I’m not really in the business of reviewing role-playing games. Granted, I’ve been playing them off and on for 28 or so years. My generation lived in the time when this sort of make believe was frowned on. A time when the most parentally appropriate handling of RPGs was to sell them, throw them out, or burn them.
At any rate, now I play RPGs with my kids. Take that, irony! It’s a nice way to bond, have a good time, and do something intellectually stimulating. I also find it helps exercise the creative muscle in my brain that I use for writing. Playing sci-fi RPGs helps me think through scenarios in The Galaxy and All Her Charms.
Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers on a fairly regular basis. I might not me the most unbiased person to write a review of Tiny Frontiers, but I’m going to do my best.
Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers by Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games.
It’s a minimalist sci-fi RPG system, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.
1.) Size and Production Quality
The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 136 pages in with black-and-white illustrations and layout. The sidebars contain call-outs. It’s well organized and easy to read. My only complaint is the binding on the standard Kickstarter edition. It’s not the best and I think eventually it will fail. However, if you can get your hands on a Deluxe hardbound edition (good luck) it’s binding is perfection and has a handy bookmark ribbon to boot.
At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $5 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain.
The art is quite decent for a first Kickstarter. It evokes the sci-fi setting effectively and there is quite a bit of it spread throughout the book. It feels very thematic to the game and true to the original fantasy setting, Tiny Dungeon.
3.) Content and Rules
For me, there are two areas where Tiny Frontiers really shines. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The statistical curves are good and the simplicity lends itself to easy understanding for new players and kids. Take those original rules and add brilliant adaptations for alien species, cybernetics, space ships, and mecha. Now you have yourself a sci-fi bonanza!
4.) Game Master Section
For a minimalist RPG, the GM section is pretty short and sweet. Some decent guidance and nifty tables for random generation of everything from planets to enemies.
5.) Pre-made Adventure
There isn’t exactly a pre-made adventure in Tiny Frontiers. Instead, Gallant Knight Games gives us something I really love: MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, rpg luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Ryan Schoon, Marie Brennan, and Dan Wells to name a few.
Micro settings are an amazing way to wrap your head around a quick idea for a universe of gameplay and include several adventure hooks to get the story jumpstarted.
I love them.
Total Score: 40/50
So, I’ve never done this, but I think 40 is a pretty dang good score.
I’d purchase this game again.
In fact, I’m backing a follow-up Kickstarter right now: Tiny Frontiers – Mecha & Monsters! The new game stands alone, but can be used in conjunction with the original. It also has full-color art! This is a great chance to get one of those deluxe copies, and Alan has told me he’s going with a better binding on the standard version as well.
You can read my review of the completed Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters here.
I’ll tease you with the cover art: