Slap on your lip rug and gear up for a game of Tiny Towns, the competitive puzzle game that punishes the easily distracted.
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Tiny Towns, a pattern-matching puzzle game for 1-6 players. Let me show you how to play!
You and your friends ostensibly play woodland creatures building towns, but this is an abstract game with a very tacked-on theme, so don’t even worry about that. For each game, you’ll randomly deal out a set of building cards. On every turn, the active player will name a resource – either glass, wood, wheat, stone, or brick, and all players have to place one of those resource cubes on an empty space on their player boards. Once the resource is placed, if you match any of the building configurations from the cards, you can then trade the resources in for that type of building, which you can place on your board on any square where those resources cubes were sitting. Different buildings allow you to score in different ways. Once every player has passed because no one has room for any more stuff, you clear out all the resources that didn’t go towards building anything. Add up the points from your buildings, and subtract the empty spaces on your board, to find out who’s won!
Tiny Towns is a really simple game, and there’s not much more to it than you’ll find in that overview. But here are a couple of extra details:
The green symbol means points.
For each wooden building in the game, other than the default cottage, there are four different blueprints you might randomly deal for your session. Each coloured building acts in a similar way no matter which blueprint you draw, but they’re just different enough to keep the game fresh and interesting with each new session. So cottages are always worth zero points, but they’re worth 3 points if they’re fed. The red building will feed your cottages and other feedable buildings in different ways, depending on which blueprint you draw. So the granary feeds any cottages or feedable structures you build in the surrounding 8 squares, while the greenhouse feeds a contiguous group of buildings anywhere in your town. The black building usually affects which resources you can or can’t place. The yellow building always grants you points based on its relative position to other buildings on your grid. The green building usually awards points as you build more and more of them.
Just like in chess, a piece laid is a piece played, so don’t stick anything on your board if you’re not sure about it, because you can’t move anything around once you’ve placed it.
Any square on your board can only hold 1 resource or 1 building.
You can build as many structures on your turn as you like. You can also just let your cubes sit there, and convert them to buildings at the last possible moment. But you have to place the resource cube called by the active player before you can cash in any cubes for buildings. And cubes only count once. If you had this setup with these available blueprints on the table, you couldn’t build a well and a farm – resources don’t overlap like that. You have to pick one or the other.
You can flip and rotate the building blueprints. So this L-shaped factory can go like this or like this or like this, or even backwards like this – you just can’t jumble up the order of the resources inside the pattern.
The building cards on the table stay on the table the whole game – they don’t disappear once someone has built from them. What’s more, the buildings and resources aren’t limited; if you run out of something, fish around in your pockets for an old half-sucked mint that’s vaguely shaped like the pieces you need.
When the game talks about “adjacency” for scoring purposes, it means orthogonal adjacency. So diagonals don’t count.
If you’re the active Master Builder and you wield the little wooden hammer, you have to wait until everyone has decided where they’re placing their resource from the last round before you blurt out the next resource to place. The rulebook says that once you’ve placed your resource, you have until the next resource is called to convert your cubes to buildings, which implies that if you’re a slowpoke and you’re the last one to place your cube, the split-second you tap that cube down on your board, the next Master Builder player can yell a resource type and you get bum-rushed out of your chance to build anything. I guess this is to keep the game moving at a reasonable clip, and to disincent players from taking their sweet time, but it’ll be up to you and your friends or family to decide how draconian you want to be at enforcing that rule.
For your first few games, you can use the “cavern rule,” where you pretend there’s a cave at the side of your board that can hold up to 2 resources until you’re ready to place them. Or, you can just dive right in like i did, do horribly, and lose to your kid by a 26 point spread. It’s all up to you. And yes, you can absolutely end the game with a negative score. Thank you for asking. So kind of you.
Off the top of the game, each player gets to choose between two randomly-dealt monument blueprints. The building you pick is unique to you – no one else can construct it, and it acts as a sort of secret mission. If you pull it off, replace the cubes with one of the pink tower pieces to represent your monument. The monuments do cool things like rewarding you for each building you construct, or giving you points for cottages even if they’re unfed. Remember: the perk on your card is not available unless you successfully construct your monument!
If you can’t possibly squeeze anything else into your tiny town, you’re out of the game, and you can start counting up your points. Play continues until the last player goes through as many turns as it takes to fill up his or her board. Clear all the unconstructed resources from your board. Track your points for each building type on the scoring pad, and remember to count up the empty spaces – each one is worth a negative point. If there’s a tie, whoever was Master Builder the fewest number of turns wins. Still tied? Cottages break ties. STILL tied? No more tiebreakers! The rulebook is only 8 pages long, and printer ink ain’t cheap!
The town hall variant tempers fate with free will. Choose one player to be mayor. That player gets the mayor’s moustache. This isn’t an included game component, but i suggest you run out and buy a moustache right this instant because moustaches… are awesome. The mayor also has to talk like this all the time. Instead of naming a specific resource, the mayor draws a card from this resource deck, and that’s the resource everyone places. Then, the mayor draws a second card, and everyone places one of those resources. On the third step, everyone places a single resource of their choosing.
Then you repeat –
card, card, anything,
card, card, anything,
moustache, card, anything,
moustache, moustache, moustache,
and so on.
If the resource deck runs out, shuffle it. If the moustache runs out, regrow it.
If you’re playing with these town hall rules, you may be using buildings that trigger when other players are supposed to name resources. In that case, those rules apply to the rounds where the mayor is drawing cards. The bank, which has a rule that applies to when you name a resource, now applies to every third round, when you get your choice of resource. I find it helpful to keep track of things by offsetting every two resource cards, which makes auditing your game progress easier.
If you want to play solo, get rid of the Inn, the Bank, Fort Ironweed, and Oplaye’s Watch before you set up the game. On your turn, draw 3 cards from the resource deck and choose one of those resource cubes to place in your town. Sink that card to the bottom of the deck and replace it, then repeat the process. Any buildings that talk about other players picking resources now refer to you choosing a resource from the face-up cards. When you run out of space on your board and the game ends, compare your score against this table to measure your self-worth as a board gamer.
To set up the game, put the cottage card on the table. Sort the building cards into their stacks, shuffle those stacks, and deal one building from each stack along a row. The rest of the building cards go back in the box. Put the wood buildings and resource cubes nearby, and give everyone a player board. Deal out two monument cards at random to each player, along with a pink monument token. Everyone chooses one of the monument cards and returns the other. The player who last constructed something in real life goes first, and gets the Master Builder hammer.
If you’re playing with Town Hall rules, shuffle the resource deck and give it, and the moustache, to the mayor. (*MOUSTACHE NOT INCLUDED.)
And now, I hereby decree that you are ready to play… Tiny Towns!
Get Your Own Copy of Tiny Towns
Tiny Towns is one of those quick-to-teach, easy-to-learn games that kids and adults can play together. Got a game like that? If not, use the Amazon link below to get your own copy of Tiny Towns and i’ll receive a small commission!
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