Mining Maniac Kickstarter Review

Mining Maniac Kickstarter Review

It’s not very often we get to review a really good Kickstarter prototype. It’s not even that the games are bad; it’s just that most often than not the games are simply average. However, every now and then you get a really good game and a really bad game. Unfortunately I have to say that Mining Maniac is a bad game, a really bad game.

Mining Maniac’s concept is as straightforward as a Roman road into eurogame land. You play as a mining corporation and the aim is to make as much money as possible. You’ll do this by buying workers, mining for ore and then selling that ore in a volatile market, however you can only make two of these actions every turn.

Before embarking on a quest for mineral riches you will first need to select a role for the turn. These Puerto Rico-esque roles not only determine player order but also give access to special abilities. And it’s these special abilities that turn an average economic game and turn them into a complete mess.

Mining Maniac Kickstarter Review

But I digress a little, there’s also a moving market that is probably the best piece of design in the game. Prices for each mineral are laid out on a separate board and at the beginning of each turn the market cycles. It means that not only is the market constantly moving but you do get visibility of future market prices.

There’s also a deck of incident cards, these add a little randomness into the game, and they can cause market prices to shift slightly or may spell claustrophobic mining doom in the form of landslide and cave-ins. Some might see these incidents as adding too much randomness to a pretty deterministic game, but for me they added just enough variation to stop the game going stale.

Mining Maniac Kickstarter Review

I do have to point out how much I like this market system, it gives the chance to look ahead and plan your turns and try to position your current mining business as the market moves. I really like how the incident cards can add subtle variations to the market, meaning that even though you can predict market trends you can never be in full control of it. It’s the strongest mechanic in Mining Maniac and the part of the game that, to me, mirrors a real world stock market without getting down into the dirt of supply and demand. However, the very first role card completely destroys this mechanic.

Some of the role cards let you take extra actions; recruit extra workers, sell more than one mineral type and split your work force. A couple of cards allow you to sabotage another player’s efforts; as long as you can guess the role they have selected. The market controller allows you to move the cards in the market, completely destroying that sublime mechanic of the game.

Mining Maniac Kickstarter Review

The market controller always goes first, meaning that you’re going to want to take him so that the other players can’t screw you over (the sabotaging cards happen later so can’t effect the market controller). There is a little bit of respite in that the player of the market controller cannot sell any goods they have altered the price of, but this doesn’t stop them from looking round the table and plummeting the price of any minerals that players are looking to sell this turn.

It then gets even worse as the sabotaging roles come next, this means that a player will take the role card to protect themselves but also, again looking round the table, mess up any player who is unlucky enough to have any unsold mineral cards or an abundance of workers. The fact that a player who selects these roles has to guess what role their victim is to succeed should prevent the ability from becoming overpowered, but by the time you’ve got to the third player you have a very good idea about what the final player is looking to do in their turn just by the resources and commodities they have available.

Mining Maniac Kickstarter Review

After just a couple of turns each round becomes the same; the first player selects the market controller, the second and third player select the sabotaging roles and the fourth player is left feeling that this isn’t going to be their turn to shine. Six rounds into a twelve round game and everyone has that horrible screwed up look on their face like they have ordered a burger and got served a dog turd in a bun. The problem is if you took away this role selection you’d be left with a boring economic game that has been done much better elsewhere, remove the dog turd and you’re left with a stale piece of bread.

It’s not very often I give advice on a Kickstarter review on whether you should back the game or not, I like to give a balanced assessment and let you make your own mind up, you’re intelligent enough to come to your own opinion. But I’m asking you, just this once, to stay away from Mining Maniac. The game is broken and a chore to play and if you take away the concepts that break the game you’ll be left with a dull and dry experience.

This Kickstarter review is based on a prototype version of the game provided by the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.

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