Review: 13 Minutes – The Cuban Missile Crisis
13 Days: the Microgame
Designer: Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen
Artist: Jacob Walker
Publisher: Jolly Roger Games / Ultra Pro
Category: One Vs. One, Political, Microgame
Player Count: 2
Wait, didn’t I already review this game? And didn’t the Cuban Missile Crisis last for 13 Days, not 13 Minutes? After the game Twilight Struggle attempted to encapsulate the entire Cold War, 13 Days focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis and brought the game into a much shorter form. Now, 13 Minutes is the even faster microgame version of 13 Days from the same publisher and designer. Consisting of only 13 cards, and 13 cubes for each player, can 13 Minutes deliver gameplay as good as its bigger brothers? Let’s find out!
There is no gore or swearing on the cards represented in this game, but the material is very adult in the sense that it is complex, political, and scary. After all, we’re talking about two superpowers threatening to blow each other up. The box says 10+, but I think I would struggle to explain to a preteen how the world ever even got to this place. However, 13 Minutes is very abstracted and relatively simple to learn, so it is probably more appropriate at younger ages than its older brother, 13 Days.
Five years ago, the game Love Letter came out and was a huge hit. With only 16 cards and some cubes in a small bag, it was extremely cheap and extremely portable. It launched the popularity of what we now call “microgames.” Many companies have tried to reproduce the success of Love Letter, and many have failed, with a few exceptions (e.g. the bluffing game Coup). I like the idea of a cheap, compact, portable game, but most of these microgames do not have enough gameplay to keep my attention.
So, 13 Minutes faces the daunting task of delivering a microgame that maintains the feel of 13 Days or Twilight Struggle, which are known for their intense, serious gameplay. With the huge caveat “for a microgame,” it succeeds; and it does this by maximizing every aspect of each card. Cards can be played as events or for influence cubes, but once played, they become territories on the board to fight over, and the player has a choice as to where to play the territory. For the most part, the game is just about controlling more territories than your opponent, but if you have three territories of the same color in your sphere of influence (even if you do not control them), you instantly lose! This is an extremely condensed representation of the DEFCON tracks used in 13 Days. Also similar to 13 Days, drawing your opponent’s event means you have to let them have it before you play the card for influence cubes, creating a modicum of tension.
The gameplay is good, or about as good as it can be with 13 cards. It definitely feels like the game has a few tough decisions over which fights are worth gunning for, and which cards you should save for game end. However, as with most microgames, the theme is abstracted to the point where it’s gone, and it feels like you are just pushing cubes around, even though the art and design is done very well. The last mark against it, really, is that 13 Days really isn’t that much longer of a game (30 minutes vs. 10), so I’m not sure it needed a microgame version. However, the game is so compact that it could easily fit in a pocket, and it’s a fun way to pass time while stuck waiting somewhere, and one of the best microgames I’ve played.
Thank you to Ultra Pro for providing a review copy of 13 Days: the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Bottom Line
13 Minutes is a successful conversion of the Cuban Missile Crisis to microgame form, after big brother 13 Days already condensed it the Cold War to 30 minutes. It's better than most microgames, though it suffers the same problems as the rest.