I must say, normally I’m not one that goes for turn-based strategy games. But when you have something like Tiny Token Empires thrown in front of you, I start to realise why the TBS genre is as distinguished and universally loved as it is. Whereas it isn’t hard to get started, Tiny Token Empires attempts a Risk-esque design and gameplay with a unique battle system and enthusiastic and entertaining character. It’s all down to whether you pay for good ideas and great design, or longevity and replayability.
Tiny Token Empires acts as a game board. In fact, it doesn’t deny this as the whole concept behind Tiny Token Empires is that the world’s leading civilisations – the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians and Carthage – have got together and decided that the only way to settle their differences is by playing a board game. So all five of the empires’ leaders have come together on neutral territory to battle it out round a table of Tiny Tokens.
In Tiny Tokens, you start off with just one city and 2 units (one being your commander) and from there you have to progressively conquer other sections on the map. The region is divided into many territories – sea and land – reminiscent of Risk, and you need to create more units, upgrade towns and generally colonise the map.
But obviously you’re not on your own. The enemies have the same goals meaning that it’s a war over territory that is the centrepiece to Tiny Token Empires. Push the enemy back enough to capture their town centre and you defeat that civilisation.
When you do build up enough units and to forge an attack, it’s not just as easy as ‘who’s got the bigger army’. Combat takes you to a whole new layout which will instantly remind you of Bejewelled. Combat is simulated in a match-3 interface where you must match three or more of the same tokens to score points taking in turns with your opponent. But it’s not as simple as that. The units that you take into battle each have their own attack style. For example, a bowman specialises in range whereas a healer specialises in magic. Each of the coloured tokens have an attack type related with them meaning that if you want to do damage to the opponent, you will have to match enough of the right coloured tokens and charge up your unit. Each of your units have an attack bar and you collect the right tokens to fill up the attack bar and do damage.
This means, it’s not about finding any old match of three, it has to be relevant to your army types and this introduces some interesting and strategical gameplay. You will need to choose what units to attack with (a good variation is probably a good idea) and also whether you should spend your time and efforts into blocking your opponent by matching their colours, or focusing on your own units. You can skip these combat mini-games and let the computer automatically find a winner to speed up the process a little bit. However, it’s important to sit in on major confrontations if you want a better chance of winning.
Tiny Token Empires includes a campaign as well as Free Mission and Quick Battle modes. Free Mission is the basic skirmish mode but includes many different game types which alter your objectives. Quick Battle just simulates a match-3 scenario with randomly generated units and enemies. The campaign itself is a good starting place to get to know how the game works, however I found it got frustrating after you learnt the basics. There are 4 campaigns levels for each empire, but they all feel the same. The annoying thing is that with most of the campaigns, you start from the same position, with one territory and one unit. No matter how well you did in the previous stage, you start from scratch again and again and there’s no sense of progression and it’s quite demoralising.
As a result, the Free Mission modes leave you with much more room to explore and expand as a nation without being cut off when you finish an objective. But the problem is, there’s only one map. It’s big and detailed sure, but after 5 missions (one with each civilisation) at most, I can see it becoming repetitive and a bore.
Whereas the graphics and sound will keep you entertained in the first instance, there isn’t any longevity here, especially for the high price point. It’s an excellent turn-based strategy game that puts a new spin on the match-3 genre (and I didn’t think match-3 could be spun any more). However, Tiny Token Empires is a stick of chewing gum that tastes great when you first put it in your mouth, but its flavour wears off in the long run. It’s up to you whether you’re prepared to fork over the $25 for that initial rush.
Pros: Stylish and polished, an addicting formula in the short term, great new take on Match-3
Cons: Gets stale quickly, some campaign missions are unclear.