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Board Game Review: Big Fun with Tiny Towns

With everyone getting creative in finding ways to play games remotely, Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has done their part in helping us scratch that gaming itch. Every weekday at ‘high noon’ AEG has hosted a stream where people can play along in a game of Space Base or Tiny Towns. If you look closely, you might even see someone you recognize!

Playing along with the streams has been a blast, and they’re saved for all eternity on the internet so that you can get a random set of resource calls if you want to play along in the future.

What’s the reception for Tiny Towns around the Nerds on Earth Headquarters? Let’s find out!

Tiny Towns Board Game

Tiny Towns: It Takes a Village

In Tiny Towns, players use five resources to construct a specific set of buildings on a 4×4 grid. Each building has its own scoring rules and often involves interaction with other types of buildings. Players must use careful spatial planning and strategy to build as much as possible.

The commonly-used Town Hall mode works the best for large groups or remote play. In this variant, resources are pulled from a deck of cards. When a resource is drawn, each player places the cube somewhere on their board and then may choose to construct a building. Every third resource is a freebie that players can choose to use whatever they want.

Every building requires a certain combination of resources laid out in a particular pattern. Keep in mind that you can flip, rotate, and orientate the shape in any direction so long as it’s the same configuration of resources. When constructing, you must place the building on one of the squares that held a resource used to build it.

At the end of the game, any square without a building is worth negative points, so you better plan ahead to make sure you don’t get boxed in with dead spaces!

Staking Our C.L.A.I.M on Tiny Towns

Components

Tiny Towns Board Game
Everything has a place, with space for expansions like Fortune

AEG knows how to produce a high-quality game. Their track record includes games like Point Salad and Santa Monica, which have quality components that will survive the jostling of frequent play. There’s nothing out-of-the-ordinary with Tiny Towns, but I’m totally happy with the pieces we get to push around the table.

The resource cubes are your standard, painted, wooden cubes. You place these on your cardboard grid, which is thicker than I would have predicted. You can pick the entire thing up mid-game and not worry about the edges bending down and destroying your tiny town.

The cards are also relatively standard, printed with bright colors. Since I’ve fallen in love with the Town-Hall variant, the cards get a lot of use. They’ll hold up just fine, but if you have some extra sleeves lying around I’d suggest putting those on.

Out of everything, the wooden buildings are the best. Each color building has its own unique shape to help distinguish it from the rest. My favorite part, however, is how the black building (representative of buildings like the Warehouse) can hold the resource cubes within its peaks and valleys. Genius!

Luck

Once you get the hang of Tiny Towns, the strategy plays out relatively similar with each round. I’ll let you discover that for yourself, as that’s one of the joys of puzzle games!

Where Tiny Towns excels, however, is that every game is going to play a little bit differently. When you setup the game, you’re choosing one building of each type to be used for that game. Everyone is playing with the same buildings, but the variety allows expanded replayability.

Additionally, every player gets access to their own special building: the Monument. These are powerful buildings that entire strategies can be built around. Because of this, you won’t see players copying each others’ moves; everybody is truly working towards their own gameplan.

Aesthetics

The premise of Tiny Towns is that you’re helping build a little village safe and secluded from nature’s predators. Given that, the colorful art style and animals add a wonderful layer of whimsy to the game.

Presentation-wise, everything flows together well and makes sense together. Some people will chalk this up as an abstract game, and I can see the case for it. Most of the time you’re looking at cubes and wooden buildings on a grid instead of the art that helps to solidify the theme.

However, you still get the feeling of building a village from the ground up when you place your buildings. Do I wish there was more art? Definitely. Despite that, the game plays well and looks great, even if I wish I could see more of the wonderful world they created.

Tiny Towns Board Game
Setup includes one of each building type, and your individual Monument

Interest

This is a game for anyone and everyone. Tiny Towns teaches quickly and the mechanic of ‘place cube, build thing’ allows the game to be a supplement to a night of gaming and converstation.

There isn’t any engine-building or hidden layers of strategy here, so if you’re looking for a hyper-complex puzzle to solve, you’ll have to look elsewhere. However, puzzle-lovers will be able to appreciate the complexity that goes into their decision-making.

For people looking for more Tiny Towns, be sure to check out the Fortune expansion. This introduces an entirely new component in the form of a coin. You get coins by building two or more buildings in a turn, and can use them to replace resources or keep them as points. It’s an entirely new game when playing with the additional buildings and mechanics that Fortune introduces.

Tiny Towns Board Game
Example of a completed town; utilize those corners!

Mood

Because of its mechanical simplicity, I find Tiny Towns to be relaxing and therapeutic. For those of you that have participated in the live streams, you probably know what I mean. The stream itself is just a Zoom meeting with resource call-outs sprinkled in. That’s not to say it’s mindless, but you can enjoy the company of friends without getting bogged down in a complex solitaire puzzle.

This is a good time to note that there really isn’t interaction between players, which is why Tiny Towns can be played with a near-infinite number of people. The groans and cheers as a resource is pulled bring a smile to my face.

If you end up having a different number of people at game night than what you planned for, break out Tiny Towns. The more the merrier!

Tiny Towns Board Game
Tiny Towns works for player counts from 1 to 100!

Tiny Towns: Little Mouse in the Big City

Tiny Towns is great. I love complex games but I also really appreciate games that allow players to pick up and play in a short amount of time due to simplified mechanics and rules. Games like this are great for the hobby because they get more people playing in a shorter amount of time.

All in all, Tiny Towns gets the Seal of Awesomeness award from Nerds on Earth! It gets top marks in replayability, teachability, and simplicity.

If Tiny Towns seems like something you might be interested, you can pick up a copy on AEG’s website or your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS).


[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth received a copy of Tiny Towns from Alderac Entertainment Group in exchange for participating on their Tiny Towns stream.]