It’s not a heavy game by any means, but the amount of depth that Tiny Epic Galaxies offers with such a small footprint is no mean feat. If you like learning board game rules by watching videos, try this one!
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this deceptively little game is Tiny Epic Galaxies, a resource management space Yahtzee game for 1-5 players. Let me show you how to play!
You and your friends play rival space empires competing to colonize different planets. You send your ships to these planets, where you can either use their special powers, or race to colonize them. By colonizing planets, you gain their powers permanently, allowing you to grow your empire, send more ships, colonize more planets, and dominate the galaxy. You do all of this by rolling a certain number of special space dice. The first player to 21 points triggers the end of the game.
Let’s take a look at the humble beginnings of your empire.
Your player card represents your home galaxy. You start out with only two ships. There are two currencies in the game: culture and energy. These tokens mark your levels in each. You start out with 1 culture and 2 energy. You can eventually build two more ships, which go here along your empire track. This token measures the size and strength of your empire. At this level, you have 2 ships and you roll 4 dice. If you upgrade to this level, 2 ships and 5 dice. Upgrade again, and it’s three ships and five dice, and so on. Every level you gain gets you either an extra die to roll, or an extra ship to command. The inside column marks the number of victory points your empire is worth: 2 points, 1 point. That type of thing.
Player-count-plus-two planet cards get dealt to the table – or six planets in a 5-player game.
On your turn, you roll the number of dice your empire size allows. Each die is identical, bearing these 6 faces.
You then get to pick and choose which of the rolled dice you want to activate by putting them on the Activation Bay in the middle of the table. You can activate as many or as few of the rolled dice as you like. If you don’t like the roll, you can re-roll any number of unactivated dice at any point by spending energy – one energy per re-roll. But every turn, you get one re-roll for free, without having to spend energy.
If your opponents like what you’re doing, they can spend 1 culture to follow your movements. So whenever you activate a die, you pause a little to let someone say “I’m following!” Your opponent spends a culture, and takes the same action as the die you just activated. If nobody has any culture to spend, nobody can follow you, so you’re free to play your turn without these deferential pauses.
Let’s take a look at what each symbol on the dice does for you.
The move a ship icon lets you… you know… like… move a ship. It’s crucial to get one of these on your first turn, because it lets you take a ship from your home galaxy and move it to a planet. Later in the game, you can move a ship from planet to planet, or from a planet back to your home galaxy. If you move a ship to a planet, you have two options: land on the planet, or orbit it.
If you land on a planet, you can use that planet’s special power. If you orbit a planet, you’re now in a bid to colonize it and claim it for your empire. Take a look at the symbol at the end of the orbital track: it’s either one-a these, or one-a these. You can find both of these symbols on the dice. We’ll take a closer look shortly.
Both the culture and energy symbols are on the dice too. Some planets give you culture, and some give you energy. For every energy or culture symbol you activate, you count up your ships that are either on culture-bearing planets or energy-bearing planets, and gain that many culture or energy points. If you’re already maxed out, that extra energy or culture just … floats out into space. If you have two ships on this culture planet and you activate a culture die, you get two culture. If you have any ships on your home galaxy when you activate an energy die, it gives you energy.
If you activate one-a these or one-a these, you can move one ship up one spot on an orbital track bearing that symbol. If your ship reaches the last space on the track before anyone else’s ship, the planet is all yours. You bounce all other ships on the planet back to their home galaxies, including your own, and you slide the planet card under your player mat. A new planet fills in the gap on the table. The planet you just colonized increases your score: you have to count up your points and announce them to your opponents. The expansion to Tiny Epic Galaxies improves on this by giving you a score tracking card, because nobody likes doing math in their head. (“Vell, actually…”) OH SHUT UP, …EINSTEIN.
The last symbol you can roll and activate is the colony symbol. This lets you use one of your special powers. Everyone starts the game with one special power, but as you colonize planets, your suite of available powers grows. This default power means that you can spend either culture or energy to level-up your space empire. If you want to go to level 2, you pay 2 culture or energy. Wanna go to level 3? Activate another colony die, and pay 3. It has to be one currency or the other – you can’t combine them. If, by levelling up, you unlock a ship, it’s available immediately. If you unlock an extra die, you don’t get to roll it until your next turn.
