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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Tiny Epic Galaxies With Two
In Tiny Epic Galaxies, you will become a brave space pirate (you get to be a pirate in my version of the story ), taking over planets and trying to outrace your opponents to nab the biggest chunk of the planetary pie! Dice will be your friends (or enemies ), helping you accomplish your goals by allowing you to move your ships, acquire resources, advance colonization of planets, and use colonies you already have.
To set up the game, you will give each player 2 mission cards from which to select 1, a galaxy mat, 4 ships, an empire token, an energy token, and a culture token. You will start the game with 2 energy and 1 culture and on the first space of your empire track. The empire track determines how many dice you will roll each turn and how many ships you will have at your disposal. Over the course of the game, you will be able to upgrade this parameter in order to increase the number of dice you roll, the number of ships you have, AND the number of points you have.
You will reveal a number of planets from the planet deck equal to the number of players + 2.
You will also place on the table a Control Mat that shows an "Activation Bay" and a "Converter."
Each turn, you will first roll the number of dice you are entitled to roll. At the beginning of the game, you will roll 4 dice. You may then re-roll any number of dice once for free and spend 1 energy per additional re-roll. You may also place any two dice in the "Converter" to change another die to show the face you desire.
Next, you will activate your dice one by one by placing them in the "Activation Bay." After each activation, any player may choose to follow your action by spending 1 culture.
Dice actions are as follows:
1. Move a ship to a planet's surface to activate the planet's effect OR move a ship to a planet's orbit, placing it on the starting position of the planet's colony track.
2. Acquire resources - When you activate an energy die, you acquire energy equal to the number of ships you have on energy planets. When you activate a culture die, you acquire culture equal to the number of ships you have on culture planets.
3. Advance colonization - When you activate a diplomacy die, you can move one of your ships located on the colonization track on a diplomacy planet one space forward. When you activate an economy die, you can move one of your ships located on the colonization track of an economy planet one space forward. If you reach the end of the colonization track, you return your ship and any other player's ship to their respective home planets and take the colonized planet, sliding it under your galaxy mat.
4. Use a colony - Activate a colony die to perform the "upgrade empire" action on your colony mat or the action shown on any planet you have already completely colonized.
The "upgrade empire" action requires that you spend energy or culture to move your empire marker forward and thus unlock additional ships or dice to use on future turns.
The end of the game is triggered when one player has reached 21 or more points. At this point, the game is played until all players have had an equal number of turns, secret mission points are added to your final score, and the player with the most points wins.
Played prior to review: 6x
1. Very well produced
The bottom of the box is a player aid and the lid a very handy and very pretty space-themed dice tray! The custom dice have a space-y color scheme and the artwork is vibrant and inviting. This game just screams, "PLAY WITH ME!"
2. Very quick to play and engaging throughout
Tiny Epic Galaxies is tiny in both physical footprint and playtime. It takes about 20 minutes to play with two people (after a game or two) and that is surprising given the number of decision points in the game. What's more, you remain engaged in the game's proceedings at all times thanks to its clever following mechanism. Whether it is your turn or not, you have to pay attention to which dice your opponent is activating in order to determine whether to spend a culture point to follow. And that can be a significant decision you will have to repeatedly make even outside your turn.
3. Tense race-y game with some hidden information to ensure that the tension remains high until the very end, regardless of whether you are winning or losing
Tiny Epic Galaxies isn't a true race, but it gives you a similar sense of urgency because the end of the game is triggered when one player reaches 21 points. As such, you are constantly tracking your opponent's score and trying to do your best. But unlike a true race, in which falling behind a few points can be discouraging and the first person to the end wins, Tiny Epic Galaxies is point based and gives you a way to score a few extra points through your hidden objective. Your opponent's triggering the end of the game will not necessarily mean that you've lost.
4. Ways to manipulate dice, re-roll dice, and the option to follow other players' rolls give you some control and sense of agency
Tiny Epic Galaxy is a Yahtzee-style dice-rolling game, so it's very random. Right? Wrong! While it isn't exactly an ultra-strategic, open-information game, Tiny Epic Galaxies gives you a sufficient number of options for randomness management to ensure you don't feel like the game is playing you.
First, you get one free re-roll of any number of dice. Good.
Second, you can manipulate dice rolls. If you are desperate to take a particular action on your turn, you can sacrifice to dice to the converter and turn any die you have yet to activate to a face of your choice. Score! Instant solution!
