• Number of Plays: 1 Solo
  • Game Length: 30 minutes – 60 minutes
  • Mechanics: Area Majority
  • Release Year: 2019
  • Designer: Scott Almes
  • Artist: Nikoletta Vaszi, Naomi Robinson, Benjamin Shulman
  • Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Banana for scale

Banana for scale

One of the games I spent over 100 hours on in my youth was Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. That game kicked off an addiction of an entire genre that I’ll hereby refer to as “Tactics” Other games in this Tactics genre that I loved: Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Pokemon Conquest, XCOM, Into the Breach, Banner Saga, Fae Tactics, Fire Emblem (every English release to date)… you get the idea

Side note here, I’ve never been a fan of the Advanced Wars style of tactics games. I’ve tried a few Advanced War entries, as well as Wargroove and it just doesn’t jive with me. I think (speaking specifically about Wargroove because I played it most recently) the big problem is that the specific units don’t have any kind of growth. There’s no level ups, no managing equipment or spells that make the units unique to you. You don’t affect any change to make the units yours.

It's important to hold the high ground

It’s important to hold the high ground

Tiny Epic Tactics designed by Scott Almes and published by Gamelyn Games is a 1-4 player take on the tactics series. This entry in the Tiny Epic series is specifically designed to appeal to the gamer with a nostalgic feel for the aformentioned Tactics games. The main map is a scroll with 5 sturdy boxes stacked in various spots to create elevation. The rulebook has several modes of play (2-4 player competitve, 2 v 2 player team play 2-4 player free-for-all, 1 player solo adventure, and 2 player solo adventure. As I’ve only played the 1 player solo adventure, that’s what I’ll be focusing on here

To begin the game, you will have 4 characters to control, one from each of the 4 classes (warrior, rogue, mage, and beast). Variability here feels high as there are 8 options for each class, theoretically offering thousands of different combinations. Once your heroes are selected you set up 4 more (one of each class) as your opponents and leave the rest to the side (they can get subbed in if you successfully beat down the opposition).

8 characters for each class

8 characters for each class

You begin the game with the party split, two characters in each corner and 4 enemies randomly spawned in 3 spots closer to the middle of the board. On your turn you can do 3 actions that can be taken with up to 3 different characters. If you elect to use two actions with a single character, they’ll be put into a weakened state where they either need to not move next round, or lose two HP.

This mechanic makes it so you can’t just run up and attack in the same turn, but try and predict where your opponents will be so you can maximize your actions. it also prevents you from favoring one character too often, which you probably shouldn’t be doing if you want to win the solo game

The goal of the solo game is to explore 5 caverns, collect each of the crystals, and then fight your way through the final cavern to win the game. You lose if all 4 of your characters die, or if the game timer runs out. You start out with only 7 turns to get all of this done, but each time you defeat an enemy you regain 2 turns. This leads to a cost/benefit analysis in your head, trying to decide if it’s worth your time to spend the actions necessary to get the reward of time back on your side.

Gotta get them crystals

Gotta get them crystals

There are some times where you will need to knock your opponents off a cliff before you can enter the dungeons (the dungeons are the 3d terrain tiles flipped upside down), but this leads to one of the biggest challenge of the solo game. Getting everyone off the final box. When you kill an enemy character they are removed from the board. But the next turn you respawn them at one of the three spawn points with one of those spawn points being on the final dungeon. This would mean you need either to get lucky with the spawn point, kill the enemy with 2 ranged actions and one move into the dungeon, do a hit and run melee attack (either killing them or pushing them off the terrain, or lure the enemy off the box. In my (one) experience, this portion of the solo game grinds to a halt and just frustrates you against the RNG of the solo game.

The mechanics of Tiny Epic Tactics do manage to evoke feelings of the tactics games that I referenced before, but lacks any personalization beyond assembling your initial team. During the solo game I found my thought pattern following the same path that I would when playing a proper Tactics video game, such as considering elevation, or moving one character before another to take advantage of their positioning. That part of the game does feel good, but it also lacks depth. There is no character progression, no way to change the abilities of your characters, or modify the party composition to deal with changing situations.

The image quality on the boxes are much higher than the playmat

The image quality on the boxes are much higher than the playmat

I do have a small complaint with how the dice are used in the game. Each attack uses the die in a different way. The Melee attack uses die to determine how far the target is pushed. The Ranged attack uses die to determine how many ammo has to be used before the attack is successful, and the magic uses the die to spend more mana to possibly do more damage (in my experience). This is a mild annoyance and the fact that I need to think “Is rolling dice good or bad for this action?” adds to the mental load of playing the game.

From someone who is not a Solo gamer, this solo mode felt fairly well done to the point where I will likely try to play it one more time. This time with a better understanding of what each attack does and if/when abilities could be useful. It did remind me that I’m not really a solo gamer, as a lot of the time I spent playing this on the table, I found myself thinking “I never did get around to playing Fell Seal”. It’s hard for a solo board game to make me want to play it instead of a video game, but I believe one day I’ll find the right solo system that will let me in on what makes solo gaming special.

Tiny Epic games don't waste a lot of space in their boxes

Tiny Epic games don’t waste a lot of space in their boxes