In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all.
Designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy follow-up to his award-winning Vinci, Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs, and even humans, who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth.
Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!
On each turn, you either use the multiple tiles of your chosen race (type of creatures) to occupy adjacent (normally) territories - possibly defeating weaker enemy races along the way, or you give up on your race letting it go "into decline". A race in decline is designated by flipping the tiles over to their black-and-white side.
At the end of your turn, you score one point (coin) for each territory your races occupy. You may have one active race and one race in decline on the board at the same time. Your occupation total can vary depend on the special abilities of your race and the territories they occupy. After the final round, the player with the most coins wins.
- Ages 10+
- 2-5 players
- 45-60 minutes playing time
Small World is a game of area control, where you’ll ride high as one of many special-powered fantasy races, building up your dominion over the fracture land until you overreach and are forced to decline and resign your race to the annals of history.
Then you start all over again, with another special-powered fantasy race, smashing through your opponents defences to claim their lands and maybe trampling your own previous, now almost extinct race.
Introduction to Small World
Small World is a fast paced, light-weight and light-hearted strategy game with immense replay-ability, especially with the many, many expansions, and above all else this is quite simply; fun. Proof you say? Okay, I have two words for you: Commando Halflings.
The game is simple too. To enter a Region you’ll have to deploy a base cost of two of your troops (your supply of beautifully illustrated Race Tokens) for every existing troop, defence or obstacle present on that Region. These are all represented by other little cardboard Tokens. An empty Region will cost you two tokens, a mountain will cost you three and so on. At the end of your turn you’ll receive Victory Coins for each Region you control. Easy, and maybe so far not sounding too exciting, but wait, I haven’t told you about the Race Abilities or Special Powers.
Playing the game
You’ll shuffle the cardboard Race Banners, separate Special Power Badges and stack them next to one another at the side of the board. These become game specific Race/Power Combos, and with fourteen races and twenty powers that’s a unique mix of 280 possible combos.
This is where this game really shines. The variety and differences between the Races alone is great; Humans get extra Victory Coins for every Farmland Territory they occupy, Orcs get extra Coins the more fighting they do whilst Halflings have impenetrable burrows or “Halfling Holes.” They also don’t have to start at the board's edge either - which is very handy for surprise attacks.
The Power Badges add an extra boost. For example: Dragon – you have a pet dragon to help you conquer new Regions or Fortresses, which allows you to build fortresses to increase your defensive value and so on. How these Powers and Races interact drastically change the flow of the game, and will appeal to players of different gaming styles.
Because of all the different playing styles potentially available, the beautiful cartoon artwork, from Miguel Coimbra, the light-hearted nature and the very simple rules ensure this is a very easy game to pick-up-and-play. As with many area control,fighting games there are plenty of strategies and tactics in here, but it's light enough to be understandable and engaging to younger or less experienced players.
The box boasts two duel-sided boards, one for two or three player games and the other for four and five player games – so this game scales great between two and five players seamlessly. Of course there is nothing stopping two or three players duking it out on a larger board, you have the choice.
Regardless of how many players there are though, this is a quick game. Turns can be taken in mere seconds when you’re reaching the end of your Race’s time, so your phone should probably stay away from the table less you miss something crucial.
There is a great blend of chance and strategy in this game. The Race and Power tiles make a great mixture, which will see a great variation of combinations, some will work better than others, and some will work to your style of play and be more or less beneficial at different stages of the game. But this is a careful consideration, as to where and how you attack, not to mention how you defend those hard won Regions.
A pivotal point for each player is when they choose to select a new Race and resign their current, over-reaching one. This is probably the hardest thing for a new player to learn and master, but the learning curve is gentle and quick. By game two you’ll have mastered the basics, made your “mistakes” and be ready and willing to see which combinations come out next game.
Inside the Box
Days of Wonder produce great quality games, all the components are all very high quality, with, as mentioned, great artwork. Even the inlay for the box has been well thought out and there is a dedicated space for everything.
The Token tray is a particularly great organisational tool, and in later expansions you’ll get an extended version to store all the additional Races, which also makes the game very quick and easy to get it to the table. Also, as previously mentioned, you get two duel-side boards to play with.
Small World is all about combat and stomping on your opponents, so player on player interaction in this game is high. It won’t take long before you're forced into a combat situation – there should be no hard feelings about this, because it's the nature of the game and in fact you need someone to diminish your troops if you’re ever going to Decline them and pick another. It's also a lot of fun raining down a storm of Flying Ratmen, or charging across the board on your Mounted Giants.
Small World will make a great addition to any gaming shelf. It's fun, beautiful and simple so it's great if you don’t have hours and hours free, and is great for new and younger gamers. If you are looking for something more gritty, serious and deep then this won’t be for you, but it's still definitely worth a play, after all, how often do you get the chance to play as a Commando Halfling?
- Great artwork and product quality
- Very accessible & easy to learn
- Great variation & scaling
- Plenty of expansions
- Some race power combos fall very flat
- Light strategy - It's fun but serious gamers may want something a little heavier
- Confrontational - To win you'll have to fight your rivals, which might not be everyone's cup of tea