TINY EPIC GALAXIES: BEYOND THE BLACK (Gamelyn Games)
One of the best games of 2015, in this writer’s humble opinion, was a small box full of game. Tiny Epic Galaxies, using only a deck of cards, some wooden bits and bobs, and a fistful of dice, bopped the player on the head with some seriously addictive, fun gameplay. It basically worked like this: chuck some dice, blast off your rocket ships, acquire culture and energy (the game’s two resources), colonize planets through economy or diplomacy, upgrade your empire, earn victory points. First person to 21 VP triggers end of game. Tiny Epic Galaxies is a near-perfect dice placement gem. Easy to teach and learn. Simple, but with some real choices.
Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black gives players a little more meat to chew on. The expansion, which requires Tiny Epic Galaxies to play, beefs up the original game with some cool additions. Now, when a player rolls doubles, they may hire a pilot. The player will choose one of their rockets to swap for one of the cool new Advanced Ships that come in the expansion. From now on, that ship has the pilot’s special ability. Pilot abilities include things like, “This ship acquires 2 resources instead of 1.” Pilots are worth one in-game VP, and a player can hire up to four pilots at a time. Certain pilots are only able to fly certain Advanced Ships, based on which faces the player rolled doubles of. However, if a player rolls 3-of-a-kind, they may hire any pilot to hire any Advanced Ship.
The other awesome thing Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black adds is Exploration. Players may activate a “move a ship” die to travel to unexplored space. Once there, they will draw an Exploration Card which will have either a positive effect (“Discovery”) or a negative one (“Danger”). If it’s a Danger Card, the player must resolve it immediately. However, if it’s a Discovery, they can either keep it or draw again, hoping for something better. Exploration adds an enjoyable “press your luck” element that lends genuine tension and excitement to the game.
Players also collect badges from Pilots and Exploration cards, which are good for VP during end-game scoring. Many of the games my group played were so tight that the victor relied on VP from badges to win. It ain’t over ’til it’s over!
I would place Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black in the “essential” category of expansions. There is no situation in which I can foresee myself ever again playing the base game without it. It takes an already strong game and makes it even better. Adding in the “Satellites and Super Weapons” and “Drones” mini-expansions that came with the Kickstarter versions of the base game and expansion only furthered the experience. The result was a delightfully crunchy point salad with enough choices to really get my synapses firing.
Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black seems to scale well with different player counts, though with five it can get a little long. It is enjoyable for two. Like the original, the expansion is solo playable. The AI once again ranges from “for babies” to “hard af” depending on which Rogue Empire you choose to compete against.
With its smooth design and interesting decisions, Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black really brings the strategy. It takes Gamelyn’s best title and knocks it even further out of the park. This game will be hitting my table on the regular for many, many years. Now I wonder if there’ll ever be an expansion to Tiny Epic Western… (Gamelyn Games) by Josher Lumpkin