October 2014 archive

A Concise Critique of Tiny Epic Kingdoms

I have a new gig reviewing games over at Play Unplugged. This is not one of those reviews, but it’s fun, so I thought I’d review some games from my own collection here. 

Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a rarity for game – a game I actually crowdfunded at the “get a game as the reward” level. I’ve backed many games from former Tabletop Deathmatch competitors, but because we’re saving for a wedding, I haven’t been able to fully back. (I’m pretty sure it would bankrupt us even if we weren’t saving up, to be honest.) But when I saw Tiny Epic Kingdom’s…well, tinyness…I knew it belonged in my collection.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

I was lured in by the elevator pitch – a half-hour 4x – because I like my games short and sweet, but with a depth of strategy. I don’t have much patience for longer games, though I’ll play them occasionally. I want to be able to play a few different games in an evening. Tiny Epic Kingdoms seemed to fit the bill, so I helped to fund it.

Many of the games I’ve gotten from Kickstarter have been played once at most – some are sitting around, unplayed entirely (like the entire TMG microgame series, which I really need to fix). But not this one – in fact, Pete and I have played it three times in the week since I got it, and I’m sure we’ll play many more times than that. This game is fun. 

More than fun, it’s got real strategy packed into a short play time, with enough variability in game setup to bring us back. We’ve played as Valkyries and as Merfolk, as Undead and as Shadow Elves. We’ve had territories with capitals, with only four regions, and with swamps. Each different collection of faction and land type leads to a whole different strategy for the game. And all the games we’ve played so far have been really tight, even as we’ve pursued different strategies (because one of us doesn’t think that the tower is worth pursuing, even though that’s obviously totally wrong.)

The hallmark of a good game, I think, is that feeling of tenseness. That slight dread of wondering if you made the right move. Tiny Epic Kingdoms manages to fit quite a lot of that feeling into a teensy tiny box and just half an hour. And for that, it’ll always be welcome on my table.

Downsides: Tiny meeples can be hard to pick up and manuever if you have big fingers.

Upsides: Gorgeous art, great gameplay.

Good for: In-between bigger games or as a 4x teaching game.