Dale Yu: Review of Minute Realms

Minute Realms

  • Designer: Stefano Castelli
  • Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Times played: 8, with review copy provided by dv Giochi

Minute Realms caught my eye in the run-up to Essen as it was billed as the “most compact city building game ever” – and as I’m a big fan of such games, this immediately caught my eye.  I was hoping to get a peek at it at GenCon 2017, but it wasn’t ready then.  So, I waited for Essen and made sure to bring a copy home to try.

The game comes in a small box 8” x 8” x 2” – and contains a deck of 56 cards, 30 plastic coins, a board to track the Invaders and a dozen hexagonal invader tokens.  The deck is filled with different buildings which you get to add to your realm.  Each of the cards has a cost in the upper left corner.  The scoring attributes are found at the bottom in the beige area as well as an icon to denote what type of card it is.  Finally, and trading costs are found in the upper right corner.  Prior to the game, the deck is prepared based on the number of players, and it is shuffled in preparation.

A starting player is chosen, and then each player gets some starting money (more for being later in turn order).  Each player should reserve a space on the table close to him for his “realm” – this is where he will place the cards the he gets during the course of the game.

The invader tokens are color coded for the number of players in the game, and you take all the appropriate tokens, shuffle them face down and then stack them on the #1 space on the invader board.  This board will hold the possible invaders as well as track the rounds in the game. As there are 8 spaces on this board, the game will last 8 rounds.

At the start of each round, the current starting player deals one card face up to each player – put this closer to the center of the table so it won’t be confused with the player’s Realm.  Two more cards are dealt to the table – near the invader board.

Then, the current starting player takes his turn.  The active player has to choose one of the face up available cards – either one in front of him or in front of his opponents.   If you choose the card in front of you, you simply build it (more on that later).  If you choose a card in front on someone else, you must first pay the trading costs on the card you want.

If there is a green dot, you take a coin from the supply.

If there is a red dot, you must PAY a card to the previous owner (or to the supply if it came from the table)

If there is an invader symbol, you move the top invader token from the stack on the board facedown onto the space below.  Only one invader token is moved per round, so if this space is already filled, you can ignore the invader symbol.

Then, you can build the card.  There are two options with this.  First, you can turn the building into a defensive wall.  To do this, you simply flip it over to show the wall side and place it in your realm area – and the two shield icons depicted on it.  You also get 2 coins from the supply for doing this.  Note that a few of the building cards have a “no flip” icon on them; you obviously cannot flip these and must build them instead with the second option.  To build a card, you must pay the coin cost found in the upper left corner.  Place the card face up in your realm area.  If this card survives to the end of the game, you will score based on the criteria found at the bottom of the card.

The next player in turn order goes, and he has the same two options – take the card in front of him OR take a card in front of someone else (And pay the trade costs).  At the end of the round, there will be two leftover cards in the center of the table; they are discarded.  The whole pile of invader tokens is moved to the next numbered space.  At the end of the round, the start player castle is handed to the next person clockwise and the process is repeated.

At the end of the fourth round, there is an Invasion.   Any invader tiles which had been moved down onto the round spot are now flipped over – and their numbers are summed (remember that these tokens have either a 0, 1 or 2 on them).  This sum is the Invaders Strength.  Players now check to see if they have enough Defense to fight off the invaders – this is done by counting the number of shield icons they have on the cards in their realm.  If your Defensive strength is equal or greater than the Invaders, then no ill effect happens to you.  If your Defense is less than the Invaders, then you lose one building from your realm – it must flip over to the Defensive wall side.  Note that you still can’t flip over a card that has a “no flip” icon on it.  Note that you only flip over a single building regardless of how much less your strength is from the Invaders.

The second half of the game continues with four more rounds played in the same fashion.  At the end of the eighth round, there is another Invasion.  Flip over the second row of moved Invader tokens.  Now, sum up ALL the tokens on the board to get the final Invasion strength. Again, compare your defensive strength to this.  If you have less, you again lose a single building.  If you succeed in fighting off the invaders, you score VPs equal to the strength of the Invasion.

Once the final invasion is complete, now score the face-up buildings in your realm.  Some cards offer straight VP rewards.  Others given you VPs based on how many buildings you have of a particular type.  Other pay off for specific pairs of buildings or how many coins you have at the end of the game.  In any event, total up all your points and add them to the Invasion bonus if you earned that.  The player with the most points wins.  Ties go to the player with the most coins left over.


My thoughts on the game

I was very much looking forward to trying this one out from the description.  Though I never asked anyone at the booth, I spent more time than I should have working out the title.  Is “Minute” pronounced like the unit of time or as in the description of small size?  Punnily enough, either description could work here, and kudos to the team at dv Giochi for coming up with the clever name.  I have decided to go with the time pronunciation as the quickness seems to be more prevalent.

The game is super straightforward – pick a card, pay costs, build it.  Twice a game, fight off invaders.  Total the VPs on your cards.  That’s the whole game right there.  In practice, it really does feel that simple – which is both good and bad.  On the first few plays, it was nice to be able to jump right in and play the game, but after a few more plays – the gamer side of me wanted a bit more.

Maybe it’s because the game is sold as a “city builder”.  When I hear that, I think of more complicated strategy games where I get different pieces of the city and then have to puzzle out how to make them fit together – whether that connecting by roads or having them next to other components which work synergistically together.  However, in Minute Realms, some of the cards work with others for their scoring, but otherwise, it doesn’t really matter when you get them in the game or where they are located in your area.  You simply get eight cards and then maximize your score.

Once I realized that the game really isn’t a city builder but rather more of a set collection game, my expectations changed and I found that it’s a decent superfiller with enough choices to keep the fifteen minutes interesting without overstaying its welcome.

You have to balance the cost of the buildings with the struggle to get the coins to buy those buildings in the first place.  You also need to always keep an eye out for the invaders, because while the penalty may sound small (only flip over one of your buildings) – that’s essentially 12.5% of your total scoring capability that was wiped out!  Of course, you could choose to make a defensive structure out of a building voluntarily, and when you do, you do manage to get 2 coins from that – so it’s not all bad.  Furthermore, if you don’t see anything else that you want, sometimes it’s a decent play to take a building that your opponent desperately needs for a scoring combo and nerf it into a wall in your realm.

Likewise, if you see that one of your opponents is neglecting his own defenses, you might want to try to make sure that you choose buildings with the Invader icon on it to force more invader tokens into play.  Sure, it might get all of you – but it’s more likely to get the non-defender…

The components are cromulent.  Nothing spectacular about them, but also nothing to complain about.  Part of me wishes that dv Giochi had also embraced the other meaning of “minute” – I could conceivable see this fitting in a much smaller box – say a double deck card box… or maybe with a bit of manipulation, into a single deck Adlung-style box.   As it is, it’s in a decently small box, and while each game only plays in 10-15 minutes; it’s easily set back up for multiple plays.  While the deck of cards doesn’t change in the game – your strategies will likely change based on the timing and distribution of the cards that come out.

So, my rating of this one has started high, dipped a bit and then come back up almost to where it started.  Sometimes, it’s all just based on what your expectations are to start.  I’m glad that I gave this one the chance to improve with more plays.  It’s a good super-filler, though it’s not a city-builder.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue:  I like quick games that put players in the condition to use at the best a fixed and small amount of resources/cards/turns. In Minute Realms you have to make the right choice, turn after turn, trying to optimize the small amount of cards you have, looking what other players are doing. It is just a filler but it works the time you spend on it. I like it

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
  • Neutral. Dale Y, Eric M
  • Not for me…


About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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