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TINY EPIC KINGDOMS Review: Tightly-Packed Fun

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

From 2013 to 2014, microgames — games compact and simple enough to fit in your pocket — seemed to be everywhere in the tabletop scene. At first glance, they’re a stellar idea, however, one of the common concerns always seemed to be their lasting replayability and potential. How simple is too simple, after all?

That’s when Tiny Epic Kingdoms, designed by Scott Almes, burst onto the scene through a wildly successful Kickstarter, and proved once and for all that a lot of strategy and depth could be packed into a small box.

Gameplay

Tiny Epic Kingdoms (or TEK) is a 4x strategy game–that is, players take the roles of a variety of factions to “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. Through control of resources, trading, going to war, and so on, victory is attained by ensuring one has the most points at the end of the game.

Set-up and components are what mark this squarely as a microgame. Players each receive a faction card with a fantasy race (such as Orcs, Dwarves, or Elves) and a territory card comprised of different kinds of environments, along with adorable little Meeples and resource tokens. The cards have the bare minimum of information and, frankly, that’s alright, because it’s all fairly self-explanatory.

Each environment on a territory provides different resources, and are placed to provide different ways to move across them. What differentiates the factions is the book of magic on their respective cards–essentially, unique abilities that can be gained to provide strategies. One race might be more inclined towards fast movement, while another encourages better resource production.

TEK also throws in a bit of the role-taking familiar to those that have played games like Eminent Domain. The starting player (which changes each turn) decides to take one of six actions: Patrol, Quest, Build, Research, Expand, or Trade. All other players must then either take the same action, for it cannot be repeated during the same round of turns, or choose to collect resources.

If one player’s Meeple enters into territory occupied by an opposing player’s Meeple, war begins! Players can either expend resources to attempt victory or offer peace. Alliances can even be formed between factions. In a way, war feels like a mini-game within an already compact one, and a welcome one.

A session of TEK may take only about thirty minutes, but it’s impressive how much is packed into that space of time. Sure, it’s not the level of complexity of other 4x games that come in way bigger boxes, but TEK demands a generous amount of respect for the amount of fun and strategy it provides with so little.

Source: BoardGameGeek.com

Source: BoardGameGeek.com

Components

Now, Meeples are already small and cute, but Scott Almes figured out how to make them even smaller and cuter. They’re barely the size of the average fingernail! The resource and shield tokens also continue this pattern. They’re all sturdy wood, however.

The exception is the starting player token, which is a large castle-shaped wooden token that can fit into one’s palm. It’s the only real disappointment in the box, as it has a strange finish to it that makes it unpleasant to touch.

The cards are, ironically, oversized, about twice the size of a standard playing card. If you can find sleeves for them, it’s recommended–after one play session, the edges began to show wear.

The art on the cards is a real treat–while a bit rough, it adds personality to the already charming fantasy designs (personal favourites: Lizardfolk and Dwarves!). The entire game is this feast of colour and cartoonish.

The game also comes with a pair of D12 dice for use in war and tokens for four variant play modes. These are also fairly standard, but don’t disappoint.

Rulebook

Ode to a well-written rulebook: Tiny Epic Kingdoms is it. TEK’s rules are simple and straight to the point. One read through, one play through, and anyone can teach them to new players in about five minutes. It’s very refreshing to read a rulebook and just get everything it’s telling you.

Overall

Tiny Epic Kingdoms probably won’t fit in your jean pockets, but it will fit in the front pocket of your backpack, and it deserves every inch of that space. It’s certainly the best microgame out there, with a level of complexity that’ll please any tabletop game veteran while retaining a level of simplicity and accessibility to welcome newer players.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

 

Cover image via

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Categories: Tabletop Reviews

Author:Rito

Professional grump. Writes media criticism at WURRWALF.net. Whines on Twitter a lot. Likes rice.

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  1. Tiny Epic Kingdoms Review – Another Castle | Roll For Crit - 01/22/2015

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