Jumpgate Games Blog

Small Side Project In A Can

I've had an idea in my head for a bit now for a mint tin game. "Wait, what's that?" you ask. A mint tin game is a board game/card game that is small enough to fit into an Altoids tin, without, of course, being so prohibitively small as to be difficult to play.

My idea centered around a tile-laying game in which players would take turns laying down tiles adjacent to or on top of existing tiles, in order to form lines of colors.

I decided to go with a Victory Garden theme. Victory gardens were public gardens planted during WWI and WWII and were cultivated as a way to reduce food shortages and ease the burden of war-time food rationing.

I think it's a pretty interesting concept from an important period of history, and could also make for some really great, thematic artwork.

The idea of collectively growing a Victory Garden of vegetables seemed to fit my idea pretty well and all the vegetables would look different, regardless of color, which would instantly make the game accessible to colorblind players.

Since mint tin games are tiny and have only a few components, I saw no reason not to dive straight into prototyping with some artwork, especially since I had plans to automate most of the tedious, work.

I set about designing my vegetables and came up with four that I was happy with.

card icons

My goal was a cartoon representation of food that matched the feel and style of WWII-era Victory Garden ads/flyers and other similar war-time propaganda. I think it came across pretty well.

Next. it was time to make my prototype 2x2in tiles. My plan here was to make one small tile of each vegetable and then stitch them together with code to make the actual game tiles.

carrot

corn

potato

tomato

Since I'm just printing at home and cutting these out by hand, I decided not to worry about adding extra margins for bleed.

I also wasn't worried about cards with multiples of various vegetables, since that would have produced a huge list and I need to keep card counts small to fit the tin and the play area/scale I had in mind. This meant tile generation would be pretty straight-forward.

I wrote a very small ruby script to create 4-item permutations of the "vegetable array" and use those resulting lists to generate the tiles. Ruby has a built-in array method called permutation to do the work for me.

tiles = ["potato","carrot","corn","tomato"]
tiles.permutation(4).each_with_index do |a,i|
  `montage #{a.map{|v| 'src/' + v + '.png' }.join(" ")} \
  -tile 2x2 -geometry +0+0 dest/card-#{i}.png`
end

This script is super simple. It takes an array of vegetables, iterates over each permutation of 4 veggies and issues an ImageMagick 'montage' command to the shell that combines all 4 source veggie sub-tiles in the right order. In the montage command, we tell ImageMagick to create the image using a 2x2 layout for the tiles, with 0px margins between them.

The end result ends up looking like this (with 23 other variations on veggie placement):

tile

Once I had my folder full of tiles, I just ran another little command from the shell to create two sets of 3x4 tiles (this time with 2px margin), for printing.

After that, I created prototypes in Photoshop for the remaining cards; seed packets and a draft of the game rules. Yes, in a mint tin game, the rules also have to fit in the tin. In this particular case, they need to fit on the front and back of one standard US business card (2x3.5in) with rounded corners.

printed parts

I gave the cards a quick pass through the laminator so they'd be more durable, then I cut it all out and taped the two rules printouts together front to back.

finished pieces

The gold cubes are there in order to keep track of round winners. The game is played over a series of 3 rounds and supports 2-4 players. There can be ties, so that meant I needed 12 cubes.

As you can see, it fits nicely into the tin:

game in tin

After that, it was time to start play testing. As it turns out, aside from testing the fit, there was no point in printing the rules, because I ended up changing them drastically over the course of the evening.

Now it's time to just keep iterating on the game rules for a while and get some other people playing it until all of the kinks are worked out.

in-development mint tin micro game