Mint Works is a tiny worker-placement card game that comes in a mint tin. All the workers in Mint Works are little white discs that look like mints! Unlike other games of this ilk, you don’t get your workers back at the end of the round, instead any workers on cards are returned to the supply. So, you need to make sure to activate spaces during your turn that will give you more mints. This is an important distinction because the mints also act as the currency in the game. Players use the mints to purchase and construct location cards that they get to keep in front of them. These will provide benefits or victory points, and building the right locations is key to creating your game engine and winning the game.
The Fox in the Forest Duet is a trick-taking card game for two players (hence the “Duet.”) What’s more, Fox in the Forest Duet is a cooperative game. That means that the 2 players are working together. This concept shouldn’t be too foreign to veterans of trick-taking card games because in the 4 player games, groups almost always play in teams. But unlike Spades where you and your partner would play cards against another couple, here you are playing against the game itself. You have a game board and your goal is to collect tokens from the board by moving a pawn back and forth across the board. This is done by playing cards back and forth and taking or losing tricks. If you take a trick then the pawn moves toward you. If you lose the trick, then the pawn moves toward your opponent. You can’t tell your opponent what you have in your hand or if you are planning to win or lose a given trick. You just have to do your best to anticipate your opponents needs and work with what you are dealt. It feels a bit like going “nil” in spades, where both players are the one “covering” their partner. You have to know when to take a trick and when to give one up and save your cards for later. If you gather all the tokens then you win the game. Push the pawn too far in one direction, or fail to gather all the tokens quickly enough and you lose the game.
While “Duet” is cooperative, this is the original Fox in the Forest, and it is a competitive game. This is also a trick-taking game for two players. In a trick-taking game, one player leads a card of a specific suit and everyone follows with cards of the same suit. Highest card wins the “trick” and takes control, leading the next round. This is complicated by the trump suit. Trump is a special suit that wins over other suits. Various games have different rules for determining the trump suit and how the tricks are scored. Examples of trick-taking games are: Spades, Bridge, and Euchre. One thing common to almost every trick-taking card game is that they require 4 players. The Fox in the Forest is specifically designed to play with only 2 players. Clever scoring rules encourage you to take as many tricks as you can without taking too many. That “not too many” part is where the tension comes in. If you are winning by too wide a margin, your partner can start losing on purpose (going nil) and your high score will turn into a bust. Trump is determined randomly in Fox in the Forest, but to mix things up a bit some cards have special powers (including the power to change the trump suit.) Fox in the Forest and its companion, Fox in the Forest Duet do a wonderful job of bringing the 4 player trick-taking experience to the table for 2 players.
In Happy Pigs, players are farmers raising, feeding, vaccinating, and selling pigs. The game is played over seasons and each season offers different actions and special benefits. Each turn players secretly choose the action that they want. Then actions are revealed and if a player has chosen the same action as another player, then they must share the action, each gaining their share of the benefit. The actions are interesting, and it really feels like you are raising animals, watching them grow, taking care of them, and selling them. The game is fun. It’s thematic, and it has a lot of depth for an otherwise simple game. Happy Pigs is a winner.
In Tribes: Early Civilization players are tribes of humanity first learning to step out of the caves. On your turn you choose from 4 different actions: Explore, Move, Grow, or Invent. Explore allows you to draw tiles from a bag. These tiles represent land that you can travel and they always contain some kind of useful resource. In order to get the resource however, your tribe has to go get it. That's the Move action. Grow allows you to expand your tribe, adding more people, and Invent allows you to discover and evolve technologies like "the wheel" or "dog domestication." Inventions are the main way to score points, but you need resources in order to invent anything. Actions are arranged in sequence and once an action is taken, it moves to the back of the line. You can jump in line to take an action you want by paying "shells" the game's currency, but these are in short supply. Shells that you pay are placed on the action card that you just skipped. If the player after you then takes that action, they get the shell that you left behind. The action economy combined with the mechanisms for gathering resources to create technologies makes for an interesting puzzle, and a fun game.