The Daily Worker Placement

Monday, October 14, 2019

TINY EPIC DEFENDERS, 2nd EDITION or: RETURN OF THE MINI-KING 

by | published Monday, August 13, 2018

It’s hard to believe that almost a year has gone by since I wrote about Gamelyn Games’ last release, Tiny Epic Quest. But designer Scott Almes and his crew haven’t been putting their feet up, oh no. Not only did they launch two Kickstarters–they’re promising to deliver both by the end of 2018! How’s that for hubris? 

Well, Game #1 has arrived in my mailbox: the second edition of Tiny Epic Defenders (TED) along with its new expansion The Dark War (TDW). Right on time, even a little bit early; Gamelyn have the production process down smoothly, and after all it’s a 2nd edition, so how different could it be? 

Quite different, it turns out. There are some obvious (and welcome) cosmetic changes; I’ve included a photo comparing the art from both editions and I think you’ll agree it’s an improvement both in terms of the palette and the style. TED1e’s most common colour was…beige? Ecru? Light tan? Whatever, very boring and generic-looking, and the graphic design was similarly anonymous, with a blocky, crude look to it. TED2e trades up for a darker, more ominous colour scheme, with card art that’s more Mordor than Sodor. Heros have been given names and a bit of backstory (wisely placed on the back so as not to take up valuable real estate). 

But frankly, if graphic design was all Almes had changed I wouldn’t have pledged. What I was looking for was more interesting choices and more tension. TED1e certainly hit all the right notes when it came to Defenders of the Realm-like co-op play in a fantasy setting. It was well-balanced, tense even. But after a few plays the sameness set in–oh, there were plenty of heroes and Epic Foes (ie, bosses), each with special abilities/powers to choose from, so there was variety in that, but the Locations looked drab and played drab–some Location abilities just felt strictly more valuable than others. Some Hero abilities were just lame (Oracle) or overpowered (Ranger). 

TED2e corrects all these problems. Location and Hero abilities have been rebalanced. The setup for Turn 1 ensures the Heros get a chance to respond to the initial attacks instead of possibly wandering around with no purpose. Dire and Epic Foes have been given more nuanced and unpredictable powers. And (as one would hope) the rules have been been given a proper look-see and polished up to remove ambiguities. 

If you didn’t like the first edition…well, chances are you won’t like the new one either. TED is the co-op entry in the Tiny Epic series, and although there are many improvements, if you don’t like co-ops (especially ones prone to the Pandemic Effect) the new version doesn’t take the genre anywhere fundamentally new. If you’re looking for the best game in the series, I think it’s Tiny Epic Quest (the reasons for which you can read in my article from last year). 

BUT, if you’re ok with first-gen co-ops with a fantasy theme, there’s a lot to like here. Like all the Tiny Epic games TED is a Tardis Game–a whole lotta game stuffed into one (or two) pretty small boxes. Great value for your money. 

Now if you really want to go deep, you can also get TDW, which not only adds a bunch more heroes and Foes for even more replayability but also several new things to deal with: 

  • a system which involves earning and spending XP (tracked on a separate card) to activate Skills–you can even Level Up to earn more Skills and become über-powerful; 
  • two new modes of play: a Campaign of 3 battles where your character gets to keep their Skills and Artifacts (60 minutes) and a single Great Battle (25 minutes) 
  • caravans to escort back to Capital City, which not only earn you XP but are now a prerequisite for winning the game; 
  • new Location cards for use in the Campaign and Great Battle Modes–they start out Hostile with icky effects but if you can survive long enough they become Peaceful with yummy effects; 
  • Generals, basically mini-bosses with extra nastiness that swap in for Dire Foes in Campaign Mode. 

It’s arguable whether all this merely gilds the lily instead of adding anything really different. The bits that come with all this look awesome (although be careful putting the Caravans together, the tabs can shred a bit when you try and put them in their slots), but I would have liked to see a traitor mechanic or maybe something that would disrupt the Pandemic Effect a bit–limited information such as secret goals, maybe? (So far, the record for Tiny Epic Sequels is a bit mixed in my opinion; the only one that really improves on the base game is Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black.) 

Oh, that second game Gamelyn’s promised by the end of 2018? Tiny Epic Zombies. You can be sure you’ll be reading about it here.


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