Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms
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Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms

RRP: £16.99
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RRP £16.99
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Ultra-Tiny Epic Kingdoms is everything Tiny Epic Kingdoms is (minus the exploration mini-expansion) in an Ultra Micro game! But the EPIC game play has remained the same!
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Category Tags , , , SKU ZBG-GLGUTEKRE Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Value For Money

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • surprisingly complex strategy for such a compact package
  • tension ramps up quickly
  • 15 factions = plenty of replayability

Might Not Like

  • the small pieces can be fiddly, but the clue is in the title really.
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Description

Ultra-Tiny Epic Kingdoms is everything Tiny Epic Kingdoms is (minus the exploration mini-expansion) in an Ultra Micro game! But the EPIC game play has remained the same!

We all love holidays, and we all love board games. It’s not just because they’re nice times or they make us feel good: we can find better descriptive terms than ‘nice’ and ‘good’. Both holidays and board games take us away to another world for a while. They’re adventures that allow us to forget the day-to-day tribulations of normality. Smashing, I’ll have plenty of that. So, if these individual pursuits each have the capability to relax us, then surely taking a game on holiday would be relaxation squared? It’s the size of some of these games that’s the problem – I hear that Gloomhaven is a bit of a devil to squeeze into your carry on.

‘Take a pack of cards,’ cries some droll character. Okay, but I’m not that big on solitaire, bridge, poker etc. Not my scene – remember, I want worlds of adventure. Uno is fine, but still not to my taste – and you can find some pretty rough knock-offs when searching tourist traps for ornaments apparently made of volcanic rock. I wanted to take something with me, find the most compact game that I could that was still a deep and pleasurable experience: in other words, a mini adventure in a box. Which is how I stumbled across Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms. The price is quite frankly ridiculous, and I wouldn’t even notice it in my backpack. Let’s take war to the Canary Islands!

Full disclosure: firstly, any photos in this article are not the originals that were taken. It turns out that intense sunshine and copious sangria do not lend themselves to a capacity for taking in-focus and well-framed pictures. Secondly, I have never played any of the other Tiny or Ultra Tiny games, so I will not be comparing this product to those. Everything in this review is based solely on this game’s ability to entertain.

Fig 01: All of this is inside the little box. Magic. I can’t even fit all of the cat’s toys into an ottoman.

Unboxing

It’s about the size of a card deck… but there’s more than just cards inside the diminutive pack. Along with a surprisingly readable instruction manual (this is coming from someone who has discovered in the last year that he has to look over the top of his glasses to read anything within a foot of his face, like some mad old bat of a headteacher), there’s a packet of coloured wooden blocks and a cute mini-tower that acts as an indicator of the current player. The immediate impression that I had was that this really is a mini-board game in a box, and once all the cards and pieces were laid out ready to play, it looked more appealing and ‘complete’ or ‘in-depth’ as a game than the small box had led me to believe. I’d gone from thinking this would be a cute little stocking filler for short-time fun to feeling excited by what was coming next. There was a real sense of promise, which only increased upon the realisation of how many factions were available. There’s a lot of little moments of design genius here. The faction cards double up as the territories on their flip side, which literally halves the number of cards required in the small box. Once all players have a faction, the remaining cards are flipped over and the territories are chosen from what remains. The optimisation is impressive.

It’s a suitably quick set-up too. We were ready to start our first playthrough in about three or four minutes, and that’s from someone who tends to miss bits or misread parts of the rulebook. Further playthroughs bring that set-up time right down: you’ll be ready within a minute. There’s something very appealing about a game that can be out on the table so quickly. It’s great for filling in some downtime on holiday between meals and snacks during an all-inclusive holiday (it’s a good job the baggage allowance doesn’t apply to us humans on the flight home), and after a long shift at work, Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdom presents an almost frictionless gateway to fun.

Fig 02: The game begins, the resources are ready, the magic track calls.

Let’s Play!

Once you’ve chosen your faction and territory (you can be centaurs! Or mermaids! Or hobbits – I mean halflings!) you have six starting resources to share between food, ore and magic. Think carefully, resource management is critical for victory.

The first person is chosen by working out who was last to hold a sword, although I’d suggest that the wielding of a blade allows said wielder to pick who plays. There are five actions to choose from. Once the first is taken, the next player may only choose from the remaining four, then three and so on, until the last action is claimed. At that point the action card is reset and all actions are available once more. There’s a crucial layer of strategy to these choices: when a player opts for an action, their opponents can each decide whether to take that action as well, or gather resources instead, which are essential for expanding your army and waging war.

