Judge me by my size, do you?

If you are like most gamers, you will someday find that you are out of room.  Whether it is for the newest miniatures or board game, often physical space can get to be an issue.  Even if you dedicate an entire room (or half your basement) to gaming, the number of games you have will ALWAYS increase to fill all available space.

Gamelyn Games was built to fill that very niche - with their Tiny Epic games.  (OK, they have done one 'normal' size game).  The Tiny Epic games are small boxes that easily can fit into your game shelf.  But the games inside are anything but.

The latest in their lineup is Tiny Epic Zombies.   I just received my kickstarter copy, and it is scheduled for general release in October, just in time for Halloween.  Now there are a LOT of zombie themed games out there - but some of them are so overflowing with miniatures, boards and cards that you  need a push cart just to carry everything (Zombicide being a great example, with more miniatures and expansions than I can keep track of).

So what exactly do we have here?  The box is the same tiny epic box size they have used for their 8 previous games (and the latest, Tiny Epic Mechs, is going on kickstarter next month)

box back
The first thing I noticed opening the box was the nice piece of art on the inside of the box top.  No play value, but just a little nice piece.

Of course it has a rulebook

It has a QR code on the cover taking you to their web site where they have a "How to Play" video.  OK if you are one of those young whippersnappers that lives on your phone (which, come to think of it, is now a Tiny Epic Device (yes, I'm old enough to remember when phones were actually used to make phone calls)) this is great, but us old farts that prefer things like a real full size keyboard (with actual keys) or a monitor with dimensions that are measured in more than single digits, it doesn't do much good.

So of course I made a link to it for you here.

Otherwise the rule book is fairly standard.  It explains all the components (though a lot of the counters are only used for specific scenarios, which are detailed on the scenario cards).  The base game mode is co-operative players vs a single zombie player.

I said base mode, because there are 5 different ways to play the game.

  • Co-operative vs Zombie
  • Co-operative vs AI
  • Competitive vs Zombie
  • Competitive vs AI
  • Solo

In the Co-operative mode, the survivors all win or lose together.  In the competitive mode, the survivors all lose together, or one of them is actually the best survivor.  More on these later.

The game has a single combat die.  Combat is trivial, roll the die.  The zombie ALWAYS dies.  A great head means it dies with no other effect (2 sides with this).  The green splatted head is a great hit, the survivor gets a free move after killing the zombie (2 sides with this).  If you get a red would marker, then you take a wound from the zombie.  If you shoot, then you take two wounds.  (ok, only if you roll the two wound side, however in my first solo play through, I managed to roll double wounds EVERY SINGLE TIME I made a f*****g ranged attack.  Apparently every gun in the zombie apocalypse is a total piece of crap that backfires any time it is used).

(Oops, I just watched the How to Play video linked above, and realized you don't roll the die when shooting (since you have to use ammo).  So maybe the game won't be quite so impossible the next time I play :-) ).

Like a plethora of modern games, this is tile based.  However it is not an exploration game, the tiles are laid out in a specific pattern each game.  You have a central courtyard surrounded by eight store cards.  The game has a modern feel of desperation being set in a mall, which anymore may not be zombie filled, but so many feel like ghost towns.  (The classic George Romero Dawn of the Dead is set in a mall, and like all of his movies, is actually much more of a statement of modern society (the age of rampant consumerism))  (I prefer the original 1978 version (and still love the scene where the biker tries to take his blood pressure, and the zombies attack and kill him, tearing off his arm which is trapped in the blood pressure cuff of the machine (which then reads 0/0 when it completes its cycle))

The courtyard tile has both a co-operative side, and a competitive side.  Additionally, each of the store tiles has two sides - when setting up the game you randomly pick the side and location for each tile.

There are nine objective cards - each has a competitive and cooperative side.

There are then the survivor cards.  These are also two sided, with one side being the human player, and the other side being the zombie version.  The zombie version give the zombie player (or AI) special abilities to help to eat the humans.

When a human is killed (or "eaten alive"), they flip their card and give it to the zombie player, who can then begin to use the abilities on the card.  A human is killed if their wound and ammo markers ever end on the same space (or cross) (much like Red Dragon Inn, if you are familiar with that game).

In addition to these large cards, there are five types of normal size cards - pickups, events, backpack items and weapons (close combat and ranged).  These will all be shuffled and used in the game.

Gamelyn Games has always used quality components, with painted wooden meeples and markers, and they just keep getting better and better.

Wound, ammo and zombie meeples
Veicle tokens - the player meeple will actually fit in the vehicle
Token meeples - five for players, plus survivor and a barrier token
There are some cardboard tokens as well.  Most of these are two sided (where cardboard tokens actually work better than wooden ones).

Supply and trap tokens
stranded tokens, back and front
Radio and part tokens
military tokens - one for each color
toxic tokens
cure tokens
exit tokens
The meeples are where their games have advanced, with ITemeeples - or meeples that can actually hold items!  Each plastic meeple has two holes for their hands, so you can equip them with them with the various plastic items you will find in the game.

ranged and close combat weapons
equipped meeples
item cards and their corresponding tokens
The deluxe version of the game as some extras as well.  First off is the service dog - if you find him then he can help you, but if he dies he becomes a zombie!

There are four new items - two copies of ninja throwing stars, a katana and a bazooka.  It turns out my set was slightly mispacked - nothing was missing but the extra set had the golf club token in it (while the katana was with the 'normal' tokens).  No big deal, but I hope this is fixed before the non-deluxe versions hit retail.

 There are also four new survivor cards to give you even more variety.

The game is fast, with the zombies taking a turn after each human takes a turn.  For the humans, each must move 3 times, and after each move may do any (or all) of three actions - kill a zombie, interact with the card, or collect items.  The last two can only be done if there are NO zombies on the card.  You must move before you do anything, so you can never do anything in the room you start your turn in.

You use the combat die to kill a zombie in the room you moved to (and can lose health), or use a bullet to shoot a zombie in an adjacent room (and if you play the game CORRECTLY your guns actually work and you don't take wounds from shooting).  You have to manage your health and ammo however, because if they ever meet you are dead.

Each human player is given a face down search card, and they reveal this after they have finished all their moves.  There is one of four entrance symbols on each card - if it matches one of the entrance symbols on the tile the human is in, then they made too much noise.  If there is a zombie player, they get to use one of the zombie special abilities on their turn, then add two zombies to one or both of the cards with the matching symbol on them.  If using the AI, then making too much noise simply doubles the number of zombies added (so two to each card instead of one).  After adding more zombies, the zombie player then gives replaces the face down card for the human player.

The humans have to finish their 3 objectives before the deck of search cards (the humans each get one more turn after the search cards are gone).  If they don't complete all three objectives, the zombies win.  If they run out of survivor tokens (either by having a player "eaten alive" or by having the courtyard overrun without a barricade) then the zombies win.

Here is the setup for the first solo game I tried

and the objectives
and the end of the game.
I then had a chance to play it again (correctly this time) with some friends from work.  We try to do a quarterly game night after work, and this time we tried TEZ (I was the zombie player, and the survivors won on their last go round after I ran out of card to give them).  We also played a parcheesi variant that Nancy's father had made.  Much fun was had by all.

Nancy, Eric, Mark and Dan.  Only one survivor was eaten alive, and it was a lot of fun
My favorite of the Tiny Epic games before this was Galaxies, but this may be my new favorite.  It was fun enough that a friend of mine bought a copy at Gencon even though he had backed the kickstarter!

Because it is all fun and games . . .


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