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Tiny Epic Galaxies & Beyond the Black (Expansion) Review


Quick Look:

Tiny Epic Galaxies Box Art Gamelyn Games Beyond the Black Expansion Review
Image courtesy of Gamelyn Games
Designer: Scott Almes
Artist: William Bricker and Benjamin Shulman
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Year Published: 2015 (Beyond the Black, 2017)
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review:
Coming from such a small box, Tiny Epic Galaxies and its expansion, Beyond the Black, packs a huge punch in gameplay. There are lots of decisions to make and dice to roll (without having to rely entirely on random chance), and the rules are quick to teach and easy to understand. Beyond the Black is a solid expansion for Tiny Epic Galaxies, and combined, the two make a wonderful game for players of both lighter and heavier preferences.

This review discusses both Tiny Epic Galaxies (base game) and its expansion, Beyond the Black. The base game will be discussed first, followed by Beyond the Black, as knowing more about the Tiny Epic Galaxies will be beneficial in learning about Beyond the Black.



Tiny Epic Galaxies

Rules and Setup:

Setup:
Setup for Tiny Epic Galaxies is pretty straightforward (I’ll discuss the Beyond the Black expansion in a bit), which means less time trying to remember how to get started and more time playing. Each player takes a Galaxy Mat in their color, along with the corresponding ships and culture, energy, and empire tokens.

Each Galaxy Mat starts with two ships in the galaxy, and two more on that card’s ship track (placed on the 3 and 4 that are outlined with a box). The two ships in the galaxy are the players’ starting ships. The other ships will become available as the game progresses. Each player starts the game with 1 culture and 2 energy. The empire token (the star) is placed on the star icon on the empire track. Increasing your empire’s level gives more ships, dice, and points. See the image below for how a completed Galaxy Mat setup looks like.

Tiny Epic Galaxies Gamelyn Games Review Galaxy Setup Benjamin Kocher

Shuffle the planet cards and draw two more than the number of players (only 6 cards for a 5-player game), laying them out in the center of the table. These are the planets you will try and colonize. Place the Control Mat and Action Dice in an easily accessible spot on the table. Next, shuffle the Secret Mission Cards and deal two to each player. Each player keeps one and discards the other, face down, so nobody can see it. These secret missions are kept secret, and award bonus points at the end of the game if the mission’s condition has been met.

Rules:
While the rules are pretty easy to grasp, there are quite a few symbols to remember, as well as their function. However, the learning curve isn’t very steep, and after one play—or even during the first play—new players should be able to grasp the strategy fairly quickly.

Basically, players take turns rolling (and rerolling) dice, using the dice to perform actions, and by so doing gain points (such as by colonizing planets). Other players may even follow the active player’s action if they so desire…and if they have enough resources to pay the cost. I’ll explain more about how it all works under the Gameplay section below, but essentially, players take turns rolling and resolving dice until someone reaches 21 points, after which the game ends (once everyone has taken an equal amount of turns).

Gameplay:


Tiny Epic Galaxies Gamelyn games Gameplay Beyond the Black Expansion Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The actual play experience of Tiny Epic Galaxies is streamlined and engaging, even for those who aren’t the active player. I’ll explain the finer points of the game below, so feel free to keep reading to see how a game plays. I will give my overall thoughts on the game after this section.

Turns go clockwise, starting with the first player. On each turn, the active player will roll all available dice. At the start of the game, all players roll four dice. When their empire level increases so the 5, 6, and 7 (outlined in a circle) are in line with the current empire level, that player gets to roll 5, 6, or 7 dice, respectively, on their turn.

Once the dice have been rolled, the active player may use the result of one or more dice by placing said dice in the activation bay. A die can never be used more than once a turn, so once it has been used, there’s no going back. However, once per turn, the active player may choose to reroll any number of dice for free. After that, each reroll costs 1 energy. Rerolling is a key part of Tiny Epic Galaxies, and stocking up on energy can be a real life saver when you desperately need a specific symbol.

The symbols on the dice all correspond to a certain action, as follows:

Tiny Epic galaxies Gamelyn Games Die Dice Result Move a Ship Beyond the Black ExpansionMove a ship: Move a ship from its current location (galaxy or planet) to another planet. This may include landing on the planet’s surface and immediately taking the action listed on said planet, or orbit the planet. By orbiting the planet, you may eventually colonize the planet and claim it as your own. Planets give victory points as well as extra actions (explained later under utilize a colony).



Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Gamelyn Games Energy and Culture Dice
Energy and Culture symbols
Acquire Resources: Your galaxy produces energy, and planets produce energy or culture (as indicated by their icons). When you activate an energy or culture die, you receive resources of that type for each ship on a planet/galaxy with that symbol. Even if you have one ship on a planet’s surface and one ship orbiting that same planet, it would award you two resources of that type.



Gamelyn Games Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion Diplomacy and Economy symbols dice
Diplomacy and Economy symbols
Advance Colonization: To advance on a planet’s colony track, players must use the diplomacy and economy dice. Each planet’s colony track has either a diplomacy or economy icon at the end of the track. This determines which die result is used, diplomacy or economy. For each die of a symbol, advance one of your orbiting ships on a corresponding colony track by one.

Once you reach the end of the colony track, claim that card for yourself, and all ships on that planet or in orbit return to their home galaxy. Place your newly colonized planet underneath your Galaxy Mat so the ability and score are visible. A new planet card is immediately drawn to replace the one just colonized.

Tiny Epic Galaxies by Gamelyn Games Beyond the Black Expansion
The planet is colonized, and is placed underneath the player's Galaxy Mat.
Utilize a colony: When using this symbol, you may either pay resources to upgrade your empire, or use an action from a planet you have colonized. To upgrade your empire, you must pay one type of resource equal to the next level on the empire track. For example, if your empire is currently sitting on the 3, then to upgrade would cost 4 resources, either energy or culture, but not both.

Whenever your empire level increases, look to see if you receive a new ship or an extra die for your subsequent turns. Basically, every new empire level will give you something, starting with a fifth die at level 2, a third ship at level 3,  and so on and so forth, following the empire track. Remember, too, that you gain more points each time you upgrade your empire. This can even trigger the end game, so pay attention!

Following happens when the active player activates a die (i.e. uses a die’s symbol) and another (non-active) player chooses to use that symbol as well. To do so, the non-active player must spend 1 culture and then may immediately use that die’s action. I love the follow rule. It makes every turn engaging, even if you’re not the active player. It makes for some fun strategic choices as well, since by taking a beneficial action may also allow another player to take it as well, giving them even more of an advantage.

The end game is triggered as soon as a player reaches 21 points. Play continues until all players have taken an equal amount of turns. Note that points for secret missions do not count toward this end-game trigger. Once everyone has taken their last turn, see if any of the secret missions have been successfully completed. If so, those players add those points to their total score. The player with the highest score wins!

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black (Expansion)


Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion by Gamelyn Games (Photo by Benjamin Kocher)
The new ships are wonderful, and the score markers make keeping tabs on your opponents even easier!
Knowing the basics of the base game for Tiny Epic Galaxies will help you understand how the Beyond the Black expansion affects the game. If you’re unfamiliar with the gameplay of Tiny Epic Galaxies, I recommend at least glancing over the previous sections about the base game.

New Additions with Beyond the Black


Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion by Gamelyn Games Score card, new rogue galaxies, hangar, and unexplored space cards.
Some of the new additions, including a score card, unexplored space, hangar, and new Rogue Galaxies for solo games.

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black adds new planets and secret missions to the game, but the biggest changes come with new pilot abilities (and new ships!) and a press-your-luck element in which players can acquire even more points. Let’s discuss these new changes, shall we?

Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion Pilot CardPilots
The pilots are a lot of fun, and each pilot brings a unique ability players can use to further their exploration and colonization. Each pilot may fly a certain type of ship (which makes it easier to identify pilots during gameplay), and when pilots are hired (by spending dice as an action), that pilot’s ship replaces one of the generic ones that came with the base game. These ships replace any of the generic ships (remaining in their current location), and the replaced generic ship and new pilot is placed in the new Hangar Mat for safekeeping.

Exploration
Deep-space exploration is here, and your pilots are raring to get out there and find new and exciting places. Using a movement action, a player’s ship may be placed on the Exploration Mat and then explore. To explore, the player who moved their ship to the Exploration Mat may either take one of the revealed exploration cards, or reveal the top exploration card from the deck. If there are no exploration cards revealed, then drawing from the top of the deck is mandatory.


Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Unexplored Space New Ship
Because Yellow decided to draw from the top rather than take the already-revealed Space Ice,
they are forced to stop and take the red Solar Storm, along with any negative effects.

