Tiny Swords – Tactics: Preview

“Hey, that’s not nice. No pushing.” “But that’s the game!” “Fine. Let me toss you and see how much you like it.” “Wee!”

Today, Fairway picks up Tiny Swords: Tactics a tile placement, combat game with adorable pixel art and plenty of pushing, shoving, and tossing fun. 

Tiny Swords: Tactics is a two- to four-player, tile placement and combat game by Brian Wolf. Each player takes on the role of one of a series of factions: spooky, sweet, mermaid and moon. The last player who can keep their tiles in play is the winner.  Tiny Swords: Tactics is coming to Kickstarter October 18th.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. This game is pretty adorable, not what you’d normally expect in a fighting game.
  2. There’s lots of decisions in your push, move, and toss choices.
  3. The game is much more thought intensive that it would first appear.
  4. The game plays well at two players. It gets much more chaotic at higher player counts.

Game play ^

Tiny Swords is played over a series rounds and ends when all but one players loses too many units or their captain.

At the start, each player selects one of the factions and takes all six matching tiles, player reference and special power card.  A “heart of the battle” tile is set out in the middle.

Players then take turns placing one of their tiles onto the table and touching the “heart of the battle” or touching a tile that’s somehow connected to the heart of the battle.  Tiles are placed either face up as units or face down as immovable walls.

Each face up tile has three values: a faction icon, a type (rock, paper or scissors), and a movement value. Once all the tiles are placed, the game begins.

The object is to keep your units connected to the heart of the battle. A unit is connected to the heart of the battle if it’s either touching the side of a tile or touching the side of a tile that’s also touching the heart of the battle.  Diagonal connections do not count.  If at the end of your turn, you lose your captain or your units because they’re not connected, you lose.

On your turn, you get to take two actions: move one of your tiles, flip your tile, push or toss an opponent’s tile, or use your captain’s special power. A tile can move the number of spaces in any orthogonal direction according to the movement value on the tile. Flipping a tile changes the unit to a wall or vice versa.

When moving, you can use your movement to also “push” other face up tiles. This means you can move entire face up rows and columns of your and your opponents’ tiles. You cannot ordinarily push a face down tile or the heart of the battle. However, if you “push” a face up tile into a wall, that tile will take a “toss” token.

In addition to pushing tiles, you can also move your opponents’ tiles by tossing them.  In this case, a face-up tile can throw any neighboring tiles so long as its type is the same or one that would beat it in rock-paper-scissors.  When you toss a tile, it is pushed out equal to the number of toss tokens. The first time, it moves one space. The second time it is moved two spaces, and so on.  If your type would beat the tossed tile (e.g., paper beats rock), then you get the bonus of adding an additional toss token.

Significantly, if you’re tossing an opponent’s tile, it will also “push” any face up tiles in the way.  Those pushed tiles won’t take any toss tokens though.

When a player loses a token, they will gain a special action token. The special action token lets that player take an extra action on some future turn. Players can have at most two extra action tokens meaning that on any given turn they might be able to take up to four actions.

On the green ^

Tiny Swords: Tactics has a bunch of nice things going for it.

Adorable art.  At least one person said even the “spooky minion jr.” was “adorbs” on Instagram. That says a lot about the art since it’s hardly the cutest tile in the game. The pixel art and candy-store color palette combine to make a disarmingly cutesy feel. If I had to guess, this alone will drive a bunch of eye balls to a Kickstarter campaign.

Really brainy. This game forced me to use a lot more brain cells than I was expecting. I was genuinely surprised at how difficult it was to wrap my head around all the potential strategic moves in this game. It shares way more in common with chess than I would have imagined just looking at it or reading the rules. The game will definitely appeal to gamers who are looking for a chess-like game.

Table as game space. I like when games use the table as their play area. This one does that. Tiles can be tossed a crazy number of spaces making tiles susceptible to going out of bounds even on the largest table.  The game conveniently comes with tile rulers to count spaces.

Compact.  Six tiles and a player reference per player makes this game compact (almost portable), although it will require a decent amount of play space.  That said, smaller table space also means more risk of losing tiles off the edge.

Where it comes up short ^

Fidgety.  Moving, shifting, and flipping the tiles can cause a bit of a nuisance.

Play time.  A consequence of having a heavy-thinker gamer like this is games can take a long time, especially for really committed-to-winning players. Players spent a lot of time testing out moves–in the same way you might hold your finger on a game piece in chess–and rewinding until they uncovered the optimal move. You don’t need to take my word for it on that, just watch a few of the play-throughs (like this one) and you’ll see both players ponder their moves… a lot.

Time to “get it.”  But to even get to those strategic games, you need to spend the time to figure out the strategy. In our experience that took more than a few plays of the game. The feeling for most of the new players was that they didn’t understand the consequences of their actions and that seeing even a single turn ahead was difficult.

Less strategic with more players?  The game bills itself as “chaotic.” That’s certainly our experience. As a duel, Tactics seems to work well–decisions have real consequences. As you add additional players, the play space becomes so jumbled by the time it comes back to your turn, strategic decisions about unit and wall placements aren’t all that helpful.

In the hole ^

Tiny Sword Tactics is an adorable, tile placement and combat game. The combination of some simple rules makes for a much more complex and dynamic game than the art and rules might lead you to believe. In fact, Tactics is a chess-like battle of brains in two-player mode. Fans of eight-bit graphics and chess should definitely check this one out.

Tiny Swords Tactics is in the hole for a par. ^

Fairway was provided a copy of Tiny Swords Tactics to do this review but was not otherwise compensated for his opinion.






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