Tiny Epic Defenders--A Double-Take Review and Giveaway

Today we're reviewing Tiny Epic Defenders, the second title in the Tiny Epic franchise from Gamelyn Games and designer Scott Almes. Should you answer the call to arms and defend the land? Let's find out!

Following the great war of Tiny Epic Kingdoms, all the factions were shattered and looking for order in the realm. Enter the Order of Gamelyn, who provided a Capital City and brought peace. But just when you thought it was happily ever after for our heroes, there's a new set of baddies on the rise--now it's time for everyone to band together and defend the land!

The Components

The board is made up of seven region cards--six of these are double-sided, while the Capital City is not. The ones that are double-sided have different effects that are triggered when a player uses an action to do so (more on that later).

There are also a set of Enemy cards, a set of Dire Enemy cards, a set of Epic Foe cards, some Artifact cards (that you can score by taking out a Dire Enemy), and a set of Ally cards. Along with four meeples (with corresponding heart-shaped health markers), seven fiery threat meeples (for each region) and one black heart meeple for the Epic Foe. And of course hero cards that represent the players--these have special abilities on each one, as well as a health track.

Jeremiah-- Gamelyn has a well-deserved reputation for making sweet components, and I LOVE the fire meeples!

The Setup

The first part of the setup is rather standard: Select or deal out heroes, create the board with the region cards (forming a circle around Capital City), then place threat markers on each track of the regions, and the players' meeples start on Capital City. 

Then you create three decks

  1. The Horde Deck - Three Enemy cards, and a number of Dire Enemy cards (depending on how difficult a game you want to play).
  2. The Turn Deck - Three Enemy cards and an ally card matching the color of each player in the game (if there are fewer than four, you'll add in some "Group Ally" cards that allow you to split up actions amongst yourselves for the turn).
  3. The Destruction Deck - The leftover Enemy cards, Dire Enemy cards and Ally Cards

Jeremiah--Setup isn't too bad once you sort out the creating of the decks, the randomness of the decks makes for an interesting game each time. They're never the same and you're never quite sure which regions will fall under attack or when.

Firestone--I've played games with more setup and less payoff. It's not too bad here at all. 


Gameplay is fairly simple (mechanically speaking) but requires a lot of thought and planning by the players. You simply turn over a card from the turn deck. If it's an Ally card, then the hero with that color meeple takes three actions, and if it's an enemy card, then you move the threat level on the shown regions up one. If a hero is on that region they can choose to defend it (get it? Tiny Epic "Defenders"?!?!) by taking one hit to their health. Don't worry, though. Hitting zero health doesn't mean you're out of the game, just that you have to go back to the Capital City and on the start of your next turn you'll be healed and ready to roll again.

If a region hits the fiery icon on its threat level, it's destroyed, and each time it would increase its threat, the threat on the Capital City is instead increased!

Okay, so what can we do as a heroes around here. Your action options are:

  1. Move - We're pretty sure that one is self-explanatory.
  2. Succor - Which is a fancy word for lower the threat level of the region you're in. BUT you can never do this in the Capital City, so it's sometimes a good idea to be able to defend on destroyed regions!
  3. Use an ability - Either your heroes or the region that you're in.
  4. Fight - If the Epic Foe is out, you can fight it and do damage by also taking the same amount of damage.

Once you get all the way through the Turn deck you add a card from the Horde deck to the Turn deck, shuffle them up, and start a new round. Once you put the whole Horde deck into the Turn deck the next time through, the Epic Foe comes out!

If the Capital City is destroyed, all the players lose the game. If you defeat the Epic Foe, all players win the game!

The Verdict

Jeremiah--The gameplay is really pretty straightforward. That doesn't mean it's an easy game to beat; we've had our butts handed to us on many occasions, which is exactly what I look for in a cooperative game. 

Firestone--Speaking of cooperative: The very first thing my 7-year-old asks every time we learn a new game is, "Is this a working-together game?" He loves co-op games, so this appeals to him more than Tiny Epic Kingdoms. He's still a little young to play without some help, but I see him wanting to play this more often in the long run.

Jeremiah--While I do like this game--a lot--it seems like the art is a bit of a mixed bag, the region cards are gorgeous, when I first saw the Coast region I thought "I want to go to there!" But on some of the Epic Foe illustrations I thought, "Meh, doesn't look so tough..." 

Jeremiah--You're not allowed to look at the discard pile as you flip through the Turn deck, so it's definitely a game that you want to pay attention to what's been pulled, and what areas are going to be hit more as you go through the Turn deck multiple times. Again simple mechanics, but you have to stay tuned into this one--it's not a walk in the park!

Firestone--I really like the mechanism where player turns are variable since you don't know when those Ally cards will show up. It makes it tough to plan, but also inserts some freshness to a genre that can grow stale. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--I've yet to play a Tiny Epic Game (or Scott Almes game for that matter) that I haven't REALLY enjoyed. Tiny Epic Defenders is a fast-playing co-op that will destroy you and your friends if you're not ready for it! I'm a fan!

Firestone's Final Verdict--I actually like Tiny Epic Defenders more than Tiny Epic Kingdoms. It's a solid co-op with clever mechanisms and tough decisions. It's one of the many "working-together games" that my kids love right now. Well done, Gamelyn Games!

Theology of Games would like to thank Gamelyn Games for providing review copies of Tiny Epic Defenders. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.

Gamelyn Games has also graciously offered a copy of Tiny Epic Defenders Deluxe Edition  to one Dear Reader of the blog. This was only available as a Kickstarter add-on, and now you can only find limited quantities at conventions. So enter below before the contest ends on Good Friday. Thanks for reading!