Space games for your pocket: Comparing Pocket Imperium and Tiny Epic Galaxies.

I love me some space games. One of my favorites is Battle Beyond Space. Players have three fleets of ships and nine cards. If they’re playing with the special action stuff, they might have an extra card or two. The point of the game: to blow up ships – hopefully your opponents’ but possibly yours too; space is only so big after all. And, all of this happens in nine, short rounds. But, yeah, I like space games. Probably because I get to make things blow up. In space.

Very recently I’ve become a fan of games that I can throw in my bag but still offer depth and choice. It would seem that micro games, which are all the rage (possibly falling out of it though now that I think about it) would be a good fit. So, a micro space game would be perfect for me right now. I can make stuff explode all from the convenience of my purse. What lady doesn’t want need that in their life?

That brings me to two space games that reportedly fit in your pocket: Pocket Imperium by David J. Mortimer and Tiny Epic Galaxies by Scott Almes. I can’t imagine they actually fit in my pocket but perhaps cargo pants or a coat or something similar, but I digress.

Pocket Imperium was recently picked up by LudiCreations and was successfully Kickstarted. Tiny Epic Galaxies was also Kickstarted this year by Gamelyn Games. The Pocket Imperium: Prosperity expansion is currently on Kickstarter, and I was talking about it with some folks I know, and the first question out of their mouth wasn’t “What does Prosperity add to it?”. Nope. It was, “How does it compare to Tiny Epic Galaxies?”

Because I have heretofore been happy in my space gaming adventures, I didn’t really think about it all. However, this question got me to thinking about how they actually compare beyond being games about space that fit in your pocket. I went back and checked out the Pocket Imperium Kickstarter page to see if this was addressed, and low and behold, people were asking about just this thing there as well. Rahdo runs through both of these games, and if you’re a fan of his as I am, you can go check out what he has to say about them. Otherwise, you can suffer through my ramblings below.

Basic Game Information

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 2.42.43 PM

A quick look at the basics, and the games don’t appear to be all that different. A note about player counts: When Pocket Imperium was a PnP, it was meant for 2-3 players; Tiny Epic Galaxies was originally 2-4, but during the running of the Kickstarter, it became 1-5. I don’t know what this means for the games, but according to the Geek, Pocket Imperium plays best with 3, and Tiny Epic Galaxies plays best with 4. Take that for what you will.

The next main difference is the mechanics. Pocket Imperium has double-sided modular boards and simultaneous action selection whereas Tiny Epic Galaxies has dice and planet cards. Why is this important? In Tiny Epic Galaxies, players rely on the rolling of dice to program movements. In Pocket Imperium, players simultaneously choose from one of three actions. Obviously the difference in driving mechanics will present very different experiences for people. If you prefer being able to plan on the front end, Pocket Imperium may be more your speed. If you prefer dealing with whatever comes up, Tiny Epic Galaxies might be the right choice.

Components

OK. Here is a big difference in the two games: the amount of stuff that comes with them. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the boxes are roughly the same size.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 3.03.34 PM

If you need a visual, here are the component photos from the two Kickstarter campaigns.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 3.16.43 PM

As you can see, there is quite a bit of difference in what’s included. Not pictured in the Pocket Imperium: Prosperity components are the 12 Prosperity cards. Otherwise, a quick glance at what’s offered should give you an idea of the experience you will have. I’m not sure at what point a game stops being a microgame and starts being a normal game that happens to be small in size. Regardless, I’m going to do a quick overview of the two games. I’ll do my best to keep it linear.

Objective & Endgame Condition

Pocket Imperium

From the rulebook: Score the most points by the end of the game!

From the rulebook: A game with 2 or 3 players ends after 6 rounds, and a game with 4 players ends after 8 rounds. After the game end (that is, after the scoring of the final round), a final scoring takes place – all 7 sectors are scored, with all systems generating points as usual, and Tri-Prime awarding 3 points to the player controlling it.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

From the rulebook: Galactic empires are competing to colonize newly discovered planets. Earn victory points by colonizing planets and increasing your galaxies’ level. Whoever has the most victory points at the end of the game wins!

