Millennial Manatees is a rather curious confection. For starters, Jason Anarchy's game comes packaged not in a conventional cardboard box but in a pink fanny pack. Inside the pack, there's an interesting selection of well-made components, including painted wooden manatee playing pieces, heavy card fanny pack shaped player boards, a large wooden slice of toast and a pack of cards. There's a playing surface too: except that instead of a board, this is a printed cloth.
And it's not just the presentation that confounds expectations; it's also the theme. From the title and graphics, we were obviously expecting to find a game themed around marine creatures. To be sure, manatees appear throughout - on all the cards as well as the playing pieces - but they are there just as interesting protagonists rather than for their thematic contribution. It turns out that Millennial Manatees is themed not on marine ecology but on the struggle to pay off student loans! Is this a cri de coeur from the designer? Did Jason study marine biology at university and is he still beset with student debt?
In Millennial Manatees, 2-4 players take turns to place their manatee playing piece at a location on the cloth board, worker-placement style, in order to collect coins and spend them to acquire businesses or accept volunteer positions. The income these generate depends on the manatee cards flipped. This means, for example, that a craft brewery that pays out to blue shirt wearers will earn you a coin every time a card is flipped that shows a manatee wearing a blue shirt. Tho' the cards and board refer to coins, there are no actual coins in the game: players keep score using a marker on their fanny pack playing board. But note that the fanny packs only have a very limited capacity so you'll need to spend your income on buying more businesses and, at some point, use it to pay off your student loan... And the chunky wooden half-eaten toast? Impoverished students, of course, subsist largely on slices of toast, so the toast is the first player marker and toast makes a few appearances in the course of the game.
For a light filler-length game, the rules could be clearer, but this is an attractive well-produced package, and it has the added bonus of incorporating the option for solo play. And the fanny-pack packaging makes Millennial Manatees a ready-made travel game: no need to even pack it, you can just strap it round your midriff!