Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a 2-5 player mini 4X game, published by Gamelyn Games and written by Scott Almes. It is another in the ‘Tiny Epic’ series of board games, and lives up to its title; a complete 4X board game experience, with a small footprint and play time. In Tiny Epic Kingdoms, you are the leader of your own kingdom. You must seek victory over other players kingdoms through building the tallest tower, researching the most abilities, and populating the world with the most meeples!
Tiny Epic Kingdoms plays out over a series of rounds, with each player assigned their own race card and territory card. Players will take turns to place tokens on an ‘action board’, performing said action. They can either copy that action or collect resources. Once all 5 action tokens are placed, the action board is emptied and a new round begins. Play continues like this until an end game event is triggered. Whoever has the most victory points after calculating end game scoring is the winner!
Players are dealt race cards and territory cards randomly (or can simply select them if that’s preferred). Players will then choose a side of their territory card to use. Each player grabs a set of meeples and resource tokens. They will then place their meeples on their player board, resources on the resource track, and the magic token below their magic track. The action board and tower tracker are set up within reach of all players, with everyone placing their tower tokens below the tower track. Once these steps are complete, players will take two of their meeples and place them in a region on their territory card. Once this is done, play can begin!
The aim of the game is to get the most Victory Points (VP for short). To do this, players will need to collect VPs in the aforementioned ways; through Magic Abilities, building the biggest tower, and having the most meeples in play. Players will find themselves learning to focus on one of these aspects, usually based on their race cards abilities.
The actions players can take are intuitive, and involve things such as invading other players territories, expanding to nearby territories, building on the tower card, and so on. There is no set limit of rounds, with the end-game triggers determining the length of the game. Once an end-game trigger has been achieved, the round will play out to completion, and then final scoring begins. Players score VPs for the amount of meeples they have in play, how high they are on the tower, and how many Magic Abilities they’ve unlocked (there are additional scoring methods too, but they are situational or require expansions).
An interesting mechanic within the game is War, which is triggered when your meeple enters a region another players meeple is currently in. One caveat to this is that you cannot place meeples in a region with 2 meeples already in it, whether that’s yours or other players. Initially, players will get the chance to negotiate and deliberate, maybe talking their opponent into forging an alliance or giving up altogether, if they’re that charismatic! Once this is done, war begins. Players take a ‘war dice’, and secretly turn it to a face. Both players dice are revealed simultaneously and the player with the larger number wins!
Of course, as in any war, there is a cost. Players must have the resources available to use the number they chose; and win or lose, the price must be paid. Each resource is worth a different amount in war, adding a different way to approach the game.
On the war dice, one face represents a white flag – the sign for peace or surrender. If both players reveal this flag, they are ‘at peace’, and can co-inhabit the region they are warring over (for now). If only one player reveals a white flag, they immediately lose - though do not have to pay anything towards the war of course. This creates an incredibly in-depth and nuanced mechanic, one that evil players can manipulate to backstab and betray their opponents, or undermine their war efforts by forcing them to waste resources.
Watching a table of players looking shiftily around at each-other like a spaghetti western (by the way, there’s a Tiny Epic game for that too) is a real joy, with players getting involved in wars that have no effect on them purely for the drama!
To Boldly Go
The game also provides an optional mini-expansion in the form of Exploration Tokens. These are placed face-down in every unoccupied region in play, and are flipped over upon a meeple entering that region. They can provide new buildings, bonuses, immediate VPs…and sometimes negative effects too! This adds even more levels of depth to the game, and takes almost no additional brain power to learn – a handy reference to all the tokens is in the back of the rulebook.
Tiny Epic Kingdoms absolutely delivers on its name – for such a small footprint, relatively quick, low downtime game, it packs a mighty 4X punch. The levels of detail, nuance and strategy in such a small game honestly shocked me on the first playthrough, and it is probably one of the best Tiny Epics I’ve played. The ‘war’ mechanic is a very original and detailed way to ramp up player interaction, and it really does feel like a big event for everyone involved in the game.
For that reason, the game plays best with 3+ players, as the war mechanic isn’t used in two-player games (however, the expansion to this game does have a solo variant included). With the different races, territory cards, and mini-expansion the game has tremendous replayability and strategy – I’ve played it many times, and not once has a game played out the same or even a similar way. Another home run from Gamelyn Games, and one you should definitely add to your collection!
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