Over the years I have played a lot of different board games. At this point I have played over 2,000 different games. Having played so many different games it is rare to find one that feels truly unique. When I first heard of Tiny Towns I was intrigued as the game felt different than other game that I had ever played before. For a relatively new game it has already become quite popular. It seemed like a perfect game for me. Tiny Towns is more of a solitary experience, but it is a truly unique and enjoyable game that almost everyone will enjoy.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I have played a lot of different board games. Yet I can’t recall one that played similarly to Tiny Towns. In a way the game kind of feels like Bingo combined with a city-builder and a puzzle game. The players basically take turns choosing a cube color that everyone has to place in their town. Where you place these cubes is important because you are trying to create patterns on your board. When you create a pattern you can place a building in your town that either scores you points or gives you other benefits. As your town grows your options dwindle as it becomes harder and harder to place new buildings into your town.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for how to play Tiny Towns, check out our how to play guide.
When you first look at a game like Tiny Towns it may look a little overwhelming. The game has quite a few components and is quite different than your typical mainstream game. In action though the game is actually quite a bit easier to play than you would expect. The game probably takes 10-15 minutes to explain to new players and it likely will take a number of rounds for them to fully grasp what they are trying to do. Otherwise the game is surprisingly accessible. You ultimately are just choosing cubes, placing them on your board, and then turning them in to place a building. The game has a rating of 14+, but I think kids a little younger could play the game. I think it could also work well with people that rarely play board games.
The game may be easy to play, but it feels like it will be hard to master. Tiny Towns is the type of game that you likely will get better at the more you play it. For a game that seems pretty easy on the surface, it actually has quite a bit of strategy. The strategy mostly comes from which buildings you decide to build and where you build them. Some buildings are support buildings that don’t score themselves and instead help you in other ways. Other buildings score points based on how many of them there are in your town, where they are placed in relation to other buildings, among other criteria.
In each game you will have seven different buildings you can construct along with your Monument. This gives you quite a few different options for how to build your city. Your city is not big enough to build everything that you would like though. Therefore you really need to choose what buildings you want to emphasize and which you are going to mostly ignore. Then you need to decide where you would ultimately like to place each building. As more of your city gets filled up with buildings and resources, your options become more limited.
Ultimately to succeed in the game you need to plan ahead quite a bit or you can otherwise back yourself into a corner. You likely will want to decide the next couple of buildings that you want to place and where you want to build them. It is usually good to place buildings as quickly as possible since they take up fewer spaces than the corresponding resources, but the other players aren’t always going to give you the resources you need. Whenever you can construct a building though, you likely will want to so you can open up more room in your town.
Where you ultimately place buildings can be really important. In addition to scoring, where you place a building will have an impact on where you can place resources and buildings in the future. You probably want to start with filling in the outskirts of your city as filling in the center of the city limits what buildings you can place along the outside of the board.
The strategy you choose is really important to your success in the game. This becomes extremely evident as it is actually not that hard to paint yourself into a corner that severely limits what you can do for the rest of the game. In my first game I ended up basically splitting my town in half due to where I placed buildings. This really limited where I could end up placing buildings as there weren’t enough spaces to place the resources needed for most of the buildings.
It really stinks when you make a mistake like this as you are basically stuck sitting there waiting for the other players to finish the game as you know you have no chance of winning the game. A round or two after making my mistake I realized how stupid I was for building like I did. I then basically had to just sit there knowing that there was no realistic chance that I could win the game. For this reason you really need to consider your long-term plans before you place any buildings on your board.
Ultimately Tiny Towns feels like a sort of puzzle. You are basically trying to maximize your town’s space to place as many buildings as you can which will score you points. You basically have to figure out how to squeeze the various shapes into your town to try and fit in as much as you can before you run out of space. There is skill to this as you need to have a plan for what you want to do. If you just randomly place cubes into your town, you likely will do pretty poorly in the game. The more you play the game, the better you should do at manipulating the placement of cubes to place as many buildings as you can. In a way the game kind of feels like Tetris.
At the end of the day Tiny Towns is a really unique idea. If you don’t really care for “puzzle-y” games I don’t know if it will be for you. Otherwise the game is quite enjoyable as you try to make the best town possible. The game gives players a lot of options to form their strategy and two games will never be the same. With the number of buildings that you could potentially build each game, your options will be different every time you play it. Tiny Towns is a truly unique experience that I had a lot of fun playing. Every time you play the game it likely will be a little different as well.
