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Subject: Tinners Trail - Review rss

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Eric Atmaja
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About Tinners Trail
Tinners Trail is a first game in treefrog line by Martin Wallace, who is known for designing games rich in theme & complexity. Tinners trail fits in lighter category but still maintains its richness in theme just as his previous games.

It's a mining game for 3-4 Players set in 19th century Cornwall. As many mines stretched out under the sea, miners there need to cope with water problem as they dig for tin & copper. Players control mining company to dig tin & copper, sell them to gain profit which can be used to make external investment.

The game comes with a board, which depicts Cornwall map with some tables & charts usually found in Wallace's previous designs, a rulebook, and wooden bits only. The wooden bits are very nicely done, they are locomotive, adit, miner, the mine itself and even boats. the rest are cubes to represent tin, ore & water, and steam pump disk.

Overview
The game played only in four rounds. Each round consists of some phase which are:
phase 1: determine ore prices
phase 2: set available developments
phase 3: player actions
phase 4: sell ores
phase 5: external investments
phase 6: prospecting

At each beginning of the rounds (phase 1) prices will be determined using dice rolls. Price of copper is more volatile than tin. Phase 2 is pretty straightforward as the game has specified which developments come into play during each round.

Phase 3 is the meat of the game, during which players will alternately perform some available actions. Tinners Trail uses a time track mechanic (just as found in Thebes) for turn order. There are 10 time points which can be used by each player, while each action costs some amount of time to be spent. When all players has spent all the points or pass, the game move on to the next phase. I won't discuss the detail of each actions here, but here's the outline:
bidding for a mine: this action reminds me of power plant auction in powergrid. The winner get to build a mine and move his time track by 2 points.
mining: you get to dig ore (tin & copper) from one of your mine. The more water in your mine, the more you have to pay for each ore. And also the more you mine, the more water will show up in that location which makes the future mining action more expensive to do.
the rest of the actions is doing some development for your mine. Most actions involving of water removal and helping the mining action
selling pasty... you spend 1 time point to get 1 pound
pass...the first player who passes will be the first player to act in the next round

In phase 4, all player must sell all his ores and in phase 5 players will alternately spend his money to make external investments. This is the only way to get VP but you have to be careful not to overspent, because you still need some amount of money to compete in the next round. External investments in earlier round will net you bigger points than in later round. In phase 6, 2 more area will be opened for bidding.

Thoughts
Tinners Trail is an excellent game from Martin Wallace. The game cleverly combines some mechanic (tense bidding, fluctuating price, timetracks) and plays fast at approx 1 Hour. Dice play the role for determining ore price & ore availability in an area so I think luck factor is not too high.
The bidding for placing a mine reminds me of power plant auction in powergrid. The difference is here you can win several bidding in a round at the cost of time points. Bidding is tense, tricky player can trap someone to buy unwanted mine thus costing him his money & timepoints. There are lots of option to choose from: there are few available development, some of which can help you get rid of water. There is locomotive & adit development which if you're not careful can also help another player by removing his water. External investments points are getting lower in later round, means you have to perform well from the start to stay in the game. I think the game is all about efficiency and can be unforgiving. Based on 3 games I played IMO a single mistake can costs you the game.

Complaints
Money track on the board is sometimes confusing. I think it's better to make it by 10 (ie. 10, 20, 30) rather than 20 (ie. 20,40,60)
Shortage of water cube, though this can be mitigated by using blue player's investment cube

Overall
Overall, I think Tinners Trail is an excellent start for Treefrog Line. It is a great economy game with easy to grasp rules for newbie but enough depth for gamers that plays within 1 Hour mark. I'm looking forward for next games in Treefrog Line.
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Darrell Hanning
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Agreed. My only two beefs with the game are:

1) Occasional shortage of water cubes
2) That incredibly counter-intuitive money track. Martin (or the graphic designer) should learn for future reference that counting tracks of insufficient length to have a specific space for each possible value should always break out into base-ten lengths; i.e., zero through nine for the ones, zero through nine for the tens, etc.
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Zé Mário
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kohee wrote:

:star: Shortage of water cube, though this can be mitigated by using blue player's investment cube


And that raises a new complaint. The fact that if you happen to mix both kinds of blue cubes, like I did, you'll have a hard time sorting them apart. Really bad choice of colours, there.

Despite that, it's a brilliant game.
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Eric Atmaja
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Asur wrote:

And that raises a new complaint. The fact that if you happen to mix both kinds of blue cubes, like I did, you'll have a hard time sorting them apart. Really bad choice of colours, there.

Despite that, it's a brilliant game.


yep, sure it does shake
or maybe you can use cubes of another color like green or red at the cost of visual aesthetic of the board. but at least it would be easier to sort them apart.

yep it's a brilliant game. The game makes Wallace name famous in our small but thriving community thumbsup. You can check in our forum most of our member have turned their avatar into frog avatar because of their admiration in Wallace's designlaugh
 
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