Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse label challenge

As a game maker I do lots of assembly at home for the games we* publish.

With the current first pair, Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens, a big labor point is the labeling (second printing in full swing).

I don’t mind it but it’s slow at about 70 an hour and, because I use distilled water in the process, I think they should dry overnight. Since they have to be out where a fan can blow on them, I use the dining room table and can only fit 140 at a time, but that’s part of what defines them as maker movement or kitchen table industrialism (literally!).  =)

For the next Kickstarter, I’d like to do a pair of games again. It offsets the shipping cost and provides a better value for backers. It costs the same to ship one as it does two . . .

One of those games is close to hardcore-legit-outside-play-testing and I’d like those copies to be close to the final version. This allows play testers to concentrate on game play and not wonder what the final this or that will look like.

For this game, Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse, there’s an extra challenge of being in a mini mint tin. The current labels I use, from MOO of Rhode Island, are exterior grade vinyl that fit fairly well on normal-sized mint tins but MOO doesn’t have a smaller rectangular one. They do have 11⁄2 inch circles and that could work, but. . .

 . . .rather than settling, maybe I can do better?

My tin supplier can do embossing and lithography, but only for runs of 10 to 20,000! Apart from the massive quantity, they cost more than the current hand applied label and tin (I don’t count anything for my labour – I’d just be watching TV anyway). I’d rather keep the price down, if I can keep a consistent and decent look.

After all, a game box (or tin) affects game play by setting expectations and reinforcing the game’s theme.

Could I emboss these myself?

It just happens that you can have hardened steel hand stamps custom made!

But what about color and fine print? o_O

Well, color would be out (I looked at two color rubber stamping for industrial purposes but wasn’t moved by it). And the fine print? The stuff like don’t let 3 years olds eat meeples and this game is for 2 players?

That won’t fit on such a tiny surface (13⁄4” x 11⁄4” usable space) and can be included as a piece of paper or maybe the MOO circle label could be on the back with that info – as a utilitarian, rather than design, piece.

The custom hand stamps are awesome but I’m stamping very thin steel, so do I need something that heavy duty?

Nope, well at least I don’t think so.=)

I’ve had 3D printed stainless steel and sterling silver done by Shapeways in the past and both are very durable. Turns out I can do a stainless 3D plate for this game for $50!

No need to have tins dry overnight and never worry about running out of labels.*thumbs up*

I made the following 3D file and for $6 I’m having a plastic one printed to see about its size and detail (I bet the holes in the letters don’t show up in the tin – too small). I’ll blog about it when I get it in a few weeks.

Hmm, 18K gold for $7,000 or platinum for $16,000? Now those are kickstarter rewards! =)

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! =)

* –  we = (Kate & I) times the most fantastic backers2 in the world! =)

Games have to work on paper, IMO

Designing games is fun – after all, they’re games! =D

I carry little notebooks with me that I jot ideas into, do pricing calculations, draw out game titles, and doodle in.

BUT . . . as a game gets to a critical point, such as just before play testing with the game design meetup group and again before play testing with strangers, I like drawing it out in an 11″ by 14 ” spiral-bound sketch book.

smoker2010 009I figure if I can’t make it smoothly flow on paper, I won’t be able to make it flow for whatever it is – website, eLearning course, 450 pound smoker, book (overall arc), or game. *yes, I melted the vinyl siding in that pic!* =p

I also use pencils without erasers – that keeps me from getting caught up in how straight a line is and forces me to stay focused on the overall brainstorming. There’s time, later, to refine drawings. =)

With games, it’s tempting to just start pulling components together – especially if you happen to have a zillion meeples, cubes, and dice laying around. =D

I do enjoy the form factor aspect of a game, so that figures prominently in the design, but as a high level guide that can change if it needs to for the sake of the game. For example, Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse (MTMA) started as a challenge from Kate to make a game that fits in an Altoids Smalls tin – about a third of a normal mint tin (actually 29%, see the math in this older post). That’s what form factor means to me, the final product’s packaging and/or other constraints.

Sketching the flow of a game creates a different perspective and helps me view it both holistically and to isolate each part of the game play.

Here’s what sketching out MTMA today did:

  1. Confirmed that a second way to lose fits without adding much to tiny its instructions:
    • As a 2 player, simultaneous play game a bit like the Escape series, but without the need for a timer (soundtrack), this competitive game can end when one player wins. *duh, novel eh?* =p
    • The second way to lose is via the monster which has some “AI” built in. Artificial Intelligence sounds a bit haughty to me but that’s the term people use and I guess it’s an accurate way to think of it. If the monster wins, both players lose. o_O
  2. Created a 3 condition part of the game that, until it was drawn out, was only 2. Sketching it out made clear that a third condition could:
    • easily be added,
    • made sense in the game play,
    • added the opportunity for player strategy, and
    • didn’t add complexity to the instructions.
  3. Reduced another 2 condition part to 1 condition:
    • More conditions often make for more fun in the way of painful decisions (strategy options). But this one added complexity to the instructions AND added too much thinking for the chaos this game should convey.

