Tiny Epic is a growing series of small box board games designed by Scott Almes for Gamelyn Games. Each box is packed with more gameplay than you would expect, often with many different ways to play. Proving yet again, size doesn’t matter, it is what you do with it that counts!
Tiny Epic games are funded on Kickstarter with deluxe versions and lots of extra stretch-goal goodies prior to their retail release. As a testament to their success, following and reputation their latest campaign for Tiny Epic Pirates was their first to raise over $1,000,000 in pledges, albeit with the help of some incredible skull dice offered as an add-on towards the end of the campaign. I however, have only played Tiny Epic Tactics, which I really enjoy. With a growing portfolio of Tiny Epics though, I wondered which others I should try. I asked my fellow members of the Zatu blogging team which are their favourites and why…
Tiny Epic Dinosaurs is the latest release in Gamelyn Games Tiny Epic series and in my humble opinion, the best yet! What makes a Tiny Epic great? Well for me it’s got to have top notch components and an impressive table presence. Most importantly though, it’s got to play like a strategy game rather than a filler.
Tiny Epic Dinosaurs excels in all the above! The DinoMeeples whilst tiny are... yeah I’m gonna say it, EPIC! They are so intricately detailed and there’s a whopping 75 of them including 15 uniques! On top of that there’s 20 Meeples, screen printed wooden markers and a unique capture die. With the modular board (made of quality large cards), the player boards and 30 research cards I’m still shocked it all fits in that little box. For all its amazing aesthetics, there’s no fluff in this Tiny Epic, everything serves its purpose in an elegant, streamlined, clear and attractive way.
I didn’t really expect Tiny Epic Dino’s to hold up against big box offerings like Dinosaur Island. But I honestly think it does! For a fraction of the setup time, Tiny Epic Dinosaurs offers the full Dino package, unique traits, rampages, feeding time, breeding time, it’s all there. The 30 unique research cards which offer abilities or bonuses keep it variable and fresh from game to game too. Another important thing for me is the solo mode which is really well thought out. It boasts 4 different AI variants which all behave differently. The phases of each round flow nicely and the worker placement element is interestingly executed. No spaces are blocked you’ll simply need to place more workers there than were previously placed.
My previous favourite was Tiny Epic Galaxies. Both games have solid mechanisms but for me at least Tiny Epic Dinosaurs is more attractive, engaging and fun to play.
Let’s get this out of the way first of all - admittedly I have only played two of the Tiny Epic games! Tiny Epic Galaxies is widely considered an excellent game by the board gaming community (and by John, as you will read in this very article), but my favourite is Tiny Epic Zombies.
In this game a small band of humans are trapped in Echo Ridge Mall and must fight off the interminable waves of zombies. This is a cooperative and one-versus-many area majority pick-up and deliver game with a whole heap of push your luck! What the heck does that mean? Well, the game has five different ways to play… The first is cooperative versus zombie, where a team of human players take on one zombie player who, err, controls the zombies. The second way is pure cooperative, where the zombies are controlled by the game’s AI. The next two are similar to the previous two modes, but this time the human players are competing against each other. The final mode is solo, where a lone human competes against the game.
I love the fact that the game comes in a box that can be stuffed into my trouser pocket (only just, mind!) and yet when on the table, it spreads itself out nicely to the size of a game with a box four or five times the size.
The components are of great quality. I love the zombie meeples, and while the plastic weapons that clip onto Gamelyn Games’ patented ITEMeeples are perhaps unnecessary, they look good and always provide a lot of interest and smiles.
I refer to this game as a boomerang game, in that I backed the Kickstarter, played it a couple of times, traded it, missed it, then re-bought it! I won’t make the mistake of letting it leave my collection again.
I have played a few of the Tiny Epics, if far from all of them. Some are good, some are bad and none are ugly. Tiny Epic Galaxies, for me, is the best of those I have come across – it's a must-pack travel game and gets some good table time outside of tents and hotel rooms. It has a clever and elegant design that packs a great deal into a compact experience, both physical and temporal.
I have a real soft spot for 4x games and this one crunches the 4x into 40 minutes. I like the dice rolling for actions and all the more for the fact that there are two luck mitigation rules. I also like the ‘follow me’ mechanic, which allows for some player interaction and clever tactical play. Ships travel from your player mat to cards depicting the planets you’re exploring. As they arrive, there is the choice of a one-off power hit by landing on the planet or moving gradually along the orbital track. The latter allows you to colonise the planet, claiming it for VP and securing the planet’s power permanently and exclusively.
I like that planets are colonised through two different dice actions and this integrates with some of the planetary powers, providing further tactical choices. The location of your ships also affects resource gathering, and resource management of Energy and Culture is meaningful and has some differentiation. Your home system also is upgradable through spending resources, and this provides access to more ships, more dice, and victory points – very satisfying. There is a bit of ‘take that’ in the game, but just the right amount. There are secret victory point mission cards too, which create a bit of tension in the lead up to the end game.
As well as all of this, it comes with a perfectly pleasant solo game with graduating difficulty settings. This is good for family and gamers as it plays with up to 5 (though I like 3-4). There is an expansion, which while I can’t speak for personally, has had some fab reviews. All in all, a cracking addition to any collection which will have you coming back to it again and again.