Fig 03: Two players ascend the tower: the third is full of regret.

The five actions:

MOVE. Speaks for itself. Move an army (represented by a small cube of your colour) to another space on a territory board. Territory spaces represent food, magic, ore, and impassable environments such as rivers or crags. You will gather resources according to the territories your armies occupy.

QUEST. This allows you to move an army from the edge of your own territory board onto an opponent’s. Expansion results in more territories to harvest resources from, but you may have to win a war against your opponent before you can claim it. A win forces an enemy into retreat, and if they can’t retreat to a clear space then they lose that army. That’s the kind of outcome that can stir up an urge for revenge.

BUILD THE TOWER. In our first couple of playthroughs this was the deciding factor for the win, and is one of the methods to trigger a victory condition. There are six levels to the tower. Each time a player takes the tower action they can advance a step. The higher up the tower you go, the more points you’ll snag at tally-up time. It can be worth nashing up them spiral steps as fast as your stubby legs will carry you.

RESEARCH MAGIC. Another track to advance along – there is much to balance in this ultra tiny game. Each step along this track can give a variety of bonuses exclusive to your particular faction which give you the edge in certain situations. Neglect the magic track at your peril!

EXPAND. Spend food on training a new army. The more armies you have, the more territories you can control and the more resources you can gather. Without resources you’re going to struggle to win. Also, getting all seven of your armies out on the boards is another trigger for the end game.

You can see, then, the number and variety of dilemmas a player can face during each round.

Fig 04: The jig is almost up for blue: here they look like the filling of a death sandwich.

For a two-player game you’ll add in an AI opponent, and quite honestly this feels just as exciting and dynamic as the three or four player version. There are also additional rules to ensure the five player game works, but this set-up has not been tested for this review. Finally – and importantly for dedicated single players or those times when you can’t encourage anyone to join in (what kind of a loser doesn’t want to play a game at all and any times of the day?) – there’s a solo mode that utilises an additional day/night cycle card and a 12-sided die as the engine behind a bot player. If you’re a travelling solo player, you don’t actually need to take a die: you could download a virtual dice-rolling app, keeping the game as portable as possible (I’ll let you have that tip for free – don’t say I give you nowt – but all donations welcome).

How Well Does It Play?

Enormously well, which is ironic given the size of the box. I got seriously swept up in this.

Initially you’ll move pretty quickly through the turns… until a player reaches a strategic crossroads. Should I expand into enemy territory or get started on the tower before the opposition does? Start a pre-emptive war or collect resources defensively? Invest in magic or expand the army? Every one of these aspects can score you points – sometimes big points – at the end of the game. Most points win, and it’s the big old thumb-and-forefinger L for everyone else.

On one hand you’ll have a plan formulated, and you’ll be eager for your opponent to choose the action that best benefits you. On the other hand, you’ll be trying to second guess what everyone else is chasing, and you’ll want to cut off their options whilst holding your own open. For example, if you’re struggling in all areas and the next player is rapidly ascending the tower track, then you really don’t want to choose the tower option on your turn; it might be wiser to distract them with a bit of war, forcing them to restock their resources over the next round or two.

There’s a thrill when you realise that your strategies have paid off. There’s an even greater thrill when you see the expression on your opponent’s face when they realise how badly they’ve stuffed it up. Game length feels just right: long enough so as it feels important to win, not so long that you can’t be bothered to waste more time on another round if you lose. We tended to hit around the 30-40 minute mark, and it’s a little shorter in solo.

Fig 05: Look at all this choice!

Conclusion

This is a deeply impressive fantasy war game with a surprising amount of strategy stuffed into a small package. As soon as the end game condition was met I was disappointed… because I didn’t want the battle to end! The solution? Next round please, immediately. The small form factor does not hold back this deep and rewarding game in the slightest: in fact, the manner in which the gameplay ramps up and hinges on some genuinely tense decision-making leads to a very more-ish game and one that has become an instant personal favourite. It’s amazing to think that you get so much for so little. The price-point is insane and makes it impossible not to give this the strongest recommendation. Depending on where you get your coffee from and in what size receptacle (seriously, you might need to cut back, I’m worried for you), this can be cheaper to buy than a pair of lattes.

Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms is not merely a nice game. It’s good. Really, really good.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • surprisingly complex strategy for such a compact package
  • tension ramps up quickly
  • 15 factions = plenty of replayability

Might not like

  • the small pieces can be fiddly, but the clue is in the title really.