Tiny Epic Defenders, front of box

Tiny Epic Defenders, Kickstarter Deluxe Set- A Review

Name: Tiny Epic Defenders
Type: Tile Based Boardgame
Gamelyn Games
27.8cm x 11.9cm x 4cm
Time: 30 mins approx
Price: £15.99 (Standard Edition)
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Tiny Epic Defenders, front of box

Tiny Epic Defenders is the second in the Tiny Epic series of games by Gamelyn Games. It is a co-operative game for 1-4 players and in the style of all Tiny Epic games it plays out in under an hour. It is set after the events of Tiny Epic Kingdoms and involves the various races working together to protect their capital city from attack by a variety of monsters.

 Much like Tiny Epic Kingdoms before it and Tiny Epic Galaxies after Tiny Epic Defenders was funded by Kickstarter and raised $162,372 in July 2014. Production took a few months and Tiny Epic Defenders started delivering to backers in January 2015 and hit stores shortly after.  I personally missed out of the Kickstarter, having only found out about Tiny Epic games during the Tiny Epic Galaxies Kickstarter, but I’ve since managed to source a Kickstarter deluxe edition.

Tiny Epic Defenders, Kickstarter Deluxe contents

You don’t get quite as much in the box as with Tiny Epic Kingdoms or, I suspect, Tiny Epic Galaxies but the box is still satisfyingly full, albeit with a card insert taking up around a quarter of the space to make sure that the components don’t rattle around too much during transit. Inside the standard box you get-

  • 4 x Meeple Tokens (Blue, Green, Yellow and Red)
  • 5 x Health Tokens (Blue, Green, Yellow, Red and Black)
  • 7 x Threat Tokens
  • 6 x Territory Cards (all double sided, covering Plains, Ruins, Coast, Forest, Desert and Mountains)
  • 1 x City Card
  • 6 x Epic Foe Cards
  • 10 x Hero Cards
  • 10 x Artefact Cards
  • 9 x Enemy Cards
  • 6 x Dire Enemy Cards
  • 6 x Action Cards
  • The Rules

The box is what is now the standard size for the Tiny Epic line of games at 7”x 5”. The box is made of thick durable card and is in full colour. The inside lid has a full colour image of a few of the heroes, planning the defence of the city and the sides of the bottom of the box provide some information about the artists and designer.

The components are high quality. All of the tokens are made from laser cut wood and have been painted in bright and vibrant colours. Each of the Meeples has a heart shaped health token in matching colours and there is a 5th,  Health token for the  Epic Foe, when it is revealed. My favourite token, by far is the little Threat token, which is cut to look like a fire and painted bright orange, in fact this might be my favourite token, in any game, ever, as it looks so cool-

Tiny Epic Defenders, Threat Token

Tiny Epic Defenders, City and Territory Card

The cards come in 2 sizes. The City, Territory, Hero and  Epic Foe cards are all oversized, roughly 5”x 3”. The Territory cards are all double sided with the same territory on each side but each side has a different Action or Passive ability. The City card is also double sided but both sides are the same.  Each Territory and the City has a Threat track along the top that shows how much danger that area is in. If the threat rating of a Territory ever reaches maximum that Territory is destroyed and if the City is destroyed the game is over and the players lose.

Tiny Epic Defenders, Hero Card

The Hero cards are all double sided with an image of the Hero on the back and the health track and actions on the front. Each of the Heroes have different actions that can be used on your turn and most are thematic to the Hero, for instance a Paladin can take damage instead of another Hero, and all have 4 Hit Points, aside from the Paladin that has 5.

Tiny Epic Defenders, Epic Foe Card

The  Epic Foe Cards are one sided with the back of all the cards being the same with a picture of a battlefield and with space marked out for the Horde deck. The front of the  Epic Foe cards have a health track and the Ultimate Enemies action.  For all intents and purposes the  Epic Foe is a Hero, albeit one with significantly more hit points than a player Hero.

The art on the cards is nice with the Territories and City cards having a more serious feel to them and the Heroes and Epic Foe cards having a more cartoony feel to the art style. The cards are fairly thick but are not laminated and the corners are not rounded so they are quite susceptible to damage. Damage to the City and Territory cards wouldn’t overly effect the game (aside from an aesthetic point of view), but damage to the  Epic Foe cards could be a problem because you are not supposed to know which  Epic Foe you are facing until it is revealed.

The other cards, being the 2 types of Enemy cards, the Artefact cards and the Action cards are all standard playing card size.

Tiny Epic Defenders, small cards

Looking at the Enemy cards, there are two types. The first is the 9 card deck of the standard Enemies. Each of these cards is divided down the middle and depicts 2 monsters, with different Territory Icons to show where they attack then they are drawn. The second depicts the Dire Enemies and each of these represents a single monster that also has a power that takes effect when they are drawn. These cards also have a Territory Icon to show which location they attack.

There are 6 Action Cards in total, made up of 5 different cards with 1 duplicated. Each of the Meeple colours is represented once, (Blue, Green, Yellow and Red) and there duplicated card is multi-coloured. When these are drawn the player whose Meeple matches the colour of the card takes their action and when the multi-coloured card is drawn all players get to split a certain number of actions.

The backs of the preceding 3 types of card are all the same as they all help to make up the deck that drives the turn sequence of the game. The backs of these cards matches the back of the  Epic Foe card as some of them rest on the back of the  Epic Foe card until they are added to the turn deck as the game progresses.

The Artefact deck looks different, it’s very light and bright. It’s made up of 10 cards that all provide one of actions or passive effects that the owning player can invoke during the game. These cards are obtained by successfully defending against a Dire Enemy, at which point one is dealt out randomly.