Third, if you aren't in desperate need of a specific action but simply dislike one or more of your dice faces, you can keep re-rolling by spending energy. Of course, you want to keep your energy to upgrade your empire, so re-rolling isn't an easy choice to make, but it shouldn't be. Tough choices make games fun!
Fourth (yes, FOURTH!), if you don't roll an action you really wanted to take on your turn, you can spend culture to follow of your opponent's actions. Score! Of course, you have to ensure you HAVE some culture during your opponent's turn and again, deciding to spend culture to follow your opponent's action won't be an easy choice to make because culture is another resource you could alternatively be spending to upgrade your empire, but if you really want a specific action because it would help you end the game earlier than you thought or because it would allow you to start your next turn with an extra ship and dice, it could be worth it.
FOUR ways to manipulate dice? Poof! Randomness is gone! Right?
5. Epic (?) number of decision points for the size and duration of the game
Tiny Epic Galaxies may be compact, but it gives you a less-than-compact number of things to think about over the course of the game. At the start of the game, you have to select one of two objectives, which will give you something to focus on for the rest of the game. Do you have to be the one with the most culture at the end? You might want to focus on acquiring planets with powers that will allow you to more easily acquire culture. Do you have to have the fewest planets at the end? You might want to focus on colonizing a few high-VP planets rather than many low-VP planets. Do you have to have the most planets at the end or the most of a specific type of planet? Focus on colonizing many low-VP planets or planets of that specific type. These objectives will give you a general idea about how to play the game and help you carve out a strategy for the rest of it. Selecting an objective is an important decision.
Now, once you've selected your focus for the game, you have to find a way to accomplish it. Each turn, you will first have to consider the dice you have rolled, as these will present you with the actions you'll be able to perform. As I mentioned above, you'll be able to re-roll any dice you don't like for free once and then again and again as long as you keep paying 1 energy each time or use two dice to convert another die to an action you desire. Whether you decide to manipulate your dice or not, you'll have to think not only about the actions that you want to take each turn, but also the order of operations. If you have ships on a cultural planet and are able to harvest culture AND colonize that planet on the same turn, you need to harvest that culture prior to completing the colonization and sending the ships back to your galaxy. If you are able to trigger a colonized planet effect and colonize a planet, you may want to colonize the planet first. These seem like simple considerations, but when you include all the planetary powers in the equation, they do add to the overall complexity.
You also have to constantly keep tabs on your resources. Because you are managing two different types of resources, have hard caps on each, and can use each to accomplish multiple different things, you are constantly forced to make tradeoffs. You can use energy to upgrade your empire, re-roll dice, and perform other effects that depend on the planetary powers in play. You can use culture to upgrade your empire, follow your opponent's actions, and again, perform other effects that depend on the planetary powers in play. As such, you have to think about the relative importance of following an action vs. saving your culture to upgrade your empire and using culture to upgrade your empire vs. using energy to upgrade your empire...You are constantly juggling between these two resources, trying to ensure you have enough of both to follow, re-roll dice, and trigger planetary powers (for example, one allows you to spend two energy to move a ship two spaces on a planet's colony track) while trying to upgrade your empire ASAP because an upgraded empire will enhance your ability to perform actions with more dice and ships!
Tiny Epic Galaxies also forces you to think about your opponent(s). First, the culture tracks on planets allow you to compete with your opponent to colonize a planet. Usually, it isn't worth trying to do this because the player who reached the planet first will typically end up colonizing it (as I'll discuss again in the section), but sometimes, it can be worth trying. Tiny Epic Galaxies is a game of efficiency and if you can force your opponent to waste a few actions by colonizing a planet before he can, you probably should. When you're deciding whether to compete on these tracks, you have to consider your ability to get to the end faster than your opponent and ideally in the same turn you land on the track. Alternatively, you may have colonized planets that give you exclusive access to abilities that allow you to push your opponent's ship back on the colony track.
Also, as I mentioned in an earlier point, in Tiny Epic Galaxies, you are making decisions even outside of your turn! Because you are able to follow your opponent's actions by spending culture, you're thinking about all the same things you would be thinking about on your turn on your opponent's! Most of the time...when you aren't an uncultured war monger!
