Is Tiny Towns a good solo game? - First Impressions
It's already been a year since I've played Tiny Towns with my friends. I happened to have @trentellingsen's copy of the game at my place since my wife is doing photography work for us, so I thought I might as well take this opportunity to try out the solo mode.
- In Tiny Towns, each player builds his/her own town on a 4x4 grid
- There are 7 building types and each building type has a number of variations (there are 25 buildings total, plus another 15 Monument cards that each player starts with that give special powers once it's been constructed). Each building scores VP's in different ways
- Each building is represented by a card, and you can build one once you have placed the tetris-like pattern of cubes on your town (red=brick, brown=wood, gray=stone, blue=glass, yellow=wheat).The pattern can be mirrored/flipped/rotated. When you choose to replace a pattern with a building, you remove the corresponding cubes and place your building on any one of the squares that a resource cube had previously occupied. This frees up precious real estate!
- In a typical round, one player (the Master Builder) calls out one of the colors matching that resource type. Then all players will simulatenously place that resource cube on any of the open spots in his/her own town. Once everyone has finished placing their cube and possibly building one of the structures, it's the next player's turn to be the Master Builder
- At any point in the game, if you aren't able to place down the resource cube that's been called out, you're out and will have to wait until everyone's done
- Once everyone's completely done building their town, count VP's and determine the winner. All unused resource cubes in your town is removed from the board and you get a -1 for each of these empty spaces.
I love it when I see a short rulebook - Learning the rules tends to be one of the biggest barriers in board gaming. A short rulebook makes it that much more likely for me to get over my laziness, and so much less daunting to think about teaching others. In fact, I immediately thought I should introduce this on our next family game night.
I love it even more when the solo variant doesn't involve a whole another rulebook - You know what I'm afraid of more than seeing a long rulebook? A long rulebook where the solo variant rules are just as long and tedious, if not more complicated. The biggest difference for the solo variant there's a deck of resource cards where you can pick 1 of 3 choices in each round. So in the picture below, I can choose to place a blue cube and replace that card by drawing from the resource deck.
A spatial puzzle that's worth pulling out vs. just another puzzle app - I remember thinking this when I first tried out the game. But it's a surprisingy thinky game. You have highly limited real estate to work with and you're just trying to fit in these jigsaw puzzles in your head. It's very satisfying when you're able to replace a pattern with a bullding and you're magically left with more space to work with. There's also the thrill of luck where you're relying on a specific color to come out, and each game feels different because the buildings synergize in interesting ways and you can try out different strategies. Plus, the tactile fun of this and the charming buildings are a joy to play with. It also helps that it's quick setup. The combination of all these factors lead to a highly replayable and fun puzzle you can pull out without pressure.
With that said, this is different from the multiplayer experience - A big part of Tiny Towns' feel of multiplayer gameplay is a dash of "meanness". Beginners will likely get tunnel-visioned and focus on their own board and the strategy that he/she is going for, but more experienced players will watch out to see what other players are going for, especially toward the late game. So as a Master Builder, you have total freedom to call out a color that a certain player is desperately wanting to avoid placing on their town. So if you like this aspect, know that it will be missing in the solo variant! But, this also means that rather than dealing with someone trying to directly mess you up, you'll be leaving it to random chance sometimes.
If you enjoy spatial puzzles but often find yourself going for phone apps instead, try Tiny Towns. It has everything you want in a simple puzzle and has all of the pluses that only board games can bring to the table.