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How To Play Tiny Towns

Tiny Towns

Tiny Towns, by Alderac, sees you as the mayor of a miniature metropolis. An odd mayor, though. Bit of a hoarder. You’re trying to build a prosperous community for woodland creatures, but you’re a pushover. You can’t say no to free resources! No matter whether it’s wood, wheat, brick, glass or stone, you’ll take it. Even if it means dumping raw materials in the corner of your tiny town and having to build around them…

Peter McPherson’s debut design is a popular one, thanks to the simultaneous puzzle it provides. It’s an abstract-strategy game that involves pattern-building, and polyomino construction. It’s got a tetris-esque vibe to it. Only, instead of receiving a complete shape, you decide how, when and where to build them. Fancy yourself as a tiny town planner? Are you a masterful architect in the making? Let’s learn how to play Tiny Towns…

So: How Do I Win Tiny Towns

In Tiny Towns, players aim to construct as many buildings as they can onto their player board. Each building type that you erect into your town scores points in different ways. There are no set number of rounds; instead, you keep placing building materials until you run out of room. At this stage, you add up scores and the winner is the player with the most points!

We Built This City On Rock And, Erm, Wood

First things first: give each participant a Player Board (a 4x4 grid). Deal two pink Monument Cards out to each player, face-down, as well as one wooden Monument each. The remaining Monuments, and Monument Cards go back in the box. (The rulebook suggests that for your first time playing you can ignore Monument Cards, but I disagree. In my opinion, they’re key to adding player-to-player asymmetry.)

Place the Cottage Card face-up in the middle of the table. Take the other 24 large Building Cards and separate them (by their cardbacks) into six piles. Shuffle each stack of four cards. Pick one from each of the six Building Card types to sit face-up alongside the Cottage. This gives you a modular set of goals for each game. Each Building Card has a different method of scoring, as well as a different pattern required to construct it. I’ll explain these, later.

First time playing? AEG recommends you play with the following cards: Chapel, Farm, Tavern, Well, Theater, and Factory. Regardless of which six cards you pick, return the other 18 Building Cards to the box.

Put the 90 wooden resource cubes in the middle of the table, alongside the wooden building types. Not the pink Monuments, though. You gave out one of them per player earlier on, remember? Talking of which: now each player gets to look at both their Monument Cards. They pick one to keep, discarding the other to the box. Give the first player the big white Master Builder hammer, and you’re ready to start playing Tiny Towns.

Turn Structure: Simple And Simultaneous!

Turns in Tiny Towns are super-simple and follow an easy structure. The Master Builder for the turn (the person holding the hammer token) names a type of resource. They pick between the five options: (brown) wood, (yellow) wheat, (red) brick, (blue) glass, or (grey) stone. Every player has to take this resource type from the supply. Everyone has to place it into a vacant square of their choice, within their 4x4 grid. Players do this in a simultaneous manner.

The game comes with 90 resource cubes, but they’re ‘unlimited’. If ever they run out (because they’re locked in place on Player Boards), substitute the resource cube in for something else. No

doubt you have dice or cubes from another board game to hand, right?!

Rules state that no two resource cubes can sit in the same grid square. And, once placed, you cannot move them. So situate your cubes with care! Once everyone’s placed the cube somewhere into their tiny town, the Master Builder hammer moves clockwise to the next player. Now it’s their turn to pick the resource cube. They state one of the five cube colours, and everyone takes one from the supply. You all place it, then the Master Builder hammer moves on again…

Building Blueprints Within The Town’s Walls

Now, notice the patterns on the seven Building Cards you placed out during set-up? They all have a layout on them, like a Tetris piece, using a range of the five resources. If ever someone places cubes into one of those matching layouts, they can construct said building. You can have the shape rotated any way you want; it doesn’t have to sit orientated the same way as depicted on the card. It does, however, have to feature the cubes configured in the correct pattern.

When this occurs, the player announces that they’re constructing that building type. Then they take one of the wooden buildings from the supply, matching the pattern they’ve built. Then they remove all the cubes needed to construct that building off their player board. Then, they can place the wooden building into any one of the squares once occupied by those resources. You can also complete the pattern stated on your personal Monument Card, following the same building structure requirements. Careful, though! Buildings, like resource cubes, cannot move around, once placed.

You can build multiple types of the same building, if you want. In fact, often, this is key to the Tiny Towns scoring end-game points. Buildings are not first-come, first-served. Any number of players can construct the same building.

It’s not imperative that the moment you place the final cube in place (that completes a blueprint) you have to build it. You can wait for a later turn, if you feel that offers you greater flexibility. For example, you might want to hold out and use part of that cube layout towards constructing something different.

However, there is a risk towards leaving this too long. There will become a time when you’ve filled up all 16 out of 16 squares in your grid. By this point, there will be a mixture of buildings, and the odds and ends of cubes scattered around. Ran out of space to add cubes (because you can’t remove any to complete the buildings’ patterns)? Then the game’s over for you. Everyone else continues playing, until they too can no longer add cubes into their own town. Let’s break down end-game scoring, then…

Scoring: Farmstead Buildings And The Cottage

First of all, remove any cubes you have remaining on your Player Board. (The ones that didn’t contribute towards buildings.) You score -1VP per empty square on your board. Next, I’ll talk you through the recommended first-play cards and how they net you points.

