If you’ve read some of our other articles covering previous Kickstarted board/card games that highlight successful elements for other designers to emulate for their campaigns, then you’re probably already familiar with Gamelyn Games and Tiny Epic Kingdoms. It was the first game I ever officially backed on Kickstarter, and it is still one of the best run campaigns I’ve seen in the year since I started actively keeping up with board games on crowd-source websites. Well, TEK hasn’t even shipped yet and Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games are back with the new, cooperative entry in the tiny epic universe: Tiny Epic Defenders. Our game group got the opportunity to try the print and play files for the game over the weekend, so we’ve decided to put up a combined preview/kickstarter highlight instead of doing them separately.
Tiny Epic Defenders pits 1-4 players against hordes of enemies bent on destroying the capital city. The capital is safe at the start of the game thanks to its 6 outlying regions the hordes must traverse before they can start damaging the city. As soon as one of these regions falls, however, any hordes approaching from that area apply their damage directly to the capital unless there’s someone there to defend the territory. Saving these regions is therefore the main focus of the game as players coordinate the defense of these regions until the Epic Foe reveals itself and the heroes are able to destroy the menace.
Setup for the game is extremely easy. Players start the game by placing the capital city in the middle of the table, and then placing the 6 surrounding regions in a random order around it. The regions, each of which has a unique passive or active ability, start the game with a threat level of 1 out of 4(the capital does not start with threat, and has a higher maximum threat before it is defeated). Players all start at maximum health inside the capital. In a 4-player game, a card for each hero is then shuffled into a main draw deck along with 3 random horde cards. This deck constitutes the first round’s action deck. Next, 3 horde cards are added to the main horde deck, along with 1-4 dire monsters based on how difficult players want the game to be(Dire Monsters take more health to defend against each round, but reward powerful artifacts). The remaining 3 horde cards are set aside, but their inclusion in the box allows for some randomization of the horde cards for each game. An Epic Foe card is then chosen at random and placed at the bottom of the horde deck. And that’s it…you’re ready to get slaught…I mean, you’re ready to defend!
The game proceeds in a number of rounds, drawing cards from the action deck and resolving the cards until the deck is depleted, then adding a new horde card from the horde deck and repeating the process until the only card left in the horde pile is the Epic Foe, at which point it spawns in one of the regions and players must defeat it to win while continuing to hold the hordes at bay. When a horde card comes up, it targets 2 regions and increases the threat level of those regions by 1. If a defender is present in a region that is about to take threat, they can opt to take a point of damage to stop the threat level from rising. The real trick here is that since the players can only take their actual turns when their card comes up, you never know whether you’re going to get to execute your strategy before the horde cards come out. In some cases, the heroes may end up taking the majority of their turns at the very end of the round, forcing players to constantly adapt their tactics based on turn order and their current predicament, and to try and plan ahead which regions they should start on for the next round in case they need to defend. If you find yourself at 0 health at the start of your turn, you also won’t be able to take any actions other than moving to the capital so you can heal at the start of your next turn.
When a player’s color card does come up, they have 3 action points to spend any way they choose on the available actions:
Fight: reduces the threat level of the region the player is on by 1, or damages the Epic Foe.
Move: player may move to an adjacent territory(players can only enter/leave the capitol on the cards directly adjacent to the capitol card’s short edges)
Use a Region Ability
Use an Artifact
Additionally, players may take 1 health damage to gain another AP, and they can also use their own power that is unique to their character class.
Our 4-player group started out on the medium difficulty setting(2 dire monsters), and got thoroughly trounced. The hordes started overwhelming us after we added the second horde reinforcement card into the action deck, and we didn’t really realize it could be a good idea to put yourself in harm’s way against the Dire monsters in order to get artifacts. We got beaten again on easy, though not as badly, but by our third and fourth playthroughs we really had the hang of things and started to see how we could strategize based on the horde’s deployment patterns, and how to use our abilities in concert. Even then, Tiny Epic Defenders always presented a challenge even when we weren’t playing with higher difficulties.
This is a game with a very low-barrier entry, but with a lot of potential for more challenging sessions should you so choose. It is exceptionally well balanced, a blast to play, and we really can’t recommend enough that you download the free print and play from the TED BGG page and give it a try for yourself. We tried the 2-player variant as well, and I have to say that it was every bit as enjoyable and balanced as the larger game- we only lost when we felt like we made mistakes, and never had a situation come up where we chalked our defeat up to bad luck with horde card randomization. Since games only take 20ish minutes to complete I can see this becoming a great filler game between heavier sittings, or even one that we pull out for punishing marathons on harder difficulties.
As far as the project’s Kickstarter goes, it looks like they’ve taken lessons from the success of Tiny Epic Kingdoms and produced another outstanding project page with Michael Coe at the helm of PR for the campaign. The game funded its initial goal of $15,000 in roughly 45 minutes, and surged to over $35,000 by the end of the first day. Writing now after its first weekend, the game has raised over $80,000 and already unlocked a great deal of stretch goals including component upgrades, and added monsters and heroes(YAY for added replayability!). The best part may be that, like TEK, TED has a VERY low entry-level price of $16 for the core game, and $24 for the deluxe edition that includes some additional cards.
I’d imagine there are a huge number of stretch goals still to come(including “legendary defender” cards, which were just announced and will feature characters from Tiny Epic Kingdoms), so this is definitely a project that will see increased value as the campaign progresses over what you’re already getting. What is more, this developer has really shown in the past that they care about what backers want, and take community suggestions for changes and additional content very seriously throughout the course of the campaign. It’s definitely a project you can get involved in and really feel like you’re part of the game’s development.
So, try the game out for yourself (it’s free, after all), and then head on over to their Kickstarter page by clicking the image below and take a look!. You won’t be disappointed!
Are you looking forward to Tiny Epic Defenders? Have you already played it? Please share your thoughts on the game below so others can have more information as they look into the project!