I may have never made these changes without sketching and, for me, this requires discipline because I just want to start tossing dice and moving meeples! =D

Sketching it out also helps see options that a player may see on their own.

In Mint Tin Pirates, it was important to be really fast, like the possibility of 5 minutes, and that meant balancing the game to play without having to reshuffle discarded cards for the majority of games.

If you want the game to last longer, and don’t mind doing a reshuffle, simply add injured pirates to the game play. No need for extra meeples, just have the first successful attack lay a meeple down on the boat. This means a meeple can be standing or injured, thereby doubling the effective meeple count. And count up and down once on the cannon damage track, if desired.

Game players are clever people and leaving games open a bit allows for all kinds of creative twists, such as the “injured pirate” variation and Nick Shaw’s awesome solo and combo variants to the first set of Mint Tin Games.

Happy gaming over the holidays! =)



Mint Tin Games Kickstarter Nearly Done?

What a fantastic and wonderful experience. Even loading the mail truck in 39 degree weather with rain and 20 mph wind!=D

It’s wonderful receiving so many tweets with your photos expressing how smoothly Mint Tin Games – Pirates & Aliens ran.  I wish I could say that was all me . . . but it wasn’t.

Lots of reading about KS, especially games in KS, was the secret to this running smoothly.

For example, we were glad to have a laser-jet printer for the mailing labels and that the games were in multiple layers of plastic. Nothing fell into a puddle but the outside of packages did get wet.

Some reading led us to use a laser-jet for the labels because they’re waterproof – no smudging. We found a laser-jet for around $100 based on reviews from Etsy and eBay sellers that mentioned it handled thick label paper without gumming up. Some printers have issues with labels separating inside – yikes! o_O

Those “minor” details all added up to a smooth project (plus I’m persnickety, and maybe a tad OCD, and Kate’s practical and calm and undoubtedly my better half in many ways). *awww*

However, I don’t consider this KS done yet. Not until all packages are delivered.

I expect some international ones may take all of December, even with “First Class” mail. Most US ones should be done this week.

Games went out to Malyasia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Northern Baffin Island (way remote Canada), Norway, Japan, Tasmania (how cool is that!), Mexico, Brasil, and many others. Even to a US Navy Aircraft Carrier! =)

It’s also been wonderful receiving your tweets with photos of you and/or your kids playing the games, that’s far more reward than a funded Kickstarter – I can’t express how much that warms both our hearts. Thank you.

So wazz next?

I’ve got kids’ transition books (7 to 9 year olds) that should see the first one printed in February. Five books are written and the first three have been professional edited. They each have about 16 black and white line art drawings from a professional illustrator (my 16th century woodcut art style for drawing a cannon doesn’t translate well to drawing a chicken and a goat!). The first one is illustrated and the second is underway.

BUT . . . that doesn’t slow down new games. *thumbs up*

Each thing, games and books, act as a break from the other. And Kate is on fire for Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse! That’s really her game. Not sure if that title still works – she introduced a Godzilla-like monster – hmm, I guess that’s pretty apocalyptic and still works (I love the juxtaposition of mini and apocalypse).

Plus, I have a full-sized game called Zombalamba I’d love to get out there, just need to find a local source for hex-based tiles

So stay tuned and the Kickstarters aren’t over! Happy Holidays!


After the Kickstarter

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Phew! Make that a double phew!  =D

I’m not sure where to start in sharing the behind-the-scenes of the Mint Tin Games Kickstarter.

The single most important aspect about it continues to be the backers.

Calling the supporters “backers” doesn’t do justice to how I feel about each one. They’re far more than backers.

They believed, they encouraged, and they actively shaped this project.

They have expanded my perspective and forever changed how I look at games. Their influence even affected game development yesterday at lunch while we brainstormed about Mint Tin Villagers. These next games needs to even better (including the kooky Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse, which might get a title change since it now features Kate’s monster). =p

Mint Tin Villagers is cooperative and tiny, but it needs a big heart to be worthy.

Mint Tin Games’ backers are perhaps more accurately portrayed as game design collaborators (for sure in my heart). =)

The moral support is phenomenal and there wasn’t a single negative comment. Kickstarter puts money front and center, but the support from backers far exceeds any dollar amount.

