Tiny Epic Kingdoms: A 4X Game in Your Pocket

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Tiny Epic Kingdoms box

Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) board game set in a fantasy world with orcs, elves, and dwarves. What sets it apart from other 4X games you may have played is its size—it’s played on a handful of cards, and only takes about half an hour to play. The Kickstarter campaign has already blown past its initial funding goal and over a dozen stretch goals, so the $16 base game has already more than doubled its initial value.

I played the free print-and-play version, and it’s pretty great (though of course missing the final graphics). I’m just trying to decide now whether to bump my pledge up to the $24 Deluxe edition, but more on that later. For now, here’s how it works.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms
A 2-player game of Tiny Epic Kingdoms in progress. (Free print-and-play shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The game includes a bunch of cards and various wooden tokens. Each player chooses a faction, and gets a card and three tokens to track their resources (food, ore, and mana), another card to track their magic level, a small territory card, and 7 meeples representing their troops. In the center of the board there’s a Tower card and an Action card. You start with two of your meeples in a single region of your territory card.

On each turn, the active player selects one of the 6 actions on the card, marking it with the token. Then each player can take that action or (if you’re not the active player) collect resources from the territories where you currently have meeples. Once the 5 tokens are on the Action card (i.e., 5 of the 6 actions have been used), then the tokens are removed and the Action card resets.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms
The Action card, a territory card, and the Tower card from Tiny Epic Kingdoms

The actions available are:

  • Patrol: move a meeple to an adjacent region on the card
  • Quest: move a meeple to a different territory card
  • Build: pay ore to increase your level on the Tower card
  • Research: pay mana to increase your Magic level
  • Expand: pay food to add another Meeple to a region you occupy
  • Trade: exchange one type of resource for another

The goal is to have the most points when the game ends, and you get points through building the Tower, increasing your Magic, and getting your meeples out onto the map. Each race also has its own scoring bonuses for reaching Level 5 of their Magic card.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms orcs
The Orcs have advantages for fighting.

Whenever you enter a region that somebody else occupies, you start a war, which involves simultaneously revealing how many resources you want to commit to the war. If both parties commit none, then you have an alliance—but the first person to break that alliance loses all the peacefully-coexisting regions.

It’s a clever little game, and I’m excited to see the final product. I’m a fan of small, portable games with outsized gameplay, whether you call them microgames or nanogames or minigames, and Tiny Epic Kingdoms certainly fits the bill.

The original base game (and the free print-and-play) include just four races: humans, orcs, dwarves, and elves, each with their own unique advantages (which result from their Magic track). With the stretch goals, though, they’ve unlocked an additional 8 races which will be included. The Deluxe version (for an additional $8) includes two exclusive races—Constructs and Satyrs—and some other bonuses like collectible dice and new maps. The weird thing is, when the base only had 4 races for $16, the upgrade seemed like a decent price. But now that the base game has 12 races already, paying $8 for an extra two doesn’t seem as great.

For me, the larger issue is the overall pricing of a minigame—I think $16 is definitely a great price for what you get, maybe even $20. But breaking that $20 threshold seems like a bigger step, and I’m not always a huge fan of Kickstarter exclusives. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll cave before the campaign ends anyway.

Either way, I like the way Tiny Epic Kingdoms packs a nice Euro-style game into a tiny package, and with the extra races unlocked it promises a good deal of replayability. The game is simple enough that my kids will be able to pick it up, but there’s still some depth of strategy in how you pick your actions so that you get the most benefit while limiting your opponents’ options. And with multiple paths to victory—Magic, the Tower, and territories—I can try out different strategies each time I play.

For more information on Tiny Epic Kingdoms, check out the Kickstarter page!

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