Rostherne, £9.75 inc p&p
Designed by David Watts
3-5 Players, about 60-90 minutes
Reviewed by Mike Siggins
Over the years David Watts has produced a number of solid business games which have been there or thereabouts, with Railway Rivals chugging away reliably in the background. Some have been merely of passing interest while others such as Send have been regularly played, if unspectacular, games. I am pleased to say that with Mine he has produced yet another winner which has been played here a lot recently and I feel will be a success.
The theme, needless to say, is buying and operating mines and selling ore. There are twelve mines in the game, each with variable overhead and working costs, reserves and output. Once bought, you sell your output in the market which runs from a simple, yet effective, supply and demand formula. The player with the most cash and, importantly, reserves bonuses, wins the game.
Play commences by purchasing one of two mines on offer. Each player must buy a mine taking into account the overhead costs (that must be paid each turn) and the working cost (the unit cost of extracting ore) and its reserves. The mines are priced at varying levels. The higher cost mines will certainly put an early drain on your finances and as you can't go into debt, the cheaper mines are appealing for a quick profit.
The start of each turn is spiced with an event card, that may adversely affect your decisions or, about evenly, give you a welcome leg up. These cards can apply to just you or all players. You then decide how much ore to produce which will very much depend on how much cash you need to raise and how much was produced earlier. This is because the selling price of ore is based on production levels for the previous turn and a fixed nominal price for the entire game. So, if the nominal price is seventeen and seven more tons are produced (in total) than before, the price drops by seven and ore is sold at ten. Conversely, if less ore is produced demand pulls the price up.
This is one of the most rudimentary price mechanisms I've seen, but given the other variables in the game it is actually ideally suited. So, it is your job to take on board your production costs, including overheads of course, and the likely selling price in deciding how much to produce. The longer term considerations of use of reserves will also be a factor. Needless to say, your mental arithmetic needs to be pretty good.
Rounding out the turn are some administrative phases, including an opportunity to commission engineers reports to find new reserves and so on and also an option buy a new mine at auction this usually a good indication of the market view as mines will sell at a discount early on in the game but can go for large premiums later on, especially if they have good reserves. This is partly because you can really shift a lot of reserves to market but also because reserves may have value at game end. Less than 50 tons in total will earn you 7 per ton on a sliding scale up to 100 tons, over which they are worth nothing.
The game progresses in this fashion, and in that sense is repetitive, but there is so much going on that this isn't a problem. Mine is a game that quickly immerses you into its systems (which are easily remembered) and the hour or so it takes to play just whizzes by. All things considered, the game is about right at that length because the calculation and strategy can be hard work and pretty intense whereas three hours of this would bore most people.
The production standard of Rostherne games has improved steadily over the years and Mine actually looks rather good. David has for a while had a source of attractive white boxes, the game is professionally DTPd by Wallace Nicoll and the components are hand coloured in that inimitable Watts style. In Mine, you even get a hard board for the central display. The only minor gripe is that my mine cards have warped slightly over the course of three or four months, possibly due to the plastic covering that David has taken the effort to apply. No complaints otherwise, the rules are clear and concise, and at the price of less than a tenner, this is a bargain.
Beyond the above description, it is hard to convey exactly how well Mine plays, but I found that all the systems meshed well, the game forces economic decisions throughout and the game is tough and, usually, tight. The game is structured in such a way as to encourage constant evaluation of your holdings, whether to invest or stand pat, and the production decisions and auctions will really make or break your long term plans. I have no adverse comments about this one, and as it plays at just over the hour, it is a cracking little game to open a session. There are few games to compare it with directly, but it certainly stands with the best of the business game genre. Mine is a classy little business game and I recommend it unreservedly.
On to the review of La Trel or back to the review of Credo.
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