Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Most of us who “video game” on the computer have probably, at one point in their lives, played “Civilization” or a 4X game like it. The genre is admittedly a pretty in-depth one, what with the usual abilities to build cities, research tech, grow armies, and etc. “Tiny Epic Kingdoms” takes all of that and puts it into one “tiny”, “epic” package. The name itself might sound like one big contradiction, but stick with me…you might be pleasantly surprised! If you don’t believe me, then believe the fact that it raised $286,972 during its Kickstarter campaign (the goal was $15,000). Before we get started, I’d like to thank Michael Coe from Gamelyn Games for providing me with a free press copy for review purposes.
The game includes 35 Player Meeples, 5 Research Tokens, 5 Shield Tokens, 5 Tower Tokens, 15 Resource Tokens, 2 12-Sided War Dice, 1 Active Player Token, 13 Faction Cards, 8 Double-sided Territory Cards, 1 Action Card, and 1 Tower Card.
Setup & Gameplay
Each player receives 7 meeples, 1 research token, and 1 tower token of their color. They also get 1 of each resource token, 1 faction card (chosen by the player), and 1 territory card (drawn at random). Players start with 6 total resources (the quantity of each is the player’s choice) and their tower/research tokens off of their respective cards, as well as two meeples on one region on their territory card.
Editor’s Note: There are special rules for a 2 or 5 player game that are not covered here.
On a player’s turn, they’ll:
1. Clear the action card of no more actions are available (i.e. if all 5 shields have been placed).
2. Select an action.
3. All players must either take the selected action or collect resources. Available actions include: patrol, quest, build, research, expand, and trade. At no point can more than two meeples of any color be in the same region. If a meeple enters a region with another player’s meeple, a war starts. Players use the war dice to determine (in secret) how many resources they’ll contribute to the battle. The higher number wins, though players who both offer peace can share the region.
4. Check for endgame conditions.
5. Pass the active player token clockwise.
Players continue taking turns until a player has all 7 of their meeples in play, a player has built the 6th step on their tower, OR a player has mastered all 5 levels of magic on their faction card. At this point, players play normally until all actions have been taken (all the shields have been placed). Players receive points for each meeple they have in play (except those in “ruins”), occupying capital cities, each level of magic reached, and for their current tower level. Whoever has the most points, wins!
Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.
For such a small package (the components are indeed pretty small), there’s a lot to love. My favorite feature is the sheer number of factions available and how they each have their own “personalities”…that is, passive abilities that are available on their faction card. The humans, for example, are well-rounded and excel at collecting resources. Lizardfolk, on the other hand, are really great at moving their meeples around. Each faction seems to specialize in something particular (Halflings = alliances, Dwarves = building, etc.), so my advice is to choose the faction that best represents your prefered play style.
Allowing other players to partake in actions even when it isn’t their turn was a brilliant move on the developer’s part. It not only ensures that players won’t get bored waiting for their turn, but it also helps to prevent any single player from hogging the same action. With everyone being given equal opportunities, games will often be very close in the end. The winner will end up being the person who makes the best decisions…that is, the person that knows when to collect resources and how to best use the actions available at the current point in time.
My only real complaint here is the size…though that is admittedly one of the things that makes “Tiny Epic Kingdoms” so great. I mean, how many 4X games do YOU know of that can fit into such a small box? On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded a full-sized version of the game as it would have been easier on the eyes. The length of the game might also cause a bit of controversy…some will feel that 30 minutes is just right while others will want to keep going and expand their empire further. The $25 price tag, I feel, seems fair for what you’re getting here despite the size of the product and quickly games tend to roll to a conclusion.
“Tiny Epic Kingdoms” is one of the few 4X tabletop games I’ll actually play…anything beyond an hour just isn’t feasible in the chaos that is my household. This game took me by surprise and is balanced just right, which is commendable seeing as how many different factions are available. This game is easily recommendable to 4x strategists who want or need something lighter than what they’re currently used to. Casual gamers will be hit or miss…it’s easy enough to play, but some may get intimidated by the components/rules and still prefer the simplicity of a card game. Personally, I think “Tiny Epic Kingdoms” should be in every board game enthusiast’s collection.
Final Verdict: 9/10