The Goblin Coast is besieged by an evil that lurks in the nearby hills. The call for heroes and heroines to put an end to the spook goes to a group of adventurers. They should cleanse the region of corruption and restore peace. To do this, they must delve deep into the dungeon to rid the catacombs of vile monsters, avoid magical traps and defeat the source of evil.
Tiny Epic Dungeons aims to be a true miniature dungeon crawler. In our test, you will find out whether the game can master its self-imposed quest or whether our expectations remain behind in the darkness of the dungeon.
In “Tiny Epic Dungeons” the players do exactly what you have to do in a dungeon crawler. The dungeon wants to be explored piece by piece, monsters want to be defeated and loot collected. All players have their own character at their disposal. These differ in the usual categories such as strength, magic, life points, movement range, special abilities, and so on.
In one turn, characters can move several squares depending on their movement value. Especially at the beginning of a game, it often happens that new rooms have to be uncovered in order to progress. Special actions can often be carried out there, which can lead to a wide variety of effects. For example, you can find more loot through a skill test, be teleported via a portal or heal yourself. It is not uncommon for you to encounter larger (minions) or smaller opponents (goblins) who then interrupt your own movement.
Combat is quick and simple. Depending on the skill value and any additional effects from weapons or spells, the character rolls one to three dice and, if the opponent has a counterattack, one of the red enemy dice. The damage then results from the difference between the rolled strength and the defense value. After the fight, you get the genre-typical loot depending on the defeated opponent. These can be powerful weapons, armor, spells, or the like.
After the heroines have managed to defeat the boss’s minions and find the entrance to the boss’s room, the second act of the game takes place. Now it’s time to fight the final boss. The fight against this boss is a bit different than the other skirmishes. First, there are various spaces around the boss that characters can move to. These usually bring certain advantages or disadvantages to the fight. In addition, the boss cannot simply be flattened, as he must first be “lured” to certain dungeon spaces that have altar markers. Only then can his life points fall below a certain value. If they eventually drop to zero, the hero party wins.
The Stories extension
The expansion adds three things to the base game. First, there are a number of new characters, enemies, items, and spells. So more of what the base game offers. Optionally, the eponymous “Stories” can also be added, giving the heroes and heroines additional goals during their adventures that they must complete before the boss fight. These are usually extra actions that have to be carried out under certain conditions in a room in the dungeon or a special opponent who wants to be defeated.
Alternatively, “Tiny Epic Dungeons” can also be played with the expansion as a kind of campaign. Then the characters have to go through three levels of a dungeon in a row, defeating several bosses on their way.
Tiny Epic Dungeons is one of those games that surprised me – or didn’t live up to what I expected. As a fan of games like “Mage Knight” (admittedly, not a real dungeon crawler) and “Gloomhaven” I couldn’t imagine that a real crawler would fit in such a small box. I was expecting blatant cuts in core mechanics and very clear limitations in game design. But far from it: This small box contains a real dungeon crawler with a lot that goes with it.
First, there’s the exploration mechanic, which is simple and effective. Due to the fact that not all cards are used and that they always appear in a different order and can then be rearranged each time, the same dungeon will probably never appear twice. In addition, tactically unwise tinkering with the dungeon can lead to defeat. Whether this random generation will wear out at some point, I can’t say yet. I’ll probably have to play a few more games.
A particularly important aspect in this genre for me is “looting”, i.e. progression through new items. For a dungeon crawler to be really fun, it has to feel good when I find new items or get new abilities. When that little burst of dopamine works, I’m usually okay with it even if the tasks and enemies you have to do to get it done are a bit tedious. And that’s exactly what works wonderfully in “Tiny Epic Dungeons”. New weapons tend to feel really powerful compared to the starting weapons. Uncovering a new spell often triggers a happy murmur at the table when it comes to a powerful fireball that can do four damage (!) over long distances.
But of course, not everything is perfect about this little game. Because there is so much variation in the bosses, characters, objects, and dungeon layouts, so little is the variety, especially in the small goblin enemies. Due to the handful of different goblins, you’ve usually completely shredded your way through within just a few rounds of the game and then you meet the same adversaries over and over again. This wears off within just a single game. This wear and tear also occur in the plays, especially in the earlier rounds. Because they often run out in the same way: Reveal a new field, goblin appears, defeat goblin, turn over. There isn’t much room left
I’m also not particularly impressed by the boss mechanics, with which you have to lure the boss into several ritual rooms so that he can lose more life points. While this makes the boss a bit more challenging than it otherwise would be, it feels a bit like artificially increasing the game time when you have to lead the enemy by their nose halfway through the dungeon again. In my opinion, the expansion with its epic dungeon also overshoots the mark. This adds a level of extra game length that I personally really don’t think is necessary. The remaining parts of the expansion are nice, but at most, they provide a little more variety – which will probably do the game good in the long term.
Overall, though, I’m impressed with how much game you can fit into this small box. Because with “Tiny Epic Dungeons” you get a real dungeon crawler that essentially offers what you would expect from this type of game. Of course, compromises have to be made when it comes to complexity, but you shouldn’t expect anything else for the price and size. The game still feels a bit stretched out in some places.
If you don’t always have room for a game of “Gloomhaven” or “Sword & Sorcery” but are a fan of the genre, you’ve come to the right place. I can also imagine “Tiny Epic Dungeons” being incredibly good for vacation or on the go. So Gamelyn Games has completed its quest in a wholly satisfactory manner, creating a miniature dungeon crawler that, while not always feeling epic, confidently carries the genre’s torch high.