Tiny Epic Tactics Deluxe (Review by RJ Garrison)
Designer: Scott Almes
Artists: Nikoletta Vaszi, Naomi Robinson
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Wondering around the landscape searching for an adventure, or pub, or who knows what a Rouge, a Fighter, a Wizard and a Beast might be looking for (some fast food?) KaBOOM! A fireball whizzes past exploding a nearby conifer into tiny bits of tinder. The group takes a defensive stance as arrows zip by, one sticking into the Fighter’s shield. Lightning rips from the Wizard’s fingertips into the direction the projectiles are coming from. The Beast roars. Enemies slowly emerge from the forest, encircling the group. The battle begins!
Tiny Epic Tactics offers 5 different modes of play including: 2-4 Player Competitive, 2 vs 2 Team Play, 2-4 Player Battle Mode, 2 Player Cooperative or 1 Player Solo Adventure. I will briefly describe in this review the 2-4 Player Competitive Game. All other modes use the same action selection/ play with some modifications. Grab a copy of the game to check them out!
How to play:
Players are given four units: Rouge, Fighter, Wizard, Beast each with special abilities. They are also dealt two Tactic Cards. They will select one and discard the other. More on Tactic Cards in a moment.
On a players turn, they perform these steps in order: *
1. Check if you hold a Majority Control in any Control Area that has been triggered, and, if so, advance its Flag Token on the Control Card.
2. Take up to 3 actions with your units.
3. After taking actions, remove Weakened Tokens from any units that didn’t take any actions during your turn.
4. Draw a Tactic Card, add it to your hand, and discard down to 2 cards if needed
*Taken from the Tiny Epic Tactics Rulebook
On the map there are a variety of areas that are designated as Control Areas with flag symbols. Control Areas are triggered if a player starts their turn with a unit standing on a specific flag space in the Control Area. Once an area is triggered, any player starting their turn with majority control anywhere in the area, moves the flag for that particular area up one space on the “Control Card.” However, the player that moves the flag doesn’t get any points for that movement. Only the player that has control of the Control Area when the flag moves to the Final Control Space gets points for capturing the flag, and each flag is worth 5 points!
A player can take 3 actions divided among their units. The actions consist of the following: Movement, Melee Attack, Missile Attack or Casting a Spell
Each unit is allowed one free, no-holds-barred action. If a unit takes a second action, they become weakened and are unable to do any more actions until they get rid of the weakened token. This can happen in 2 different ways: 1. On a player’s next turn, the unit can lose 2 hit points to remove the weakened token. 2. If the unit does no actions on the next turn, the weakened token is removed automatically at the end of the turn. No unit can do the same action twice.
Movement is exactly what it sounds like. Use an action to move a unit up to its movement allowance. Note that movement is affected by terrain, but I’ll cover that in a moment.
Melee Attack action is an attack that can happen if a unit is adjacent to an enemy unit. Typically, the Fighter and the Beast are stronger in Melee Attacks. The attacking unit does damage as noted on the Melee area of that unit’s card. When performing a Melee Attack, players have a choice of knocking back their target. Die are rolled and if “Knock Back” symbols are rolled, the target is knocked that far. If the unit hits anything like a wall, another unit, the edge of the map, etc. that knocked unit will take extra damage.
Missile Attacks can be performed by Fighters and Rogues, providing they have the necessary ammo and range. Line of sight is not as important as range is, as your unit can rain down arrows or what-have-you on your enemies from afar. For Missile attacks (and similarly, Spell Attacks, which are also ranged), the more elevated terrain you are at, the better chance you have of landing a hit. With Missile Attacks, the active player will roll for misses, but as long as the player has enough ammo, they can counter each miss by using an extra ammo. If the player does not have enough ammo to cover the misses, then that player will…miss.
Spells can be attacks, but some spells can have other effects. As opposed to the spell missing like in a Missile Attack, a player will pay extra mana to roll dice to power up their spell. Each different Wizard Unit has a different spell with different effects, which helps keep the game fresh and interesting each time you play.
Once an attack has completed, the player that has taken damage may Counter attack the attacking unit, providing it is not weakened or captured during that turn. A counter works the same way as the attack with range, etc.
The game offers multiple types of terrain that affect gameplay in a variety of ways. For example: during Missile and Spell attacks, the higher elevation a unit is located, the more range they have. Anyone on a “peak” space has range to anywhere on the map.
Moving to a higher elevation takes extra effort (+1 movement).. Water slows down movement (+1), and if a unit is damaged in water, they take extra damage. Being in a forest decreases damage to your units. There are several Portals on the map that allow a unit to enter in one area and reappear in a different area of that player’s choice. Villages offer a place where units can bump up their health, projectile weapons and mana.