If you get a bum roll, you can take the expensive route and juice two dice to get whatever symbol you want. Place two inactive dice into this convertor, and change a third inactive die to any symbol, and activate it. This is a huge sacrifice, but there are definitely circumstances where it makes the most sense to take this option.
After you’ve activated all the dice you want to activate, clear the dice off the activation bay and pass the bones on clockwise.
As soon as someone hits 21 points, the end of the game is triggered. Finish taking turns until everyone has had the same number of turns, and then tally up the points. Off the top of the game, everyone is dealt two secret mission cards. Players keep one and return the other. When the last player has taken his or her final turn, you reveal these secret mission cards. Secret mission card points can’t help trigger the end of the game, but they do get tallied up at the end to potentially nudge players closer to victory.
Here’s a round-up of some of the game’s finer points:
You can’t land your ships on the same planet’s surface more than once, but you can land on and orbit a planet at the same time.
Multiple players can land on and orbit the same planet you’re on, so these orbital tracks become a race to see who can colonize the planet first.
You can’t activate a move-a-ship die to move your ship from an orbital track to a planet’s surface, or vice versa. The ship has to move to a different planet, or to your home galaxy.
You can’t land a ship on another player’s colonized planets that are tucked under their mats, or on their home galaxies.
Once a die is activated, it’s stuck there – it can’t be reused or re-rolled.
If there are timing disputes when players spend culture to follow each other’s die actions, you resolve those actions in clockwise order from the active player.
You can’t follow actions on dice that were juiced in the convertor.
An easy mistake to make is thinking that activating these symbols gets you energy or culture from the planets where you see those symbols, and where you have ships on those tracks. No! These symbols only move your ships along the tracks, and only one ship at a time, so if you have two qualifying ships and you activate one-a these, you have to pick a ship to advance along a track.
Okay, so Tiny Epic Galaxies is definitely a game you can get better at, which tends to put new players at a bit of a disadvantage. If you’re new to the game, here are a few things you could consider:
On your first turn, if you’re the first player, it’s vital to roll one of these move-a-ship symbols. Getting a ship on an orbital track is an investment in your empire’s future. If you don’t roll the symbol, use your free re-roll. No dice? Consider spending your energy points on two more re-rolls if you need to. If you still don’t roll it, i honestly recommend juicing two dice in the convertor to get one.
If you’re not the first player, it’s definitely worth spending the culture point you get at the beginning of the game to follow someone else’s move-a-ship die. That’s because when it comes around to your turn, you want to be able to use your dice to move along an orbital track. You don’t want to waste your time trying to roll for that move-a-ship icon like the last poor sap did.
The other thing i’d recommend is upgrading your empire as early as possible. Getting to level 2 is cheap: you start the game with enough energy to do it, so if you roll a colony symbol on your first turn, go for it. That’ll give you an extra die to roll on your next turn, which is a huge advantage. If you’re not the first player and somebody else activates the colony icon, spending a culture to follow and upgrade your empire isn’t a bad opening salvo.
It’s extremely advantageous to have ships on two or more culture planets. That’s because if an opponent activates a culture die, you can spend one culture to follow that action, and then gain more culture than you just spent! That’s super powerful.
Finally, you have to be extremely careful which dice you activate when one or more of your opponents has culture to spend, particularly when you’re racing those opponents on a track. In moving yourself up on a track, you might accidentally allow an opponent to follow your action and push into that last space, taking the planet from you and bouncing your ship back home!
This gets a little more hairy when you’re activating the a colony die. Now, you have to be aware of all the different special powers your opponents have, because they could follow your action and, in this case, spend 2 more culture to advance 2 spaces on an orbital track, overtaking you and stealing the planet!
