I just recently discovered the “wallet games” collection from publisher Buttonshy Games at my FLGS and decided to grab Mint Julep, since I like tabletop games, horse racing, and bourbon (oh my). Also, pocket games are always on my radar because they are mobile friendly and usually quick playing, with easy rules. This used to be important when we used to have those things called “conventions,” where geeks would gather to celebrate their nerdly passions. You remember those, right? Well, we used to have to sit in long lines waiting for celebrities, like Audrey Kearns, to put on these things called “panels,” with names like Five Truths And A Lie. Those were wonderful times! (Editor’s note: Very funny, Rob)
With a few two and three player games under my belt, I can say that Mint Julep moves right to the top of my pocket game rotation. Designed by Dan Letzring and designed for 2-4 players (with a solo variant) Mint Julep has players bet on one of the five horses in the race and then move the horses into position over three rounds trying to have their horse win.
The game contains only 18 cards (5 horses and 13 bet/move cards). The 13 bet/move cards will do things like move one horse two spaces forward, or move one horse forward and another horse back. The cards are evenly dealt to players at the beginning of a round and then players draft those cards to get their starting hands. They choose one card to bet on the horse of their choice and then players take turns playing cards to manipulate the horse order. Once all cards are played, the cards are shuffled and you do it again. After three rounds, the player whose horse scores the most points (based on starting and finishing positions) wins.
Mint Julep is a near perfect pocket game. It takes 30 minutes or less per play. It has no board, as the horse cards are just arranged in order on the table. It is easy to teach, although the rules as written take some figuring for the teacher. Turns are lightning quick and the engagement level is high throughout. The strategy is not deep, but it is deeper than it appears on the surface. Timing of when to move horses and deciding which cards to keep during the draft each round are important choices that usually decide the outcome. The draft removes most of the luck that would be involved in having cards dealt out randomly.
Mint Julep scores one for the little guys, a filler game that should easily work its way to the grownups’ table to cleanse that heavy game palate. It is also perfect for a social gathering where games are not the focus, but you’d still like to play a little. I certainly would keep it in my fanny pack (if I had one) in case geekery spontaneously combusts at my local watering hole. And some day, some day…. I’d love to play while waiting in line at a geek convention.
At the end of the race, Mint Julep is a winner by four lengths! Stay safe and keep nerding on.
This review was originally posted 6/11/20