Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Look at Small World: Part Two

Last week we got in a couple of games of Small World...

Small World certainly doesn't disappoint, and although I don't normally buy games without playing them first, I wasn't let down by this one at all. For all the extra bits, pieces, counters, and punch outs, the game ran quite simply.

I had given the rulebook a once-over or two prior to the game, and the other two players, Andy and Chri3, had zero experience with it. After setting it all up, explaining the gist of it, and getting down to the turns, none of that mattered, plus each player gets a very thorough crib sheet to help them through each turn in the game.

The neatest mechanic is the different races you can play in the game. Fourteen such fantasy races are here; from Halflings to Elves to Ghouls and Skeletons. These races are further enhanced by a 'power' card that gives them special abilities in addition to whatever they would get for their race. These power cards are things like "fortified", "merchant", "commando", and the like. What's makes this even better is that the race/power card combos are completely random, lending a lot of replay value while giving either extremely whacky or extremely powerful race/power combos. If you're not creating little in-game narratives of what your race is doing and how they came to be, you need to check for a pulse.

It is a "small world" (after all) and your goal is to earn victory points (coins) by conquering new lands and holding on to your old ones. Dwarves get bonus coins each turn for occupying regions that contain mines, and many other races have similar special abilities. At one point your race's control over the lands will become tenuous and somewhat weak as they become stretched thinner and thinner. At one point you will need to decide if you can continue to be effective with your race and if not, you can put them into "decline" and pick up a new race to start your conquering with while the old one slowly fades away.

We had some fun combos, and joked about how the winning combo from each game deserves a rightful place in our collaboratively built world of Sarterra. My first combo was a Seafaring race of Giants, which in and of itself is a cool visual. I also had the winning combo that game which was a staggeringly effective duo of Dragon-master Halflings. They had the ability to protect two of their lands indefinitely from all comers, and a third of their lands was equally protected by their pet dragon.

By the time we played a second game, no one was referring to the rulebook and we got right into the meat of the game without skipping a beat. Andy cycled through many races, putting each into decline only after a couple of turns. For that game I had just one combo, but it was also very effective (and won that game as well) and that was Flying Elves. Elves never take casualties of attrition when there lands are conquered, couple that with the ability to fly, which means they don't have to conquer contiguous landforms, and you've got a race with staying power that can strike at-will all over the board. I like to think the Elves were flying arcane zeppelins, but it was likely just wings.

Small World was a great game. It's fun, has nice pieces, and the mechanics are certainly not overwhelming. Thanks to the randomizing of race/power combos too, and the baility to play more than one race in a game, you've got infinite replay value too. I wouldn't put it in the same strata as say Settlers of Catan (just yet), but I'll be incredibly surprised if this one doesn't win its fair share of awards. It's definitely "Mik approved".

Don't forget to check out part one of my review...


  1. OK Mik,

    Now that you've tried it, what would be your guess as to the game's two-player suitability?


  2. Fun, very fun. It can be a great party game sure, but it will hold its own as a two-player game very well.

    It has enough fun packed inside to make it a laid back, have a couple of adult beverages while you play, kind of game.

    It also has just the right amount of mechanics that if you wanted to crank it up a notch, it could be quite a cutthroat two player game.

  3. It looks like the kinds of games we will be playing tomorrow. Ticket to Ride, Formula De, Settlers, etc.

  4. Exactly, this one gets lumped in with these kinds of games; good ones to break out at family gatherings 'n such for gamer and non-gamer alike.

    There's a lot of satisfaction to watch it finally "click" with a non-gamer halfway into their first game of Settlers or Carcassonne or something...

  5. What was the carziest Race/Ability combo that came up in your game?


  6. The Diplomatic Ghouls had some funny implications, and my winning combo of dragon master halflings was fairly humorous. We didn't have anything too zany however...yet!

    What about you and yours?

  7. Well, I had mentioned the Flying Giants which just seemed a really bad combo, especially on Taco Day. We did have Camping Undead, but that was just nasty and not overly funny.

    We had one slightly annoying and not overly funny game where all the combos came up "right" - race/ability combos that made too much sense.


  8. In recent events a horde of Flying Giants attacked the well held village of PeaFlame of Dragon Master Halflings while a group of restless camping undead watched from their AirStream campers as the Diplomatic Ghouls attempted to bargain a treaty.

  9. We grabbed a quick five way game last night with a crowd of new players, three of whom had never even heard of Small World. It was fun, but there were a couple of 'boring' combos too; Merchant Humans, Wealthy Dwarves, and the like.

    @Armchair Gen: Nice recap!