Type: Area Control

Time to play: 45-60 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (2 – 5 Players)

Want to combine cartoony fantasy races, with a unique asymmetric power and then see how well it does against others?! Now’s your chance! Small world, is not like it’s namesake ride in Disney, but actually a fun and quite light area control game done in 8 rounds. You pick a race, and pay the cost and see if you can make more points from the areas you control than the other players.

The brilliance of this game is that each race and each power can be separated and switched round – so each game can be very different by what pairings come up and when certain ones come up in the queue. Also, you play at least two races in each game – and when you switch is a big part of the tactics in the game. It’s not like some games where the first half is irrelevant, but it does mean that each half is a mini game with lots of opportunities (and potentially a fresh start in that second half!).

So, you start the game with a race – dependent on the race and the power it will have a number of pieces you can play. You start to spread out, but as you commit troops you cannot move them again this turn. Then you regroup and go again next time – losing any that fall at the defense of your region. Keep this going until you have spread too thinly (your choice) and then switch races to a second. Always counting the points at the end of each turn for the land you control. That’s it. Very simple.

The nuance in this game comes from the combinations of the powers and races, and the combinations of your opponents’. You will need to minimise their scores as much as you maximise your own. After all, there is no point in scoring lots if you let someone else score more! Some amount of this is based on the way the board is set out; a mix of different landscapes which have different rules or effects for different races. Planning your attacks and land grabs poorly can leave you stuck against a mountain range, or an opponent with high defense.

Like many games of this type, the winning player is often the one on the path less traveled, where going it alone is the key to winning. However, the reset for the second race can change this quite dramatically – you can utilise that second race to contain the leader or indeed to break out away from other players. This gives players a chance to refine, reset and score a lot more points in the second half.

That’s all I have on this one – other than to say there’s also a great adaptation of this on Steam for those who want to play this on the computer. There are also a whole host of expansions to try out, but having not played them I will leave these for others to comment on!

As always, I try to highlight things people may not like – there’s luck here, but no more than Catan. Oh and it’s a light game, so someone looking for challenging choices and intriguing game developments – it’s going to be tough to find much below the surface of this one. However, as a gateway game, or a light game for an evening  – this is a great choice.

Last notes;

  • If you like light area control games – take a look at this and the expansions
  • If you hate cartoon style games which don’t have too much depth – perhaps look for some of the complex add ons, or pass over this one
  • If you win, try again and see what other pairings come up!