With everything that Tiny Towns has to offer, I was genuinely surprised that the game plays quicker than I expected it to. Your first game will likely take longer as players try to figure out what they are trying to do. Games should take quite a bit less time as you play it more though. The game has times where some players may suffer from analysis paralysis as they try to plan a couple moves in advance. The good news is that everyone plays at the same time so this is mitigated by other players trying to figure out what they are trying to do as well. Ultimately I would think that most games will take around 45 minutes to complete.
Probably the biggest issue that people will have with Tiny Towns has to deal with the fact that it is a very solitary game. The game doesn’t have much player interaction where it mostly feels like you are just playing your own game and then comparing scores at the end. A few buildings add a little more player interaction to the game, but it mostly just entails what resources the other players choose for you. The resources other players choose will have an impact on how well you will do as it likely will force you to change up your strategy. Outside of this though, it doesn’t matter what the other players end up doing.
This is going to be a much bigger problem for some people more than others. Generally I don’t care when games are more solitary. I enjoy games with a lot of player interaction, but I don’t mind games where players do their own things as well. I kind of wish Tiny Towns had a little more player interaction, but I don’t think this is a particularly big issue for the game. This is going to be a significantly bigger issue for people that either don’t like solitaire games or prefer more player interaction. If this describes you, Tiny Towns may not be the game for you.
The game feels like a solitary experience and even has a solo mode. Despite this I found it kind of odd that the number of players actually has a pretty big impact on the game. A lot of this has to deal with the fact the more players that there are in the game, the less choices you will have when it comes to the resources that get added to your town. For example in a two player game you get to make every other choice so you can mostly do what you want in the game as you just have to work around one other player. A six player game is much different as you will only get to pick every sixth color which means you have to rely considerably more on what the other players choose. Games with less players will likely have a greater emphasis on strategy while games with more players will likely rely on more luck.
I would probably say that the second biggest issue with the game is the fact that there is some luck involved. On the surface the game doesn’t seem like it has too much luck. You have to hope that your opponents choose resources that you can use, but otherwise you can basically do whatever you want in the game. I think most of the luck comes from the Monuments themselves. Maybe it is just my playstyle, but I think some of the Monuments are considerably more powerful than others. The player that gets the more useful Monument will have an advantage in the game. This might be enough to change the outcome of the game if one player gets a Monument that they can use better than the other player. Tiny Towns is the type of game that you shouldn’t take too serious though, so this isn’t as big of issue as it otherwise could have been.
As for Tiny Towns’ components I think the game does a really good job as well. The game comes with quite a few components and they are all really nice as well. I always like when games utilize wooden components and Tiny Towns includes a lot of them. The little buildings are cute and bring a sense of charm to the game. The game as a whole is really charming which is supported by the game’s art style which really works for the game. There really isn’t much to complain about as it relates to the game’s components as there isn’t much more you could have possibly asked for.
I had pretty high expectations for Tiny Towns heading into playing it, and for the most part the game met them. I have played a lot of different games and yet I can’t recall playing one quite like Tiny Towns. On the surface the game seems really simple as you just try to place cubes into your town in various patterns to construct buildings. The game is pretty easy to play, and yet it has quite a bit of strategy as well. You can’t build everything, so you need to decide what types of buildings you are going to emphasize and where you are going to place them. Where you place buildings is important for scoring as well as preventing yourself from being painted into a corner. Each game feels different and you need to adjust your strategy to fit the buildings available to you as well as the resources chosen by the other players. I really enjoyed Tiny Towns but it probably won’t be for everyone. The game is in a lot of ways a solitary puzzle and it does tend to rely on some luck at times.
My recommendation comes down to your thoughts on the premise. If you don’t really care for games that don’t have a lot of player interaction (solitary games), I don’t know if Tiny Towns is going to be for you. If the concept intrigues you at all though, I think you will enjoy Tiny Towns and should really consider picking it up.
Year: 2019 | Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group | Designer: Peter McPherson | Artist: Gong Studios
Genres: Abstract, City Building
Ages: 14+ | Number of Players: 1-6 | Length of Game: 45-60 minutes
Difficulty: Light-Moderate | Strategy: Moderate | Luck: Light-Moderate
Components: 6 player boards, 25 Building cards, 15 Monument cards, 15 Resource cards, 126 wooden buildings, 1 Master Builder hammer, 6 wooden monuments, 90 wooden Resource cubes, scorepad, instructions
- A truly unique idea that is unlike any other games that I have played.
- Pretty easy to play and yet still has quite a bit of strategy.
- Has little player interaction.
- Relies on some luck as all of the Monuments don’t seem even.
Recommendation: For people intrigued by the premise and don’t mind that there isn’t a lot of player interaction.