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Subject: A review of the prototype version of Tiny Epic Defenders rss

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M Watkins
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Tiny Epic Defenders is a quick playing cooperative card game that challenges your luck and planning skills at every turn. It's playable with one to four people and I would suggest the age range at 12+. The rules aren't difficult to learn and can be explained to a new player in about two minutes. Setup takes about a minute and the game can be played start to finish in about 15-20 minutes.

First, the components of the game- there are wooden tokens and cards.

Wooden Stuff:
Four 1 inch tall wooden 'meeples' represent the players' characters- one each in red, blue, green, and yellow.
Four roughly 1cm cubes color-matched to the meeples that go on the character card in the hit point boxes to show how much health the character has.
One more 1cm cube, black in color, to represent the Epic Foe's hit points on its' corresponding card.
Seven orange blocks the same size as the others to represent the threat level of each of the various regions.

Card Stuff:
6 Player cards
4 Hero cards
7 Region cards
12 Enemy Cards
3 Epic Foe Cards

Second, the setup of the game- each player picks a hero to play from the four available. Then someone sets up the play area using the seven region cards. The Capital City is always in the center and the six other regions are set up in a circle around the Capital. Then, one of the Epic Foes is randomly chosen without the players knowing which one it is and set aside. Next, the Turn deck is created by putting in a specific number of player cards and a specific number of enemy cards together and shuffling them randomly. The number of each type of card that goes into the deck depends on how many players are going to be playing- basically, more players equals more player cards and more enemy cards. After that, the Horde deck is created out of the remaining Enemy cards. Depending on the difficulty chosen for the game, the size of the Horde deck will range from four to all eight of the remaining Enemy cards.

Third, the gameplay- the object of the game is to protect that Capital City from the rampaging hordes bent on destroying it one piece at a time. To do this, the hordes have to first whittle down the outer regions and destroy at least one of them so that future damage that would have hit that outer region bleeds through to the capital. The heroes, being heroically-minded types, do their best to keep that from happening by running around and defending the regions until the Epic Foe gets so frustrated with his minions' failures that it takes to the field itself. Winning the game happens one way and one way only: finishing out the turn deck on the round that the Epic Foe is defeated without losing the Capital. Anything less will end in abject defeat for the heroes as the monstrous hordes overrun the capital and destroy everything the heroes are trying to protect.

The action of the game revolves around the Turn deck- each time a card is drawn, one of two things happens: either a player gets to take a turn or a monstrous horde attacks two regions and raises the threat level by one on each. If a player is lucky enough to be in one of the regions attacked, they can choose to defend it by taking the point of damage meant for the region and hold off the ravening hordes for a little longer. Each character can take three points of damage before having to retreat from battle to the Capital City to heal. Characters don't 'die' when they run out of hit points, but they do lose the ability to intercept incoming damage to a region until they heal.
If a player isn't in a region when it's attacked or doesn't choose to intercept (or can't due to having no hit points left), the region takes a point of damage. If the region absorbs a fourth point of damage, it's destroyed and is flipped over, indicating that region has Fallen. Once a region has Fallen, all future damage to that region is transferred to the Capital. If the Capital takes 6 points of damage, it gets destroyed and the game ends in an immediate loss for the players.
When a player card is drawn from the turn deck, that player gets three actions (four if they are willing to spend a hit point). An action consists of one of four things: moving from one region to another, fighting, using a region's special ability, or using the heroes' special ability. As long as a player has points left to spend, they can move and fight multiple times, but they are limited to using a region or their own special ability only once per turn (unless it's a passive ability, which doesn't cost a point but still has to meet certain conditions to take place). Fighting lowers the threat level of a region by one, making it capable of surviving one more attack from the enemy. Should a region Fall, however, it stays Fallen and can't be healed. Players can't spend action points in the Capital City to lower its' threat, so once a point makes it through there, it's permanent.
When every card in the turn deck has been flipped over and all actions have been taken, the round immediately ends and one of the Horde deck cards is added into the turn deck, representing the Epic Foe sending ever more minions into battle against the heroes. If all the Horde cards have already made it into the turn deck, then the Epic Foe card is revealed and placed in the region indicated on that card. Players then have to figure out how to kill the Epic Foe as well as fight off the hordes that are still targeting the other regions and the Capital.