From the rulebook: Once a player reaches 21 points, the end of the game is triggered. After that occurs, continue play until it gets back to the starting player (who does not take another turn). The player with the most points wins! Ties are broken first by number of planets colonized, then by level of galaxy, if still tied, total number of combined resources is the final tie breaker.

How Your Table Looks

Pocket Imperium

In Pocket Imperium, there is a central galaxy. Players each have 12 ships to place in the galaxy according to their three Command Cards. There’s likely a pile a of VP tokens around somewhere. If you’re playing with the Prosperity expansion, there will also be a Prosperity Chain of 5-7 cards depending on how many players there are. That’s it.

2385ddc1ab4b01139c7d280f0e0c8ecc_original
Central Board and Command Cards.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

In Tiny Epic Galaxies, each player has their player board and all the bits that go on it. There is a row of Planet cards in the middle. There’s a Control Card (not pictured) that goes in the middle of the table; the seven dice are placed near this card.

View of Player Board.
View from a Player Board.

Round Overview

Pocket Imperium

Each round consists of 3 phases, with each phase being completed by all players before proceeding to the next one. The phases are:

1. Plan: Players choose the card they’re going to play.

2. Expand, Explore, Exterminate: Players reveal and execute their command cards.

3a065d7328218c4ef03457aab91ea897_original3. Exploit: Players sustain their ships (or not) and score sectors.

The Prosperity cards give players additional actions and the opportunity to claim Prosperity cards given they meet the conditions listed on the card.

A copy of the full rules is here.

A copy of the Prosperity rules is here.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

Each turn starts by activating dice. Each side of the dice represents a different action players can take:

  1. Move: Move one ship from its current planet to a different planet where it can do one of two things: land on the planet’s surface or orbit the planet and prepare to colonize.
  2. Energy: Gain energy for each ship on an energy planet.
  3. Culture: Gain culture for each ship you have on a culture planet.
  4. Diplomacy: Move one of your ships on a colonization track ending with an ! to the next space.
  5. Economy: Move one of your ships on a colonization track ending with a $ to the next space.
  6. Colony: Activating a colony dice lets players perform any one action from one of their colonized planets.

Play then passes to the next player. On another player’s turn, players may choose to “follow” an action by spending a culture, which then allows them to copy the action of a newly locked dice.

A link to the full rules for the prototype is here.

Really Just Games in Space

As you can see the games share little more than a theme and setting. The obvious difference is in the type and amount of components. The less obvious difference is the gameplay. In Pocket Imperium, players are selecting one of the three command cards each turn and competing in the same galaxy for the entire game. There’s a significant amount of player interaction that happens at both the reveal of the command cards – players may perform less of their chosen action if their neighbors played the same commands – and with the actual execution of the commands – losing control of an area and being shot out of the sky. With the added Prosperity cards, players can increase how much they are able to dominate space assuming they play their cards right. In contrast, players roll dice and decide their movements in Tiny Epic Galaxies. Also, depending on the Planet cards they control, players can mess with their opponents in various ways – moving them back on a track, stealing a ship, etc. Following a player’s locked dice action is sort of like interaction; it makes you pay attention to what the other person is doing at the very least.

To me, Pocket Imperium feels more like I’m actually engaged in the fighting and Tiny Epic Galaxies feels more like I’m controlling things from mission control somewhere. And, because I never pass up a chance to make fun of my brother who is in the Chair Force, I imagine it’s like the difference between being in the Marines and the Air Force. In one, you are directly involved in the mayhem, and in the other, you control it from afar. Talk about a digression. I did warn you.

The good news is you get to choose what you play. If you like both, play both. If not, choose the one that best suits your needs and play that one. I offer only one piece of advice when traveling through space: don’t forget your towel.