Name: Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Type: Tile Based Boardgame
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Size: 27.8cm x 11.9cm x 4cm
Playtime: 40 mins approx
Price: £15.99 (Standard Edition)
(5.0 / 5)
I came late to the Tiny Epic party, having only bought into the line with the latest (at time of writing) Kickstarter, Tiny Epic Galaxies. I played the Print and Play version of Tiny Epic Galaxies a couple of times and saw comments on the Kickstarter board mentioning how good the other Tiny Epic games are and so decided to get them for myself and see what all the fuss was about.
I managed to source an unpunched Tiny Epic Kingdoms Deluxe Kickstarter set, much to my amazement, and so my review will be based on that. As and when appropriate I’ll differentiate between what you get in the general retail copy and what comes in the Deluxe set and you can buy the mini-expansion on the BGG store, should you want to pick that up yourself.
A little bit of History. Tiny Epic Kingdoms is the first game in the Tiny Epic line of games by Gamelyn Games and was designed by Scot Almes. It was Kickstarted to the tune of $286,982.00 in February 2014 and has since spawned 2 other Tiny Epic Games (Defenders, which has just delivered on its Kickstarter and Galaxies which was Funded at the end of January 2015). A huge amount of the quality of the content is owed to that initial Kickstarter as the project smashed through stretch goals and so added extra races, dice, improved tokens, extra regions and more.
So, first of all, the box. One of the key things you’d expect with a Tiny Epic game is that it is fairly small in size and this fits the bill, measuring just a few inches to a side. The box is nice and sturdy, being made of thick card and it’s lavishly illustrated front and back with full colour art.
Once you take the lid off you can see that the sides of the bottom half of the box have some information about the artists and games designer, which is a nice little touch, and the inside of the lid has another full colour image that looks like a group photo of all the races in the game.
The other criteria for a Tiny Epic game is that it needs to be something pretty special to be counted as Epic. One way of fulfilling that criteria is with contents and in this the game doesn’t disappoint. The box is jam packed with contents, so much so that you actually have to arrange it all correctly just to be able to close the lid! Inside the standard edition you get-
- 13 Races
- 8 Double Sided Region Cards
- 1 Tower Card
- 1 Action Card
- 2 Custom 12 sided War Dice
- 35 Meeples (7 each in 5 different colours)
- 15 Custom Cut Resource Tokens (5 Each for Mana, Corn and Ore)
- 5 Spellbook Tokens (1 each in 5 colours)
- 5 Tower Tokens (1 each in 5 colours)
- 5 Shield Tokens
- 1 First Player Token (Large Tower)
- The Rulebook
In addition, in the Deluxe version you also get-
- 3 more dice (allowing for 1 for each player)
- 3 more races
- 1 Mini-Expansion cardboard token sheet
- 1 Mini Expansion rule sheet with varied game modes
The production value of all of the components is exceptionally high. Each of the tokens is made of laser cut wood and all are custom shapes (Towers, Shields, Stars, Spellbooks, Meeples). Each is then painted brightly and evenly so that they each stand out from one another. The cards are all sturdy and full colour with each of the races having a full colour illustration on the back of them. Each card is completely different and each is double sided giving a total of 16 different regions in total. My only criticism here is that the cards aren’t laminated and so would suffer if any liquids were spilt on them.
The dice are all coloured to match the 5 colours of tokens so that each player can have access to their own war die. They are basically standard D12’s in respects aside from the fact that the 12th face has a flag on for trying to declare an alliance, as opposed to the number 12.
The rules of the game are very simple but have a deceiving amount of depth to them allowing for a plethora of strategies to be used in order to win the game. Victory is simply decided by who has the most victory points at the end of the game and this is worked out by how many meeples you have out, how much magic you have, how high your tower is and how many cities you control, plus any race specific victory conditions.
On your turn you place a Shield Token on the Action Card to denote the action you want to take and then every player has the option of following that action, or harvesting resources. The trick here is that no action can be repeated by another player (aside from using some racial abilities), until all 5 Shield Tokens have been placed and the round is over, so you can tactically take actions to block other players.
The actions you can take allow you to move your meeples, either around your region or to another, increase your magic, build your tower, gain extra meeples or trade one type of resource for another. In general the actions are very quick to resolve and so turns should pass quickly, helping the game fit into its 40 minute play time.
