Tiny Epic Galaxies Review

Tiny Epic Galaxies is the third game in the Tiny Epic series, from Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games (Tiny Epic Kingdoms, Tiny Epic Defenders).  This sci-fi themed area control game has a lot to live up to in order to claim its place in the excellent Tiny Epic lineage.  TEK had tons of variable player powers and a really accessible take on action selection.  TED brought co-op play and a fun, if occasionally brutal, difficulty curve.  What could Galaxies bring to the table that earns its spot among these great little games?

andysmAndrew:  Actually, there is one thing…

jessmJess:  It’s a game about rolling custom dice, isn’t it.

andysmAndrew:  IT’S A GAME ABOUT ROLLING CUSTOM DICE!!!

It's got more than just nice dice. All set up for a 2-player game, featuring the awesome deluxe playmat
It’s got more than just nice dice. All set up for a 2-player game, featuring the awesome deluxe playmat

Tiny Epic Galaxies is designed to play 2-5 players (though it can also play solo, which I’ll get to), and the box estimates its playtime at around 30 minutes.  More so than other Tiny Epic games, the gameplay of TEG lends itself to just a bit of analysis, so that estimate may be on the low end.  However, canny game design helps keep the game from dragging, even when it takes a little longer than such a small box might imply, for reasons we’ll get to in just a second.

The deluxe playmat is awesome, and the in-box card is awesomely portable! You really can't go wrong with either
The deluxe playmat is awesome, and the in-box card is awesomely portable! You really can’t go wrong with either

In TEG, players will each try to gain the most points by colonizing planets, gathering resources from them, and developing their home Empire.  To do this, they will send starships out to far-flung planets, bringing both economic conquest and diplomacy to bare as they race to be the first to claim the galaxy’s riches for themselves!…and victory points.  Victory points are very important.  It’s not like you can run a star empire without them.

Green's player board at the start of the game. It's really nicely organized and makes tracking things a breeze
Green’s player board at the start of the game. It’s really nicely organized and makes tracking things a breeze

Gameplay is dice-driven, with the active player rolling their compliment of action dice and then resolving them in any order they choose.  At any time during their turn, they can re-roll, either for free (once) or at the cost of one Energy subsequently.  As each die is activated, the rolling player announces they action they will take, giving everyone else a chance to Follow.

andysmAndrew:  The way TEG manages to feel quick despite its occasionally longer playtime is in the Follow mechanic.  Every time one player activates a die, each player has the opportunity to pay one Culture in order to take exactly the same action for themselves.

jessmJess:  I know we pointed this out over and over in reviews of Scott Almes’ games, but this method of keeping everyone interested in each and every turn makes games so much more fun!  Downtime is the worst!  And the way the Follow mechanic is implemented in Tiny Epic Galaxies is streamlined and quick, which makes it even better.

Each die face has a different function, and these play critically into your TEG strategy.  They are:

The faces of conquest!
The faces of conquest!
  • Move a Ship – Send one of your active ships to another planet, either landing on the planet’s surface (to prepare to collect that planet’s resource) or moving into the colonize track (in preparation for colonizing that planet)
  • Advancing Colonization (either Economy or Diplomacy) – For each activated die, move one of your ships one space along the colonize track of a planet with the matching symbol.  When your ship gets to the end of the track, you have colonized that planet
  • Gathering Resources (Either Culture or Energy) – For each ship you have landed on a planet (or still hanging out in your home galaxy), you will gain either Energy or Culture.  These currencies are used either to re-roll dice (Energy), Follow other players’ actions (Culture), to advance your Empire track, or to activate different colony powers
  • Utilize a Colony – Each time you activate a die on this face, you can make use of one of the Colony powers (the most basic of which everyone has, which is to advance their Empire).  These powers are widely varied in cost and effect, and you gain more by colonizing planets
Green has landed on the planet to Gather Energy from it. Red, meanwhile, is preparing to drop a colony on one and Gather from the other
Green has landed on the planet to Gather Energy from it. Red, meanwhile, is preparing to drop a colony on one and Gather from the other.  Note, it takes Diplomacy to colonize the planet on the left and Economy to colonize the planet on the right

andysmAndrew:  Another thing I love about Tiny Epic Galaxies are those Colony powers.  Since each planet is unique, there is a ton of variety to the powers that a player can gather over the course of the game.  And that adds cool strategic questions, too, such as do you go for planets that aren’t worth many victory points (but have awesome Colony powers) versus chasing down planets with bigger point gains but living with less potent abilities?

