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Subject: "Well, that was fun!" Reviewing the Prototype of Tiny Epic Defender rss

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Michael Johnson
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Preface: I was one of the lucky few who received a prototype of Tiny Epic Defenders (TED) for review purposes. Additionally, I backed Tiny Epic Kingdomson Kickstarter (and plan to back TED). However, these factors do not influence my overall opinions on or experiences with TED.

Game Overview: As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a handful of reviews for TED already, and several of those have detailed explanations of the rules. So, instead of describing the rules in detail here, I will say that, in a nutshell, this game feels like a light mashup of Castle Panic and Forbidden Island/Dessert. The game plays quickly--in 20 to 30 minutes— and, unlike Tiny Epic Kingdoms, TED is a strictly cooperative experience.

Images and video of this game are available, but considering that these are images of a prototype, I doubt they reflect the quality or design of the intended final product. Readers interested in what the final quality may be should refer to Tiny Epic Kingdoms, as I imagine TED will be in the same ballpark.

Initial Impressions: There were a few snafus in the rules (though I’m sure these will be ironed out), but the game sets up and plays quickly and is easy to understand. Once I played my first game, I had no problem explaining the rules to others, and everyone I played with understood what was going on and what they could(n’t) do. Also, and obviously, it’s easy to transport. On this account, ease of learning and transportability, TED excels.

As for playing the game… First, the game itself takes on a different feel when playing with 2, 3, or 4 players, but that feel has more to do with some scaling issues than player dynamics. Three player games feel particularly difficult. This issue may be a moot point, however, as I have seen the designers say that they are aware of and addressing the balance issues.

Second, the game relies on a shuffled deck of cards that contains both the threats and players’ turns to determine the events in the game. To say this another way, the game relies on a “randomness engine” to provide a variable experience. As you may expect, this creates an element of luck that may frustrate some people. In its less favorable moments, this game can take on that unfortunate Death Angel: The Card Game feeling of no control ("Well, I guess it doesn't rreeaallyy matter how well I play"). There were moments when our play experience felt less like strategic management of threats and more like unfortunately drawing into a series of cards that basically amounted in a “game over.” Because of this element, as can be imagined, the difficulty in the game ranges widely, though it tends to favor the more difficult side of the scale. Again, the designers have already said that they’re working on a few alterations that will help to mitigate this situation. Additionally, considering the quick and relatively simple play of TED, I was not as bothered by the heavy luck factor.

Hopes: As others have said, more variety would benefit this game. And, if the KS is anything like TEK, that shouldn't be a problem. I think it could be interesting to see the roles in this game replaced with the races from TEK (e.g., Warlord becomes Orc). The abilities could roughly stay the same, but it'd be a nice thematic tie-in. Also, it would be fun to see interchangeable capital cities based on each faction -- each of these cities could have a passive ability that is the same as the respective role ability (e.g., the Human Capital City has the standard CC ability and the Human role ability). Players could choose to use their native ability or spend an HP to use the extra CC ability.

Final Verdict: If you want TED to replace Pandemic (or, more appropriately Defender of the Realm), it won't. But it doesn't need to. What TED provides is a fun, contained solo/cooperative experience that can be played with both gamers and non-gamers alike. The key for TED will be price point, and as long as it excels at that, this game deserves to be on your radar.
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Alan Stewart
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I've read so many reviews now that I'm getting a bit confused but has anyone talked about how well the game does with an alpha gamer? Is it prone having the one know-it-all geek tell everyone what to do or is it quick enough that people can take their moves and there's not really enough analysis-paralysis to bog things down? I guess if it's playing quickly it's not getting bogged down.

And I like your suggestions. I know the developers are reading all of these reviews so here's hoping that when the Kickstarter launches, they've got an armload of stretch goals taken from all these suggestions. Certainly the biggest things would be making more heroes, hordes, capital cities, and final foes to (randomly?) choose from.
 
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Matt Fikes
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I read a review somewhere on here where they mentioned that quarterbacking is somewhat hampered by the randomness of player turns, so that might help to mitigate alpha players somewhat.
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Alan Stewart
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Yeah, I read something like that too just recently. I can see how it's a problem in the games where ALL the players move at once so the one person can just say "you do this, you do this, you do this, then I'll come in as the EPIC HERO and win the game for us". But since every player gets their turn when their card is drawn, the most a quarterback can say is "you need to do this" but then then ALL the players can say that, and it's STILL the current player's turn to make their decision. So yeah, I LIKE that feature, a lot!
 
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Michael Johnson
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I think almost all cooperative games have the potential to suffer from alpha gamers, and TED, in my experience, is no more prone to this than any other games -- and perhaps less so based on what has been discussed above.

I've backed the KS and it's progressing quite nicely. The base KS game comes with 4 heroes, 7 horde cards, 8 epic foes, 4 dire enemies (new), and 8 artifacts (new). The deluxe version adds 1 new card for each category. The stretch goals so far have added a card or two to the above categories, not to mention some nice component upgrades (such as shaped markers/trackers instead of generic cubes).

My general rule of thumb for KS projects is that 1) I do not use KS as a "pre-order system" (games are *usually* cheaper at online retailers like Coolstuff or Miniature Market anyways), and 2) I do not back games that do not benefit from me backing them. As each stretch goal is met, TED gets better and better, and, because of that, I have thrown my money at this project!
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fer moros
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I agree with the review, this is very much like Castle Panic, but with an artwork more appealing to gamers -by the way, very nice artwork-

After one game, I was thinking how to make a more simple implementation of the game (before I saw the PnP free version) and realised that the game follows the same layout than Castle Panic, but with 6 areas instead of 3 around the core which is vulnerable if any of the outer areas fails.

In castle panic you play cards from your hand but in this game they come out of a deck.
 
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