Small world is the latest offering from Days of Wonder and is a reworking of an older game called Vinci. Its an area control game set in a fantasy world with very oddball races. Play time is around 60-80 minutes and its a very easy game to play and the random elements of the game certainly add to its re-playability.
Opening the box you get
- 2 Beautiful double sided boards
- 14 Fantasy race's and tokens for each
- 20 special power tokens
- Numerous other tokens depicting lairs and forts and other items
- victory coin counters
- a custom 6 sided dice
- Rules booklet
- player aids
The first thing you notice when looking at the components is the quality of the artwork. Days of Wonder are up to there usual standard here, the components look beautiful.
Setup is very easy, the two boards are double sided so there is a board for each player number combination. Place the board down and then shuffle the race tokens and place 5 down next to the board. Next shuffle up the special power tokens and place one next to each of the race tokens. These sets of tokens lock together so that the special ability is connected to the race. Next a number of counters need to be placed on the board. There are mountain counters that need to be placed on ever mountain region plus lost civilization counters which go on other regions.
Deal out 5 victory coins and a player aid to each player. First player is the person with the pointiest ears!
The aim of the game is to end with the most victory coins and you gain these coins by using your different races to expand over the world depicted on the board. You do this by choosing a race and then using it to conquer the different areas on the board. There will come a point when your race has over expanded or has lost its way, you can then put that race into decline and start off with another race. This in effect allows you to score with two races at the same time.
Most of the fun of the game is playing the different race/power combos and these are very diverse. Each race has its own power and these are pretty stereotypical. The dwarfs gain extra victory points for controlling areas with mines, the humans for farm areas. The special powers add the twist, beserker gives combat bonus's while flying allows you to attack any region on the board. With 14 races and 20 power tokens available the number of combinations is pretty big. This has lead to Beserker Halflinks, Flying Skeletons, Commando Elves, heroic amazons, wealthy ratmen and stoutfull orcs to name a few. There are some very good combinations, some probably better than others but all are fun to play.
The first player gets to choose which race/power combo to buy, the first in the row is free all others cost victory coins one for each combo missed. So if the first player decided to choose the commando halflings which are the third race out of the five, they would put one victory coin on the first race and one on the second and then take the halflings. They now total up the large numbers on each token of the combo and take that number of counters for there race.
Now its time to start taking over some of the small world. Your first conquest must be either a coastal territory or one that borders the edge of the board. Each region requires two tokens to conquer it plus one for each other token in that region. So a mountain region would require 3 or a hill region with a lost civilization would also take 3. Some races and abilities will effect this. If you end with a single race counter in your hand you can perform one last attack using the special 6 sided dice for virtual reinforcements. The dice has 3 blank sides and the others are marked 1,2 and 3. You can roll this dice and add the reinforcements to that final battle. This will usually net you about 3 or 4 regions depending on powers and where you have attacked. You can then redistribute your tokens around the regions you now control.
Next you add up your victory points, 1 per region you control plus any bonus points. So for example if a flying human race had taken over 4 regions but 2 of them were farmland the player would receive 6 victory points. Humans get a +1 victory point for each farmland region controlled. finally the race/power tokens are rearranged with all tokens pushed up and a new combo drawn from the stack.
When each player has made there first conquest you now have the option in your turn to put your race into decline. This takes a whole turn and you simply remove all race tokens from the regions you own except for one which you flip over to its black and white side. you also flip over your race/power tokens to signify that its in decline. You still gain the victory points for the regions you control, but usually not for any special abilities or race bonuses. Why put a race in decline? Generally the race can't go any further, either all the tokens are used up or the race simply has no where to go. It's also the only way to get two races on the board that you can score with. So those 4 or 5 regions with your declined race will help boost your score with the new race. Choosing when to put your race into decline is one of the key points to the game.
Each game runs for a set number of turns, this depends on the number of players and there is a marker on the board to help you keep track. When the last player has finished the last turn everyone counts up there victory points and the player with the most wins the game.
Small world sounds incredibly easy to play, it is. There are basically only a few rules that you need to remember and they have made everything very simple. You will be up and playing very quickly and soon sending your crazy races across the board trying to score you as many victory points as possible. The number of race power combinations is certainly a huge draw to the game, I haven't got board with it yet after a couple of plays. Trying to get the right combo at the right time can be a huge bonus whether or not its a very aggressive race combo which allows you to quickly over run a large number of areas or one that allows you to strategically take specific region types. Either way you should see those victory points start racking up. Not being tied to one race is also a good mechanic, if you get board you can simply put it into decline and pick something more interesting or powerful.
A light Euro game with a lot of replayability. 8/10
Clarity of Rules: A well written rule book and simple rules. 8/10
Game Length: About 45-60 minutes for 4 players 9/10
Value: Lots of races and power for you to try, and beautiful components. 9/10
Overall: An interesting game that's easy to play and will appeal to most gamers . (9/10 not an average)