Board Game Review

Fanny Packs and Kelp Fans (Millennial Manatees Review)

Any idea which generation you’re from? I don’t. In fact, I couldn’t even hazard a guess! I know there’s a generation X, the boomer generation and the millennials, but beyond that I’m lost. Maybe I’m from the lost generation? The one between people using Millennial and Boomer as insults and derogatory terms. But there are some stereotypical traits associated to these generations that are hard to ignore. Sure, you can’t paint everyone of that age range under the same free-range, gluten free brush, but it’s a trope that is common across some. Millennial Manatees is a 1-4 player game oriented around earning points and spending them as a resource to pay back a debt. It takes about 25 minutes to play.

This game was kindly sent to us for an unbiased review by Jason Anarchy Games. We have not been paid for any media produced and all opinions are our own.

Gameplay

Setup

To begin a game, all players take one colour of fanny pack board, coin marker and manatee meeple. They also place their debt repayment coin on the track. Next, players shuffle the three venture card decks and the volunteer card deck and place them in their respective spots. Finally, shuffle the manatee cards and place them within reach of all players.

Playing the Game

Staring with the first player (whomever last made toast) you take turns to place your manatee figure to a space on the game mat. Each space enables you to do an action. Generally speaking, only one manatee may use any one spot. There are several types of spots to use in Millennial Manatees. The most prominent ones allow you to invest in business ventures, scaled according to how much money they’ll get you. The cheaper ones earn smaller amounts, but trigger more frequently whereas the more expensive ones do the opposite. Another space allows players to acquire volunteer cards, one time use cards that can be played to give the edge, or as instant effects. Other spots give smaller benefits but can be useful in a pinch.

Once all players have chosen a spot, they resolve the effects in turn order. They will adjust their coins accordingly and gain ventures/volunteers as necessary. Then, the start player flips a manatee card and all players check to see which of their ventures trigger. This may be due to shirt colour, hair style or accessories held by the manatee.

The object of the game is to pay back your debt of 20 coins. This is done by earning money and then utilising the pay debt action. Doing this reduces the coins on your fanny pack to zero and increases your paid debt as necessary. Players have a maximum allowance of coins available in their packs, and gaining over this amount increases the Manatee Gold track, allowing other players to claim the excess on their turn. Once any player has repaid 20 coins, the game ends and they are the winner.

How It Handles

Millennial Manatees is a game that I enjoyed as a quick filler and something to get tactical with. There’s a level of depth to the game that I didn’t expect with such a light game. Enough to make it something to think about but no so much that it became an overbearing commitment. Plus, the game has a superb amount of component quality to it! Even with the “Fanatee Pack” container. It’s not something I’m going to wear in public, but at the games table anything goes!

Climbing The Ladder Of Success!

The game has a solid feeling progression to it that you can’t escape. It’s not possible. All the available spots for you to place your manatee orient around gaining something in exchange for coins. You’re either going to be gaining a venture card to gain coin later, a volunteer card to gain on the fly, or a “Boomer Handout” to gain a coin immediately. With a cap on coin counts in your fanny pack, you can’t just keep gaining either. Sooner or later, you’ll have to bank the cash or be gaining so much cash that you can’t hold it and MUST bank it. It’s a well thought out system that prevents stagnant gameplay. It’s a constant movement in the right direction. Of course, how well you choose your actions will determine how quickly you move in that direction!

Whether you decide to go for the big ventures, focussing on rarely seen accessories, or smaller ones, focussing on shirt colours, you’ll sooner or later get coin. And there’s no limit to your venture numbers. Even if you play in a self destructive manner, as I have tried to, you’ll somehow gain coins. It’s the perfect filler game for your non-gaming friends, as they can’t not have a chance of winning! That anime haired, red shirted manatee with a latte is going to rock up sooner or later, and he’ll trigger three people’s ventures.

What’s more is the limit to the ventures preventing people from becoming over stacked in particular stocks. Sounds mad to have a card limit as a positive, but it is! By making it so there’s a cap on the number of ventures a manatee will trigger, it means it’s not just a gold rush every turn and you’ll have to be smart with your money. It also gives players whose ventures trigger the edge, so there’s the feel of progression and that element of being ahead. It’s not a permanent feeling, but in a game about looking for particular colour shirts on sea cows, you’re not wanting everyone to look for the same colour – it’d defeat the point of the game!

Putting Mould on Your Avocados

Millennial Manatees isn’t a take that game by nature, but there’s scope to do a little bit of it. It’s nothing game breaking and it won’t ruin any friendships, but it’s all done through the volunteer cards. Some will enable you to steal a venture card, others let you steal a spot a manatee has just taken. They’re one time uses, so the pain isn’t forever, but it’s spicy enough to make the volunteer card worth taking when you can! What’s more is taking the first player token gives you an edge by getting first dibs on locations. Situationally advantageous, but in a four player game it’s undeniably powerful! Control the avocado toast, control the market!

Above and Beyond Beautiful!

Sometimes a game will knock you back with its beauty, and sometimes you’ll be underwhelmed. It’s often a lottery that you won’t win as often as you’d want. And in this game? Consider yourself winning the jackpot! This game’s polish and final production is second to none. Wooden figure, sturdy player boards, beautifully illustrated cards… it has it all. I never thought for a second I’d be talking how gorgeous a game about manatees born between ’81 and ’96 is, but here we are. It’s stunning, and I for one am in love with the first player token. Avocado toast. But big, chunky and weighty. I genuinely love this whole game’s aesthetic… bar the bag.

I’m a hobby gamer by nature. I love a good box, a quality storage device, something functional and practical. The ‘Fanatee Pack’ is cute and charming, but oh man is it a pain to stick in my Kallax. I know I’m picking here, but I can’t help it. If, like me, you’re a fan of quality box then you’ll want an alternative way to show your Millennial Manatees game off, as it doesn’t fit the aesthetic of a board game. Of course, you could permanently don the game as an accessory. But storing it functionally may host you.

Keeping It “Free Range” Cheeky

Millennial Manatees holds a niche theme. Very niche. But it branches into a tricky territory with its thematic aesthetic. I understand that this one as itself is one that is going to tickle someone’s whiskers the wrong way. As I said in my rambling at the start, Boomer and Millennial are used as derogatory terms generally. Nothing about this game is offensive (in my humble opinion).

The art, wordings, theme and overall feel is sweet without being mean. It’s going to make you smile, and you’ll chuckle at the tropes picked up on, but not to the point where you’ll be writing angry letters! I personally loved the artwork of the venture and manatee cards as I think they reflected modern culture wonderfully. Variety, freedom to express and a tonne of accessories to boot. And manatees donning clothes. What’s not to love!? In fact, I’ve learned (as writing this) that I am a millennial myself. Nothing here upset me, and, if anything, everything felt somewhat relatable to people my age. Not sure if I’m a manatee yet, but I’m sure anyone who is will enjoy this too.

Final Thoughts

Millennial Manatees is a super easy going game. No stress. No mess. Just gains and sea cows making good business decisions. You get cash, spend it to get cash, then pay back a debt. It’s also a game where you can’t really go wrong, but you can go more right than others through smart decisions. I enjoyed my time playing this game, and it’s one I’ll crack open and wear whilst playing with those who aren’t into games as much as others as it’s got a really lovely charm to it. Plus, it’ll help me bring fanny packs back into fashion. Practical and stylish. What’s not to love!?