Players: 2 to 5
Game Length: 90 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 3 to 5 players who want a light wargame with lots of possibility
Small World is a light area control game and wargame that took the boardgaming world by storm in 2009, with its huge range of races and powers that allow for hundreds of possible combinations. You’ll be enlisting a variety of fantasy creatures and using them to conquer regions on a board, gaining money for each region you hold. Don’t get too attached to your Flying Ratmen or Hill Dwarves, however, as before too long you’ll need to take control of a new race, conquering the world all over again.
Each turn, you’ll be taking your selected race and laying claim to regions of the board through conquest, or putting that race into ‘decline’, allowing you to select a new race on your next turn. You’ll gain coins for each territory you control at the end of your turn You can have one race ‘in decline’ at a time, and these will represent passive income – at least until your opponents start pushing them aside to take the space for themselves.
The rules for Small World are easy to learn. When performing conquests, you’ll need to put down a number of tokens equal to the number of tokens already in that spot, plus 2. An empty location will cost 2 tokens, but one with a Mountain token and two enemy units already occupying it will cost a whopping 5 tokens. On your last move in a turn, you can roll the Conquest Die to add up to 3 temporary tokens to your attack, allowing you to possibly punch above your weight for one attack per turn.
What makes Small World special is the combinations of Races and Powers you’ll be able to choose from. You’ll need to think carefully about what will be useful in coming turns, but you can’t become attached to any one race – when their number starts to become depleted, you’ll need to think about putting them into decline so that you can sweep across the board with a new race. This constant turnover of forces keeps the game feeling dynamic, as regions constantly change hands and new races take their place on the board.
Small World ends up being a very diplomatic game, as whenever you attack another player you are directly affecting their income and power. This dynamic means that, in order to win, players will need to keep other players who are in a dominant position in check. This can be frustrating at times, as it’s frequently in the other players’ best interests to pool their efforts and attack the leader, which can lead to some unsatisfying losses. Despite this, the race and power tokens keep the game interesting, and if you enjoy the game there are a wide range of expansions adding new powers and races, dramatically increasing the possibilities.
Small World makes a great area control and wargame game for those new to the hobby of boardgaming. For the more experienced boardgamers it will feel a little shallow, but it still makes an excellent purchase with a lot of variety to be had out of the box. If you’d like an engaging wargame that anyone can learn to play, Small World comes highly recommended.