Gamelyn Games started its Tiny Epic series of games by Scott Almes just a year and a half ago, and it has already funded three different games (and has delivered the first two). The game that kicked it all off was Tiny Epic Kingdoms, a 4x game that fits in your (large-ish) pocket. Now Almes and Gamelyn are revisiting this fantastic realm with an expansion: Heroes’ Call.
At a glance: Tiny Epic Kingdoms: Heroes’ Call is for 2 to 5 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It is an expansion, so it requires the base game to play–the current Kickstarter includes options for getting the second edition of the base game, in case you don’t already have it. There are several reward levels, but essentially you can get the base game in basic ($16) or deluxe ($24), the expansion in basic ($16) or deluxe ($24), or both in deluxe for $44. The deluxe versions include a lot more factions and maps.
Note: If you already have the base game, you don’t need the 2nd edition, but it does include an improved rulebook, updated faction cards, and new wooden bits for ore and magic. You’ll be able to download the new rulebook as a PDF after it’s completed, or you can order an upgrade kit for $10.
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The components for the expansion will include:
- 5 Meeples
- 30 War Towers (6 each in 5 colors)
- 5 Hero tokens
- 5 Silver tokens
- 5 Double-sided Territory cards
- 8 Faction cards
- 21 Hero cards
The deluxe version will include 3 new factions, as well as the “Keys of Aughmoore” mini-expansion.
There are additional territory, faction, and hero cards that may be unlocked through stretch goals, and based on Gamelyn Games’ previous Kickstarters, I’m predicting that these will probably all get funded by the time the campaign is over.
The copy I’ve been using is a prototype so component quality is not final, but the artwork is mostly done. Gamelyn Games has been doing a pretty nice job with their production quality so far in their Tiny Epic series so I think we can expect the same thing from this one.
How to Play
If you haven’t played the original base game, check out my review of the original for a brief gameplay explanation. You can also download the rules to the original game and a draft of the expansion rules. There’s even a print-and-play version of the expansion if you want to give it a shot before you decide.
The 2nd edition made a few changes to the base game–for one, it provides an option to retreat during war. Other changes were clarifications to faction powers and an improved 2-player variant.
Here’s what’s new in Heroes’ Call:
War Towers: you now have 6 tower tokens, one for each level of the tower that can be built. Now, whenever you build a level of the tower, you place a war tower token in a region you occupy (only one tower per region). The tower reduces war costs by 1, and another player who enters a region with a war tower initiates war, whether the tower’s owner has any meeples there or not. There are some victory points associated with having more war towers on a card than other players.
Silver: There’s a new resource, with a new region type. The frozen peaks let you collect silver as a resource–it’s wild, so it can be used as anything, but it has no value during war. (You can’t trade for silver, and you can’t choose it in “resource of your choice” powers.)
Tundra: There’s another new region type, the tundra. Only one meeple can be in the tundra at a time (unlike the others, which support two meeples), and it’s really cold so if anyone takes a Patrol or Quest action, you must move out even if it starts a war. The benefit, though, is that when you collect resources, the meeple in the tundra collects one of your choice.
Finally, the big change: Heroes. At the start of the game, you’ll get two hero cards and choose one to keep. The big meeple represents your hero, and is one of your two starting meeples at the beginning of the game. Your hero has a special ability, as shown on the card. You can level it up by spending the resource depicted for level two, but only when an action would normally let you spend that resource. (For instance, a hero that requires one food to level up could be leveled up during the Expand action, which uses food to add more meeples.) A level two hero has even better abilities.
If you level up one more time (again, spending the resources necessary), your hero is retired–you replace it with a regular meeple and the hero card is now worth 3 points, but you don’t get the abilities anymore. The next time you expand, you’ll get a new hero card and will bring in your big meeple again.
Retiring 3 heroes is another way to trigger the end of the game.
I’ve really enjoyed playing Tiny Epic Kingdoms and I’m glad I ended up getting the deluxe version in the first campaign, because the variety of different factions has been really fun to try out. (Though I do feel that the Order of Gamelyn, a faction based on Gamelyn Games’ mascot, is a bit overpowered.) The base game is a great introduction to 4X games, and I like that there are a few different ways you can get points. The game is easy to learn, but has a lot of replay value and is an enjoyable experience every time I play. If you’ve never played the base game at all, it’s one that I highly recommend.
The Heroes’ Call expansion adds a whole new level of strategy to the game, and I think from now one it’s one that I’ll probably want to use whenever I play. You can learn the game with the expansion included right from the start, but it does take a bit longer to explain how everything works if players aren’t familiar with the base game yet. The new regions and war towers are fairly simple additions, but the heroes are what really make the expansion shine.
One of the things that made the base game so great was that the factions had different abilities. You had to increase your magic levels to get access to those, but your potential abilities also gave you a direction, since you’d get specific advantages by researching magic. Adding the heroes means that in addition to those abilities, you also have one meeple that has some special powers. The combinations of the faction abilities and hero abilities make for some really fascinating gameplay.
It also adds an important choice: when the opportunity arises, do you upgrade your hero or take the other action? If your hero requires ore, that means you won’t get to build a tower while you’re leveling up. If your hero requires food, that means it’ll be that much harder to expand and add more meeples.
And then, of course, there’s the decision about retiring heroes. Unlike magic, where the abilities just accumulate the higher you go, heroes lose their abilities when you retire them. So you have to decide when it’s worth it to give up powers to get points. Retiring heroes is one way to score points, but it is expensive and you’ll have to figure out how to bring in the new hero each time.
All in all, I think Tiny Epic Kingdoms: Heroes’ Call is a worthy expansion to an already fun game. I love the small-box format that still includes rich gameplay, and the price is really reasonable for what you get.
For more information or to back the project, visit the Kickstarter page.