It’s tough being a gnome nowadays. Every mine has a dozen claims and the OG gnomes who already have a stake in the ground tend to be very possessive of their gem and mineral rights. Except one gnome who has thrown down the gauntlet: Whoever can mine the most gems in his unexplored mine will earn the right to claim it as their own (and a lotta valuable treasure too). Promising! But like all mining adventures, you just know that the veins of ore are tough to find, your mine cart will often be in the wrong place, and various calamities are inevitably going to occur. That’s the premise of the fun 1-2 player puzzle game Mine Your Business from designer Art Casey, artist Gabi Naftaly, and publisher Envy Born Games.
As is typical, I opted to try out solo mode and, after I figured out some of the nuances of the rather simple rules, I found it to be a fun and challenging tile management puzzle with possibly just a bit too much luck involved. The game plays differently for two players, either competitive or cooperative, and in solo mode, there are three game variations available, one of which adds a mischievous goblin who’s running through the mine and causing more trouble, even as you try to maximize the mine’s layout for the greatest possible yield. I reviewed the basic solo game so the goblin stayed in the box (where, perhaps, he belongs!)
BASIC SETUP AND TABLE LAYOUT
The heart of Mine Your Business is a deck of 54 square mine cards that are dealt out in a 4×4 grid. The orientation of each card is critically important, so your pre-deal shuffle needs to include rotating the cards randomly too. I found that it was helpful to also deal them out using different techniques on the layout too, ensuring the maximum possible randomness. Over time, the deck will inevitably be more rotated so this might just be a starting issue. In solo mode you add your gnome figure adjacent to your Mine Car, a goblin figure (if you’re playing that variant), and cards that represent your mine car, your three bonus actions, three of the 10 possible event cards, and a solo rules card. All spread out on the table it looks like this:
The three cards with the “!” are event cards, face down: They trigger as your mine car (top left) passes them as it winds its way clockwise around the grid. Once you finish your turn on the top left spot, it’s game over and time to tally your score. The four cards on the right side are the three bonus action cards (Emergency Brakes, Lunch Time, and Teleportation), along with the solo rules card. Looking at it a bit closer, here’s that Solo Rules card:
You can take up to three actions on each of your turns, comprising of moving your gnome, rotating the card your gnome’s on, swapping your gnome’s card for an (orthogonally adjacent) card, loading your mine cart, or swapping/rotating a campfire card. If you look closely at the earlier picture, you’ll see a campfire card at 3,3 from the top left. Face down mine cards are a variant I didn’t play.
The goal of the game is to create veins of gems or minerals that lead directly to your mine cart, then load your cart. Every card in the vein is collected, empty spots are refilled, and ultimately your score is based on the total number of cards you collected. Veins have to match, however, and they have to align properly too, which is why your gnome is doing all the field work, moving cards and rotating them to get everything lined up. You never know what new cards will be revealed after loading your cart, and those Event Cards are going to wreak mayhem along the way.
THE VERY FIRST MOVE
Going back to the initial setup, notice that the card immediately below the Mine Cart has a colorful gem vein that leads to a vein of coal. That mismatch means the first cart load, if I opt to do it, will be worth 1 card (because it doesn’t match up). My goal is to collect at least 30 for a decent score, in 16 moves, so collecting a single card might be sub-optimal tactically.
A close inspection of the cards reveals that the card in 2,2 (again, from the top left) also has a gem vein, and 3,2 has the end of a gem vein too. If I can get them to all line up, I could collect three cards instead of just one. That’s my initial goal, so the first action will be to swap the current card with the one immediately to its right (the gnome rides along), then move my gnome down to the “Load Your Cart” card and rotate it. No cart loading this turn, but three moves, and it’s set up for a much better collection on my next turn. Here I am after the first step, the two card swap:
After the three actions is the bonus step “Read the Sign”. If your gnome’s on a tile without a sign, you skip this step, but if the tile does have a sign, you get to take that move as a bonus. As it turns out, I end up on the “Load Your Cart”, a great free action, but nothing now connects to the Cart so it’s a null op, alas. Then it’s time to move the Cart 1 spot clockwise and refill any empty spaces. For the next move, I’m now set up for a collect-3 action:
My first action with the second move is to Load My Cart and I just got 3. My goal is to get at least 30 so that’s a fortuitous beginning. Once collected, there are holes left in the mine:
You don’t immediately refill the holes, however. Pay attention to the steps listed on the quick reference card and you’ll see where things update. The Mine car has already moved which means that depending on what cards are revealed, I’ll probably want to rotate the card under the mine car. It’ll cost me two actions to get there and if my third action is the again collect the treasures, there’s not a lot of flexibility in my actions!
Three turns later the Mine Car has rounded the corner, which means the first of the Event Cards was revealed. This one’s “Cave In” and it requires the central four mine cards to be pulled off the table, shuffled, then laid out in a new, random configuration. Frustrating if I was already aiming for a specific layout that included one or more of those spots. Along the way, I have also utilized a couple of the Bonus Action one-time-use cards. Here’s where I am almost halfway through the game:
The card adjacent to the Mine Car is not oriented so that anything can be mined, but swapping it for an adjacent card (since the gnome’s on that spot) offers up at least a single card yield. Slowly but surely; if you can average around 2 cards per move collected, you’ll do great. I’m pretty close at this point.
FURTHER INTO THE GAME
As a sort of grand hurrah, I am setting up a vein that’ll encompass five cards when the mine car gets to the correct spot. You can see below that all that’s left is to rotate the lower left card 90º and get the Mine Car adjacent:
Unfortunately, this means I have to round that last corner, which reveals another Event Card that completely messes up the vein! I salvage something along the way and, finally, am at the last mining spot on the grid:
I end with a two-card vein. As you collect gems, gold, and coal, the game instructs you to stack ’em underneath your mine car, which makes for a fun stack as things proceed. In total, my Mine Car stack looked like this:
How many did I collect? 32 cards. This puts me on the lowest run of the solo ladder of success as the Shortest Shoveler:
This is a tough puzzle game and I did really well. I would have bumped up to Diminuitive Dredger if I could have held on to that 5-card vein, but then something else might have been different. 39+ cards? That’s going to be tough and require some luck too.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MINE YOUR BUSINESS
I really enjoyed learning Mine Your Business, particularly once I gained clarity on what happens to your gnome if they’re on a card that’s collected (they stay in the empty spot) or are on a card that moves due to a swap (they ride to the card to the new location). These types of visualization puzzles where you need to be looking a few steps ahead are quite enjoyable and lend themselves particularly well to solo play. The real challenge is that it’s a combination of skill and luck; get a bad action card or lay out a few tiles in the wrong orientation and those 3 actions will instantly prove insufficient for your plans. More plays will help with this, I expect, particularly avoiding the dangerous strategy of planning for a big vein knowing that you also face a potentially impactful – and disastrous – action card, as I did with my big vein.
I haven’t played Mine Your Business two player, but I expect it will have a very different flavor as you compete for orientation on specific cards (though since you’re always opposite each other with mine cars, it might also end up mostly parallel solo play). Overall, this is a really fun and intriguing small-box tile laying puzzle game that would be fantastic for travel and intriguing for tweens and above. Now, I need to get back to the mine because I’m sure I can beat that score…
Disclosure: Envy Born Games sent me a free copy of Mine Your Business in return for this candid review. Thanks!