Northern Dice – Tiny Epic Western
Tiny Epics are what they say on the tin: tiny, and epic. One of the first ones we ever tried has held a strong place in our collection and is arguably our favourite one too! Tiny Epic Western is possibly the most complex of the series, what with its many mechanisms, but still easy to get your head around! It's a worker placement game for 1-4 players with enough of everything to make it so much more!
The game is played over six rounds split into four phases. To kick off, poker cards are shuffled and dealt to players and between locations. Then players send members of their posse to locations to gain resources from there. You have two by default, but can unlock the third for the next round using a location. Players can fight over spots on locations and enter duels to see who is dominant there, winning a duel gains you the outlaw card which counts for points too! Next players resolve their poker cards, identifying strongest hands and gaining influence in any locations where you have a posse member. If you’re top dog, you also purchase first. Finally, players can now purchase buildings for sale where they have posse members by spending resources. There's also an industry track to improve, which indicates how many VP each building provides. It ends after the sixth round and whomever has the most VP wins!
Tiny Epic Western is our favourite tiny epic as it's a worker placement for those who don't enjoy placing workers. It's short and sharp, with enough varying mechanics to keep it spicier than the usual "place bloke get thing" games. What's more is how thematic it is. The game is set up to look like a gun's cylinder, with each building being a chamber. Even the dice are bullets! Top notch thematically. We haven't had a stale game of Western yet, as there are tonnes of locations to utilise and purchase. Whether you focus on gaining assets or just ruining people's days, the game is always a hit at our tables. The final reason we love this one is that it allows for variable player powers. Every player gains a "boss" to play as, and each is different. We love asymmetrical play, but this one is just ever so slightly different enough to keep it more replay-able.
What is the best Tiny Epic game? Mini dinosaurs are cool, but don’t you want massive ones? Sure, going on an adventure is all well and good, but wouldn’t you prefer that to have some scale? Now, putting Meeples into mech suits, come on! Meeples are meeples, they can’t get any bigger for anything other than novelty purposes. You can’t play with giant oversized ones, that would just be silly! So, size wise, we are in the sweet spot. And putting them into Mech suits and charging around a board fighting your friends; what’s not to love?
The only issue with Tiny Epic Mechs, is as much as it sounds like a battle game, it really isn’t. This is more of an area control battle with the occasional skirmish. Especially in two players where you can easily play a game without ever encountering your opponent.
As such, this shines in a three for me where you are way more likely to come across the other players and do battle! Unless you just want a Tiny Epic Area Control game, in which case, this is a must have!
But, when you upgrade your Meeple to the Mech suit, and then the giant Mech suit, and feverishly arm yourself with four tiny Epic weapons, it feels great! Even if you never get to use them. In truth, the battle mechanic is a little clumsy and slow, and confusing with a rock-paper-scissors style to it where each style of weapon has the chance to counter another, and it does get a little cumbersome. But, as I said, this game isn’t really about battles. Who can control the arena best with their turrets, mines, and mech usually wins, and limiting the battles to rare events does make them more enjoyable when they do occur.
This is a great way to get your children into coding and is a perfect gateway into other area control and action queue games. And as I say, you put meeples into mech suits. That in truth, really should be enough!
The Tiny Epic games, small box games that promise an epic experience. Tiny Epic Defenders (TED) is no exception to the rule. In the 2nd edition of TED there is revamped gameplay, all new art and the (now standard) tiny epic ITEMeeples. The theme and story stay the same as the 1st edition and follows on from the Great War in Tiny Epic Kingdoms. The world of Aughmoore is now in ruins, the Capital City and surrounding regions are in danger. The evil and darkness has spread to every region. Arise fellow Heroes, band together and fight off the incoming horde of Enemies, Dire Enemies and Epic Foes to make the land of Aughmoore and the Capital City safe once again.
TED is a 1-4 player action point selection, co-operative game with a quick play time and easy rule set.
I am going to start off by saying that I love small box games that still pack a lot of gameplay. So, it is no surprise that I love Tiny Epic Defenders. I backed the deluxe game on Kickstarter and (with the stretch goals) contains extra Defenders, Artefacts, Epic Foes, and Dire Enemies. The combination and replay-ability is super high. There are so many Epic Foes that I have not even seen them all yet, there are loads of Defenders that I haven’t played with, and I love the fact that I can play this game over and over again, with different combinations, to have a different experience every time. It makes me want to keep coming back to the game to play it again. The difficulty can also be increased by adding more Dire Enemies into the Horde Deck (although I am not brave enough to try this yet). The Dire Enemies all have different effects and abilities that challenge the way they are fought. The Defenders all have different special abilities, some of them are passive and some require an action to trigger. The Outer Regions and the Capital City are all double sided with different abilities on each side, offering yet even more replay-ability to the game.
I really enjoy this. It is a quick playing game, I can have this set-up and played in around 30 minutes. It plays well solo (player controls 2 Heroes) and multiplayer. Tiny Epic Defenders is going to be in my collection for a long time and I can see this hitting the table often.