The elusive Game Night board game. It is harder to find than one might think. Several criteria need to be met before the distinguished ‘Game Night Essential’ title can be bestowed. A player count of 4+, easy to teach, replayability, and a reasonable play time are all equally important when considering such an honor. Our game group is a mixed bunch with a public meeting location so these essential games become vital to our continuance as we are now. Foreshadowed as it may have appeared, let us consider Tiny Towns for the newest addition to the Game Nights Essentials.
As you may have seen from the excellent “How to Play” video above, this game is a beautiful production. Chunky wooden buildings, a large scoring pad, wooden resource cubes, and tarot sized reference cards all fit neatly into a nice vacuum-formed insert: the icing on the cake. No expense was spared here as AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) hit this one right out of the park.
The artwork was a bit sparse without many places to place the art other than 7 tarot building cards that are placed on the table and the monument card given to each player during setup. For what is present, it looks wonderfully cute with the vibrant colors and little anthropomorphic critters that inhabit those buildings.
I do have a slight gripe with the rule book. Though the rule book was well laid out and very simple to follow, their were some questions with the building clarification section as some issues with simply restating what the card reads. Not much of a clarification especially if you run into some circumstantial incident which did occur during a single play.
The gameplay of Tiny Towns is simple, fast and fun. Turns are quick with the active player calling out a resource type and every player, simultaneously, taking that resource. This brings downtime of play to a minimum which can be problematic if you also like enjoying your beverage of choice (i.e. No bathroom break time).
The speed of play can become too fast when the players at the table become fluent with the game’s rules. Our plays often resulted in the active player calling out a desired resource before all players have placed the previous round’s resource. An issue that is easily skirted with a friendly reminder to slow the #$%& down.
The spacial aspect of placing those resources on your grid can be a challenge when your trying to contend with all the unwanted resources you must place. This makes a potentially static gaming experience into something more dynamic. Multiple contingency plans must be in place in order to not find yourself falling behind due to poor planning. This aspect of the game becomes more apparent with the addition of more players: even more unwanted resources flood your board.
Another minor quibble arises with games at these lower player counts. This interesting aspects of tactical planning seems to go away when you have less unintended resources coming. It’s an aspect of play that I thoroughly enjoy and is almost lost when playing with 2 players. Many games end with similar building layouts with the back and forth form of play with 2 players. The addition of more players brings more input randomness that I tend to enjoy when playing games of a lighter complexity.
Lighter games have a tendency to become rather stale quickly: a simpler rule set with less to explore and learn. This is averted with more variety of play which is difficult as this tends to raise complexity. Tiny Towns solves this rather elegantly with the variable buildings of each type. Each of the tarot-sized building cards can be swapped out to give players a new dynamic with which to contend: more variation, more longevity, and more freshness. These often can make repeat games more common as you may try something different on your second game.
I really enjoyed our plays of Tiny Towns. It’s a simple yet delightful game with enough meat on the bones to justify adding it to the collection if your looking for that next Game Night favorite. Does it earn the title of ‘Game Night Essential’ as stated above? Given the player count of five and the ability to teach this within 5-10 minutes does give it legs to stand on. I would have to say that it does earn this title and more. This isn’t the game that I would grab if I were looking for a heavier strategic experience but one that would flourish in a mixed gaming group with many different members and preferences.
If you would like to read a bit more on the design history of Tiny Towns then follow this link. Thank you to Jim Muratzki for providing this great read.
Traverse City Board Gamers Opinions
To play Tiny Towns, you have to be flexible in your strategy in order to work with the resources that are being chosen. It can be wonderfully frustrating the first time you play it, but I find that everyone wants to immediately play it again as soon as they finish the first game.Kate Homminga
Tiny Towns utilizes a Tetris-style block-placement design and unique scoring methods to create a fun game that never plays the same way twice. It uses an engaging social dynamic that forces players to share the resources demanded by other players. This mechanic forces players to adapt to challenging situations and plan ahead in advance to avoid blocking themselves from finishing their building plans.Eric Benac
I really like Tiny Towns. I’ve played it 4 or 5 times so far, and it felt different every time. (And the game mechanics are simple enough that I’m considering buying it for my family.)Matt Archibald
Tiny Town is an interesting game because it not only gives you the challenge of maximizing your city spaces but the opportunity to mess with others. On your turn you may take a resource that you don’t even want just because it will make an opponents strategy ineffective and eliminate some of their spaces.Eric Homminga
Tiny Towns makes puzzling fun as it handles a large group of players in a surprisingly interactive way. The buildings look great, making you want to add them to your town, and kudos to the designers for figuring out ways to use the pieces in different ways (depending on setup), making each game I played a different challenge. I wish the designers had figured out a way to keep all players on the same beat, though, because those who need an extra minute to sort out the spatial relations of the puzzle can easily and unnecessarily get left behind. I’m hoping this makes frequent appearances at Game Night!Jim Muratzki
Tiny Towns accommodates large groups well. It is easy to play, very difficult to master abstract-strategy game centered around building patterns to gain points. I love the game immensely, but it repeatedly kicks my butt.Thomas Rollert
It’s really easy to learn and understand, but the gameplay can get really intense sometimes, and you have to decide if you’re going to mess with other people or help yourself.Abby Homminga