Most board games nowadays aren’t exactly what you’d call portable. If you want a strategic, multiplayer game you’re looking at a pretty chunky box which probably weighs a bit and doesn’t lend itself to being carried around. Step forward Tiny Epic Galaxies, a game which pitches you and a few friends against each other in a planet-colonising mission provided in a box small enough to fit into a generously sized coat pocket. Nice.
The idea of TEG is pretty straight forward: score more points than the other players. Points are scored in two ways, either by colonising planets and earning the points printed on their cards or by completing your secret mission which comes into play at the end of the game. The game ends when one of the players reaches 21 points, but as a result of the secret missions – cards which all players hide until the end of the game – that’s not to say the player reaching the finishing line first is going to be the winner. It won’t be easy either, you can’t just choose to plonk yourself down onto a high scoring planet and take it as your own – such rewards need work, strategy, and a healthy dose of luck.
Galaxies is largely a dice game. As you grow your influence on the game you’ll increase your dice count from the starting point of 4 up to a maximum of seven, all the whole also upping your ship count from 2 to 4. Rolling the dice allows you to carry out certain tasks, all depending on what you roll. The dice might allow you to move your ships between your galaxy and other planets, or hop from one planet to another. It might earn you energy or culture, important commodities when it comes to boosting your empire, or help you towards colonising a planet, but that needs a little explanation by itself.
When you move your ship to a planet, one of the two things you can do is arrive at the colonisation track, a series of marks around the planet that you need to work your way up in order to “claim” the planet as your own, and thus score the points for. Higher earning planets are harder to get and have more steps required, meaning you’ll quite often end up with multiple players trying to colonise it to reap the handy rewards. Each track can be advanced by rolling dice containing the planet’s related symbol, be that Economy or Diplomacy, so rolling three dice with an Economy symbol means you can move a ship three spaces up the colonisation track on an Economy based planet (or move different ships a total of three spaces). As you play each individual dice it’s moved to a special board, meaning you could colonise a planet with one dice, then move your ship straight to another planet with a Move Ship dice, then use a couple more dice to advance up the track before other players have even had a chance to try. Neat.
Planets also have actions on them, and rolling a Utilize dice lets you run any of the actions on the planets you’ve acquired. This might be moving your ship up a planet while others move down, letting you advance your empire by exchanging energy or culture, and so on. When moving a ship you can also land on an unclaimed planet and use that action if you choose, but that ship is then useless until you move it somewhere else. It’s a handy trade off though.
In a nod towards games like Yahtzee, you can also reroll any unused or useless dice once you’ve played those you’re happy with. You can do this once per turn for free or use resources to do it more if needs be. But that’s not all you can do with your spare kit – whenever another player activates a dice anyone else can jump in and spend a culture level to also play that effect. Maybe a new planet has turned up that you’d like to try and colonise, or you only need one more Diplomacy roll to claim a fiercely contended planet and don’t want to risk waiting until your own turn comes round. It’s an awesome feature, making you play your own turns quicker before others can jump in, increasing the risk of making mistakes or missing opportunities. Deciding whether to think, thus risking other players taking advantage, or rush and possibly screw up is a huge choice to make, and adds a great element to a game that might otherwise have ended up with player hanging around for quite a while before turns with nothing to do.
But boredom never creeps in. Between dreaming up your own strategies, keeping an eye on what other players are doing while also trying to fulfil the criteria on your secret mission there’s always something to be doing and thinking about. I’d love to see a full scale version of this with a proper board and bigger components, as the smaller size did get a little fiddly at times, but the game itself is great, and at the very least being portable means you can genuinely just chuck it in your bag and take it wherever you’re going.
With expansions available as well, Tiny Epic Galaxies is a very tempting prospect.