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Scott Almes On Rolling For Tiny Epic Galaxies

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The Inquisitive Meeple
Scott Almes On Rolling For Tiny Epic Galaxies

Happy New Year! The first interview for 2015, is another interview with Scott Almes, about a new Tiny Epic game, Tiny Epic Galaxies. This time around not only is it a dice game, but for the first time the Tiny Epic family goes Sci-Fi. For 2-4 players, in Tiny Epic Galaxies, "each player controls their very own galaxy! From which they will develop their empire by managing resources, expanding their fleet, colonizing planets, and exploiting their enemies' position. "

The last time we spoke was back in June 2014 for Tiny Epic Defenders. Since that time, Tiny Epic Kingdoms as finally hit backers doorsteps. How has the response for the game been now that the finished product is out in the wild?

Scott: The response has been fantastic. I've been really pleased with the reception and the support from the gaming community. People seem to be really enjoying it.

What was it like for you to finally get the final copy in your hands and what was the first class you played with your final copy of the game?

Scott: Well, first I gave some kudos to Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games for the production of the game. Everything about the game turned out fantastic, starting with the thick awesome box. It is a truly professional production.

Honestly, I can't remember the first faction I played with after getting the finished copy. I do remember my wife had the Dark Elves, and she won.

Another year has come and gone. What were your goals, as a game designer, for 2014 and do you think you met them all?

Scott: My goals for 2014 were pretty simple. I wanted to reach out and become a more active member of the community, and I wanted to do some designs outside of my comfort zone. I think I accomplished both. I've gotten to know a lot more people within the board game community, put myself out there in more interviews and podcasts, and really enjoyed diving deeper into the hobby. And, you'll be seeing some very different designs from me in 2015. Tiny Epic games are my core competency, but there's a couple things that are a bit more out there.

What are you goals as a game designer for 2015?

Scott: I want to continue to challenge myself. Tiny Epic is a fantastic playground - each game is something new, and has a very specific set of goals that make it a Tiny Epic game. So, growing the Tiny Epic brand is a big priority of mine. Michael is really great to work with, and it's just a fun and fulfilling line of games to design. And, of course, I'll be doing some designs outside of Tiny Epic as well. Not everything can fit in a small box.

You are back on Kickstarter with yet another new Tiny Epic game, Tiny Epic Galaxies. This time instead of going the fantasy route – you went with a sci-fi one. Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game TEG is and give us an overview on how it is played?

Scott: Tiny Epic Galaxies is a dicey euro game with high variability and fun, strategic choices. The heart of the game is the dice action system. You roll a handful of dice, which will give you actions. How you chain these actions together can result in some very fulfilling combos. Players will colonize planets, upgrade their galaxy for more dice and ships, collect resources, and compete to make their galaxy the most powerful in the universe. A fun twist also comes in with a mechanic that allows you to copy other players' dice rolls, which keeps everyone involved turn to turn.

What is the story behind the creation of Tiny Epic Galaxies?

Scott: TE Galaxies started with Kingdoms. Michael and I knew we were onto something special, and we wanted to continue to grow the brand. We had some core concepts we wanted to keep: each game is different, each game fits in the small box, and each game will bring the experience of something big into a small box. So, with Defenders going into development, we talked about what game would come after. The answer seemed simple: it was time to go to space!

Dice games can have, well, lots of luck in them. Is there anything in the game that mitigates the luck at all and helps with any “bad rolls” that might ruin the player experience?

Scott: There are a couple elements in the game that mitigate bad rolls. From a meta concept, you can't get a bad roll - but you could get a sub-optimal one. There is always something you can do, and in the rare case you couldn't you could use a converter to change them into something good (at a price). You can spend energy in order to reroll dice. And, there's a mechanic where you can use culture (another resource).

Speaking of culture. In the game you can use culture to advance your planet even when it is not your turn, by following/mimicking other players actions. Making it important to pay attention to other players turns, what do you feel this adds to the experience?

Scott: Being able to do something out of turn is a core concept that we've been keeping with the Tiny Epic series. In TE Kingdoms, players have an option of following an action that another player chooses. In TE Defenders, you can defend against creatures out of turn. And, in TE Galaxies, you can spend culture to copy dice. As often as it makes sense for the game, I'm going to try and keep this element in all Tiny Epic games. It keeps players involved - and having fun - the whole time.

Do you have a favorite dice game? And did any dice games influence you when you were designing TEG?

Scott: I'm a big fan of the newer VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game. The core concept of each roll being usable, even if it wasn't what you wanted, really rang true in that game. TC, the designer, did a great job there.

One thing we see different in TEG is that there isn’t any special “alien races” like we see different fantasy races in previous Tiny Epic Games. Why did you decide not to add different races, this time around?

Scott: TE Galaxies has a nearly infinite level of customization with the number of planets in the game, but it's done in a different way. So, in TE Kingdoms, you had a faction with 5 specific magic levels on them that would give you special abilities. In TE Galaxies, you gain special powers as you colonize planets. So, you customize your galaxy yourself and everyone starts with a blank slate. TE Kingdoms had a set ability path, and TE Galaxies's is open. Both have their merits - TEK gets variability from the number of factions and territories while TEG gets it from the number of planets. I wanted to make sure TEG had a high amount of variability, but I wanted to make sure it felt fresh and different from the previous games.

