Tiny Epic Galaxies
Teaching Time: 15 mins
Playing Time: 30-45 mins
Setup Time: 2 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Solo Play Review
There are two elements that solo play games often struggle with, difficulty and depth. Tiny Epic Galaxies does a fine job squaring up to both of them and depending on your personal tastes comes out on top.
Game play consists of rolling dice and activating them to perform a range of actions such as, moving ships onto planets, using planet's unique abilities or orbiting them for victory points; generating resources; building up and using your home galaxy. The Tiny Epic series has its proverbial game down and Galaxies continues a fine tradition, its simple to learn, and play is neat and elegant.
The game feels like a light weight version of Roll For The Galaxy with all the strengths and weaknesses that implies. The game is fairly quick and simple and gives up depth in return. There are not a huge range of tactics and its rare to have a sense of getting an engine running before the game is already over.
The pay back for having a simple game play system is that you can have a convincing A.I., the cost is that it can lack genuine difficulty. On the A.I. front the game has made a real effort, and an effective one with distinct difficulty levels and a range of different challenges, at least as much as the stripped back game play allows. Furthermore it has clear and effective separate one player rules and setup. The problems are two fold. Firstly, the game is based on dice and cards with competition created by a restriction on the number of cards. The result is that a game which can be quite swingy thanks to its reliance on dice can become even more so when a restricted range of cards makes two of the dice face effectively useless. In the solo play version the swing can be so bad that after a bad first turn its usually best to just re-rack and start over. The second issue is that the game is brutally tough until the correct tactic is found at which point victory becomes largely mechanical. My personal experience was repeated losses at beginner level, followed by multiple consecutive wins on every other difficulty level. There are minor tactical variations dependent on which cards present themselves but there is little chance to create paths for yourself if the game does not offer them.
Because the game is fundamentally based on dice rolls it can be hard to shake the feeling, win or lose, that luck has at least as big a hand as skill in any result, even when you're hitting an 80% win rate. On top of this, because the game is quite punishing until you find an effective tactic it can be easy to blame loss on misfortune and stay locked on a losing strategy. In many ways the saddest thing about this solo mode is that it trains you to win the game on a very short time limit, because the A.I. most often achieves victory by its secondary win condition, amounting to little more than a turn limit. As such when playing other humans you will potentially drive the game away from its more fun areas.
Tiny Epic Galaxies is a solid if stripped back and simplified Euro game with a well considered and challenging A.I. mode. Its weaknesses are its strengths, easily accessible meaning shallow, but its as deep as a game of its size could reasonably be and never sacrifices depth or interesting choices without an equal return in accessibility and clarity.