By Jason Hancock
Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a 2-5 player micro game designed by Scott Almes and published by Gamelyn Games. I just received my Kickstarter Edition of this game and was excited to get it to the table. Of course, like all games when I first get them, (Wife claims I’m worse than a kid), I open them immediately to examine all the bits, tokens, boards, currency, and whatever extra goodies that came with it way before it ever hits the table.
Of course, TEK didn’t let me down when I opened it. The mini meeples, tokens, D10’s, and cards were all nice quality. The artwork is appealing, but not the best I’ve seen.
Most of the races players can choose from are a mix of standard and not so standard fantasy tropes such as Orcs, Dwarves, Goblins,Centaurs, Order of Gamelyn, Shapeshifters,and Constructs just to name a few. A whopping sixteen Races to be exact with the Kickstarter Edition. I believe (if the rulebook is correct) that there will be thirteen races with the Standard Edition. Still a lot!!
Each race, of course, has their own set of five special abilities that they can possibly gain throughout the game by spending mana. Also, every race’s fifth ability is an unique way to gain some extra points at the end of the game.
The premise of the game is each player starts with two meeples on their Kingdom Card. Players will take turns choosing one of the available six actions on the Action Community Card in the center of the table. When they do, a gray, wooden shield token is placed on the action spot, marking it’s been used that round. The Active Player that chose the action can either take the action or do nothing. Every other player gets to decide whether they want to do that same action or forfeit that action and just collect the resources from the regions their meeples occupy. After all five shields have been used, the Action Card is wiped clean and all the actions are available again.
The different action abilities vary from allowing your Meeples to move around your Kingdom Card or to other player’s Kingdom Cards to
spending ore to build the tower, spend mana to gain one of your abilities, populate the land with more Meeples, or trade out resources.
A good percentage of the different race’s special abilities revolves around combat. No more than two meeples can occupy any region, but if you leave a lonely meeple in a region by itself, than another person may move their meeple onto that region, and battle is immediately resolved.Of course, peace can be bartered when such an action takes place, but what fun would that be? Each player will choose how many resources they want to allocate to the war. Every mana allocated will net you two points, while every Ore nets you one point towards your war effort. Food is worthless when it comes to combat. Players will secretly choose their total number of War Points based on their resources and race special abilities, and then simultaneously reveal them. The player who allocated the most points wins the battle. Both players lose the amount of resources that they committed to their war effort. The loser has the choice of removing their meeple from the game and back into their supply, or move it to an adjacent non enemy occupied region for three food. The winner’s meeple claims the region and can collect resources from it in future turns.
An alliance can be formed, but it requires that both players reveal the white flag. If an alliance is formed, then both players will reap the region’s benefits.
Of course, players can talk about alliances all they want, but will your opponent truly wave that white flag after such long peace talks? Trust and deception all rolled into one nice little package. Love it!
What makes this game click is that there are no downtimes between players turns. Every time an action is chosen, all the players are left with a decision. Waste the turn collecting resources or actually apply the chosen action.
Five of the six actions will be chosen every round. But, will the order of the chosen actions work in your favor? For example, you want to add a new Meeple to the board, but you don’t quite have the food resources to cover the cost. If the Expand action is one of the first actions chosen that round before you are ready, than you are going to have to just collect your resources, and wait a whole nother round before you can get that Meeple out on to the board.
The flip side of that coin is that a player might be forced into choosing an action they don’t want or can’t use late in a round. When this happens, they can’t chose to take resources. They can only chose to do nothing at all, while all the other players still have the option to take the action or collect resources.
The game continues play until one of the end game conditions is met; the tower is completed, a player is able to get all of their meeples on the board, or a player has mastered all five magic levels of their Faction Card. If one of these conditions occurs, than the current round is played out and players will tally up their score. The player with the most points wins!
The fact that the “board” is spread across the whole table with each person’s Kingdom Card in front of them, the Quest Action really gives the feeling your meeple is questing far from home as it travels to other player’s cards.
I also, do have to mention the two player variant is superb. Normally, I’m not fan of a ‘dummy player’ mechanic for two player variants. Usually it’s just more bookkeeping work than I like to do, but TEK handles the the mechanic a little differently and it works really well. Both players still get their Kingdom Cards, but a third is added to the center of the table with a different color of meeples occupying every region. When one player moves to this ‘third player’ card, a battle does occur, but the other player has to decide if they want to allocate any of their OWN resources to that battle. I think most of the time, especially early in the game that a player isn’t going to, but later in the game, this can have some interesting strategic effects as players battle over regions on all three cards.
For such a small packaged game, TEK has a little bit of everything that a 4x (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) big boxed game would deliver, just on a smaller scale and in a shorter time frame. The amount of Kingdom Cards and Faction Cards offers a lot of replayability to the game. No game will ever play the same way twice. And the fact that it actually works well for all stated amount of players, as opposed to just works, like a lot of games, will always garnish extra points from me. Obviously it’s small packaging and small footprint on the table allows the game to be played just about anywhere. For the price point, gameplay, and quality of components and artwork, this game can’t be beat.
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