When drawing from the deck, the active player may leave the drawn card on the table, revealed, and draw another one (as long as the card drawn was green). This may continue until they reveal a red danger card or there are three face-up exploration cards on the table. Red danger cards stop the exploration and must be taken by the player (never a good thing…), or if there are already three exploration cards face-up and the active player decides to draw from the top of the deck, that newly drawn card must be taken, good or bad. Collecting exploration cards will be helpful due to immediate perks, as well as for points at the end of the game, as will be explained in Set Collection below.

This exploration card has two badges.
Set Collection
There are four different badges on the bottom of the exploration and pilot cards. These exploration badges give 1 or 2 points, depending on whether you had the most or second most of a particular symbol at the end of the game. Each symbol is separately scored at the end of the game, so it is possible for one player to receive 8 points from exploration badges. Note that some pilot cards also have exploration badges on them as well.



Thoughts on Tiny Epic Galaxies & Beyond the Black

Theme and Mechanics:
The science fiction and space exploration theme is well crafted and implemented in such a way that the story really pops in the gameplay. According to the lore, your galaxy is overpopulated and needs to expand. Unfortunately, the same is true with a few other galaxies, and their goals are the same as yours. As you play, you will quickly find that the universe isn’t big enough for the 2-5 of you, and you’ll need to expand your fleet, acquire resources, and colonize planets faster than the other inter-galactic-lopers.

The mechanics fit nicely. While some people may not particularly enjoy the luck factor that comes from rolling dice, it’s been mitigated in such a way that if you have consistent “bad” rolls, you may want to rethink your current strategy. Of course, luck will always play a role (pun pun pun) in a game with dice, but from my countless plays, I’ve never had the feeling that the dice were against me so much that they made me lose.

Artwork and Components:


Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion Dice Tray Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The art is everything I want in a science fiction, spaceship-flying game. The box art is wonderfully detailed, and the cards themselves encapsulate the theme remarkably well.

The wooden ships and tokens are thick and solid, and I’ve never had an issue with them the many years I’ve been playing this game. The dice have a unique look about them, and the engraved sides are superb.

The Good:


Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The theme is wonderful, and the mechanics and components compliment it nicely.

There are lots of choices to be made each turn, and many risk-taking opportunities.

The luck brought by the dice can be mitigated pretty well, which brings up the strategic level quite a bit.

I was able to fit both Tiny Epic Galaxies and Beyond the Black inside the main Tiny Epic Galaxies Box. It's a tight fit (using my Tetris skills of yore), but it fits nice and snug. (If you have the mini-expansions from the deluxe versions, however, they may not fit as nicely...).

The gameplay is quick, allowing for multiple games in one sitting.

I’m a huge fan of good solo games, and Tiny Epic Galaxies doesn’t disappoint. The solo variant is wonderful, and the expansion brings more options for solo play, which is nice.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is straight-up fun.

The Bad:
I’ll have to get back to you on that. I’m still trying to find something I don’t like about this game. 

Final Thoughts:


Tiny Epic Galaxies Beyond the Black Expansion Photo by Benjamin Kocher

This game hooked me from the very first time I played it, and I've been in love with it ever since. I've played it more times than I can count, and each game is still exciting. Add the expansion to the mix and I can honestly say this is a game that will stand the test of time.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is, as the name implies, both tiny and epic. For such a small box, there is a ton of gameplay, variation, and an enjoyment factor that keeps me coming back for more. While the base game is wonderful as a standalone game, the Beyond the Black expansion offers even more ways to score points, introduces a press-your-luck tactic, and even more enjoyment (which thing I didn’t think possible). Personally, the expansion always joins us at the table when we play Tiny Epic Galaxies. I love it. In fact, I even wrote a short story inspired by it a few years back, so feel free to give it a read!

Players Who Like:
If you like a small-box game with huge gameplay, you should probably have this in your collection (especially if you like sci-fi themes with spaceships). If you're like me and enjoy solo gaming, this game is sure to satisfy the itch as well.




Check out Tiny Epic Galaxies on:

               

Enter to win a copy of TEG and TEG: Beyond the Black between now and May 2, 2018. Enter HERE!


About the Author:



Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Tiny Epic Galaxies & Beyond the Black (Expansion) Review Tiny Epic Galaxies & Beyond the Black (Expansion) Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on April 19, 2018 Rating: 5

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