Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black (Gamelyn Games)

Earlier this year, I shared with you a Kickstarter success story called Tiny Epic Galaxies. I found the game to be very impressive in terms of theme, quality of components, and compact nature of the game. You can read my full recap here. Today, I am pleased to announce that Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games are revisiting this game by releasing an expansion entitled Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black.
In Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black, you have expanded your galaxies as far into known space as you can, fighting bitterly with your rivals over every possible planet. It's time to find new territory, and the only way to do that is to upgrade your ships and hire pilots. The expansion is currently available on Kickstarter for a pledge of $24 (or $46 will get you both Tiny Epic Galaxies and its expansion, if you don't own the original game). Let's talk about how the expansion changes the game.

Setup - Setup is done the same as the normal game with the following additions:
1. Add Planet Cards from the expansion into the planet deck and shuffle
2. Shuffle the Secret Mission Cards from the expansion into secret mission deck.
3. Shuffle the deck of Pilot Cards, and draw two more than the number of players. Place these face up in a row, above the row of Planet Cards.
4. Give each player a Hanger Card and their four Advanced Ships in their player color.
5. Place the Exploration Mat where everyone can reach it. and shuffle and place the circular deck of Exploration Cards face down on the mat.

Game Play - Game Play is done the same as the normal game with the additional two actions.
1. Hiring Pilots - On your turn, you may activate a certain number of dice symbols (2 matching symbols depending on the ship or 3 matching symbols for any ship) to hire a Pilot and replace one of your normal Ships with an Advanced Ship.
2. Exploration - Using a Move A Ship action, you can place a ship onto the Exploration Mat to explore. You then take one of the revealed Exploration Cards and end the exploration OR take the top card from the Exploration Deck. If you take the latter action, you can keep drawing and revealing new cards until there are three face up or a red card is drawn. You then resolve the action with the card you have selected and end exploration.

The game still ends when one player reaches 21 or more points (from Planets, Empire Level, Pilot Cards, and Dwarf Planets. You then score any bonus points from Secret Missions and Exploration Badges located at the bottom of the Exploration Cards.

Review
Expansions are a lot like sequels in that they almost never live up to the original. Thankfully, Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black breaks the mold. For starters, even though I only have a prototype of the game, I can tell that the artwork and quality did not suffer from the original game to the expansion. In fact any component upgrades the first Kickstarter campaign unlocked are automatically included in this expansion. Secondly, the expansion adds in more Planet Cards and Secret Mission Cards to add more variability to the game. Third, are the Pilot Cards. Each of them provide different abilities adding an asymmetric element to the game. It will be up to you to discover which combination of pilots works best for you from game to game. Also on the Pilot Cards and Exploration Cards are symbols which add a set collection element to the game. This brings me lastly to the Exploration Cards. With these cards, we add a press your luck element to the game.

So now in addition to area control and dice activation, we have added two fun game mechanisms to an already great game. This gives each player more options on what to do with their dice and adds even more replay value to the game. They were also smart to keep the end game trigger at 21 points. By keeping this the same, the game doesn't get bogged down and feel like it overstays its welcome. I am always amazed at the amount of strategy that Gamelyn Games is able to pack into their Tiny Epic boxes, but somehow they find a way. If you are already a fan of Tiny Epic Galaxies, you NEED this expansion. If you've never played Tiny Epic Galaxies, you'll WANT the game and expansion.

This game was provided to me for free by Gamelyn Games in exchange for an honest review.