Every six months I update my Top 100 games list (mainly to help work out which games are ready to leave my collection for Kallaxes new). Other than the stellar games, most games chart then subsequently drift down. Peter McPherson’s brain-burning village builder, Tiny Towns has bucked that trend, creeping up the rankings to squeak like a guinea pig into the top 10. There’s no doubt this rise has been aided by the first expansion, Fortune which added a new mechanism and some needed variety to the game So, I couldn’t wait to get Tiny Towns Villagers to the table.
Squirrelled Away (in the box)
Like the Fortune version, Tiny Towns Villagers blends familiar base game elements with a new mechanism that enhances the underlying puzzle. Opening up the box, I was pleased to see more building cards that keep the game fresh, bringing new strategies and replayability. I was also excited by the new components; lodge boards, profession cards and a bag of wooden critter meeples.
The villagers of Tiny Towns have clearly been spending the dollar they made in Fortune well. The village has got ritzy. Among the new buildings are an opera house, library and citadel. The farms are upgraded to nectar farms and breweries. There’s a new postal service and, to cope with the new visitors these buildings attract, a tourist information centre.
New buildings bring new interactions between cards and structures to consider when building your town. Tiny Towns, whether played solo or with a group, is about working out the most efficient way to maximise the points available. You need to do this without building yourself into a corner too, so there’s the spatial element to consider.
Of the new building powers, my favourites are the Opera House, Adventurer’s Guild and Clock Tower. The Opera House and Clock Tower both give the opportunity for big points, but are hard to pull off without good forward planning and maybe sacrificing other scoring opportunities. The Adventurer’s Guild is really neat. When constructed you turn the resources into a tower of cubes that can be used instead of the named resource that round. The best building thematically though is the outhouse where you can, err… dump a waste cube, so to speak.
The big new mechanism of this expansion is the eponymous villager meeples. Each player receives three at the start of the game to place on corners of their board. They are a great thematic addition as well as a cool new puzzle. One slight criticism is that the squirrel meeples seem to have spent too long at the brewery and are hard to keep standing. But it can be fun to just put them rocking on their tail. Still, it’s another unfortunate AEG production issue after the miscoloured, different sized cards of the Fortune expansion.
The villagers are moved by placing a resource cube in their space, which cause pushes them into a neighbouring empty space unless those cubes are used to construct a building. If you place the new structure in the same space as the meeple then the villager will go to work in that building. Working meeples can be ‘spent’ to use powers on the profession cards.
Profession cards allow you to bend the rules in ways that can really help you out of a bind. At the start of the game two of seven cards will be selected at random (one is for use exclusively with the fortune expansion, but the six others can be used, however).
The powers cost between one and three working meeples and allow you to do things such as use cubes from anywhere on your board to build, skip a resource type, or build with the shape of cubes rather than configuration. They provide scope for much more planning and versatility, leading to fuller towns and higher scores. Yet you need to make sure your villagers are in the right place at the right time in order to be set to work so they can later be spent for powers.
The Whole Hedgehog
As I said up top, Tiny Towns is a game that has got better and better for me. Bringing Josh Wood into the design team has delivered some excellent new ideas through the expansions. I love both the solo and multiplayer modes and am grateful that Tiny Towns Villagers and Fortune add to both.
Villagers, like Fortune, layers on its new mechanism well. It doesn’t overwhelm or overcomplicate the game and provides a new challenge and level of interest. While it is a modular expansion, I tend to play with both Fortune and the micro expansion, Tiny Trees at the same time. I dig the way the different parts can be used together to fathom the most points from the display.
Villagers is a solid expansion. The meeples add to the tactile nature of the game and I am enjoying the game growing and changing with each new expansion. It’s a game that’s very much on the ascendancy for me and I’m intrigued to see what other delights the design team have in store for the cute little critters of Tiny Town.