How does the 2-player game of TEG differ in feel or rules to the 4-player game?

Scott: It feels pretty similar. There's a bit more competition in the 4-player game, as you have to watch out for more players taking the planets you want. But, they feel very similar. The 4-player game runs a little bit longer, and the 2-player game a bit shorter.

What was the best piece of feedback you received from a play tester when you were still prototyping the game?

Scott: When we sent out the preview copies, we got a good piece of feedback. Basically, there is a 1 in 300 chance that your first roll (and one reroll) will give you nothing to do on your turn. This is only a problem for the first player (the others can follow with culture) and you can use energy to continue to reroll (but this feels lame to reroll 2-3 times to be able to do ANYTHING). So, from that, we clearly had an issue. Not one that comes up very often, but still an issue. So, we added the Converter mechanic. Basically, you can discard two dice to convert a third into whatever you want. It's a simple change, and it actually makes the game better, as good changes do. So, it ended up being more than just a fix, it was a genuine improvement.

What was your favorite part of designing the game?

Scott: It's going to be a cheesy answer: I think it's really fun designing games with custom dice. And, coming up with new ways for dice to function in a game is an interesting exercise in design.

What was the most challenging part of designing it?

Scott: The success of TEK, actually. TE Defenders was already in a state of development with TEK took off. But, TE Galaxies was the first Tiny Epic game I designed to be part of the series. With how well TE Kingdoms was received, I felt a lot of pressure while designing Galaxies. Since it was part of the same Tiny Epic line, there was a reputation to maintain. Having that weight over me was challenging, but it was also a good thing. It helped motivate me to really dig into the design.

Before we go, what can you tell us about the secret mission goals, that may show up as a possible stretch goal?

Scott: It's a pretty cool stretch goal. Basically, you get two secret mission cards at the beginning of the game, choose one, and then that gives you a secret goal. If you meet this goal at the end of the game, you'll collect some extra victory points.

The Deluxe level pledge on the Kickstarter comes with a mini expansion, entitled Satellites and Super Weapons. How does this mini-expansion work and what does it add to the game?

Scott: The Satellites work as a push-your luck reward. When you upgrade your galaxy, at certain levels you'll be rewarded with a satellite. You place this on a planet in the middle, and whoever gains that planet keeps the satellite. Satellites are worth points at the end of the game. You can also use a satellite to trigger the ability of the Super Weapon. There is one Super Weapon out at a time, and it gives players a powerful action. It can also be blown up for points with a ship, which is a fun little twist. The mini-expansion makes the game a bit more complicated that make it not quite ideal for the base game, but it adds some more fun and variation to the game. After you get a game or two of the base under your belt, I think a lot of people will enjoy adding them into the game.

When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Tiny Epic Galaxies?

Scott: That it's fun the play and others are enjoying it. That's the most satisfying part of any design. But, if I had to pick a particular part of the design, I would say how the dice and your spaceships interact. Mechanically, it actually works a bit like a worker placement game where your dice drive and command your workers. I think that's pretty unique.

Finish this sentence in 12 words or less. Tiny Epic Galaxies is ________.

Scott: A strategic, dice-combo-ing game of galactic conquest in a small box.

Could you give us some hints about what the next Tiny Epic game will be about – either theme or mechanics wise?

Scott: Nope

I can say it'll be in a small box, be a new take on a classic mechanic, and will be tons of fun. Oh, and it will be published by Gamelyn Games.

What is on the horizon for you, design wise, in 2015 that we should be on the lookout for?

Scott: Let's see, there are two projects also earlier this year that I can't announce quite yet - but I'm hoping too soon. But, I can talk about:

Loop Inc - My time travel game with Gryphon Games, coming to Kickstarter Q2. You are running a time travel agency and sending customers back in time. At the end of the day, you send yourself back in time, but you have to repeat past actions. It's very original, I think, and a bit of a brain burner towards the end.

The Great Dinosaur Rush - My awesome quasi-historical dinosaur-building game will be coming to Kickstarter through APE Games around Q2 also. It's themed around the Bone Wars (also known as The Great Dinosaur Rush) and allows players to be as creative as they are strategic. This one is the more unique game I've ever designed, and it's going to stretch some new (fun) gaming muscles.

Blast! - A real-time steampunk dice-combat game coming out the first half of this year. This'll be through GreenBrier Games, and will include some very cool miniatures.

...and, that's all I can talk about at the moment. There will be more to talk about soon.

As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?

Scott: Just to check out Tiny Epic Galaxies on January 8th! Please join us in the comments sections - it's very active, and I want to say hi to all of you. You can also follow me on twitter @Scott_Almes if you want to chat about games.

As always, thanks Scott, for taking time out to do this interview.

For those interested in Tiny Epic Galaxies, you can check out the Kickstarter by clicking here.

What's that you say? Inquiring meeples want to know more?
You may want to check out these links:

Gamelyn Games official webpage

Tiny Epic Clan - BGG Guild for all things Tiny Epic

Already a fan? Check out these microbadges:

Tiny Epic Galaxies fan - mb mb

Tiny Epic Defenders fan - mb mb

Tiny Epic Kingdoms fan - mb mb mb

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