There is one space on the map that is the Ballista. Units can enter the Ballista (which cost one extra movement point) and as a special 2nd action, fire the Ballista up to four spaces away doing damage to its intended target and knocking back that target one space.
Gamelyn Games offers additional map packs that players can purchase to add depth and variability to the terrain part of the game.
The Tactic Cards each add to a player’s tactical decision making. Each one has an “if/ then” statement that can benefit the player on their turn if certain actions happen. An example of a tactic card: “If you move 2 allies through portals in a single turn…Then Immediately perform 1 free melee attack.” At the end of a player’s turn, they draw one Tactic Card, then discard down to 2 cards.
Game End and Victory Points:
Tiny Epic Tactics is played over a series of rounds until one of two end conditions is triggered by a player: 1. A player has all their units lost/ captured or 2. A player takes the last flag token. At this point, all other players get one last turn and the game ends. Players can earn points by capturing other players units, collecting flag tokens, having units still uncaptured on the board and having units located in villages at game end. Victory points are totaled and the player with the highest number of victory points wins!
COMPONENTS: Gamelyn Games doesn’t skimp on their production value. I’ve gotten several of their games and each one has very fun, high quality, thematic pieces. The cards are a good quality with clever, engaging artwork, but not overly busy. The meeples are very cool and each character type (fighter, beast, rogue and wizard) has its own shape/ design. I have the ‘deluxe’ version of the game, which comes with screen printed meeples, but I haven’t seen a non-deluxe version for sale, even on Gamelyn’s game page.
A very cool thing Gamelyn does with the components in Tiny Epic Tactics, is using everything, including the box to create the map. Players use the box and pieces inside to construct the Evergreen Forest for play, adding dimension, hills and valleys to the landscape. The pieces have great artwork and easily distinguishable types of terrain on them.
The box comes with a paper sleeve wrapped around the outside of the box. Up until owning Tiny Epic Tactics, I’ve always rolled my eyes and recycled the sleeve wondering why they bothered wasting time and resources with this sleeve. I took the box, before even removing the plastic wrap on our trip to Croatia so we had something to play if the weather turned sour. Unfortunately it did, and we opened the game. And, sometimes I’m slow, but I realized what that sleeve is for. The box travels sooooooo much better with a sleeve on. Nothing comes undone, pieces don’t get tossed all around the inside of your luggage. It’s brilliant!
MECHANICS: There are a variety of mechanics that Scott Almes uses in Tiny Epic Tactics, and to use an Ecclesiastical quote, “There is nothing new under the Sun,” he does combine them in a fun, interesting way. These mechanics include: Area Control, where players attempt to control the different areas with flags associated with them, but no player scores points until the flag reaches the final “Control” space on the Control Card as mentioned above. Then the player controlling the flag at that time scores the points. The game also uses the Take That mechanic as players pit their units against other players’ units on the board attempting to decrease those unit’s hit points and “capture” them. One of the coolest parts of the game, in my opinion, is the Variable Player Powers in which each unit has its own unique abilities and special powers. There are 8 of each type of unit in the game allowing for a great number of different combinations that players can get each time they play, increasing variability in every game.
TIME, AGES & PLAYER COUNT: One of the great things about the Tiny Epic series is that each game takes around 30-60 minutes. Each game gives you a full game experience but doesn’t out stay its welcome. Tiny Epic Tactics runs easily within the 30-60 minute time limit (plus teaching time for new players). The age on the box is 14+,but this could be played 12+ and probably 10+, depending on your 10 year old. (BGG suggests 10+). With the variety of game types that Tiny Epic Tactics offers, the game works well with any number of players 1-4.
ARTWORK: The artwork is fun, light and interesting, but not overly busy which I can appreciate.. The map and the artwork on the map really help make the game. Nikoletta Vaszi, Naomi Robinson do a great job showing a variety of culture and fantasy representations without making the game look too comical or too violent.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am really starting to like the Tiny Epic Series. I am not one that usually likes direct attack games, but Tiny Epic Tactics introduces the Take That mechanic in a lighter way, and even if you are losing units, you’re still able to stay in the game.
The entire map, units and their powers need to be used tactically to win (thus the game’s name!) and everything in the design feeds into a player’s tactical decision making..
I’ve quite enjoyed this game and am looking forward to getting more Tiny Epic Games to the table.
Keep an eye out for the Opinionated Gamers Tiny Epic Stocking Stuffer Series coming soon!
THOUGHTS FROM OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS:
Mark Jackson: I like the design ideas here – though we had some trouble parsing some of the rules the first time through. It is, as are all of the Tiny Epic, incredibly portable – which makes it a great joice for travel. I think that (obviously) there are better tactics games in my collection (Heroscape & Wildlands immediately jump to mind) but I can’t fit either of those in a day pack to carry with me.
I Love it!
I Like It. RJ Garrison, Mark Jackson
Not for me.