TINY EPIC QUEST is my first introduction to the TINY EPIC series of games that are currently one of the major talking points between board games players. It comes in a teeny tiny box, compared to most board games, that is slightly larger than one-deck card games but slightly smaller (and thus more pocket-sized - but not quite unless you have large pockets) than many other "small" box games. Designed/created by Scott Almes with super illustrations and art by Miguel Coimbra, Adam P. McIver and Benjamin Shulman, it is published by GAMELYN Games for 1-4 players of just-teen age and above.
Having arthritis in both hands, mainly my thumb and forefinger, one thing I will say about Tiny Epic Quest is that it's not really particularly accessible for anyone with arthritis in both hands, mainly the thumb and forefinger. The amusing thing about it being a Tiny game is that the Meeples involved are plastic and also larger than regular wooden meeples. The front of these bigger Meeples has a meeple-outline which looks like it was readied to take a meeple character sticker, the likes of which never making it to the game's production. As it is we have nondescript single colour adventurer meeples with no personality as well as non-bleeding stigmata in each arm - holes in the centre (where hands should be).
The board is created by placing the 17 Map tiles onto the table in the shown orientation, ensuring that the four of them with Castles are positioned as shown in the rules booklet. These Castles are colour coded to the player's three Hero Meeple pieces and Character sheets. This means that the map is different every game, and although we haven't deviated from the display map I am sure that as long as you make it fair to all players the Map can be set out in whatever shape you like. You should take into account that each tile looks to be split into four sections, separated by River or Road but this is a misnomer, and for a fair while during your first game (in fact anyone's first game) it is hard to get your head around that there are only two sections and it is the River that separates them, thus the Left side North & South is one space and the Right side North & South is a separate distinctive space. I will also point out here, before I forget it, that although the tiles have two sides when it comes to being on the Coast it is the entire tile that counts as being on the Coast not just the outer edge of the tile that has open table next to it.
Some of the pieces in the game are thoughtful and aesthetic but really unnecessary and because it is a Tiny game they are also flipping fiddly. Case in point is the Items rack that is made of three pieces of card - 2 sides and a cross bar for support - that almost always falls apart when picked up. This leads on to the items of the rack themselves - these are very smallwhite plastic shapes of various objects that can be found and possibly used in the game. Each of these has a plug on it for fixing it onto the Rack or into a Meeple character's hand - they do plug in quite well as long as you give them that extra squeeze, but then you have no small amount of problems tryin g to move tem around. Great idea, very nice to see - Meeples with pop-in equipment - but very, very fiddly and very easy to lose; for instance, you can accidentally flip a piece towards the floor where it will almost certainly be difficult to find.
Players select a chatracter sheet and take the three associated (by colour) knights. These are placed onto their Home Castle on the previously laid out map tiles which have been placed in a suggested grouping but with mainly random placements. Each player character sheet has a fair amount of game information which is always in front of you, however I found that there are parts of it, which due to the fact there are pieces placed on it that partially cover the text such as the wooden Life Heart and Triangular Power markers. The thinner card mini markers can sit on or next to the board, being easily knocked asunder by a sneeze or heavy breath or more likely by moving the character card a little or simply by moving one of the other markers on this sheet.
The players each have an Adventure/Rest card which is always visible in front of them. If they flip it to the Rest side they are basically missing a turn to heal up, otherwise it stays on the Adventure side showing that they are exploring, fighting or studying. At the start of the first phase, the Day Phase, the players are Adventuring and to begin with this entails moving one of their three Heroes on the map board.
The game-play is in two parts. First off the is the DAY phase which entails the Heroes being moved. There are five movement cards available on the first Round, 4 on the second, 3, then 2, 1 is left unused (a Round being each player having a Turn in the Day Phase): Movement can be by Horse (straight down the road), by Foot (from one Tile to another Tile - not to the other space on the Tile being moved from). BY Raft - sailing down the river on a sunny afternoon), By Gryphon (flying diagonally in any direction) and by Ship (sailing around the outer edge of the Map - remember that the entire tile counts as being on the outer edge of the map if any of it's edges are not adjacent to another tile The first player decides on a mode of transport by choosing one of the movement cards and then they move one of their heroes according to the rules of the chosen card - angry Goblins will do their best to prevent you getting where you want (if you are powerless and try to go past them) - and then in turn order (clockwise) the other players each move one of their heroes using the same movement method as chosen by the first player. Then the second player selects a mode of transport and again in turn order, this time from the second player, all players again move a hero (any hero including the one previously moved), and so on so that all players have chosen at least one mode of transport card and 4 movement cards have been selected. With 2, 3 or 4 players four movement cards are always brought into play but players can choose to idle and not move at any time in this phase.
