Published on January 10th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen
Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Sometime before Christmas I was asked by fellow Across the Board Games author Nicole to play an as-yet-unreleased board game that would be going to Kickstarter in early January and this is the review of that game! In Tiny Epic Kingdoms you control one faction in a fantasy realm that is trying to expand more efficiently than your opponents. You will vie for resources and fight over territories in small, quick games that last maybe 20 minutes. In a lot of ways, Tiny Epic Kingdoms really is a big game in small package.
As an aside, we were sent a playtest version of the game. That means that the photos you’ll see are of a rough, unfinished project have a revamp for the Kickstarter campaign and final product. Make sure to check out the project’s campaign page to see updates to art assets and components, as well as stretch goals as they unlock.
Tiny Epic Kingdoms is essentially a variable phase order game (this mechanic is comparable to Puerto Rico’s) with a strong area control element. There are a total of six actions available to players, every turn a player will choose an action and perform it, then the other players will either perform that same action or collect resources from the territories that they control. After that is done, an action cube is moved over that action and it cannot be selected until all the other actions have also been selected. If it’s your turn and you don’t want to choose any of the remaining actions- tough luck. You have to choose one anyways, and if you don’t perform that action you get nothing while everyone else has the option of doing it or collecting resources. In the two-player games that I played, paying attention to which resources your opponent currently has so you can take an action that they cannot was probably the single most important mechanic in the game.
A large part of the game was also the area control element. Each player starts off with a playing card with regions drawn on it. These regions are colored differently and they are what generate your resources when you choose to take that action instead of the one the lead player took. One of your available actions lets you place another soldier/worker/meeple and there are two actions that let you move your meeples around the boards. When two meeples encounter each other, they go to War. Initiating the war action causes the two players involved to engage in a secret auction to win the space. Each person bids an amount of resources that they own, then after the reveal both players lose that many resources while whoever bet the most gets the space. You can choose not to bet anything, and if both players do so then they are considered to be in an alliance and they can both draw resources from that space. Breaking alliances is possible, though it doesn’t come up in the two-player game as you can’t make alliances with only two-players.
In addition to these two main mechanics there are the tower and magic school elements of the game. Each player is extorted to build a tower, which has no location on the map and is more of an abstract goal that you can spend resources to invest in. The more you’re invested, the better the payout will be. While you can only earn seven points from controlling areas on the map, you can potentially earn ten points from completing your tower, but that’s really all it does. The magic schools are really more of a “faction powers” card, and spending actions improving them gets you rules-breaking benefits that at times are over-the-top good. I liked that the faction powers all did “big” things, and weren’t just dinky bonuses that you got in addition to getting points. Dwarves get a power that lets them spend more than one kind of resource when building the tower, they also get another one that lets them build it cheaper, makes everyone else’s tower more expensive and so on. Keeping your opponents from leveling up their faction or building their tower is key to winning.
Overall I had a great time playing Tiny Epic Kingdoms. I played with all of the factions in a two-player setting and I found all of them to be compelling and fun. The version we played could use a few tweaks (you spend Magic to increase your Magic, and dwarves are incentivized to control forests over mountains because of their faction powers) but this game is really solid. I’d prefer there be more than four factions to choose from, and I’d like to see more territory cards as well in the base game, but those are both things that are easily produced between now and the time the game launches and/or as stretch goals for the project. If you’re looking for a dedicated resource management game that’s small enough to carry in your pocket and costs less than $20 then you should back this game.
An example of final game art: