Saturday, February 3, 2018

Board Game Review: Tiny Epic Galaxies

I got to try my first 'Tiny Epic' game recently. If you don't know what that means, I'll tell you. Gamelyn Games publishes a series of 'Tiny Epic' games which come in a small box, take up a small amount of table space, are easy to learn, but pack in a great deal of enjoyable gameplay. And if Tiny Epic Galaxies, the game that I played, is any indication, that description is very apt.

So let's get into it! Here are some numbers to look at:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.
Strategy: 5
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 1
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Useful
Average Length of Game Play: 45 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Medium
  Conflict: Medium
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: Medium
A game of Tiny Epic Galaxies in progress. Each player has their play mat, decorated with a galaxy surrounded by a track used to indicate, by means of wooden tokens, how much power and how much culture that player has. Four more tracks curve along the right side of the mat to indicate how advanced the civilization is, with corresponding increases in fleet size, dice to roll, and victory points. Sticking out from under the player mat are cards representing colonised worlds. Five more cards are arranged in the centre of the table to reperesent planets available for colonising. The players have rocket ship tokens, some on their player mats, some on the available cards in the centre, that they move in the course of the game.

An Overview of Tiny Epic Galaxies

Players control galaxy-spanning civilisations, each competing to be the strongest and most powerful. By sending out their ships to colonise available planets, they can gain energy, culture, resources, and of course, victory points. The end game is triggered when one player reaches twenty-one points, at which point, finish the round so that every player has an equal number of turns. Then, the player with the most points is declared the winner.

Each player has a play mat. This mat has everything you need for your personal area:

The player mat. On the left is an image of a galaxy. Surrounding that is a circular track with spaces numbered from 1 to 7. There is a space with the energy icon, which resembles a lightning bolt, and another space with the energy icon labelled as 'reroll' and the culture icon, which resembles a greek column, labelled 'follow.' Below that is a box labelled with the 'utilize a colony' icon, which says 'Upgrade your empire; spend [energy icon] / [culture icon].' Along the right side of the mat are four tracks, running in concentric arcs. The outhermost has six spaces; the first has a star icon, the rest are numbered 2 through 6. The next track inward (to the left) is labelled with a rocket ship icon. There are six spaces here as well, each one is placed even with the spaces in the first track. The first two spaces are numbered 2; the next two are numbered 3 (the first of these two spaces has a box around the 3), and the last two are labelled 4 (the first of these two spaces has a box around the 4 as well). The next track inward is labelled with an image of the special dice used in the game. There are six spaces here as well, each also even with the spaces from the other two tracks. The first space is labelled with a 4, the second and third with a 5 (the first five is in a circle), the fourth and fifth with a 6 (the first of which is also in a circle), and the sixth has a 7 in a circle. The last track is shorter; it only has five spaces, which are even with the second through sixth spaces of the other three tracks. This track is labelled 'Victory Points,' and is numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 (no, not 6).

This mat is where you store your ships that are not being used, as well as keep track of your empire size, number of available ships, number of dice you're allowed to roll, and how much energy and culture you have.

In the centre of the table are several cards representing planets. Each planet has a victory point value, a special ability, and a track where you try to colonise that planet. These tracks have an icon for economy or diplomacy, indicating how that planet is colonised.

Gameplay

On your turn, you roll a number of dice determined by the size of your empire (4 to start, five for size 2 or 3, 6 for size 4 or 5, and 7 for size 6). The dice have six icons:

The move icon: a rocket ship superimposed over an arrow pointing up Move: You may move one of your ships from your galaxy to a planet, from one planet to another, or from a planet back to your galaxy. Your ships may be either on the planet's colonising track or the surface. You may have one ship on each on the same planet, but only one ship on any track and only one on any one planet surface.


The energy icon: a lightning bolt in a square.
Acquire Energy: You may choose one planet (or your galaxy) that has the energy icon, and gain one energy for each ship you have on that planet or galaxy.

The culture icon: a Greek Style column in a circle
Acquire Culture: You may choose one planet that has the culture icon, and gain one culture for each ship you have on that planet.

The diplomacy icon: a radar screen inside a laurel wreath (similar to the icon of the United Nations)
Advance Diplomacy: You may advance a ship you have on the colonisation track of a planet the requires Diplomacy to be colonised.

The economy icon: a bar graph with an arrow showing the upward trend of an economy, similar to what you might see in a business meeting
Advance Economy: You may advance a ship you have on the colonisation track of a planet the requires Economy to be colonised.

The development icon: a shape that looks like how a futuristic building on an alien planet might look under a semi-circle representing a glass dome
Utilise a Colony: You may use the special ability of a planet that you have successfully colonised. Alternately, you may upgrade your empire, spending a number of energy or culture points equal to the size of your empire plus one. This allows you to move your empire token one space along the empire size track.

You may use any of the icons you've rolled on these dice. You must use them one at a time, giving other players a chance to 'follow' (on another player's turn, you may follow an action taken by that player by spending a point of culture to take the same action). At any point, you may reroll any dice that you have not yet used; this is free the first time, but any subsequent rerolls require you to spend a point of energy.

If, at any point, you complete the colonisation for a planet, all ships on that planet are returned to their owners, and you take that planet into your empire. Slide it under your player mat so that only the planet's special ability is visible; you may now use that planet's special ability. Once a planet is successfully colonised, you may no longer send ships to it.

How to Win

Each planet is worth victory points (the more it takes to colonise the planet, the more the planet is worth). In addition, you get victory points based on the size of your empire. And finally, each player starts the game with a Secret Mission card, which details a way that that player may earn a few extra victory points.

Once one player has reached twenty-one points showing (that is, not counting the Secret Mission points, since the secret mission card is kept secret until the game is over), players finish the round so that everybody has an equal number of turns. Then you reveal the Secret Mission cards, total all your points, and whoever has the most is declared the winner.

Final Thoughts on Tiny Epic Galaxies

This game lives up to its name. It fits into a very small box, is easy to learn, but has some surprising depth to it. There are strategic decisions at every turn; do I reroll my dice and hope I get something better? What order do I take my dice results in? Should I go for the high-value planet and spend a lot of time investing in it, or try for a lot of lower-point planets instead? Do I want to try to compete with the other player who already has a ship on that planet, or go for a different planet that may not be of as much use to me, but will likely be easier to get without someone else trying to get it at the same time?

And let's not forget to examine the six traits of a good game:
  • It's quite simple
  • It ends decisively.
  • It relies on player agency.
  • It allows for upsets.
  • It has no player elimination.
  • It's fun to lose.
All six! Good job, Gamelyn Games! Well done in crafting such a fine game!

It's not as heavy as games like Blood Rage or Terra Mystica, but for casual games (and casual gamers), I think Tiny Epic Galaxies is an excellent game. Obviously, that's my opinion. You should decide for yourself. One thing I will say, though, is that I can't wait to try out the other games in the Tiny Epic series!

So there you go. I hope you enjoy reading my review, and more importantly, I hope that you always 

Game on!


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