Speaking of money, here’s something telling about how awesome the 802 backers have been . . .

It’s not unusual for a project to have 5 to 10% of its pledges fail. This can be due to expired credit cards, incorrect information, etc. Kickstarter provides those backers with this information but the “gurus” tell you to count on 5% of those pledges to never get paid.

And sure enough, there were 24 “errored” transactions the day after the project ended (that’s about 3%).

BUT I’m proud to say that all of those have been fixed and there are ZERO unpaid pledges!

That says a lot about this project’s backers and falls in line with my love and respect of them all as really great individuals. =)

Am I really this sentimental? Those that have chatted extensively with me know that I am.

I also am indebted to the gracious reviewers who spent time to play these, craft their words, and share their opinions. Their words gave this project a running start and they were backers before it even launched.

So enough of this mushy stuff for now, more thoughts on Kickstarter will follow, but I have tins to label, meeples to sort, dice to inspect, donations to build, and a tremendous amount of gratitude.


Stay in touch via Twitter @subQuark, where I’ll announce updates, including a second printing of Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens, status on the games being made for donations, and the next games on Kickstarter. I’ll also be tweeting about the upcoming set of five children’s books that will start printing in January (chapter books for 7 – 9 year olds).

You can also check for occasional updates.  Thanks! =)

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse in early play tests

posted in: games, Mint Tin Games | 0

This is really kooky and all Kate’s fault! Out at a local tiny family restaurant, she pulls a beat up Altoids Smalls container from her purse, tosses it like a gauntlet onto the table, and says “how about this for a game?”

Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens were a huge logistical challenge. The game play was heavily dictated by the form factor. 64 cards is the max that will fit, especially when the cards puff up a little from shuffling and bending.  And there was no way to get instructions printed and folded to fit the tin without costing a few dollars each! =(

hand ink stamped? 2 stamps? one red & one blue – sheesh!

So a mini tin?

My American can supplier does have a size close to it and 720 come in a carton, but they are less than half the size of the normal mint tin! o_O

  • normal – 3-11/16″ x 2-5/16″ x 3/4″
    or 6.4 cubic inches
  • mini – 2-5/16″ x 1-7/8″ x 1/2″
    or 2.17 cubic inches

But . . . 12mm dice fit, mini meeples fit, so there’s the challenge. A logistical and game play challenge.

No cards? Ugh, that limits what you can do big time!

But here it is below, kind of in action, I almost gave up because my shoulder was hurting from frantically rolling the dice so many times and so quickly (and lunch came!). It’s a bit like cutthroat Escape: The Curse of the Temple.

What about the Inimitable Kate?

She’s a beast. She’s ruthless and laughs when she knocks me back down or tosses me out of the shelter!


Maybe this will be the next Kickstarter, but another game too, I do like the pairs! =)

btw, if you read the blog but didn’t know, Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens is live on Kickstarter!


game setup – all mini meeples are down! maybe an EMP?
sorry for the blur, i have like a 5 year old samsung and it doesn’t have many pixels! =D
first you have to stand, then get to the shelter, then get one box of supplies, then . . .
ha! I won! in the shelter and closed the door! yeah, we left Alice behind, but the good of the many outweigh the need of the one!


Recycled image below from two posts back, but it makes me grin! =D

Have a great weekend!




Kickstarter video and test images

Tuesday is the Go Date for our Mint Tin Games Kickstarter! o_O

Here’s the Kickstarter video. It’s pretty raw but genuine (I was a nervous wreck filming this with my ancient Flip video!).

You want to really laugh? Turn on the automatic YouTube captions! =p

And the two images here are just a test to make sure the copy-and-paste code for “social” images works (The KS page turns it into a link but seems to work). =)

Mint Tin Pirates

Mint Tin Pirates


Mint Tin Minis?

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While at dinner the other night, Kate and I were talking about the upcoming Kickstarter (OMG! this Tuesday! I’m such a friggin’ nervous wreck!)  and the next games we want to make.

She takes an empty Altoids Smalls tin from her purse and says

what about Mint Tin Minis?

And she was serious! o_O

There are some big advantages to make games a la Maker Movement style at home with materials that aren’t all custom made. It’s allowed us to send out 3 dozen each of Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens to out-of-state play test groups and then reviewers, and even sell some! With a “traditional” board game, prototypes would have easily cost 5 to 10 times more!

I have a game design meetup friend who launched a successful Kickstarter but his prototypes ran $50 each!

Not only cost, but space advantages too!

I posted earlier the pic of a carton of 432 mint tins and Bella the cat. It’s not a shoe box but it’s also not so big as to be a logistical issue.