Goblins are either Green or Red. If they are Green they are Passive and they don't attack and they don't mind you passing by them (which throws the backstory a little because we are told that Goblins are spewing forth from the Underworld and destroying the sacred mushroom grottos), however after they have been sitting pretty for a while they get bored and angry and that's when they need dealing with, however they never move or attack they are more like movement blockers, however the player's heroes can attack the Goblins whatever colour they are, but they must defeat a Goblin 5 times in the same turn using the Green "attack" face of the rolled dice; defeated Goblins count towards the player's score at the end of the game.
The dice. Five six-sided dice with 6 uniquely different faces. Green for Attack, Brown (triangle) for Power, Yellow (scroll), Orange (torch), Red (damage) and Purple (Magic/Possible damage). These are rolled at the beginning of the Night phase just after the players have decided if they need to Rest or are going on an Adventure. When the dice are rolled - it's a good idea to roll them into the Box Lid because apart from preventing them rolling onto the floor or moving things on the map the designers have printed the order of die resolution and created a dice grotto:- First any Damage is taken. The Red faces of the dice are put to one side and the players in turn order take one damage each, marking it off on their character boards, until all the damage has been distributed - some players may take more than one (remember that anyone Resting isn't there so cannot take damage), then Power is next and treated the same way. After these come Magic (which under some circumstances may deal additional damage), then Torch, Scroll and Attack Goblin in any order, these last three all being used by each player in turn mainly for exploring Temples.
Exploring the Temples is required to get the three basic (but somewhat special) weapons/equipment for your Heroes. These pieces of equipment (remember the fiddly tiny grey item models well the ones on your board are known as Legendary Items) begin life on each player's character board as markers. In front of each are two temples and to gain the Item you have to complete an exploration of each of those Temples in the order they are shown on your board. When you do the Item marker is moved along one space and after the second Temple has been explored successfully you fit the Item onto one of your Meeple Heroes, not necessarily the one that completed the Temple. There are Quest cards always on display and some of these require you to complete a Temple exploration. As we understand it, if you do this at the same time as completing your Legendary Item task then you may collect the Legendary Item and the Item on the Quest card (and the Quest card itself), but if by completing a Temple exploration there are two Quest cards that could be fulfilled you may only choose one.
TINY EPIC QUEST from GAMELYN is a large game in a small box. I think "Fiddly Tiny Epic Quest" would be a more suitable title but that's personal as already explained. The gameplay is good, the mechanics are sound and there is a lot more game than first impressions give, it is almost like a role-play game without a GM that has met up with a military logistics expert. There is need of a fair amount of mental book-keeping, some strategies, some luck and some worker-placement-usage skills. It is beautifully produced with great pieces and legendary artwork (already mentioned but worthy of a second note). It should be available from your local game store for about £25.00 which considering the number and quality of the pieces as well as the epic gameplay is a more than fair price.
Please take note that although this game has the word TINY in its title you still need a full sized table/play area so don't be mislead by its name into thinking you could play it in the car or on a train etc. This is just a warning for prospective buyers who may be looking for a Travel game and get confused with the TINY in the title, it is anything but tiny!. My note is not in any way a complaint about the game. Having played and obviously enjoyed TINY EPIC QUEST I would be interested in seeing/playing some of the other Tiny Epic games, particularly TINY EPIC WESTERN just to see how they stack up against each other (i.e. are they different games or the same game with different pieces for the theme/setting?).
Visit GAMELYN GAMES to discover more Tiny Epic Games:
Kingdoms + Kingdoms Heroes Call expansion
Defenders + The Dark War expansion
Galaxies + Beyond the Black expansion
Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms
GAMELYN GAMES also have a range of Game and expansions for a larger boxed game named HEROES of LAND, AIR and SEA which looks worth taking note of and checking out.