6. Huge replay value - a gazillion different planets and objectives to explore
What it lacks in depth, Tiny Epic Galaxies makes up for in breadth of decision points. The game comes with a large deck of planet powers, of which you will only see a subset in any single two-player game. Each game will be made somewhat different by the planetary abilities you have available to use. One game may be rendered vicious by the ability to push ships back on their colonization tracks or steal energy, while another may be relatively friendly due to the absence of such planets. In one game, you may find it easy to colonize planets that are diplomatically inclined, while in another you may be more economy focused. The combination of planetary powers available in any given game will change the options you have and thus change the way you play the game.
Another factor that enhances replay value in Tiny Epic Galaxies are the secret mission cards. There are many of them, they are all different, and they work to focus your strategy in a unique way, as described above.
It's baaaaaaaaaaack! Despite the fact that you are presented with no fewer than 4 different ways to control the actions you have available to you (i.e. dice rolls), you are still somewhat at the mercy of dice in Tiny Epic Galaxies. If you just get unlucky and keep rolling actions you can't use and are forced to use the converter or energy or culture to get your dice to behave, while your opponent keeps rolling actions that benefit him without having to make any sacrifices, you'll be left in the dust. This is a game of efficiency that rewards careful planning and optimization. But if you're repeatedly dice-d out of planning and optimization, you could end up at the bottom of the VP pile.
2. The two-player version doesn't provide enough options for me, but this is easily modified to suit personal preferences and I FAR prefer my version
When setting up the planet display, the Tiny Epic Galaxies rulebook instructs you to reveal a number of planet equal to 2 + the number of players. This means that 4 planets are revealed in a 2-player game and 6 in a 4-player game. My guess is that the number of planets revealed is reduced across player counts in order to encourage competition between players to colonize planets. However, the end result is not so much to encourage competition as it is to reduce the number of options you have for expanding your colonized planet tableau and triggering planet effects, as well as to increase randomness.
First, even with only 4 planets on display, we have rarely found it beneficial to compete with each other to colonize a planet. The first person to get there is most likely to get the planet, barring any wacky special powered planets being on display or in our colonized planet tableaus. Late in the game, it becomes more likely that you'll be able to compete and take over a planet in one shot by using colonized planet powers or by pushing your opponent's ship back on the colonization track. However, particularly early in the game, your ability to compete on the colonization tracks will be entirely dependent on the planetary powers on display and in your colonized planet tableau.
Now, you could argue that trying to colonize a planet to which your opponent has committed some resources in one go should be a priority because doing so would effectively result in wasting some of your opponent's actions. In a game that demands efficiency, this can result in a serious setback. Right? Yes. Right. However, reducing the number of planets on display doesn't make this option any more palatable than it would be otherwise. Bumping your opponent off a colonization track is equally attractive with more planets on display as with fewer planets. The main difference is that you have fewer ways to accomplish this with fewer planets in play.
So the restricted planet display doesn't exactly encourage competition. What does it do? It effectively reduces the number of options you have on your turn. Planetary powers are the tastiest part of Tiny Epic Galaxies; they give you options for actions beyond the basic few in the game, allowing you to create interesting combinations. Without options, you have fewer interesting things to consider.
The restricted planet display also increases the level of randomness in the game. A number of secret objectives demand that you have colonized the most of a particular planet type at the end of the game. If you fail to see a sufficient number of those planets or end up revealing them for your opponent by colonizing other planets, you could end up out of luck due to luck of the draw.
We like options. And we don't like randomness. If you are like us, you may find that your Tiny Epic Galaxies become more a tiny bit more epic if you increase the planet display from 4 to 6 when playing with 2 people.
3. A number of powers are not very useful when playing with only two players
A number of planetary powers are far less useful when playing with two players than they would be with more, leaving those planets largely ignored when they show up in the display. Planets with powers like "get 1 energy every time you are followed this round" are far less likely to get you results when only one player is available to trigger them. This means that the planetary display can get stale and rot over time, with relatively useless powers simply sitting on the table for the duration of the game. With the large number of planets in the game, you could theoretically remove those, but it may impact the relative distribution of various planet types, so I'm not eager to try that.