So when Kate tossed out the mini gauntlet at dinner, I pulled out dice and meeples from my messenger bag and started futzing with game ideas while waiting for our food (hmm, seems to be a common theme with us). =D

So 4 12mm d6, 8 mini meeples and one normal sized “monster” meeple, plus instructions printed on a components wrapper (like the paper in Altoids), may actually work! The outside label might be the biggest challenge (and making a fun game!). =)

ridiculously portable!


much smaller than current mint tin games (my Pirates copy is beat up from jumping on it to see how it stands up)


 UPDATE 26.09.2014 14:35 – The theme is set!

oh yeah, this is for real and it’s on like Donkey Kong! =D

What’s next for subQuark games?

Chaz Marler of Pair of Dice Paradise made an incredible review and demo video for Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens. To say I am blown away is an understatement. You have to see it first-hand because it’s not just that it’s a great review of these games, but his production value is phenomenal! From a very well scripted flow to impressive visual animations to funny out takes, Chaz has mad video skillz! =)

I’m very happy with his perspective as it reflects what I was hoping for with these games – light, fast, and easy to play in many environments.

Tonight is a great example of how this “style” came about. My daughter and daughter-in-law are over and we’re all in the kitchen cooking chicken piccata (I stole away for 3 minutes to blog this). Four of us in our modest 1955 kitchen which has a small round table in it. So while we prep various parts of the meal, we’re chatting, fawning over Artemis the pug, and enjoy each other’s company. Mint tin games allow us to stay in the conversation and also get some light gaming in.

Now back to Chaz who asked what was next for us.

I’ve been messing with a cooperative mint tin game and am bound and determined to make it work. That would be a third very different game play for the small, but growing, mint tin family. You may have seen past posts talking about Mint Tin Villagers and that’s the working title. It’s being a bit elusive and clunky, but eventually, a breakthrough will occur that will make it work.

Add to that the possibility of Mint Tin Pillagers, another cooperative game for 2 players and maybe, just maybe, a way to connect Villagers and Pillagers to make a 2 or 4 player combo game!

Stay tuned, watch for the September 30th Mint Tin Games’ Kickstarter, and do go read and view Pair of Dice Paradise’s awesome review! =)

lots of prototyping and knocking the head against the wall but eventually . . .

Tiny Environmental Win for Micro Games?

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This week I received a carton of mint tins that will be used to create some of the Mint Tin Games for the September 30th Kickstarter.

I’m not assuming that the Kickstarter will be a success, but I like being prepared.

Plus there are some local opportunities to sell these games at holiday school events and help fundraising too. I also learned that I can get a street vendor permit for $45! Maybe I’ll roam the streets of Portsmouth with an usher tray loaded with games and my PayPal phone swipey dealio! =D

Pinterest DIY on making an usherette tray

The Kickstarter is actually only for funding the game card printing – all the other parts are funded by me. It’ll make more sense once the KS goes live – I figure if others are willing to part with their hard earned money to make this happen, so can I!  =)

Back to the carton . . . *those tangents!*

It’s surprising how small the carton is when you consider it has 432 tins in it! That’s 432 game boxes!

So what’s this got to do with the environment?

It’s a stretch but as a former Environmental Science professor, I saw the small packaging as having a much smaller environmental impact for shipping than “normal” sized games (plus a smaller impact on the pocket book!). But then, you could argue that game apps have virtually no carbon footprint – unless you consider that Google has over 3 million servers running and that two searches uses enough energy to boil a kettle of water for tea . . .

Happy Talk like a Pirate Day! =)

Carcassonne is a smallish game box, Bella is a large cat, and the carton of mint tins is rather small.

Mint Tin Games listed at BoardGameGeek

Another milestone for Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens (MTP and MTA?) – they just became listed in the BoardGameGeek database!

w00t!  =D

BoardGameGeek is my Go To source for just about anything and everything board game related. From deciding what games to buy for our family to learning what other game designers are doing and how they’re doing it.

That last bit – how they’re doing it – has been invaluable in developing these little games. The wealth of knowledge and resources are staggering – from die-cut chipboard to custom dice to writing rules.

But . . . now that both of these games are listed, I’m also stressing out! o_O

This is where the rubber meets the road (or the dice roll off the table!) because ratings can now happen and I know that I tend to view those as the gospel when looking for games to buy.

I’ve just uploaded photos (mainly ones already here on the blog) and those have yet to be approved but, overall, this is an exciting milestone. =)

As new games, they have a rating of 0.00 out of 10, so I guess that only means they can go up from here!  =D

BGG links -> Mint Tin Pirates | Mint Tin Aliens


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