Fourth, the good, the bad, and the ugly-
The good- It's fun! Running around protecting the land from monstrous hordes is cool and makes for an enjoyable 15 minutes or so.
The bad- the last 5 minutes of the game, the weight of the enemy hordes coming in ever-increasing size almost inevitably proves to be more than the heroes can handle.
The ugly- with the turn deck getting larger every turn because of the addition of more monsters but no more turn cards for the heroes, the deck is literally stacked against you and time is very much not on your side. Even playing exclusively on the 'beginner' difficulty, if the Epic Foe isn't defeated on the turn it comes out, the math of how much damage is guaranteed to come in vs. what the heroes can intercept or reduce on their turn makes it almost impossible to keep the capital from being destroyed.

Fifth- final words- I like the concept behind this game, but players need to go into it knowing that they're likely to lose at least 75% of the games they play. Ramp the difficulty up from Beginner to Easy, and the odds of losing get even higher. Go from Easy to Medium, and I'm not sure it's possible mathematically.

This does NOT make it an un-fun game, though! Much like people go into the old card game of Solitaire and its' variations knowing they're probably going to lose, they still keep playing because there's always that chance, no matter how remote, that they might get the lucky draw and pull out a win- and that can make for an enjoyable time. With a cooperative game like Tiny Epic Defenders, it's all about the journey to the end and having fun getting there, not what happens at the end.

Then again, winning that rare game where everything falls into place just perfectly will be the one you talk about for days anyway- not the one where the enemy horde leaves you beaten, battered and bruised because there were just more of them than you could handle.
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Sky Zero
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An action deck controls game tempo? Is there a pre-construction setup required for the deck? What keeps this fresh and varied each play? Sounds like it could get very samey fast.
 
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Scott Almes
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skyzero wrote:
An action deck controls game tempo? Is there a pre-construction setup required for the deck? What keeps this fresh and varied each play? Sounds like it could get very samey fast.


The deck is seeded with random monsters, you'll have a big selection of heroes, plus you'll have a random epic foe every game... And each epic for gives its own challenge. We have a lot of variability packed in! And each game will give a unique challenge.


Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the game. TED is designed to be a big challenge... But we are going to soften the sting a bit, and make it more approachable for beginners. It will, however, still be a hard win devil

Thank you for the plays and the feedback! I hope you continue to enjoy it
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Michael Coe
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Great review! You really explained the game play well. Thank you and im glad you enjoyed it!
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Sky Zero
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scottbalmes wrote:
skyzero wrote:
An action deck controls game tempo? Is there a pre-construction setup required for the deck? What keeps this fresh and varied each play? Sounds like it could get very samey fast.


The deck is seeded with random monsters, you'll have a big selection of heroes, plus you'll have a random epic foe every game... And each epic for gives its own challenge. We have a lot of variability packed in! And each game will give a unique challenge.


Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the game. TED is designed to be a big challenge... But we are going to soften the sting a bit, and make it more approachable for beginners. It will, however, still be a hard win devil

Thank you for the plays and the feedback! I hope you continue to enjoy it


Thanks for the follow-up and glad to hear there’s many elements of randomness. Looking forward to another Tiny Epic for my collection!
 
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Mike Qunell
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I have played four games of TED with the prototype and I won the fourth game I played. After a few plays I was able to make a couple of adjustments to my strategy which helped. I also got a little lucky with the card draw of the turn deck on the first Epic Foe round which helped.

