14 November 2017
All the tension of the Cold War in the time it takes to make a cuppa
The Cold War has inspired plenty of complex, sprawling board games that rate as among the best the tabletop has to offer. 13 Minutes needs only 13 cards, 13 minutes and two people to present something just as gripping and enjoyable.
The meat of the game is in deciding which of the two cards in your hand to play in front of you each round. The Love Letter-like flow is as easy and quick to pick up and play as it sounds, but the genius of 13 Minutes is in making such a simple decision surprisingly tense and meaningful.
Cards can either be played for their face action (if it matches your country, or the neutral UN) or to place or remove cubes from a territory, which shifts the cards towards or away each player’s personal sphere of influence. The thing is, your rival has the option to execute any actions on cards you play that match their flag, Twilight Struggle-style, resulting in a careful tightrope walk of handing as few opportunities to them as possible while increasing your influence in the steadily increasing number of shifting territories.
Having too many cards in front of you can be risky, as after five rounds scores are calculated based on the total number of territories and military strength controlled, with draws settled by the location of cards. In the game’s greatest twist, players then compare the one card left in their hands – if they match symbol colour, they’re placed in front of their owners, which can trigger instant nuclear war and a devastating (but not uncommon) loss.
It’s thrillingly tense, strategic without being overwhelming and it all sets up, plays and packs away in the titular time – or even half of that once you have a couple of duels under your belt. Six-and-a-Half Minutes just probably wasn’t as catchy a title.
Publisher: Ultra Pro/Jolly Roger
Genre: Area control
Time: 13 minutes
This review originally appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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