Review: Tiny Towns
Supreme mayoral power!...Itty bitty building space
In Tiny Towns, players act as mayors of their own small forest towns inhabited by anthropomorphic critters. Players must manage their resources and buildings wisely, as space is limited and placements are permanent. After everyone is done building, players total up their victory points and see who is the winner!
In Tiny Towns, each player starts off with a 4×4 grid board and a unique monument card. Starting with the player who most recently constructed something in real life, players take turns being the Master Builder (who is also the first player). The round starts by having the Master Builder name a resource, then all players must take a cube of that type and place it somewhere in their town.
Only 1 cube may be placed in each square, and they cannot be moved after being placed. The only way to remove them from the board is by finishing a building, and once they’re removed they go back into the general supply. Once players have placed their cubes they may construct any buildings for which they have the proper resource patterns on their board (see image below). Players can flip, mirror, or rotate a building’s orientation but cannot change the order or placement of the resources. Once all of the players have finished placing resources and new buildings, the Master Builder hammer is passed to the left and a new round begins.
The game has 6 different building types, not counting the cottage which is always used or the Monuments which are always different. For each of the 6 categories, players have 4 different cards to choose from; the rules say to randomly choose these for each game, but in my experience the building’s individual abilities will coalesce far better if you choose them intentionally. Otherwise there may be a couple of buildings that no one wants. Players have dozens of different card combinations, which gives the game a good deal of replay value.
Monuments present unique challenges. There are 15 different ones that can be built, and each presents different scoring possibilities and powers. Some you will want to build early, and others have passive powers that you won’t want until late in the game. Most of them will take up a large section of your town to build, so it is important to plan accordingly.
Planning is a huge part of Tiny Towns since space is so tight. I would definitely suggest new mayors trying the Cavern rule, where players can store up to two resources off of their board for later placement. The rules also suggest waiting until your second game to include Monuments. Even having played dozens of games, I still end up with one or two empty spots in town on occasion. These cost players -1 point each in the endgame scoring.
I want to make special mention of the rule book, which sometimes gets ignored in reviews. At only eight pages, it manages to explain everything in a concise manner, while providing clear explanations and examples that highlight many if not all the questions the average player might have. The last two pages are even devoted to explaining the buildings further than they are on their given cards. This is most welcome and helpful, and I liked being able to quickly read through and fully understand the game in minutes.
While it’s a lot of fun, not all is perfect in town; a few of the components are lacking, and it’s possible to succumb to analysis paralysis, as with any game with lots of choices. The anthropomorphic animals which appear on the cover and some of the cards feel superfluous – they have no bearing on the game itself, and other than the Sky Baths Monument the buildings are fairly normal and would look fine in a human town. This makes me feel as though they were added late in the game’s development. The buildings are all easily distinguishable in both color and shape, but a few of my player boards came out of the box warped slightly. It isn’t enough to ruin the experience or make anything slide off, but a few of them are perfectly flat.
While it is not perfect, I keep coming back to Tiny Towns. I want to try new building combos, or see how different Monuments will help or possibly hinder my progress towards building a beautiful little hamlet for the little animals. Also, with the solo mode and Town Hall variant, you have many different options to try out as a potential mayor. And with proper planning, you may even build the perfect town without any empty spaces – it is possible! If you like city building games even a small amount, you should definitely try out Tiny Towns!
The Bottom Line
Tiny Towns challenges players to build and fit shapes in a small grid, requiring planning and adaptability. It isn't easy, but can feel quite rewarding when you manage to shoehorn in one more cottage before all your squares are taken up. A favorite of the Tabletop Geeks Under Grace staff, this town is worth a visit for sure.