But even on the first three games I was pretty close to winning so it was not too bad. My review will be coming in the near future hopefully.
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Scott Almes
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HawkFan wrote:
I have played four games of TED with the prototype and I won the fourth game I played. After a few plays I was able to make a couple of adjustments to my strategy which helped. I also got a little lucky with the card draw of the turn deck on the first Epic Foe round which helped.

But even on the first three games I was pretty close to winning so it was not too bad. My review will be coming in the near future hopefully.


Awesome! I look forward to reading your review.
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Mike Qunell
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scottbalmes wrote:
Awesome! I look forward to reading your review.


Don't get too excited. It will be my first foray into writing a game review. I will do my best.
 
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Richard Ham
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Arjous wrote:
I like the concept behind this game, but players need to go into it knowing that they're likely to lose at least 75% of the games they play. Ramp the difficulty up from Beginner to Easy, and the odds of losing get even higher. Go from Easy to Medium, and I'm not sure it's possible mathematically.


I STRONGLY think that the terms used for the difficulty levels of the game should change before it goes to print. I'd suggest:

Beginner
Normal (was "easy")
Challenging (was "medium")
Epic
Impossible

This is an awesome little game... like it A LOT! But I think that the terms should really change so that new player's expectations are in line. For the rules to say that the game is "easy" when it destroys you the first 5 times you play can come across as borderline insulting to players, I think. "What's wrong with you! This level is EASY! You must suck!" the rules imply, or at least, one might infer.

Note, I don't think anything about the difficulty levels themselves needs to change... just the terms to define them.

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Travis Hill
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rahdo wrote:
Arjous wrote:
I like the concept behind this game, but players need to go into it knowing that they're likely to lose at least 75% of the games they play. Ramp the difficulty up from Beginner to Easy, and the odds of losing get even higher. Go from Easy to Medium, and I'm not sure it's possible mathematically.


I STRONGLY think that the terms used for the difficulty levels of the game should change before it goes to print. I'd suggest:

Beginner
Normal (was "easy")
Challenging (was "medium")
Epic
Impossible

This is an awesome little game... like it A LOT! But I think that the terms should really change so that new player's expectations are in line. For the rules to say that the game is "easy" when it destroys you the first 5 times you play can come across as borderline insulting to players, I think. "What's wrong with you! This level is EASY! You must suck!" the rules imply, or at least, one might infer.

Note, I don't think anything about the difficulty levels themselves needs to change... just the terms to define them.




Exactly! I played yesterday with some veteran gamers on the "beginner" mode. They scoffed. I heard, "Oh, so we're playing the baby baby easy mode?" Everything was going swimmingly until that last round. Demolished. They changed their tone at that point.
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Richard Ham
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Of course, the counter argument is that using those terms clues players in that they're doing something wrong if they don't find the game to be easy, because it is pretty easy if you're aggressive about taking an extra damage point to earn an extra AP every turn. So I guess you could leave it as it.

Interesting choice, the more I think about it...
 
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Scott Almes
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rahdo wrote:
Arjous wrote:
I like the concept behind this game, but players need to go into it knowing that they're likely to lose at least 75% of the games they play. Ramp the difficulty up from Beginner to Easy, and the odds of losing get even higher. Go from Easy to Medium, and I'm not sure it's possible mathematically.


I STRONGLY think that the terms used for the difficulty levels of the game should change before it goes to print. I'd suggest:

Beginner
Normal (was "easy")
Challenging (was "medium")
Epic
Impossible

This is an awesome little game... like it A LOT! But I think that the terms should really change so that new player's expectations are in line. For the rules to say that the game is "easy" when it destroys you the first 5 times you play can come across as borderline insulting to players, I think. "What's wrong with you! This level is EASY! You must suck!" the rules imply, or at least, one might infer.

Note, I don't think anything about the difficulty levels themselves needs to change... just the terms to define them.



You make a very good point, Richard. I would expect to see a change of that type in the official version.
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