You always play with the Cottages in Tiny Towns, and each one scores a flat 3VP, if it’s fed. Fed, you ask? That’s a direct impact of the red farmstead Building Card. Each red Building Card requires you build a 2x2 pattern, and once built, helps feed Cottages. The Farm, for example, feeds four Cottages anywhere on your player board. (In comparison, the Orchard feeds all Cottages in the same row and column as this Orchard.)

In-Spire The Citizens! Orange Religious Buildings

Those two buildings dovetail together, as you can see – it’s no good constructing one without the other. They also sync up with the Chapel, the orange ‘religious’ Building Card. A Chapel scores

1VP per fed Cottage. (The Temple, meanwhile, scores 4VP if it’s adjacent to two or more fed Cottages. ‘Adjacent’ in Tiny Towns means up/down/left/right – not diagonal. Cloisters score 1VP per Cloister you have in the corners of your Player Board.) Orange religious buildings all cost four resources, shaped like an L.

This Town Needs Booze: Green Foodhall Buildings

The Tavern is a simple set collection goal. The more Taverns you erect in your Tiny Town, the more points they’re worth. One Tavern is worth 2VP, two scores 5VP, three scores 9VP, four scores 14VP, and five scores a whopping 20VP! Woodland critters love a pint or two, and who can blame them? (The Almshouse is similar, but with some alternating risks. Build two, four or six of them and you’ll score increasing positive points. But build one, three or five of them and they score you minus points!) These types of buildings cost a row of three cubes.

Gather Round The Water Cooler: Grey Landmark Structures

The Well, the grey octagonal building, is the easiest one to construct – it costs a mere two resources. Regardless of which landmark card you play with, they always cost one wood, and one stone. They all score in their own ways, though. The Well gets you 1VP for each adjacent Cottage (no matter whether it’s fed or not). The Millstone scores 2VP if adjacent to a farmstead or a yellow business building. Talking of which…

Funny Business: Yellow Occupation Buildings

The Theatre, the yellow building, scores 1VP per unique building type in the same row and column as it. The Tailor, meanwhile, scores 1VP on its own. Plus, it scores another 1VP for each other Tailor that’s within the central 2x2 squares on your Tiny Towns board. All yellow Building Cards need a specific T-shaped pattern to build.

Tough Love: Black Industrial Buildings

Last of all, the Factory is a tough one to build. It costs five resources, so it’s cumbersome. It doesn’t score you any points, either. So you might be thinking: “why bother building this one, at all?”. Well, hold your horses, young mayor-to-be. Once you construct the Factory, you then place one of the five resource cubes onto it. From now on, whenever another player names this resource as their choice for the turn, you can ignore it, and pick any different resource, instead. This kind of flexibility can be powerful in the latter stages of the game. Especially when space is getting tight and you need specific resources to complete buildings!

What About Those Pink Monuments

At the end of Tiny Towns, players also check to see if they’ve built a Monument. Players can only build their own personal Monument, which they got dealt at the start of the game. These range in variability, with regards to how complex they are to build, and how many points they award. Players can only construct their Monument once. It would lose its significance if you had loads of Monuments scattered about the place, you know?

Struggling? For An Easier Experience, Try The Cavern Rule

You can appreciate now, trying to juggle all these resources in such a cramped 4x4 grid can be tough! Especially when the Master Builder keeps picking the ‘wrong’ resources on their turn! (A.K.A. resources that don’t suit your layout!)

There is an alternative rule you can add for your first time playing, which makes things a wee bit easier. The Cavern Rule grants each player a metaphorical ‘cavern’, which they can dump unwanted resources into. You still have to take the cube stated by the Master Builder. But throughout the duration of the game, you can place up to two resource cubes to one side, off your board. These don’t score you negative points at the end, nor do they contribute towards any scores. Note you can

only do this twice all game. Once you’ve ‘filled’ your cavern, that’s it… You’ve got to place the rest of the resources!

Too Easy? Let’s Ramp It Up With The Town Hall Rules

Alternatively, want to mix things up a bit? Craving more of an unpredictable Tiny Towns challenge? You want the Town Hall Rules variant! Here, you introduce a deck of 15 Resource Cards. (There’s three of each of the five resources, totalling 15.) During set-up, you’ll also shuffle this deck, then remove five cards, leaving you with 10. Keep those five discarded cards to one side for now.

There is no Master Builder in the Town Hall Rules variant. Instead, this deck of cards represents the resource of choice. Flip over the top card, and everyone takes the matching resource. Then reveal the second card, and again, players take the corresponding cube. For the third turn, you don’t reveal a card. Instead, players get to pick which resource they want, themselves. In turn four, you flip over the next card, and so on.

When you run out of those 10 cards, take the five discarded cards from earlier and shuffle all 15 of them again. Then remove five cards, and continue. This means you cannot card-count, nor predict by process of elimination which resources remain within this deck. There are some Buildings and Monuments that feel the impact of this variant. (Factory, Warehouse, Statue of the Bondmaker, Fort Ironweed.) As a result, it’s not recommended that you go for this option for your first play of the game. But if you want to spice things up a little? Then this variant is the one for you!