Play Coin Age for Only $1.56!
Hold on, I know what you’re thinking: A buck fifty-six? Dan, you hyperbolic hipster! Surely, no game worth playing could be so affordable! Alright then, I have a pair of rebuttals for you. First, you’re using the word “hipster” far too haphazardly, and it makes you sound like a YouTube commenter; and second, if you think cost is the best indicator of a game’s quality, then surely you haven’t heard of Adam P. McIver, Project Game, or the freshly-minted Coin Age.
Oh, and the best part? Since you can print and play it right now (proof!), you can even use some of that $1.56 for dollar menu food once you wrap up your game.
Lately, I’ve played a few games that came packaged with a distinctly “more is more” mentality, and at times it feels like their designers were trying to pad out their games’ weaknesses by providing extra content — more cards than you could ever use, more actions than you could ever want to take — instead of working on refining the actual game underneath it all.
Understandable as that is (after all, one key to Kickstarter success is a healthy stable of extras for your sponsors to unlock), it’s kind of a funny impulse once you get down to it. Good game design springs as much from limitation as it does from permissiveness; probably moreso, though I’m no wiz on the topic. At any rate, after spending so much time playing these flabbier games, it’s nice to sit down and play something that knows exactly what it wants to be: Coin Age is a microgame, printed on a single sheet of paper, divided into a set of rules and a “board” smaller than a notecard, and played with pocket change, and it loves that about itself.
At its copper core (that’s an awesome pun if you’re aware that quarters and dimes are cupronickel over a pure copper core, but not awesome in all other circumstances), Coin Age (which is also a pun; it took me like two hours to realize that) is an area control game. You’ll show your opponent no quarter, and attempt to nickle and dime them to death.
Okay, I’m done with the puns. They don’t make any change.
The gameplay couldn’t be simpler. After determining whether you’ll play as the fanatical heads or the zealous tails, you get a handful of change: four dimes, three pennies, two nickles, and a quarter. This is your “bank” (that’s the game’s pun, so back off). On your turn, you pick up one of each coin, shake them up, and slap them onto the table, and however many coins show your team’s face (heads/tails) determines what you get to do on that turn.
The possible actions are nicely balanced, too. Your goal is to conquer territories and regions, and you get more victory points for bigger coins. So while dimes are only worth one measly victory point, your quarter is worth four if you manage to have it face-up for your team at the end of the game. But since bigger coins are easy to cover with other coins, including the coins of your enemies, higher-value currency is more dangerous to play onto the board — though wait too long and all the good spots will be covered with pennies and dimes. Furthermore, if you control all of a region, your score there is doubled; so the difference between the massive Copper Peaks and the single-space Silver City is fairly profound in game terms, and positioning actually matters.
Like I said, you get to take actions depending on which coins show your team’s face when you slap them onto the table. A full match of four is big money, letting you take a whole bunch of actions so long as you pay one coin to your opponent’s bank, though there are also benefits to having no matches too.
The most common action is to place coins, meaning you put them into an empty territory or cover a larger coin with more compact legal tender. You can also move stacks of coins into empty adjacent spaces to capture bigger regions or keep your enemy from controlling prime territory, or even “capture” a coin by picking it up and adding it to your bank — which is the best way to get rid of the enemy dime that’s been mucking up your dominance of the Forests of Coindor.
Once someone’s bank runs dry or every territory is covered, the game is over. It should take maybe five minutes, and that’s if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time figuring out the optimal move each turn. Once it ends, you count up the victory point value of your coins, double the value of any regions you control, and add the number of coins you have left over in your bank, and that’s it. Best of three?
Coin Age is an exemplar of what’s best about the Print & Play scene. It’s innovative, tactile, wonderfully complete, and costs nothing to try out. And all of that is only sweetened by the fact that once you know the rules, you can carry its tiny board in your wallet and play at McDonald’s. To coin a phrase, it’s mint. Priceless. Just my two cents.