I played Small World
for the first time not long ago, and was very impressed by it. It was simple, attractive, and fun.
Small World is a territorial conquest game, vaguely resembling Risk or Axis and Allies. The board is seperated into territories, each of which is a different kind of terrain: mountain, farmland, hills, forest, or swamp. Some territories also have bonuses or indiginous people who need to be expelled before you can take it over for yourself.
Random pairs of races and attributes are generated, such as “bivouacking humans,” “stout giants,” or “pillaging ratmen.” There are five such pairs on the table at any time available for the choosing. Each player picks a race/attribute combination at the beginning of the game, and can change later on if he puts his existing race into “decline.”
The game’s main random element is the combination of races and powers. This combination also specifies how many army pieces the player is able to use. Each turn, the player can put those armies on the map during the conquest phase. It costs two armies to conquer an unoccupied territory, or the number of occupants plus one to overtake a territory already controlled by someone else. If you lose a territory to conquest, you keep any armies that were on it less one, and so in time the number of your forces will diminish. Thus, eventually you will want to change up and choose a different race. The game lasts a finite ten turns, however, so you have to be judicious about putting a race into decline.
On the last territorial conquest attempt of your turn, you can choose to roll a die. The result will be added to the number of troops you’re committing for the success determination. The die in this game is interesting. Its faces contain alternately blank, 1, 2, or 3 points. It reminded me of Fudge dice, each face of which is either a plus, a minus, or blank.
The artwork is magnificent. It’s the most beautiful board game I’ve ever played. The theme and the color really come alive in this game.
The session I played was only two players, and had a bit of a runaway leader problem. I’m sure this would be alleviated if multiple players had participated, because weaker players would have been more aggressive towards the one with hegemony. The game scales well; it even has alternate boards depending on how big the game is.
Altogether, I really enjoyed the game and am looking forward to playing it again in the future.