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Writer, EFL teacher, web developer, amateur chef, and gamer. When out of the classroom and offline, Jay is eating homemade tacos on his balcony while reading a rulebook. He enjoys his expat life in Taipei. 

#024 Mini WWII (2018)

Designer: Wei-Cheng Cheng
Artist: Mike Yuan
Publisher: Formosa Force Games
Published: 2018
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 60-90 minutes

The year is 1939. The world is at war. Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan battle over land, sea, and air. Mini WWII is a light, fast, strategic card game. Command your forces. Research and develop cutting edge technologies. Train deadly ground troops. Forge diplomatic relations with nations all over the world. Spy on enemy forces. Decipher secret enemy communications. Meet your enemy eye-to-eye. Out wit and out fight them. Return victoriously from combat. Fight for freedom. Fight for world domination. The choice is yours in Mini WWII!

 Never was so much owed by so many to so few.

Never was so much owed by so many to so few.


Components

01 game tokens.jpg
03 player aids.jpg
02 combat cards.jpg
04 game set up.jpg

Negatives

Component Quality. Most of the components of Mini WWII are great! The tank meeples are great! The ship meeples are great! The art design is great! However, I simply wish the main game board were lighter and not so dark. The game pieces are quite colorful and the board can get a bit busy. A lighter colored board would have made the game state a little easier to read. It’s not the most stunning game board either. She won’t be winning any beauty pageants any time soon. The neutral tone choice though really allows the brightly colored tanks and battleships to pop on the board. In the battle between flamboyance and clarity, I choose clarity every time—a necessity in war games. At its heart Mini WWII is a card game. It’s known as a CCD (combat card driven) war game—one of my personal favorite game designs. While the card stock is fine, I really would have preferred a nice linen finish on them.

 A lot of information, but not enough.

A lot of information, but not enough.

Player aids. The iconography isn’t intuitive at first. Once you understand the rules though, the iconography of the player aid becomes more approachable; however, the player aids are incomplete. They don’t include an outline on the order of stages & gameplay, rules about China & the US, damage token rules, starting units, starting unit placement, and most importantly a list of the possible actions during the action phase. Although the game play of Mini WWII is quite simple, it would have been nice for Formosa Force Games to hold the players’ hands a bit more. Mini WWII is not a heavy war game, and doesn’t feel designed or targeted for heavy war gamers. If they wanted to market towards non-war gamers, then they should have made a more comprehensive player aid.

The rule book. Every game has an entry fee—the rule book. Whether you watch a how-to-play video or a friend teaches you, someone will initially have to read the rule book. Mini WWII’s rule book isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. It does its job and teaches you how to play the game; however, it looks like a rule book from 15 years ago—lots of references to read other sections, talking about mechanics before properly introducing them, not enough pictures, and wordy. On a good note though, I can honestly say that reading the rule book was my least enjoyable experience of Mini WW II.

 Enemy at the Gates!

Enemy at the Gates!


Final Thoughts

I love it. Get it. It’s great.

Grinding your way through the rule book is a fairly steep entrance fee, but it’s not impossible. The mechanics behind Mini WWII are quite simple and after a few rounds of play, you should be able to navigate yourself the rest of the way.

Appreciating the design. Luck, or randomness as I like to call it, is part of most game designs. There is a big difference though between random input (i.e. drawing cards or random set up) and random output (i.e. rolling dice in Risk). Modern game designs have been seen leaning away from random output and leaning more on random input. War games, for the most part, are the last bastion of random output in games where desperate battles and skirmishes can be won by the roll of the dice. Mini WWII has NO DICE, and that’s a good thing. Strong card play powers this game. It relies more on random input; however, Mini WWII gives the player several ways to mitigate the randomness and that is where the meat and all the fun is—A LOT OF FUN. It can be a bit a of slog as there is a lot of push and pull through out the game, but it only adds to the tension of each player’s decision process.

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Each card in Mini WWII offers the player a beautifully brutal world of agonizing decisions: build more units, move units, attack with your units, launch missiles, drop bombs, research and develop technology, aid allies, create diplomatic relations, bolster morale of your troops, bolster morale of an allies troops, or even bank the card for the next round. I love multi-use cards in games. Mini WWII is no exception. Even though there are numerous ways to play each card, the game play is really intuitive, easy to learn, and a ton of fun. On your turn, you play one card—that’s it. How you play that card, when you play it, or whom you play that card on is where Mini WWII shines.

 Tactic Cards: 6 nations. 5 languages.

Tactic Cards: 6 nations. 5 languages.

Mini WWII is a card game, and the card design is excellent. It’s deceptively simple, but gamer friendly and incredibly easy to read. The black and white images on the cards come from actual newsreel coverage from the time and really lures you into the theme. Each nation’s cards have that nation’s native language on their cards. Seeing the words for “tactics” or “diplomacy” in Chinese, English, Japanese, German, and Russian pulls you even more into the theme and game play. The world map, though abstracted, has the flags of all the countries. This maybe a small design choice, but the flags, the native languages, and the black and white images add a great historical texture to your gaming experience.

 Russia develops the bomb!

Russia develops the bomb!

The addition of a tech tree adds a lot of replay value, depth, and strategy; you’ll only really be able to research and develop tech 6 times through out the game, so deciding which branch to follow is crucial, tight, and exhilarating. Do you research mobilization this game or manufacturing? Should you develop an enigma machine and improve your card draw or do you develop the bombe (Alan Turing’s machine) and decipher and look at your opponent’s hand? Slowly researching the atomic bomb isn’t easy and doesn’t happen every game, but abstractly dropping a nuke on a player by forcing them to discard more than half their hand is HILARIOUS. It’s one of those classic gaming moments.

Mini WWII creates epic gaming stories that will linger with you and your gaming group for years to come. And Mini WWII does this all in just 60-90 minutes. It does not outstay its welcome in the slightest. Whether you enjoy war games or not, I highly recommend giving Mini WWII a try. There aren’t enough team games out there and Mini WII is an excellent 2v2 card game. Sure, it can be played with 2 and 3 players, but it shines best at 4. If you love war games and board games as I do, I can’t recommend Mini WWII enough. The dynamic multi-use card play is engaging, incredibly interactive, and compelling. Mini WWII is exactly what it says it is and more—much more.

907 tanks in center.jpg

TL; DR

Gamer: Cardboard East STRONGLY recommends Mini WWII for gamers who love card games, war games, or combat card driven war games. The components and graphic design are efficient and intuitive. No dice! Mini WWII creates epic gaming stories that will linger with you and your gaming group for years to come.
Family: Cardboard East highly recommends Mini WWII for family game nights that want to add some educational and historical war gaming into the mix. The card design is simple, intuitive, and very approachable for casual and non-gamers.
Party: Cardboard East does not recommend Mini WWII for the party environment; however it is simple enough for gamers to enjoy with a glass of their favorite booze (jazz playing in the background is optional).

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#025 Dare to Love (2018)

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