Open Seat Gaming: Ramble Review – Tiny Epic Galaxies + Beyond the Black (Multiplayer Edition)
Good afternoon friends! This is going to be our first foray into offering both a multiplayer and a solo review of the same game! Today, we're going to start with my multiplayer review of Tiny Epic Galaxies and the Beyond the Black expansion.
Note: We backed Tiny Epic Galaxies and Beyond the Black on Kickstarter, and so this review is going to include the mini-expansions that were included with both (Satellites & Super Weapons and Drones). I am not completely sure as to their distribution model outside of Kickstarter, but I will make a change to this if I can find out.
Game: Tiny Epic Galaxies and the Beyond the Black Expansion
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Designer: Scott Almes
Artist: William Bricker, Benjamin Shulman
Main Game Mechanisms: Area Control / Area Influence, Set Collection, 4x
Number of Players:1 to 5
Game Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Gameplay Overview: I'm going to split this into the necessary categories and try to be as brief as I can about it, because there's a lot here.
Base Game: Tiny Epic Galaxies is a game where you're going out and colonizing different planets so that you can use their abilities and gain points. By rolling dice, you can upgrade your own galaxy, land on far away planets, colonize those planets, and gain resources so that you can use the very unique follow mechanism that is a big part of the game. If an opponent rolls a die and you want to do that same action, you can spend culture (one of your resources) in order to follow them and do the same thing. This keeps the game tight and makes your opponents more aware of what they are doing as well. The last round is triggered when someone hits 21 points, and at the end of the game, whoever has the most points wins!
You gain points by colonizing planets, upgrading your own galaxy, and by completing your secret mission, which is given to you at the beginning of the game. The last round is triggered when someone hits 21 points, and at the end of the game, whoever has the most points wins!
Beyond the Black: Beyond the Black adds two new elements - Pilots (with new ships) and Unexplored Space. You can "hire" pilots by rolling the double symbol that is associated with a type of ship(s) that they can fly. These pilots give those upgraded ships special abilities, which adds another layer of strategy when determining which ship is going where during "lift off."
The other element is Unexplored Space, which is another area that you can "lift off" to. You flip cards, called Exploration Badges. If it's green around the edge, you can decide to keep it or press your luck - but if you go past 3 that are face up, you must take the 4th one you flip. If you get a red badge, you must take it, and you may lose resources or be stuck in a black hole that you have to complete the track on!
Both the pilots and the exploration badges have four symbols on the bottom, and at the end of the game, you will get bonus points based on who has the most of each symbol. Pilots are known to everyone - but badges are facedown once you collect them, so you never know who is going to win those bonus points.
Mini-expansions: Satellites & Super Weapons adds another sort of "planet" to the table, but instead of colonizing it, you're destroying it for 2 bonus points. This expansion also gives you satellites, which you gain as part of leveling your galaxy. You can either keep the satellites for extra points at the end of the games, or you can dispatch them to the super weapon to use the very powerful ability. You want to use them wisely!
With the Drones expansion, Drones can be gained by turning in two matching dice without using their abilities. Then, you can put one drone on each pilot that you have. This, then, doubles the number of symbols on each pilot, giving you a bit of a boost when you count up those symbols at the end of the game.
More Gameplay Information: As mentioned above, I didn't want to bore you with gameplay details, because this is a review and you want to see what I think, right? That being said, if you would like to learn more about these games so that you can get a better idea of gameplay overviews, here are some links you can check out:
- Time to weight ratio is perfect. Many of the games that Sarah and I own and love fall into the 2.5 to 3.5 range in terms of weight on BGG. The problem is, many of those games are also long, and I have back problems so I can't always sit for the 1 and a half to 3 hours that they can take. Sarah is also a teacher's aide, so she has to get up early on weekdays. So, let me tell you, if we want that midweight game (and TEG is definitely almost a 3 in terms of weight once you add Beyond the Black to it) but I know that my back isn't up for it, TEG is a perfect choice. With the expansion, it usually hits that 45 minutes to an hour that is just right for us.