4. Needs a point track!
The end of the game is triggered when one player gets to 21 points. This means that it is important to keep track of not only your current point total, but also those of your opponents. The rulebook instructs you to add up and announce your current point total at the end of each turn to keep everyone up to date as to how soon the game might end. This method works and isn't much more than a minor nuisance, but it is still a nuisance that takes a bit of time and could easily be avoided with a point track. Instead of adding up all your points each turn, you could just add the points you gained this turn to the track. I understand that the goal of this "tiny epic" series is to keep the games small, but I don't think that another thin board containing a point going from 1 to 25 would have significantly increased the size of the final product, but it would have made it significantly easier for players to keep an eye on each other. This doesn't bother me too much, as it isn't that difficult to keep track of only one opponent, but this complaint would increase in significance with player count.
5. Not so original
If you are someone who insists on keeping a small collection of games that each feature a different mechanism, you may not find Tiny Epic Galaxies to be a necessary addition. The game doesn't feature any new and exciting mechanisms, nor does it put an altogether new spin on familiar mechanisms. I'm not trying to say that it isn't worth owning. It is. It just isn't going to blow anyone's mind when it comes to originality. Alternatives with similar mechanisms and theme but a bit more to chew on include Roll for the Galaxy & Race for the Galaxy. That said, if you enjoy those games, you may find Tiny Epic Galaxies of interest.
I don't have a huge need for filler games. I have a few go-to fillers that I am happy to play on occasion and both Peter and I tend to prefer puzzly fillers to any other type. Tiny Epic Galaxies is a non-puzzly filler, but we still enjoy it a lot. It takes about 20 minutes to play and gives us plenty to think about, while keeping us engaged in the game for the duration of that time. As a food item, Tiny Epic Galaxies would be a trifle. It is light and bouncy and not to be taken too, too seriously due to the randomness of dice, but it isn't one of those completely airy-fairy fruit-filled, ladyfinger-whipping cream trifles. This is more like a brownie-chocolate pudding trifle. Much more substantial. You have many things to think about. Some decisions are quite smooth and go down easy, but others take a bit more crunching. You'll be done in no time at all and asking for more!
MINA'S LOVE METER SOME LOVE (with a 6-planet display) All the tiny epic planets...and a drunk one!
Mina's Love Meter
- I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale) Dislike
- I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale) Some like
- I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale) Like
- I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale) Some love
- I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale) Lots of love
- I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale) All love all the time
- I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)
Regarding a score track; there is actually a printable scoretrack that was unlocked during the kickstarter as bonus content. You can download it, along with extra Rogue galaxies for the solo game, a start player marker, and a Game Achievements chart, from the game's File page, here.
Admittedly though, I haven't printed it, as it's VERY ink-heavy (the background is almost entirely blue/black).
Totally agree on the 2-player planets display. I'll usually still play with just 4 planets in the display, but 6 would give a lot more options. And agree on some planets' powers being fairly useless in a 2-player game. As you say, it's hard to work around that without potentially unbalancing things, but I've not found it to be a huge problem overall; the planets end up getting bought at some point just to boost a player's points, so they don't stay out forever.
I also once played this with 5 players. Suffice to say, the upper game length stated on the box is WAY short of what actually happened. It took 1.5 hours (and with seasoned gamers, so teaching the rules took about 5 minutes), which is far too long for a game of this weight. I'll never play at that player count again.
- Last edited Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:01 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:56 am
Thanks for the thoughtful review! I'm glad you enjoyed your plays, and I'm glad you were able to find a simple modification that made it work for your table. As a designer, I never mind players making little tweaks to make the game work better for them. Games work for different people in different ways. Thanks for putting this together
Very nice review - and I do agree with many of the OP's assessments. While TEG is certainly "viable" as a two player, it just doesn't flow as well as it does with 3-4 (what I consider the game's "sweet spot"). Other games in the Tiny Epic series seem a bit better suited for 2 players. TEK and TED hit the table much more often as two player games when we are looking for something Tiny & Epic.
Another thing that is worth mention is that the expansion "Beyond The Black" comes with a score tracker that works for this game and the expansion. I don't recall whether it was deluxe content or not, but it will be available from Gamelyn's website for Preorder, or you may still be able to preorder from the now complete Kickstarter page.
Another thing that is worth mention is that the expansion "Beyond The Black" comes with a score tracker that works for this game and the expansion. I don't recall whether it was deluxe content or not, but it will be available from Gamelyn's website for Preorder, or you may still be able to preorder from the now complete Kickstarter page.It comes with the basic pledge (no Deluxe needed).