Tiny Epic Mechs (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2019Players: 1-4
Designer: Scott AlmesLength:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Roland MacDonald, Benjamin ShulmanAge: 10+
Publisher: Gamelyn GamesComplexity: 2.5 / 5

In the year 3030, mankind has developed the technology to hold epic real-life battle events where daring fighters skilled in direct combat and with hundreds of hours of experience piloting the latest advancement in mech suits, race around an arena where they place their turrets and mines, collect credits to buy weapons and shields, charge their energy storage and don their power suits in an attempt to reach the mighty mech exoskeleton, so that they can leave victorious, as hundreds of millions of viewers watch the proceedings and bet on which of the Tiny Epic Mechs will win.

Finally, there is another game in the Tiny Epic series that Gamelyn Games is famous for. I was drawn to this game because of the programming mechanism, which in my view is what makes this game so much fun and creates a feeling of control, until something unexpected undoes everything. So let me explain what I mean.

On your turn, you secretly play four command cards, which basically consist of different types of movement. You have to think ahead and visualize where your player character will be within the arena at each of the four movement steps, because you can’t change the order of the commands, or skip or change commands, once you have played them. They are locked in.

Yet, planning ahead isn’t necessarily difficult. The problem comes that all players do their programming too, and when everyone is done, the first player reveals their first movement command and executes it, followed by the second player, and so on. As you can imagine, as everyone moves their character on their turn, your next command may lead you to cross paths with another player, and when two players occupy the same space, combat ensues. Again, that’s not too surprising, but the problem is that the result of the combat will lead players to be forced into a different space.

So all of a sudden your next movement is from an unexpected location, meaning you end up entering a space that you hadn’t intended to enter, as your commands mercilessly run through step by step until the bitter end. The problem is that players can lay mines or erect turrets, which you had carefully planned to walk around, but now you are forced to take damage, which you hadn’t expected.

The programming mechanism is a lot of fun. Players will start to try and work out what everyone else might be doing. You might intentionally plan to get to another player, because you feel strong enough to fight them, only to find that they had other ideas and walk off into a different direction, leaving you wondering around the arena seemingly aimlessly.

There is also a lot of double-bluffing going on. You have to constantly wonder whether someone is definitely going to do what they say, or if they’re bluffing – or if they know that you know that they’re bluffing. It’s an endless mind game and especially fun when you play with people you know, because you think you know what they will be doing next, just to find that they knew you knew, and have outwitted you.

The combat itself is a little disappointing though. It is basically a matter of who has the most number of weapons, because you have to retire and retreat from the battle if you have no more weapons ready to fire. That means that even when you initiate battle and have a hugely powerful canon, while your opponent only has a feather duster and a rubber mallet, they will still force you to give up and they will claim victory and collect a point. That feels very anti-climatic, but is clearly an intended mechanism in the game. You are encouraged to avoid battle until you can come out victorious with the right number and combination of weapons.

As you will see from my unboxing video, you get a huge amount of little weapons, which you can physically attach to the little meeple, the power suit or the epic mech. There are also lots of little wooden pieces representing the turrets and mines, and combined with the square cards that represent the arena, the whole game has a great table presence. As you play, it’s really fun to move your little meeple, attach the weapons and make “pew, pew” noises.

Personally, I don’t like plastic meeples, but I can see how it would be virtually impossible to create wooden meeples that allow you to attach the various weapons to. So from a practical perspective, it makes perfect sense, but from a tactile viewpoint it’s not quite as satisfying – but that’s really only a very minor point.

Overall I can highly recommend Tiny Epic Mechs to people who like a bit of quick, fun, direct mech combat. You will love the moments when your program works out, as you pre-plan your four steps – and you will laugh when your mech hits the wall again, because your commands didn’t work out as expected.

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I backed this game on Kickstarter and it is this copy of the game that I reviewed.
  • At the time of writing, nobody linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Podcast Review

Music: Cinematic Trailer by AShamaluevMusic

Links

Epic losses (Topic Discussion) – Tabletop Games Blog

For many of us, losing a game isn’t much fun – winning is usually much more enjoyable. However, sometimes board games create amazing moments that are more memorable than whether we won or lost and in this article, I want to look at why losing a game can actually feel amazing, or at least be fun.

I think there are a large number of games where winning or losing doesn’t actually matter quite so much. It’s playing the game that’s the fun part and that will stick in our minds. To me, engine building games fit the bill. Of course, you want to build the best engine to win the game, but more often than not it’s really satisfying building your engine and then running it. I would argue that, even when you lose an engine building game, you don’t really care, as long as you got an amazing engine going, one that you’re really proud of and almost want to save somehow and take home with you.

Many map building games will give you a similar feeling of satisfaction or achievement. You get to decide where roads lead or how the coastline of an island runs. You create something as you play and you’re almost like a god. I guess it gives you a feeling of power, but it can also be about the aesthetic element of building a beautiful world. Also, creating a map without holes in Carcassonne can be very enjoyable. Being the one who draws the last tile that fits into a difficult gap can feel amazing – and it’s your decision whether to plug that gap and maybe help someone else or lay the tile to give you more points, which gives you a feeling of power again.

World exploration games can also conjure up feelings of power or satisfy your need to make something positive happen. If you are able to successfully complete a difficult challenge, because you have previously collected the right resources, weapons or whatever else may have been needed, makes you feel good. Your planning paid off and you made the right decisions leading up to this big moment.

In general, making decisions in games can often feel good. It’s not unusual for people to enjoy being the so-called “kingmaker” (we do need a better word for this, by the way), because they get to decide who ultimately wins, while they themselves have no hope of winning. However, even when you’re not deciding who will come out victorious in a game, making decisions does give you a sense of control, which in your day-to-day life you don’t feel you have.

However, world exploration and many other games are also about another thing: escapism. Whether you win or lose, you have been transported to another world for a while and didn’t have to think about your day-to-day worries or challenges. Even though you may have done all you could to win the game, ultimately your main motivation to play this game was to get away from the real world and immerse yourself into the world of the game, where you could be someone else for an hour or two.

There is another thing that can make you feel good about losing a game and that is having been able to try out a strategy and see how it doesn’t work. Being able to improve how you play a game and get better each time is very satisfying. Even if you never win against the people you play with, if you can see your own game improve, it feels good. You’re constantly trying to beat your own high score and every time you do, you have learned something new, and maybe you’ve learned something that you can apply to other games. Learning something tends to feel good, especially if you were able to work it out yourself.

Lastly, but by no means the least, is the enjoyment we get from playing with other people, be it friends, family or people we’ve not met before. The social aspect is hugely important for many of us and it often doesn’t matter whether we win or lose, as long as we had a chat, a laugh and generally a good time together. In fact, many games tell us more about the people we’re playing with and allows us to find commonalities, as well as differences, and learn what someone else enjoys – or doesn’t. It allows us to bond with these people and that usually feels good too.

So, what about you? Do you remember losing really badly at a game, but having had the most fun in a long time? What are your biggest board game achievements, that didn’t lead to a victory? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)