved the day.

I went to lunch with Steve, a long time tabletop gamer, and I had two meeple and a pair of dice in my pocket (I mean, who doesn’t?). While waiting for burritos I tossed them onto the table to pass the time.

That day, we challenged each other to come up with a highly portable quick playing pirate-themed game.

A few weeks later we both had prototypes and attended our first game design meetup.

I was ready for full-on blind playtesting with 3 copies of my game. I had no idea what to expect and wanted to be prepared (I may be a tad OCD and manic).  =D

The meetup group graciously played my game and jotted down notes on the instructions. I took all their feedback to heart and Mint Tin Pirates came into existence! One suggestion was to Kickstart a pair of games so I took that to heart too! =)

Maybe it was naive to think I could design and publish a pair of games but I watched a lot of Rhado, devoured anything Jamey Stonemaier wrote, studied other kickstarters, and did it one small step at a time.

I think anyone can do the same – it doesn’t have to be the next Catan – just share what you enjoy and others will like it too.

The blog is back

A few weeks back something happened to our old iliveisl blog with HostGator. A comment-related PHP script caused our server CPU usage to go through the roof. I’m not savvy enough to know how to tell what it was let alone fix it.

HostGator “restricted” the hosting account until it was fixed – that meant none of the 20 sites we maintain were online, including

This happened Friday night right after the Board Game Blender – Tiny Games video came out with a mention by Tiffany B. of Mint Tin Aliens and Mint Tin Pirates (YouTube link starting at 22:47).

I couldn’t afford to spend days figuring this out so I grabbed hosting at GoDaddy to get back online quickly. The Board Game Blender video drove many sales of the Mint Tin Games (thank you Tiffany!). =)

HostGator’s been great for years and they were very responsive via Twitter but, with little server expertise, I felt stuck. It was easier, for me, to rebuild on a new host and get subQuark fully functioning by morning.

All that to say the blog is back and while older posts have missing photos, I can start blabbing again! *ooh, lucky world!*  =p

Oh, since the commenting thing trashed it all, I disabled commenting here. Feel free to chat on Twitter or Facebook as I’ll connect these posts to both. =)

Quick games and Kickstarter update:

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is pretty solid and the incredible Nick Shaw has created two solo variants, a three player variant (only needs one game), and a four player variant (uses two games in a team format).

His variants are absolutely fantastic! They extend the game, add play value, variation, and a lot of fun. Thanks Nick! =)

We’re still looking to Kickstart Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse for $9 (shipping is US $0, Canada $5, World $10). That level will include a mini poker card poster with Ing’s fantastical interpretation of the game.

There will be a Deluxe reward with a themed mini playmat, a scoring journal with a “badging” element, and maybe even a full colour instruction book to highlight Nick’s instructions (yes, they are THAT good!).

Also my daughter-in-law Michelle, who is a music professor at Boston University, will create a soundtrack for the game! Fun! =D

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is nearly done and I’m still futzing with my kooky dream of hand embossing the lids (3D plastic print below).

However, Mint Tin Villagers is being stubborn. The peasants are truly revolting. =(

The first part of that game, cooperative worker placement, plays fairly well but the competitive endgame needs tweaking. Time will work it out. Just need to be patient and playtest, playtest, playtest. =)

That’s it for now – go have fun! =D

Copyright for Games

posted in: Mint Tin Games, uncategorized | 0

I don’t know much about copyright and what I do know is what I think I know. =p

As soon as you write something on any tangible medium (paper, web, napkin) it is copyrighted without the need to use the circle C (©) or provide any form of copyright notice. Most countries operate in this manner and copyright lasts your lifetime plus a number of years. In most countries, it lasts 70 years after your death.

Games are odd in that game mechanics can’t be copyrighted.

You can make your own version of Catan, say Mint Tin Matan, and exactly copy the game mechanics. BUT . . . you can’t copy the art or instructions verbatim.

Copyright protects your instructions and your images. You don’t have to do anything to invoke that copyright protection . . . in theory.

“Publishing” your game, even just one play test version printed at home and stuffed into some box is enough to claim copyright.

However, the challenge comes in proving when you copyrighted your game. The poor man’s copyright of mailing it to yourself doesn’t hold much water because it doesn’t prove you created it.

If you’re ever challenged over your copyright, you may need to legally defend it. If you ever want to go after someone who completely stole your work, proving it’s your copyright may require a legal court case. Going to court costs big bucks.

In the US, and many countries, you can formally register your copyright which makes your claim much stronger in court. A registered copyright is considered prima facie in court and that means you’ve met the burden of proof that it’s yours.

In the US it costs $35 and can be done almost entirely online here. While it doesn’t stop anyone from copying your game, it might give you a little peace of mind, plus you’ll send a copy of your game to the Library of Congress. Kind of neat to think your game will be forever archived. =)

In lieu of a formal registered copyright, adding your game to the BoardGameGeek database would be compelling in proving it’s your game.

Mint Tin Cancarssonne anyone?  =D

Kind of cool that these will be there for as long as the Library of Congress exists.


Can and Do isn’t Can-Do

posted in: games | 2

A can-do attitude is awesome but . . .
. . . there are many things I think I can do but only some things I know I can do.




For example, I think I could create a full size tabletop game. I have one fairly far along called ZOMBALAMBA.

It has custom hex tiles for the board, 29 zombie pawns, 6 player layout, a bunch of dice, and a nifty zombie AI. Well, I think it’s nifty because it uses a 1-2-3-twice d6 (ooh). =p

That game got stalled because of the custom hex tiles and my internal battle between what I can do and what I do do (lol, do do – I’m such a little kid!). =p

I’m pretty sure I could work with Panda or Cartamundi to make this game but the logistics scare me – big manufacturing quantities.

But . . . thinking within my “I do” circle resulted in Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens. The logistics of those tiny games seemed possible to me.

Can I think in bigger terms? Certainly. Can I do the bigger thing? Not so certain.

So many people have awesome ideas, I mean really amazing, for great games but stop short for many reasons.

For me, it was the logistics of big numbers and custom components.

I overcame it by scaling way back on custom components. I knew I could get custom cards printed – even just one deck. The rest was just using normal things – dice, meeple, and tins.

All things I knew I could do.

Mint Tin Games are nothing like ZOMBALAMBA, but maybe I’m a step closer to tackling what seems too difficult.

What about you? =)

Kate kicking my butt (again) - Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse - no custom components.
Kate kicking my butt (again) – Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse – no custom components.

PR pics of Mint Tin Games

Our mint tin manufacturer asked for some game photos to include in their next printed catalog. Rather than upload them to Flickr (I never remember my log in credentials) I figured the blog would work fine. The photos are of Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens plus a few of the prototype for Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse.

Anyone can use these under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) and simply click on the image to launch the full-size one in a new window.