Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Tiny Epic Defenders 2E by Gamelyn Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Tiny Epic Defenders 2E by Gamelyn Games
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Title: Tiny Epic Defenders 2E
Designed by: Scott Almes
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Year Published: 2018
MSRP: $25 ($30 Deluxe)
1-4p | 30-60 min | 14+

The very first Kickstarter Preview I ever wrote on my site was for Tiny Epic Defenders, way back in 2014.  This was shortly after I started reviewing games and is the sixth game I reviewed, and the first I wrote specifically for this blog.  The review was for the limited, no-artwork, print and play version that was available during the campaign.  I read the description of the game and thought it sounded great.  So I printed out the game and tried it out with some friends.  We all enjoyed the game and I went home that night, wrote up a review, and then backed the game the next day.  This was the start of my foray into Tiny Epic madness!  In the pledge manager I bought Tiny Epic Kingdoms and I've backed every Tiny Epic game since... 

With the exception of this Second Edition of Tiny Epic Defenders.  At the time I was a bit turned off that the first edition wasn't compatible with the new The Dark War expansion that was also being Kickstarted.  Previous backers were offered a small discount, but it still meant paying over $50 to have Tiny Epic Defenders 'up to date'.  Fortunately I received this copy of the second edition to review and I've picked up The Dark War expansion, so now my Tiny Epic collection is complete!

In Tiny Epic Defenders, one to four players work together to defend the Capitol City against attacking Monsters, Dire Enemies, and an ultimate Epic Foe.  Six regions surround the city and these regions must be defended else the attacks begin to reach the Capitol City.  Each region has a special ability when a hero is defending from there.  Each hero also has a special ability, and there are artifacts with special abilities that can be acquired when defending against Dire Enemies.  Defeat the Epic Foe before the Capitol City falls and you win!

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Unique turn based system.
  • Great artwork and components.
  • Simple, straightforward cooperative tower defense game.
  • Fast, casual play, perfect for families.
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • The Dark War expansion adds a campaign mode and additional options.
  • Great for solo play!
  • The game arc progresses quickly from almost too easy to frantically difficult!  And multiple difficulty levels make sure you're always playing at an appropriate difficulty.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Prone to 'quaterbacking'; easy to have an alpha gamer.
  • Updates to the Second Edition are minor, but required to use the expansion.
Final Thoughts:
As I mentioned in the introduction, this is the third version of Tiny Epic Defenders that I've owned, starting with the rough print and play version, then the First Edition, and now the Second Edition, and it (along with Tiny Epic Kingdoms) began my obsession with the Tiny Epic series of games.  So this is a game that holds a special place in my heart.  But how well does this Second Edition compare to the rest of the Tiny Epic lineup?  And is it worth getting if you already have the First Edition?

Over the years, Tiny Epic Defenders has gotten quite a bit of play from me.  It's not the most challenging or deeply strategic in the Tiny Epic lineup, but it's been a great casual cooperative game that I can play with my family.  You can knock out a game in 30-40 minutes and, even though the age says 14+, I've been playing it with my sons since they were 5 and 7 and they've had no issues with the mechanics (setup is a little challenging though, so I'd recommend an adult at least play along with younger kids).  I've played Tiny Epic Defenders a number of times as a quick game to play with the boys and as a solo game to play while I'm waiting for them somewhere, and I love it in both instances.

However, Tiny Epic Defenders does have some issues.  The biggest issue is that the game is very prone to 'quarterbacking'.  The game plays great solo, and there's a very strong temptation for alpha gamers to just make all the decisions.  If you're playing with younger kids you have to make an effort to let them feel like they're involved in the decision making process.

My other issue with the Second Edition specifically, is that it didn't really seem necessary.  Yes, it has updated artwork, new ITEMeeples, and some slightly more balanced abilities for the heroes, locations, artifacts, and enemies, and a few rules tweaks help smooth out a few minor rough spots, so it's a marginally better game than the First Edition.  However, these changes are super minor to the gameplay.  But when The Dark War expansion was released, Gamelyn Games wanted to incorporate the better art and components that their later games were known for.  This meant the base game also needed an update, making the First Edition completely incompatible with the expansion.  I guess I understand the decision, but I wasn't happy about it at the time.  I felt like people were being forced to re-buy a perfectly good game just to have the expansion (I have similar feelings about other games that have done this, too, like the excellent Dracula's Feast by Jellybean Games).

So, if you never intend to buy or play the Expansion (which adds a bunch of new features, including more ITEMeeple artifacts, new enemies, a campaign mode, and more), the First Edition is sufficient.  The changes didn't really affect the overall experience for me.  But if the features of The Dark War expansion sound great (and they are pretty great), then you'll definitely want the Second Edition of the game.

Now, where does Tiny Epic Defenders rank among the rest of the Tiny Epic lineup?  That's a more subjective question.  I quite like the game for what it is.  It's not the most strategic game in the lineup, but it's probably the fastest to setup and play.  I think the cooperative aspect of the game works better than the cooperative mode of Tiny Epic Zombies (and setup is much faster).  Personally, I like Tiny Epic Galaxies and Tiny Epic Kingdoms better than Tiny Epic Defenders, but I'd rank it about the same as the other Tiny Epic games.  It scratches a different itch than any of the other games, so I definitely think it's worth adding to your collection, especially if you're interested in a fast, simple cooperative game to play solo or with your family.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 


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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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