If you’re a first-time player, it may be helpful to flip through the secret mission deck before you begin the game, just to be aware of the kinds of conditions that may help your opponents squeak out a few surprise points at the end of the game.
The deluxe version of Tiny Epic Galaxies comes with a mini expansion called Satellites & Super Weapons. Here’s how it works:
Everyone gets 3 satellite tokens on the circled stages of their empire tracks.
When you level up your empire to those stages, you claim a satellite. Place the satellite on one of the planets in the middle of the table. Whoever colonizes that planet gets any satellites that have accumulated on it and places those satellites in his or her galaxy. Satellites are worth 1 point each at the end of the game, but that’s kind of the booby prize. There are much more interesting way to spend satellites.
At the beginning of the game, after you deal out the planet cards, flip over the top card from the Super Weapon deck. At any point during your turn, you can place one of the satellites you gained from conquering a planet on the Super Weapon to activate its devastating power. You can send a ship there to destroy it. Work your way around the Super Weapon’s orbital track just like you would on a planet. If you’re the first to reach the end, you destroy the Super Weapon. (Wha? Oh. Kaboom.) Flip it to the other side and slide it under your player mat. Every Super Weapon is worth two points. Announce your total score to your opponents as usual. Every satellite on a Super Weapon when it gets destroyed is removed from the game, and earns you one energy apiece if you were the player who Luke Skywalkered it. Flip over a new Super Weapon.
To set up the game, give everyone a player mat. Each player gets two ships, 2 energy, 1 culture, and starts at empire level 1. Deal out player count plus 2 planet cards, or 6 planets in a 5 player game. Everyone gets 2 secret mission cards. Keep one, toss the other. (show it floating in space with the Beethoven bust) The Control Mat and the dice go in the centre of the table. If you’re playing with Satellites and Super Weapons, everyone places 3 satellites here, here, and here on their player mats. Flip over a Super Weapon from the deck.
The youngest player goes first, and play continues clockwise.
And now, you’re ready to play Tiny Epic Galaxies!
(baleful wolf howl) … Unless you have no friends. Luckily, there’s a solo mode!
Each player mat has a different enemy rogue galaxy printed on the back. Each one has a different difficulty rating. Set up for a two player game, without the Secret Mission cards. (Crash sound) The bad guy has no energy or culture to start off, but it does begin the game with all 4 ships and empire level 1.
You go first. When it’s the enemy’s turn, roll the appropriate number of dice one by one, placing each die in turn on the activation mat. You can follow an enemy’s dice by spending 1 culture, as long as the enemy was able to use that die face itself. You can also spend 1 culture and 1 energy to force the enemy to reroll a die in case it’s bad news.
Here’s what each die face does for the enemy:
When the enemy rolls Move a Ship, take a ship off the enemy’s galaxy map and put it on the leftmost orbital track where the enemy doesn’t already have a ship. The enemy never lands on the planet.
If one-a these or one-a these is rolled, you advance ALL enemy ships on orbital tracks bearing that symbol.
If the enemy rolls energy or culture, it gains those just like any other player would, except that the enemy’s home galaxy produces both energy and culture, whereas yours only produces energy.
At the end of every turn where the enemy’s energy is at max, the enemy’s empire is automatically upgraded, and the enemy’s energy level drops back down to zero.
If the enemy’s culture is maxed out at the end of its turn, remove all the dice from the control mat. The enemy gets another turn rolling only three dice, and ignoring the max culture/max energy rules. Then the enemy’s culture gets knocked down to zero.
If the enemy rolls the colony symbol, the enemy gets to do whatever action is listed at its current empire level. So if the evil Artemis empire was at level 3 and it rolled a colony symbol, it would steal 1 culture from you. At level 4, it would move one of your ships backwards on an orbital track.
If the enemy reaches 21 points or more, or if it upgrades its empire to the scary facebones symbol, you lose the game instantly. On the other hand, if you reach 21 points or more, you kick the rogue galaxy’s space butt!
And NOW you’re ready to play Tiny Epic Galaxies: Deluxe Edition, either with friends, or in who-needs-friends mode. Enjoy!
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