The art on all of these cards is good. Some, like the Artefact deck, are a little more cartoony that others but overall the quality is consistent and nice. These cards are made of a good, thick, cardstock and are all laminated which helps them be a little more durable than the larger cards in the set.

I’ll go into a little bit of detail at the end as to what you get in the Deluxe upgrade, if you manage to get your hands on a copy.

Tiny Epic Defenders, example of play

The gameplay is very simple. Each player selects or is randomly dealt a Hero card (I deal 2 to each player and let them pick 1) and the Territories are arranged, randomly or by selection, around the outside of the City with the threat rating of each Territory being set at 1 (so the Threat token is placed on 1 on the Threat track) and the threat rating of the City is set at 0. An  Epic Foe is randomly selected and placed next to the play area and the appropriate number of Dire Enemies are randomly selected from the deck and placed on top of the Epic Foe.

Three normal Enemies are randomly selected and shuffled together with the correct player Action cards, as determined by the rules and this is the Action Deck. Once this is done the players place their Meeples on the City card and their Health tokens on maximum on the health track on their Hero card and the game is good to start.

Play is simple, draw a card from the Action Deck and resolve it. If it’s a monster then the Territories with corresponding Icons take damage, which mean that it moves up the Threat track by one space, unless a player defends that area, and if it’s an Action card then the appropriate player takes 3 actions. If, at any point a Territory reaches maximum threat it is destroyed and any further damage to that area increases the Threat rating on the City card.

Once the Action Deck is depleted then one of the Dire Enemies on the Epic Foe card is added to the stack, it is shuffled and the process begins again. This repeats until all of the Dire Enemies are in the Action Deck, at which point the Epic Foe card is flipped and the end game begins.

The goal of the players is to defeat (so cause 10 points of damage) the Epic Foe before the City reaches maximum Threat and is destroyed. On their turn players can use action points to invoke the actions on the Hero Card or a Territory, Move, Reduce a Territories Threat or Attack the Epic Foe (once it is out). Players need to work together to anticipate the cards in the Action Deck and make sure that the appropriate Territories are defended while trying to reduce the Threat in damaged Territories.

Tiny Epic Defenders comes with 4 difficulty levels and each simply adds more Dire Enemies to the stack on the Epic Foe card, which therefore increases the length of the game and affords the monsters more time and attacks with which to try and destroy the city. By doing this the game can be nicely modified to suit the skill level of different groups and so while you might set it at Easy when playing with younger children, experienced groups may prefer the challenge of Hard or Epic.

One of the things I really like about Tiny Epic Defenders is that it can be played solo. This surprised me, more often than not I prefer games to allow 5+ players because I play with a large group, but I found the solo mode very useful to use when learning the game. I generally tend to play a turn or two of any new game alone, so I can better understand turn order and what the cards/actions do. Unfortunately, with most games it doesn’t work all that well because your actions are determined by what other players do but Tiny Epic Defenders allows you to play solo against the Action Deck and I think that’s a nice touch.

Tiny Epic Defenders, Mini-Expansion

The Deluxe Kickstarter comes with 11 extra cards. At the time of writing this content is only available via the Deluxe Kickstarter version, although it may appear on the BGG at some point as the Tiny Epic Kingdoms mini-expansion has. In the Deluxe edition you get-

  • Giant Snake (Dire Enemy)
  • Basilisk (Dire Enemy)
  • Fire Elemental (Epic Foe)
  • Overlord (Epic Foe)
  • Baal’s Bait (Artefact)
  • Gavel of Gamelyn (Artefact)
  • Necromancer (Hero)
  • Assassin (Hero)
  • Avenger (Legendary Hero #1)
  • Revenant (Legendary Hero #2)
  • Guardian (Legendary Hero #3)

Unlike Tiny Epic Kingdoms, the mini-expansion for Tiny Epic Defenders doesn’t offer any alternative modes of play but rather expands your options for the normal game. I particularly like the inclusion of the Overlord Epic Foe because it strongly resembles a classic D&D monster that I love, the Beholder. The Legendary Heroes are much the same as the normal Heroes but with slightly more powerful abilities and this makes them useful for when you first try to tackle the higher difficulties of the game.

This mini-expansion also includes the another Hero that doesn’t have the standard 4 health, the Revenant. In this case this Legendary Hero has just 3 health but heals back to full every time  Territory is destroyed so, as the game nears it’s conclusion this Hero is very likely to not need to return to the city to be healed, which is a very useful ability indeed.

On the whole I like Tiny Epic Defenders. It’s not quite as good as its predecessor but it fills a rare spot in that it’s a co-operative game that can be set up and played within 30 minutes and that’s something that I appreciate. I really like the fact that it’s also it’s own distinct game, being completely different from the other two games in the Tiny Epic line because it would be very easy to fall into the trap of just reskinning what came before and selling it as a new product. You can see that Gamelyn and Scott Ames have gone out of their way to ensure that Tiny Epic Defenders plays and feels differently to what came before.

Tiny Epic Defenders gives you exactly what you would expect from a game with that title, it’s small, great fun and involves defending the kingdom from marauding monsters and Epic Foes. It’s a good quality product with an original design from a company that I’ve come to expect great things from. It’s the weakest of the line overall, but that’s not a criticism or me saying that it’s poor, rather a shining endorsement of just how good I think Tiny Epic games are. There is no shame in being the weakest in a line of games that are this much fun and such good value for money and, after all, a 4 out of 5 is still an excellent score.

I play a lot of micro-games, usually while we wait for a player to arrive or to round out the last half hour of a games night and Tiny Epic Defenders is a game that’s going hit the table to fill that spot a lot over the next few years.

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