A little tale about the creation of a pocket-sized worker placement game

Hello there! I’m Justin Blaske, one of the Mad Scientists, and founder of Five24 Labs. A small game design and publishing studio out of Lincoln Nebraska. I spend my days as a husband, father and work as a software developer, and as a game designer by night, with my own ‘bat cave’ AKA workshop.

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If you have the time, I’d love to tell you a little tale about the creation of my latest game Mint Works.

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Back in 2015 there was a competition that was created. That competition was the “2015 Mint Tin Design Competition” in which designers were tasked with creating a game where all of the components would fit within a mint tin.
I found this to be a neat idea, but didn’t ever think I could come up with something that would fit, and just happily subscribed to the challenge and intended to just test games and vote. A few days later, an idea hit me out of nowhere, and I knew I had to give it a go.
At that point Mint Works was born, and the concept of a pocket-sized worker placement was the focus. The initial components came together and was playable after a few hours at the computer, at that point I had generated the initial files for testing and uploaded them to the contest.

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There was a little bit of iteration during the competition that resulted in a decent yet basic version of Mint Works that became the foundation of what it is today.

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After that, the game just kind of sat for a little bit, I pitched it around a bit and played off and on with people. All of the pitches came back either as straight out rejection or with changes. However, I didn’t agree with the changes they wanted to make and decided to go at it alone.
And that’s how I ended up on Kickstarter with Mint Works, and how it was able to flourish into the amazing game that it has become.
How do you play Mint Works?
Each of one to four players represents the planner of a neighborhood in the town of Mintopia City and is striving to put together the best (highest scoring) neighborhood possible before the end of the game.
To do this, they are using mint shaped tokens as both currency and workers to perform actions that have limited availability each round. Placing mints on a location gives the player its effect immediately, and also blocks that location up a little bit, eventually eliminating all actions available to players.

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As play continues eventually a player will have achieved a high enough scoring city to trigger the end game, at which point the player with the highest scoring city wins the game.
Games last about 10 – 15 minutes and still manage to pack a chunky punch of decision making, I think this has been one of the major factors of its success. It’s a tiny little micro game that is only trying to be a tiny micro game, yet you still feel like you played something more when it’s over.
Why do I design games?
I get this question a lot, it makes sense. What leads a person to spending a lot of their time to make a game like this? For me, it’s been something I’ve done all my life. I’ve been “gamifying” many aspects of my life as long as I can remember.
I even had an economy based upgrade system built for jumping off of swings when I was 8 or 9, where if you jumped far enough you would get some monopoly money that you could then spend to make your jumps better. I have no idea what that meant, but I remember doing it, so I must have had fun.
These days, I continue to do it because I enjoy making things. I also enjoy sharing those things, and I think physical things are much more fun to share with others. Getting to sit down with friends and family and play something that you made, and everybody has a good time, is just really awesome.

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What’s next?
Well I’ve been showing pictures online a bit about it, but I’ve been working pretty hard on a successor to Mint Works that will be able to teach more mechanisms in a short period of time and still be able to be carried around in your pocket.
The next game is a “Pick-Up and Deliver” style game where players will be delivering mints to the cities surrounding Mintopia City. If all goes well, we will be bringing it to Kickstarter this year.

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Photo credits: Justin Blaske / Used with permission.

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