Game Buzz: Tiny Epic Kingdoms

You know what’s hot right now?  4X games.  You know what else is hot right now?  Small games.  Let’s combine the two!

image by BGG user mgcoe
image by BGG user mgcoe

Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a game currently running a Kickstarter campaign that was designed by Scott Almes (designer of Kings of Air and Steam and Martian Dice), and is being published by Gamelyn Games.  TEK is a 2-4 player 4X game (that stands for eXpand, eXplore, eXploit, and eXterminate) designed to fit within a 30-minute time frame.

image by BGG user mgcoe
Territory cards – image by BGG user mgcoe

The game comes with 4 faction champion cards, 4 faction kingdom cards, 4 territory cards, 1 tower card, 1 action selection card, and 53 cubes (eight colors).  Each player begins with 9 cubes of their color, as well as a food cube (yellow), an ore cube (red), a mana cube (green), a town card, a faction card, and a randomly drawn territory card.  Each player gets 6 resources to split between food/ore/mana, marked on your town card.  A player cube from each player goes next to the tower card in the center, another goes beneath their faction card to track magic, and two go on a space of their territory card.  The five gray cubes are placed next to the action card in the center.

There are four steps to your turn: clear the action card, select an action, all players take the action or collect resources, and check end game conditions.

CLEAR: If all five cubes have been placed on the action card, clear it.

SELECT AN ACTION: You can choose any action that does not have a cube on it.  Your choices are as follows:

  • Patrol – Move one of your cubes into an adjacent space in the same territory.  You can’t move into a space with your own cube.
  • Quest – Move one of your cubes from one territory to another.  If you enter a space with another player’s cube, you start a war.  Wars work like this – each player takes their cube from the space and secretly place it on a space of their town track.  These are the resources you are willing to commit (each mana is worth two, each ore is one, and each food is zero), but no more than nine total.  Both players reveal, with ties going to the defender.  Both players must spend the resources used.  You can choose to spend no resources, meaning you choose peace.  If both players choose peace, they can peacefully cohabit in the space (at least until they start fighting again).
  • Build – Discard enough ore to reach the next step of the tower.  You can only build one step at a time.
  • Research – Discard enough mana to advance to the next step of the magic track.
  • Expand – Add a cube to the board, and pay enough food for all cubes you have on the board currently.  The new cube is placed with another of your color (never more than two per space).
  • Trade – Discard as much of one resource as you want to gain an equal amount of another resource.

TAKE ACTION: Beginning with the active player, each player executes the chosen action.  You can choose to skip the action and collect resources instead – one resource of the matching type for each space that contains one of your cubes.  The max is 9.

END GAME: After each player has gone, check to see if the game is almost over.  The endgame is triggered if a player has placed all 7 of their faction cubes in territories, or if someone has built the 6th space of the tower, or if someone has mastered all five levels of magic.  If one of these conditions has been met, continue playing until all action cubes have been placed.  At the end, each player gets one point per cube in territories, one point for each level of magic, and X points for their tower level.  The most points wins.

With microgames all the rage lately, it makes sense that people are trying to see how small they can get their games.  This one comes with 14 cards and 53 cubes – I guess you can’t really have a 4x game without a lot of cubes.  Still, there’s a lot of economy in the setup – resources all tracked on a single card, small territories, and not many player cubes.  Usually, when one thinks of a 4X game, they think of Twilight Imperium, Eclipse, or Civilization – games that take up a lot of table space.  So if you’re a fan of the genre, I think you’d probably be glad to have an entry in the genre with such a small footprint.

One thing that strikes me as clever about this game is the action selection method.  One player chooses, then all players get to perform the action (or just take resources).  This is reminiscent of Puerto Rico, with the difference that the chooser doesn’t get an extra benefit (other than being able to go first).  With only six actions to choose from, there’s not a huge variety of things you can do on your turn, but actions will get blocked as they get used, giving you less choice.  There are six actions, but only five action cubes, so there’s always going to be at least two actions to choose from.  And because it’s an uneven split, the player who gets to choose from all the actions will rotate throughout the game.

I think this looks like a pretty solid little game.  At the very least, it’s a 4X game that will be fast playing, take up hardly any space, and will only cost you $16 if you back it.  They funded in five hours, and have three weeks to go before the campaign ends, so you have plenty of time – go check it out.  Thanks for reading!

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