Ahead of a planned spring time walking trip in Cornwall, England we’ve been playing Tinner’s Trail. You may not have thought about designing a board game around the economics of copper and tin mining in nineteenth century Cornwall, but Martin Wallace has. He’s carefully avoided added arsenic mining to the game, although that was a money spinner for landowners at the same time.
The game sees you as a mining entrepreneur looking to use your time and money to maximise your investment. Unlike many other board games being the best miner won’t bring you victory, you have to end the game with the best long term investments. You’ll need to make money mining then invest that money for maximum return before it becomes uneconomic to extract copper and tin.
You’ll be doing this against a backdrop of unpredictably fluctuating commodity prices, erratic property prices, fierce competition and limited time to implement your plans (sounding familiar?), along with the temptation to stop what you’re doing and enjoy a Cornish Pasty instead.
You can take a confident lead on investing in the most productive assets, or choose the recessionista strategy of leaving other people to blaze a trail whilst you pick up what’s left cheaply and make the most of the bargains.
One useful mechanic which is perhaps underused in both games and life is the ‘Pasty Seller’. If you don’t have the money to invest in new plans, or the resources you want just aren’t available when you want them, you can send your workforce out to sell pasties and raise cash, rather than complaining about the economy and the restrictions you’re working under. Whilst your cooking skills may not be up to commercial pasty baking, it always pays to have some snack around.
Like most Martin Wallace games this is brilliantly balanced and there’s more than one road to victory, but it does require a minimum of three players
I doubt we’ll see much in the way of copper or tin mining whilst we’re in Cornwall, but we’ll likely see some ruins of mines and waterwheels, and I’m sure we’ll eat some pasties.