Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Tiny Epic Kingdoms

Product– Tiny Epic Kingdoms

Producer– Gamelyn Games

Price– ~Not out yet, but ~$20

Set-up/Play/Clean-up-30 minutes (2-5 players)

TL; DR– Truly a pocket-sized, quick 4X game! 94%

 

Basics– Tiny Epic Kingdom is a 4X game where players try to out expand, out exploit, out evolve, and out build there opponents.  Each player starts with some resources (corn, ore, and mana), a territory card in front of him/her, and two meeples on one location within that territory.  What makes this game interesting is the way these actions are handled and the game speed.  The current lead player chooses an action: move a meeple within a territory, move to another territory in front of another player, build your tower, research magic, make more meeples, or trade resources one for one.  When the player chooses his/her action, he/she must choose to take an action that hasn’t been taken for at least five turns.  When an action is selected, a wooden shield meeple is places on the action selection card, and the card is only cleared when five actions have been taken.  After the lead character chosen action is done, each other player in order chooses to take either the same action or gather resources.  When you gather resources, you gain corn, ore, and mana from each space you occupy.  Each action is also very simple.  Moving across a territory or to a new territory simply moves a meeple, but can result in wars.  When two meeples from different factions meet, the players must go to war.  War results are decided by how many resources each player is willing to spend.  Mana provides two war recourse, ore one, and corn none.  Each player then decides how they are willing to spend by secretly placing a 12 sided die down to indicate how much they will spend.  When this is done, the player with the most spent wins, but both players must spend all the resources.  However, each player can declare peace resulting in an alliance and sharing the space.  When you build your tower, you spend ore equal to the next level of the tower you’re building and move up a victory point track.  When you make more meeples, you spend food equal to how many meeples your currently have plus one, and gain another meeple on a space with only one of your meeple.  When you research magic, you spend magic equal to the next space on the magic track, and gain a special faction specific ability.  The trading action is a catch all action that allows you to trade one recourse for one of any other.  The game end is triggered when a player either: has seven meeples out, has fully built their tower, or fully researched their magic, and the game completely ends on the turn when the last of the five action marker shields is placed on the action selection board. Points are scored by ranks on the tower, magic research, meeples in play, and extra magic point powers.  Player with the most points is the winner.

 

Mechanics– This is an amazing game.  There is no randomness, no fiddly bits, and no wasted turns.  Each turn and action will somehow allow you to build you your faction.  I also can’t say enough about the action selection.  I love games where every player is always active somehow as opposed to some games where when you’re off turn, you might as well not even be in the same room  If you can out maneuver your opponents you will win and feel like a winner.  When you do something is almost as important as what you do and who does it. I’ve played quite a few 4X games, and this one feels the least fiddly.  Nothing here is tacked on for some odd aspect of balance.  Everything here feels smart and balanced.  Instead of dice, combat is an exercise in outsmarting your opponents and resource management.  The hidden dice wager mechanic here is amazingly fun and amazingly tense.  There are multiple paths for victory (ALWAYS a plus!).  And all of this is packed into a game that takes 30 minutes for FIVE players to play!  Hands down awesome. 5/5

 

Theme- This isn’t the most thematic game out there, but you have to keep in mind this game is designed to be played in less time than you get for lunch at work.  The races mostly feel different because of their magic powers.  The undead can get more food when people die.  You can eventually build constructs out of ore.  Those little things drive home what theme is in this game.  The player interactions do tell a story, but this isn’t a game where you can expect the Lord of the Rings to just happen.  You will feel like you’re in a fantasy world, but don’t expect RPG level of immersion. 4/5

 

Instructions– The instructions do a decent job of explaining the rules.  The rules are short, well written, and overall great.  However, there are a lot of powers and interactions that could use a set of FAQ’s or some further information and explanation.  It’s nothing game breaking, but an extra page or two on the seven pages of rules would really help me understand exactly what the designers meant in some cases.  However, if your group has some common sense, it won’t stop this game from being fun. 4.75/5

 

Execution– This game comes in the same size box as Dungeon Heroes which is a small box about one inch high, by six inches long, by four inches wide.   That’s a pretty small box.  But what you get in it is anything but small.  You get a ton of wood pieces, player boards, territory cards, and action boards.  All of this is done on good quality cardstock.  I also know Gamelyn Games prides itself on its wooden meeples, and this was no exception as all the wooden tokens and meeples are well done. With all the stuff you get in here, this box feels like a Tardis. 5/5

 

Summary-This is a fun, quick, well done game.  It’s small enough to fit on a bar table top and easy enough to play you can learn and win in under an hour.  My only problems are the game’s theme isn’t its strongest assets and the rules are a tad ambiguous in a few places.  These are not in any way major problems.  And, I promise if you want 4X that you can play in less than a weekend (looking at you Twilight Imperium!), you will have a blast with this game.  I have never played a game of this that didn’t end with all the geeks standing around the table assessing the other players, and that’s when you know stuff gotten real!  And, for the price, you can’t beat this game. 94 %

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