- Beyond the Black and Mini Expansions create multiple paths to victory. One of the biggest problems I had with the basegame alone was the fact that it started to feel samey in terms of strategy. "Get your secret mission completed, level up your galaxy, colonize planets, profit." While it definitely is fun that way, BtB and the mini expansions blow the game wide open. Want to just spend your whole game focusing on Unexplored Space? Go for it (Sarah just beat me doing that last night). Want to abuse the daylights out of all of the pilots and the drones that are available? Want to focus on getting lots of planets like you do with just the base game? You can do it all.
- Pilots and new ships add strategy. The pilots and the new ships make Beyond the Black an amazing expansion. There are dozens of additional choices added there, from "which ship should I use to colonize that planet?" to "How can I get that pilot if my rolls aren't going my way?" to "How can I maximize that combo of pilots?"
- Lots of luck mitigation. Lots of people don't like dice-based games because there isn't any luck mitigation. Between some of the special abilities on the planets you colonize, some of the pilots, the addition of the satellites and super weapons in the mini-xpac, the free reroll you get, the ability to use energy to re-roll your dice, and landing on the surface of planets that haven't been colonized yet, you have tons of ways to make those dice work for you instead of against you.
- Diversity! While there are still a lot of white guys as pilots, they did a good job of spreading out the love to people of color and females as well. I was very happy to see that there are at least a handful of non-white, non-male pilots in the mix.
- Size of the components. I know, it's a "Tiny Epic" game. It's supposed to be tiny. But Sarah and I both have big fingers and we're constantly dropping pieces or having difficulty getting a grip on them in the first place. This could have been a full sized game, but I know that defeats the purpose of being in the "Tiny Epic" line (you'll see that I have the same complaint when I review Tiny Epic Quest in a couple of weeks - sausage fingers just don't do well with the component size!).
- Unexplored Space cannot be ignored, at all. As I mentioned above, Sarah used Unexplored Space in order to beat me last night. I, mistakenly, completely ignored it until the end of the game. She beat me by 7 points - and 6 of those points were because she had gotten the majority in 3 of the 4 symbols on the Badges and Pilots. So, while there are multiple paths to victory, you need to be sure that someone isn't running away with all of those symbols - if they do, that's 8 free points, which is a lot when games average around 35-40 points when all is said and done.
- Some pilots are very specific to the number of people playing. Now, I'm saying this with a grain of salt - while this is a multiplayer review, we have not played with more than 3 players yet (and it goes up to 5). There are some pilots that are great for 2 players; they make sense and their ships do awesome stuff. But, there are some pilots that are quite useless for 2p games - you'll have to wait for Scott's opinion on Friday to hear about the Pilots in solo. Sarah and I just set those pilots aside when they come up, so it's no biggie.
- 21 feels "too soon" for end game. Hitting the 21 score when you're using everything that the game and expansions have to offer is insane. You will, often times, feel like it is ending way too soon and "how am I even supposed to put together a strategy because that ramped up really fast and I only have 8 points and you hit 21 and omg what the crap.(because that's totally how my brain works)." Sarah and I actually call 30 our end point for 2 player games because we feel like it's a sweet spot that eliminates that layer of stress. It may feel different when you're with 4 or 5 players (since there's more going on and more opportunities to follow), but at 2 and 3, 21 was way too quick.
Value: I spent around $53 for the base game plus Beyond the Black with shipping, and both of them were the Deluxe Edition. I, honestly, feel like I got a steal backing the Kickstarter.
MSRP for the base game is $25; Beyond the Black is also $25. At Cool Stuff Inc, you can get the base game for $21.49; and the expansion for $21.49. So that means you're spending a little less than you would have if you bought Dominion plus an expansion. For all of the weight and the strategy you get in the box, I think it's totally worth it.
Try, Buy, Deny: Tiny Epic Galaxies is an incredibly unique and engaging game, and we love it here at Open Seat Headquarters. If you're looking for a multiplayer 4X experience that keeps you involved during every moment of the game, but you don't want the 4X time sink, then this is Tiny Epic Galaxies in a nutshell. While the size bothers me at times, the gameplay and the length of play is really what pushes it into the "Buy" category for me.
If you're just getting into the hobby, however, I do suggest that you try it out first. You may not like 4X games. Maybe it's too heavy. Maybe there's too much to keep track of. And that's totally fine. It definitely isn't for everyone, but it is something that we love.
Keep your eyes peeled for Scott's solo review of the game on Friday!
Marti - The Fluffy Meeple