Tiny Epic Defenders is a small box cooperative game published in 2015 by Gamelyn games and designed by Scott Almes. It is playable out of the box by 1-4 players and while I found the 1 player, 1 hero experience decent, I firmly believe that like a lot of cooperative games where each player plays a hero or character with their own role or special ability, that the solo player will and should play two plus heroes to have the best gameplay experience.
The heroes/players’ goal is to defeat the Epic Foe that will attack a specific location after a few rounds of regular and dire enemies attacking. The board is created by placing locations out in a circle that the enemies will attack and the heroes defend. The basic gameplay consists of flipping over a card from the “turn” deck and it will either be a card that lets the heroes activate or an enemy.
If it is an enemy it will list one or two locations that the enemy attacks and the threat of that location increases. If the threat of a location ever reaches a certain point that location is destroyed. If a destroyed location is attacked again then the threat is transferred to the Capital City–which is the home base of the heroes in the center of the board. The heroes lose if the threat in the capital city reaches the end of the threat track.
My first disappointment with the game is that the enemies attacking locations simply does not feel thematic in the slightest. The card might show a big group of scorpions and a desert icon. All you do is move the little fire token up 1 and if your hero is there you can move your health marker down one to prevent this threat. This is called “defending”. This mechanism is way way way to simple and you do not feel like you are battling scorpions at all. It feels like you are taking 2 seconds out of your life to move a cute little meeple. The first time I played this game I had dreams of a firefighting re-theme that would work just as well as the fantasy theme–if not better. I thought of this because the awesome little fire token that represents threat would work perfect as a hot spot market in Flashpoint.
The heroes in the game include things you might expect like warriors, sorcerers, barbarians, rogues, etc. These titles mean little, as each hero has one ability which might be passive or useless and thus they all feel symmetrical. The warrior’s special ability is he can move 2 spaces instead of 1 with his move action. That is it. The picture is of a big strong guy with a huge ax who has trained for years in the art of slaying enemies and parrying, blocking, jump attacks, etc. But that is it. More movement. Sigh.
It sounds like I am being critical of TED because it is a simple, small game and it is not trying to be a big box dungeon crawling million token Fantasy Flight game…and in some ways, I am. But my experience playing TED was one of boredom. There simply is not a lot to do and what you can do is not interesting and goes by so fast. At first glance, the mechanism that allows heroes to only take a turn when there card is drawn seems new and interesting. In reality, this mechanism is just frustrating and annoying because a location can immediately go from 0 threat to destroyed because of bad card draws and you cannot do anything about it. This is rare, but it has happened.
Each location has two abilities one on either side. Players are allowed to choose which side they want to use but I have found these, like the hero abilities, to be situational and lacking real impact on the game. Getting an extra action or not having to pay an action to move out of the plains is nice but it just doesn’t add very much excitement or tactics to the game to make it worth my time to read all the abilities.
Sadly, the best part about TED is the artwork. The art is absolutely gorgeous. The best piece of art work is used for the backs of the enemy cards and the back of the Epic Foe cards which is a shame. This should have been the cover in my opinion. If the art was horrible it might actually help the game because players wouldn’t come in expecting a thematic game and getting a low choice boring card flipper.
What redeems TED a tiny bit is that it is low priced and has a small footprint. I put it in the same category as games like Friday and the Death Angel Card Game. But when I am playing TED, I can help but long for the tension of DACG and the tough, rewarding strategic choices in Friday. TED’s mechanics do not equate with its theme and the replayability is lacking. Different Epic Foes do not add enough and I think they should have included more regular enemies and locations.
I am looking forward to playing and reviewing Tiny Epic Galaxies from the same publisher and designer which will be their 3rd Tiny Epic game. Hopefully the theme matches the mechanics more and I know the 1 player guild rallied together to get a solitaire mode added during the Kickstarter. But for TED my recommendation is to let the Dragons burn all the copies of TED and spend your hard earned gold on one of those two aforementioned games. They will serve you much better in your quest to fend off boredom and Farmville notifications.
Hope you enjoyed this Tiny Epic Defenders review. If you did, please post in the comment below and let me know!
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