Game: Small World
Manufacturer: Days of Wonder
Designer: Philippe Keyaerts
For a gateway level game, we added Small World to our collection quite late. Like most Days of Wonder games it is a very high quality production with great artwork and is simple enough to teach to new players, so we are very happy to have added it to our shelves and are still trying to add a few more Days of Wonder titles – it won’t be soon before I run out of patience and buy Quadropolis too.
In Small World, each player selects an available combination of a race and a special power and takes a pile of tokens equivalent to the total number shown on the race/power cards. This allows strong powers to counter balance slightly weaker races, although every so often there is a killer combination that becomes available by chance. Your tokens are then used to take over different areas of the fantasy land (hills, mountains, swamps etc.) by outnumbering the number of tokens which are already on that piece of land –wither neutral tokens or your opponent’s tokens.
Points are scored for the number of areas you control at the end of your turn, plus any bonuses that your power or race can obtain. After a few turns your number of tokens will start to dwindle as your opponents have killed them of or because you can expand no further. You should then put your race into decline which means you still control the territories (for now) but that you will in essence skip a turn and you can expand that race no further. On your next turn you take a new race/power combo. On future turns your point score is equal to the number of territories you control with both your declined and active races.
|The tokens representing all of the races, plus the neutral tribesmen in the bottom right.|
One of the main positives in Small World is the variability. The way in which races and abilities are rotated makes it very hard for someone to say ‘I always play as Skeletons’ and even if they are desperate for a certain race, the need to pay VP tokens to claim it gives everyone else a more balanced experience.
We also really benefit from the way that Small World deals with different player numbers. The box contains two double sided maps so you play on a different sized map for 2, 3, 4 or 5 players. This is pretty perfect for scaling the competition – my only caveat would be that since you can only enter the board from the edges there is more conflict for starting position in higher player count games.
|The two maps of different sizes to suit different player counts.|
I was surprised to find that Small World is actually a pretty light game. It’s definitely THE entry level area control game and personally I don’t want to venture much further into the genre after my recent experience with Twilight Struggle. The fantasy theme will definitely appeal to traditional gamers, but even for people like me who have never been into fantasy the artwork is just really nice and makes most player powers quite intuitive. The only downside I can think of is that the variety of abilities and races does mean you need the reference sheet handy, even after you’ve played the game numerous times.
For us Small World is a really solid two player game and with the right players it is a very slick game at all player counts. We can play the game in around 40 minutes with just the two of us, making it a game that I’m sure will regularly hit the table. The Yellow Meeple gives Small World a 7/10.