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Tiny Epic Kingdoms Preview!

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Note: All photos in this post are of the review prototype sent to me and do not properly reflect the final artwork that will appear in the game.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms, designed by Scott Almes and published by Gamelyn Games is set to hit Kickstarter today! It’s a 4X Micro Game that fits fully into a tuck box.

“I love the idea of small games,” Almes said. “Box size is oddly important for me. When I visit friends or family and I want to bring a bag of games, I can take two or three Ticket to Ride size boxes or a horde of small box games. So, I am completely on board for the microgame revolution. However, I wanted to see it take a step forward. Love Letter, Coup and Council and Verona are all cool games (Coup being my favorite) but there is more to do with microgames than just bluffing games. I wanted a big game in a small package. So, I challenged myself to take the biggest type of game – 4X – and cram it into a double card box. The result? Tiny Epic Kingdoms.”

In Tiny Epic Kingdoms, each player represents a race with specific magic powers. Those powers can be enhanced, which nets players points, but players can also focus more on exploring the map, conquering other kingdoms, and by building towers.

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The core mechanic of the game focuses on individual player cards that represents a player’s home city. It’s basically a track but the cool thing is that it allows you to keep count of the three resources in the game: magic, ore, and food. As you gain or spend resources you simply move the appropriate color cube up and down the track. It’s so simple but for some reason its really satisfying.

“One challenge of a microgame is that you really want to reduce the amount of tokens,” Almes said. “So for a game where you need to keep track of resources, I needed an elegant solution. Honestly, I was expecting the ‘track’ mechanic to be too fiddly and be thrown out right away. But, to my pleasant surprise, it worked really well.”

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At the start of a player’s turn they get to look at the action card and select any action that hasn’t already been used. The other players then may follow by taking the same action or collect resources. The actions breakdown as follow:

  • Patrol – Move a cube from one of your territories to another.
  • Quest – Move a cube from one of your territories to an opponents.
  • Build – Pay ore to advance the level of your tower.
  • Research – Pay magic to advance your magic.
  • Expand – Pay food and add another cube to your territories.
  • Trade – Swap one of resources for another.

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If a player chooses to collect resources instead of following an action they simply look across all the territories where they have a cube and collect the resources that matches the territories colors. For example, green is magic, red is ore, and yellow is food.

“Settling on only three resources ended up being a ‘feel’ of the game, rather than a number based decision,” Almes said. ” Four seemed like too many to worry about for the amount of spaces in the game, while two or one seemed to lose some of its depth.

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Tiny Epic Kingdoms is billed and marketed as a micro game. The only problem I see with that is that “micro game” is a super wobbly term that could mean lots of different things. So I just want to be clear that although Tiny Epic Kingdoms fits in a small box, it’s got more depth and strategy than you would see in Coup or Love Letter.

“Microgame is a fuzzy definition,” Almes said. “Coup has 15 cards and 50 tokens. TEK has 14 cards and 55 tokens. But, microgame does have a connotation that the game will be really light. I don’t think that has to be the case. To me, it’s a pocket game. I can fit it comfortably in my pocket. I prefer that term than microgame, but I think both fit.”

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The factions in the game are diverse and each lead to a different play style. In the first game I played, I was the elves. They allow you to use magic for other resources and give you bonuses for when you use magic. I spent most of the game milking my powers and even then I lost by one point. However, I later played again with the elves and this time I tried to do a much more balanced play focusing on all of my resources instead of just magic and again I lost by only one point! So it goes to show that even though the powers are drastically different and very powerful they aren’t over powered.

“The best part of 4X games – in my opinion – is the tech trees,” Almes said. “I also wanted to make each faction feel unique. Giving each faction it’s own tech tree seemed like a good way to combine these two ideals, while not overwhelming the players. If all players had access to the entire tech tree, the game would slow down too much. Since it is supposed to be a fast moving game, I wanted to keep the play swift.
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Tiny Epic Kingdoms has a lot of variation, a nice weight, and is small enough to fit into your pocket. If your even slightly intrigued, make sure you check out the Kickstarter which is supposed to launch this afternoon.