Now for my other gaming article of the week in my 2 for 1 gaming special of the week. For this Games for the Weekend I wanted to look at what I consider a masterpiece of modern board gaming. This is one of those special games that does almost everything right. There are a few flaws to the game, but the package as a whole is a bundle of fun contained in a colorful box that screams to “play me.”
obligatory: It’s a SMALL WORLD after all!
Small World is a fantasy war game unlike other war games. You are going to conquer lands of your opponents but also the ones your already own. Think Risk with no dice, and a tiny playing field to work with. Moreover, unlike most war games you are not going to play this game as one faction. One of the beauties of the Small World is the fact that it has an immense replay value just from the base set alone. To get to know all the races and powers is going to require a number of game plays, not to mention getting all the combinations to the table.
Yes Small World has a number of expansions (not covered here) and a sequel: Small World Underground (again not covered here.)
Small World is a war game set on a very small board consisting of a number of territories. One of the ingenious things about Small World is how there are two boards that are double sided. These boards accommodate a different number of players (2 through 5.) This is done to keep conflicts on the board high. By the second round of game, you will be forced to conquer already conquered lands and by that point, you will be in constant war.
The game consists of a 14 Races and 20 Powers that modify the races. Then there is the Reinforcement Die and Victory Coins (kept hidden during gameplay.) There are also Race specific playing pieces (Lairs, Fortresses, etc.) but they only come out when needed. There is also a summary sheet for each player that explains the Races and Power modifiers.
The goal of the game is to accumulate the most points in Victory Coins by game’s end.
NOTE: If Carl does happen to read this, I made a mistake when we played but in retrospect, since I found out now it is not a mistake 😉 Capiche?
Lost Tribes (remnants of older civilizations) are placed on the board, along with the Mountains. And the game is ready to be played. The game is also round limited, depending on the number of players playing the game.
On the player’s first turn, they will have to pick a race to conduct combat. If the race they pick is down the row from the Race pile the players will have to pay one Victory Coin for the privilege of using them, to each race above them. Then Race and Power combos are slid up, and the player gets the tokens for his chosen Race to go forth and conquer. If you choose a Race with Victory Coins on them you get those Victory Coins.
To conquer a land is very simple the cost is 2 plus whatever token is in the land. For example to conquer a land with a Mountain on it would require 3 Race tokens. That is 2 Race Tokens for the land and 1 for the Mountain.. Another rule to keep in mind is that a new race entering the game can only start conquering from the outskirts of the board, unless their Race or Power allows them to attack from anywhere. Players may keep conquering lands as long as they have Race tokens left.
Races and Powers may have modifiers or bonuses that change the rules of the game for you while in charge of that particular Race. For example, the race Humans gives you a bonus Victory Coin for each Farmland you occupy at the end of your turn. Or the Merchant Power will give you an extra Victory Coin for any region you occupy at the end of your turn.
There is one final thing to combat: The Reinforcement Die. Player’s will eventually run out of Race tokens to use to conquer lands, but that doesn’t mean you are not out of options. Player’s may try to conquer a land with less Race tokens required using the Reinforcement Die. The only rule is you must you use at least 1 Race token and the land you are conquering does not exceed a Race token requirement of 3 or more. That is a player cannot use 1 Race token to conquer a land that requires 4 Race tokens to conquer. Player’s simple choose the land you want to conquer and roll the Reinforcement Die. Add the Reinforcement Die to your Race tokens and see if the player succeeded.
To end your conquering ways player’s will redeploy their Race tokens. This is moving Race tokens from any land a player occupies to another. Then the player will collect an equal number of Victory Coins value to the number of lands they occupy.
Now in subsequent turns the players’s will find themselves with no ability for further conquer the board. This is when the player can choose to place their Race in decline. When going into decline the player will turn all Race tokens from active to decline leaving 1 on each land unless their Race tells them otherwise. They also turn over the Race banner and power they own. This is the only thing a player can do on their turn that goes into decline. They still collect Victory Coins as normal. On the next turn, the player may choose a new Race to conquer the world. In addition, subsequent rounds the player still collects for their lands conquered by this now declined Race. There is one caveat, the player may only have 1 Race in decline. Once they have sent a second Race into decline they remove all of their previously declined Race tokens.
The game plays until the last round, which upon completion players will add up the values of their Victory Coins and the person with the most wins the game.
I call this game a modern masterpiece, not lightly mind you, because of how the game as a whole works mechanically and plays. The game has a very small learning curve. The mechanics and the way they work are very simple and not random. That is unlike Risk, which is dependent on dice rolling; you can develop strategies during your down time in between turns. The game also has tremendous replay value. The sheer fact that there is a greater number of Powers then Races ensures you will have to play a number of games before you see all the Powers reach the table, but also the combinations is immense.
The only drawback I could say is the number of rounds. I have found the number of rounds to be satisfactory, but others could want a longer game. However, as far as game negatives go, this is pretty low on my list.
I cannot recommend this enough to anyone who loves games.
And here’s to hoping another month won’t go by before I get to the next Gaming for the Weekend.