It takes folding money
To get the deal done
— Radney Foster, “Folding Money”
Tiny Towns from AEG surpassed all expectations to become one of our favorite games of 2019. It appeared at first as an “under the radar” type of game, with a quirky theme of woodland creatures building a tiny town, a unique building mechanic where other players dictated the resources you had to use to build up your town, and a very spatial awareness needed to score.
But then, Tiny Towns came out to almost universal praise. We even had the designer, Peter McPherson, on Gumbo Live last year talking about the development of the game. (Who knew it was almost about growing fungus? I’m glad they changed that theme!)
Tiny Towns made a number of top lists last year, and was one of our most played games at Gumbo Game Nights. So we were understandably excited when AEG sent us a review copy of the new expansion, Tiny Towns: Fortune.
Does your game group like Tiny Towns? Well, then spice up your game night with the newest expansion, Fortune!
Tiny Towns: Fortune is a 2020 expansion for Tiny Towns designed by Peter McPherson and Josh Wood, with art by Gong Studios and Stephanie Gustafsson and published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). The original game was all about building a tiny little village, influenced by Minecraft and typical grid building app games. Players will have random buildings for each game, and take turns calling out resources that everyone including the “master builder” has to put on the town. When the resources on the board match up to one of the buildings in that game, the players will replace the resources with the building, which will usually score points or give some special power.
And let me tell you friends, I’m a lot more
Handsome with a C-note in my pocket
Tiny Towns: Fortune packs a lot in a thin box. You will get more wooden resource cubes, thirty coins, twelve more building cards, ten more monument cards, an expanded score pad (to take in the new ways to score), and a rule book.
I love the new artwork for Tiny Towns: Fortune. One of the complaints of the first game was that the charming theme of tiny little woodland animals building a tiny little town kind of got lost in the shuffle. The artwork on the expansion box makes that theme very clear. Everything in the expansion fits with ease, or you can take the cardboard, bits and cards and move them right into the bigger base box. Plus, if you liked the original, you will love getting more buildings including the additional monuments.
But more importantly, and way cooler, are the little acorn coins and treasure chest boards that you get in the game. Oh, if only every game came with such cool little coins! They remind me just a little bit of the tiny yet oh-so-cool metal coins that you get in the deluxe edition of The Flow of History, except the acorn coins are made out of wood instead of metal.
All in all, I give the presentation of Tiny Towns: Fortune a thumb’s up — great box, lovely cover art, more cards to play with, and the very perfect little acorn coins.
Folding money, you need a little stash
Greenback dollars and cold hard cash
As I said above, the game play in Tiny Towns the base game is relatively simple, and you can read our review here for a quick overview. How does Fortune change the game? The two parts of Fortune (the cards and the coins) are integrated. Let’s talk about getting the coins first. Each time a player has the resources on her board that matches the layout of the resources on one of the building cards, the player can substitute all of those matching resources with the wooden building that represents that card.
But in Fortune, one does not have to exchange right away. Instead, a player can wait until she has two sets of resources that match two buildings, and then make the transfer. Why do that? Because turning in enough resources to build two buildings during the same turn gives you one of those acorn coins as an additional benefit! What are the coins good for? I’m glad you asked.
The coins are each worth one point at the end of the game. (But you can only store four on your treasure chest board, so no fair stockpiling.) The coins can also be traded for a different colored resource than the Master Builder called out that round. Let’s say someone called “red” but playing a red cube will destroy your Very Important Plan to build a certain building. Just spend a coin, and say good bye to the red resource that the Master Builder chose, and instead place on the board the exact resource you wanted.
Back to the cards. Those extra 22 cards in the box are very useful, as they all play around with the acorn coins to give you fresh takes on the money mechanic. If I had a gripe, it would have been that there could have been more than 22 cards included in the box, but the game instructions warn you that you should not play with more than four of the new cards at any one time. So, you will definitely get a lot of mileage out of the combinations of new cards that you have in the expansion box.
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
So far, I’m batting a thousand with the gamers who have tried the expansion and say “keep the content” in the base game box. I wholeheartedly agree. It is not enough that an expansion changes the game in such a way that the game itself feels like it should have always had the mechanic (even if you were perfectly fine with the game before the expansion came out!)
I think in terms of games like Carcassonne, with the river tiles, or Takenoko with the baby chibis tokens. If I had my druthers, I would only play either of those games with the expansions built in because they seem so useful and pertinent to the game. I feel the same way about Tiny Towns: Fortune — the game was fun before, but now that we have been exposed to the money mechanic, I only want to play with the Fortune cards and coins added to the game.
Now ever since the day I learned to earn a dollar
I’ve been taking his advice to heart
But not everything in Tiny Towns: Fortune is perfect. I realize that modern day publishers love the look of an expansion game box that fits nice and neat next to the base game, and admittedly, that cover art in Fortune is delightful to see. But, it sure would have been nice to have a tiny box just bigger than the cards that could have held all of these components in there. (I am sure there are some box aesthetic purists that are screaming at their keyboards right now for the heresy).
But that’s my only picayune complaint, as I am really impressed with this expansion. Sure, there are one or two joyless members of the Gumbo Krewe that complain that playing Tiny Towns is an exercise in dull, multi-player solitaire, but I disagree. Even with the expansion, Tiny Towns remains breezy, interactive to a point, and puzzly crunchy fun. Fortune made me look at the player boards to my right and left (the ones I could best affect with my actions) more closely, and I really enjoyed the added element of trying to earn coins, and then deciding the best time to use them.
Note: we always play with the “cavern” variant, which allows players to place up to two resource cubes aside without penalty, and we are still doing it even with the Fortune expansion. That variant may not be needed with the new expansion, and I would be curious to hear whether gamers out there are have jettisoned the cavern rule once Fortune came out.
To wrap it up, Tiny Towns: Fortune is a must have for anyone that has the base game. It is easy to teach, and yet, the cards seem to be even more thinky and challenging than they were before.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo