Nostalgia at dangerous levels as Tiny Epic Quest finally hits my doorstep. It might look like Zelda, but does it deliver the gameplay to match the classic video game series?
What a brave man Scott Almes is to venture anywhere near this hallowed ground. With everything being a clear nod to The Legend of Zelda from familiar dungeon-acquired weapons to pointy-eared characters garbed in green, even as far as the inclusion of fairies, he's left himself absolutely nowhere to hide from the judgement of Zelda fans everywhere. Making a flop of this series would be a serious blot on the mans impressive copybook.
Set from the point of view of the overworld map, players spend their days moving their 3 heroes into positions around the map, essentially preparing for the meat of the game that takes place at night. Your 4 movements per day are performed via selection from 5 different options, which in solo are drip fed to you 2 at a time. This adds a nice level of unpredictability and can scupper your best laid plans, although with some creative thinking you can more often than not find a way to achieve your desired aims. Expect nothing too stressful, but enough of a challenge to get the cogs whirring a bit.
You'll be looking to acquire Victory Points throughout, essentially achieved by completing temples, defeating goblins, learning spells and finishing quests. There's other incentives to doing all of those things besides VPs, which all seem nicely balanced after a few plays. Defeating goblins will net you increased max health, learning spells gets you increased max power (versatile currency for the night phase) and completing temples nudges you closer to acquisition of legendary items, which are COOL.
So you're in position and night starts to fall; it's time to push your luck. Each round you decide whether to pick up the 5 adventure dice, roll and resolve them, or whether enough is enough and it's time to rest up. There's no way to heal at night, and as the night wears on it becomes more and more dangerous to be out adventuring. Sooner or later it'll be time for beddy-byes.
Die results will either deal damage to you, let you gain power, conjure magic, let you deal damage to goblins, or let you progress in completing a temple. All are straight-forward besides conjure magic, which besides helping you learn spells, provides the games' way of speeding the pace of the night. Magic accumulates and at certain thresholds other die results become more dangerous: damage to you becomes more powerful and more frequent, and the ability to gain power dries up completely. Do you make that extra roll knowing that you could "exhaust" (i.e. die) and lose your progress in the temples, spell obelisks and goblin battles? Is the reward worth the risk?
A defining feature of this game is the introduction of the ITEMeeple: a chunky meeple capable of holding items that slot neatly into their arms. Other than being pretty damn awesome on their own, they are absolutely PERFECT for Tiny Epic Quest. As you snag loot from temples and quests, you tool-up your 3 ITEMeeples with the actual items that you just earned. Now your guy is marauding around the map with a legendary sword in one hand and a bomb in the other. It's nothing short of fantastic. My only gripe is that there's so much scope to go further with this than just handheld items. What about capes? Helmets? Boots? I fully expect Gamelyn to explore things like that in future expansions, but the system is just so cool that I want it all YESTERDAY.
Before I wrap up I'd also like to give a nod to the rulebook. The Tiny Epic rulebooks have all been a bit hard work for me at times, but I'm delighted to say that this bucks the trend. It's clear, it gives good examples and the order is logical. More like this please, Gamelyn.
Tiny Epic Quest is brilliant, and far and away my favourite of the Tiny Epic series. I can easily see this enticing and successfully capturing video gamers into boardgaming. At it's heart it offers a streamlined, elegant and above all fun experience, which will appeal to newcomers and veterans alike. Top, top notch.