I like the way that Gregg stated it on our Cardboard Carnage Facebook page: “It’s tiny. It’s epic. It’s my kingdom.”
Enough said. The game really is tiny. The player cards are smaller than 4×6 photographs. At the start of the game, each player chooses one faction from a fantastical selection, such as Lizardfolk, Halflings, Orcs, Dark Elves, Shapeshifters, Undead, Centaurs, Dwarves, Merfolk, Goblins, and many others. Each player receives 7 meeples of one color, as well as 1 mana, 1 ore, 1 food, 1 research, 1 tower token, and a randomly-assigned territory card. The largest component of the game is the active player token – the GIANT, gray castle pawn shown above! It actually towers over these tiny kingdoms!
The game certainly is epic in that the ultimate goal is world domination through patrolling, questing, expanding, building, researching, and trading within your own territory, and if you’re willing to risk an invasion, an opponent’s. There are some monumental plans brewing on these tiny little cards with their tiny little meeples.
The idea of this game is to expand and build the realm’s strongest and most revered kingdom. You can attempt this by moving your meeples from one region to another (patrolling) so you end up with one or more meeples in the mountains, forests, plains, and ruins. Meeples may gather mana from the forests, food from the plains, ore from the mountains, and any of the three resources from the ruins whenever an opportunity to gather resources arises.
You may even send your meeples over to other players’ territories (quest) in order to gain benefits from those regions as well. The name of the game is Realm Domination! Just be aware that when you place your meeple on a region with a competing meeple, war may break out and resources will have to be used in defense. Your adventurous meeples may take up residence on an enemy card in any of the regions touching a border, and may move around the territory on future turns, perhaps overtaking a city at some point!
To increase the number of meeples in your faction (expand), you may spend food equal to the number of meeples currently on your territory card, plus 1 for the newly placed meeple. The new meeple must be placed in a location where one of your other meeples already resides.
You may choose to spend ore to build, which moves your tower token up one level at a time on the tower card, one of the more efficient ways to gain points. You may also choose to spend mana to advance your research token one level at a time to unlock your faction’s special abilities (research). And finally, you may choose to trade any number of resources that you own for another type of resource.
The game ends when a faction has advanced their research track to the 5th level OR reached the 6th level on the building track OR put all 7 of their meeples in play. Victory points are then scored: 1 point for each meeple in play (except for meeples in the ruins, who are considered lost…), 1-2 points for capital cities, 1 point for each level of magic reached, and points as indicated on the tower card based on level.
Corey was our guest teacher for the night! He brought Tiny Epic Kingdoms to life for both tables; we ran two full games! Our table was being very methodical; it took a while for everyone to understand the flow of the game. The first player chooses one action on the action card and places a shield on it. If player 1 chose the action “build,” then player 1 must either build or do nothing. Each other player in the game gets to make a decision: do they want to build? OR do they want to gather resources? Once everyone has decided, the active player pawn is passed and it’s the second player’s turn to chose one of the remaining actions on the action card and place a shield on it. Player 2 may choose to “quest” meaning that player 2 must either quest or do nothing. Then everyone else gets to decide between questing or gathering resources. This continues until all 5 shields are placed on the action card, at which point the card is cleared, the active player pawn is passed to a new first player, and the process happens all over again. My group became dependent on the the active player pawn because it really helped us keep track of who was in charge of choosing an action.
When I first played Tiny Epic Kingdoms with Gregg, I didn’t get an accurate feel for the game. With only 2 players, it seemed like a lot of volleying back and forth with no real advantage in the race to build a better kingdom. With more players, the game was more challenging! Plans were easily derailed. Alliances formed. Wars broke out. Magical abilities were unleashed. It was a lot of fun!
While this game may give the appearance of being a “quick play” because of the small box and tiny components, make no mistake; it takes some time to get the hang of the mechanics and may not be a great choice as a gateway game to introduce new gamers to the hobby. It can hold its own as a featured game during game night with your more experienced players, and once they have conquered the mechanics, you can easily play a game in 30-40 minutes.
The general consensus among the players was that the “tiny” gimmick for this game was puzzling and unnecessary; it would have made for an awesome full-scale board game (and would not have lost much portability in the process). The art is very nice. Choosing a faction is great and lends toward replayability. I’m excited to play again! It may be tiny… It is definitely EPIC! It is MY kingdom!!!