As red has colonized planets, it has gained new uses for the 'Utilize A Colony' die face
As red has colonized planets, it has gained new uses for the ‘Utilize A Colony’ die face, as well as Victory points

jessmJess:  And make no mistake, that basic ‘Advance the empire’ option is a really important one!  As your empire gets more awesome, you gain access to more ships, more dice, more points, more everything!

Dice get activated 1-by-1, and you always have the option of spending 2 dice to set a third to whatever face you want
Dice get activated 1-by-1, and you always have the option of spending 2 dice to set a third to whatever face you want
A few Secret Mission cards
A few Secret Mission cards

Play continues in turns, with each player rolling and resolving action dice, colonizing planets, and gathering resources until someone hits 21 total Victory points.  The current round is finished and the person with the most total points wins!

jessmJess:  At the beginning of the game, each player got a secret mission card, detailing how they can earn bonus points at the end of the game.  So just because someone hit 21 points first, that doesn’t mean they have a lock on victory – those bonus points can really change things!

We like basically everything about Tiny Epic Galaxies.  The production is typical of Gamelyn Games (which is to say, top notch, especially if you grab the awesome deluxe playmat).  Scott Almes hauls in another winner with TEG’s smooth gameplay that, while dice-driven and relatively streamlined, still feels like it comes from a bigger game.

It's the little things that make Gamelyn Games awesome - the inside of the box doubles as dice tray/cheat sheet
It’s the little things that make Gamelyn Games awesome – the inside of the box doubles as dice tray/cheat sheet
The Satellites & Superweapons mini-expac was part of the TEG Kickstarter, but it can still be found out in the wild
The Satellites & Superweapons mini-expac was part of the TEG Kickstarter, but it can still be found out in the wild

andysmAndrew:  I rarely talk about games ‘firing’ other games – in my experience, as long as there is physical space on my shelf for a good game, there is a place in my collection for that game.

jessmJess:  We are basically out of shelf space, incidentally.

andysmAndrew:  …Sorry, I didn’t catch that.  ANYWAY, to my taste, Tiny Epic Galaxies has just the right combination of luck, planning, and interactivity that makes it a more successful game than many like it.  Eminent Domain, for example, featured the same style of Follow mechanic along with a deckbuilding back-end.  And I really like Eminent Domain.  But TEG just fits my preferences better in basically every way.  Did TEG fire EmDo?  Not really, but I do know which one I pack for board game night and which one I leave on my shelf these days.

jessmJess:  The other thing about TEG that makes it stand out is the solo option.  Rob, thoughts?

robsmRob:  Sure thing.  The back of each player mat in TEG is actually a scripted opponent, each one of varying difficulty levels.  For solo play, you will race against these rogue galaxies as they try to get to either 21 points or maximum Empire level before you do.  The rogues don’t follow your actions, but you can still follow theirs, retaining that feeling of interactivity.

The Rogue galaxies, each with a different difficulty setting. It makes solo play a blast
The Rogue galaxies, each with a different difficulty setting. It makes solo play a blast

robsmRob:  It really is amazing how easy it is to implement TEG’s solo gameplay, and how much it still feels like the 2+ player version of the game.  Too often, solo games feel like watered-down versions of their multiplayer experiences.  Tiny Epic Galaxies doesn’t have that problem.  My only gripe is that I wish that the hardest galaxies were actually harder!  But the game is absolutely great solo.

andysmAndrew:  Tiny Epic Galaxies may just be our favorite Tiny Epic game, and that’s really saying something.  Few games on our shelves manage to pack as satisfying a gameplay experience into such a small box and such a relatively short playtime.  Do yourself a favor and grab a copy right now!

(Thanks to Gamelyn Games for providing us with the deluxe playmat.  It added a touch more epic to this already Epic game!)

 

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