Building, be it meeples, the tower or increasing your magic, costs resources, which are harvested from the locations you control on the various regions. Control is determine by whether or not you have a meeple on the location and each type of location gives a specific type of resource, Food for Plaines, Mana from Forests and Ore from Mountains. You track you resources on your race card and spend it when performing certain actions, such as spending Mana when you want to increase your magic rating. Aside from specific racial abilities, the only way to obtain resources is to harvest when another player chooses an action, rather than replicating that action yourself, making it a difficult balancing act between taking the action you want while they are available and ensuring you have sufficient resource to complete actions and defend yourself during war.
Resources are also spent when you wage war, which is when you move into a location controlled by another player (so it has one of their meeples on it). At that point you dedicate resources to your war effort, with various resources being worth various amounts, and secretly total up what you’ll spend before setting your War Die to that number. Players involved in the war reveal simultaneously and the player with the higher total wins, defeating the other player’s meeple and sending it back to their pile of unallocated meeples (effectively killing it). If both players, secretly, choose the ‘Flag’ option on their War Dice, then an alliance is formed and both players can stay in the location and harvest from it at the same time, at least until one declares war on the other somewhere else.
While increasing the height of your tower only provides victory points (albeit potentially the most in the game), increasing your magic rating provides secondary benefits as dictated by your race card. Each level, from 1-5, provides an additional, cumulative bonus that gets increasingly powerful the higher your magic rating becomes. Humans, for instance, get bonuses to gathering resources and get additional victory points at the end of the game if they have resources stockpiled.
Once all of the Shield Tokens have been allocated to the Action Card the round is over and the first player token is passed to the left and the process repeats until one of the end game conditions is met. The game ends when a single player, purchases their last meeple (number 7), builds the final level of the tower or increases their magic to level 5. At this point actions are still allocated until the round is over, but nothing can stop the game ending at the end of the round and victory points being totalled up to determine a winner.
Each of the 16 races is different and have different thematic magic powers so while the Elves excel at using Mana, the Orcs excel at waging war and the Centaurs excel at moving around. In addition each of the 8 double sided region cards has a different layout and distribution of locations, which, since they are randomly allocated, mean you have to adapt to the terrain you have. While in one game you may have a comparatively open region with several mountainous areas, in another you may have a sprawling forest broken up by impassable rivers and crags, which restrict your movement.
All in all it’s a very simple game to play with mechanics that are easy to teach inside a turn or two while still allowing for significant tactical scope. The random nature of the regions, combined with the restricted use of actions means that you have to carefully balance which resources you harvest, when and then how they are used to improve the standing of your Kingdom. Additionally the different magical abilities of each race means that each plays differently and requires a different style of play to win. The game itself allows you to pick your race but I prefer the method of randomly assigning each player 2 races to pick from, rather than letting them browse the entire stack, this not only speeds up set up time but it stretches the tactical abilities of each player a little more.
The Deluxe Edition Mini-Expansion provides 2 extra game variants and 16 tokens for use in those games. Both are essentially a variant of the same theme but they add a little something extra to the game and promote players exploring and invading one anothers regions. In short, players randomly take these tokens and place them on locations in their home regions, by placing them face down without looking at what they are. Then, when a meeple enters the area for the first time, the token is revealed (flipped) and its effect resolved. These effects can be something positive as finding the Crown (which gives you extra Victory Points, if you have it at the end of the game) to something as negative as being attacked by Bandits, or finding a Dragons lair…. If you enjoy the base game then the Mini-Expansion is well worth picking up as well.
I think Tiny Epic Kingdoms is an amazing game. It’s fast, simple, has tactical depth, it’s production values are high, it’s comparatively cheap and above all else it’s a huge amount of fun to play. As it plays out in just over half an hour making it a great game to start games night with or to pull out at lunch while at work. It’s size means that it can be easily thrown in a bag or even a large pocket and transported but it has the feel of a game that generally comes in a large box, with a lavish board, thousands of tokens and a 50 page rule book. It plays like Risk mixed with Settlers of Catan but without the complexity of games like Age of Conan or some of the Risk variants.
I think naming the game line Tiny Epic is the most honest way of summing the game up, it is Tiny, it is quick to play but it’s Epic amounts of fun and has endless playability. I came late to the Tiny Epic party but I’m pleased I turned up because it’s a Tiny Epic Extravaganza that I’m glad I didn’t miss.