Game, Written Reviews

Small World


Join the world of Slaughter in Small World, rule over regions with your superior forces and see who truly comes out on top!

Total Game Play: 40 to 80 minutes

Designer(s): Phillippe Keyaerts

Artist(s): Miguel Coimbra, Cyrille Daujean

Publisher: Days of Wonder

I remember visiting my cousins house a few years back, stacking up his game collection and playing through them. One of the biggest impressions on my mind coming out of that session was Small World. This game explores a dynamic fantasy setting using area control mechanics with a bit of pushing your luck. Finding the right dynamic between the new regimes and the old regime is also something to keep in the balance.  



Gameplay Overview

This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.

I have played this game at a 4-person player count only. I cannot exactly quantify the number of plays I’ve had with this game, but I have owned it for over seven years.

Small World is a game about getting the most points as you switch between controlling different regimes and vie for control over the areas on the map. The regimes are made of up different creatures that will be paired with a special power.

Game Flow

This game is played over a specified number of rounds. In a 3 or 4 player game there are 9 rounds. In each round, every player gets one turn. There is no game upkeep or map changes not on player turns

Setup

The set up for this game is relatively simple. First, make sure to put out the map decided by the player count. Each map has icons where you will place the lost tribe tokens. To the side of the map, the different race tokens and the special power tokens will be shuffled, and then five will be placed out from the pile, leaving six combinations visible. Each player will then get five-point tokens.

Player Turns

During your turn, you will have one of three options.

  1. If you do not have an active regime, choose one from the visible six options and begin conquering regions. As you and the other players set up your regimes, you are coming from the outside of the map to conquer this new land.
  2. If you already have an active regime, you can continue expanding your influence by pushing forward on the map.
  3. If you have an active regime but all your pieces seem to be doing something, you can go into decline. This will put all of the tokens associated with that regime into decline where they can no longer be moved, and their special power is no longer available.

No matter what you choose to do for your turn option, at the end of each turn you will score victory points based on the number of areas under your control.

End Game

After the last round, all you have to do is count up your points and see who came out the winner!

Concept: Reading the Map

The map can be split into six different terrain types: Farmlands, Forest, Hills, Swamp, Mountains, and Water (Seas & Lakes). These terrain types might be applicable to the regime’s special powers or to the races themselves, so it’s good to keep these ideas in mind. Another important symbol would be those of Caverns, Magic Sources and Mines. These special areas that aren’t associated with any particular terrain type.

Who Will Like it?

Small World is a great game for those who are involved in the world of gaming and those who aren’t. This game is fairly light in weight and can potential even be a gateway game for non-board gamers. Battles in this game are math based where you need to have 2 more pieces than the pieces on that location, making conquering region very straight forward.

What I Think

As one of my first games, Small World has a special place in my heart. And I’ve got to say, I am definitely a sucker for anything with a Fantasy Theme.

What did I like?

Once of the nice parts of this game, is that the is some variability in the races and special power combos. This allows for a some extremely overpowered combos as well as ones that are not so great. But the variability that comes from each of these combinations keep the game interesting and engaging.

What didn’t I like?

The more I played Small World the more I noticed the pattern in turns. I generally found people would gain a new regime, then go into decline, and then repeat. This can make the game a little repetitive. Also other players will have access to better combos because of where they are in turn order, going first could be an advantage but going later could also be more of an advantage just based on the randomness of the regimes.

My Take

Small World is definitely a fun game to have in the collection and it’s a great game for people just starting out or who enjoy a lighter weight game. That being said, given my taste in games, it is a game that you can grow out of. Small World doesn’t get to the table much anymore and both my partner and I tend to reach for heavy weight games first.

Breakdown

Rulebook/Learning the Game

This rulebook is very well laid out only take a few minutes to understand and teach. The cheat sheets provided with the game, also walk through every turn with great detail and fully explains the game for the players.

First Play

The first play can be a lot to take in. Each race and each special power have their own unique approach to how they can interact with the board and this can be a little bit of an overload for a new player. It’s generally beneficial to ignore a lot of this information, and only look at the combinations/regimes that are available to you.

Subsequent Plays

The iconography of this game is easy to understand once you have basic knowledge of the game. The first play may go a little over long as there will probably be a lot of referring to the cheat sheet. Subsequent games will go faster as the iconography sinks in.

Rating

6/10

While I did love this game when I first got it, I have outgrown it. It does end up sitting of my shelf a lot more than it gets to my table. But for those who like lighter weighted games, I would definitely recommend it.

*See my rating scale Here

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