Small World is a zany, light-hearted civilization game in which 2-5 players vie for conquest and control of a board that is simply too small to accommodate them all!
Picking the right combination of fantasy races and unique special powers, players must rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory.
In Small World there is only so much room to expand, hence the title, so the game requires careful planning and a bit of luck. Not a lot mind you, as the game doesn't throw many random variables at you other than the random combinations of the races and special powers, and while these effect the game to some degree, each game of Small World will be won through decision making, not luck.
As we mentioned the game uses a board that only just fits the players onto it and for a purpose. The idea behind Small World is that there is only enough room for a handful of races so the game is a constant game of King of the Hill. You might think you are doing well until you realize your Commando Giant neighbours are knocking on your door and taking you out easily with carefully placed tiles. The game comes with helper sheets for each player and they are awarded for studying it and knowing what any combination can do and which have more value.
At first glance the game can come across as more difficult than it really is. The most complex aspect of the game tends to be explaining how conquest and redeployment works, I have found some players struggle to understand the difference between the two actions and when to do them. Players may also find the combination of all the different races and powers overwhelming in there first play through.
The key feature to Small World that makes it so replayable is the randomization of the roles. No one game will be the same with so many possible combinations. The game does go for a fairly long time so this won't be one that you are playing over and over again. However Small World is a classic and should be in everyone's collection.
As is expected from Days of Wonder, the game components are fantastic. The art is adorable and really gives off a Disney-esque theme which is fitting for the name (while probably not the intention). As the game scales in player count, as does the board and while they could of gone the Blood Rage route (requiring you to simply ignore part of the game board), it is admirable that they included multiple boards to accommodate this. Everything in the box is well crafted and beautifully detailed.
Learning the game is pretty easy, once players have a grasp on the goal of the game and begin to understand how Decline and all the powers work the game actually becomes easy to understand. Players will need to often refer to the player reference through out the game but this is exactly why it was included, it's clear and easy to understand at a glance.
The game was designed to scale and it does so with gusto, that being said the game becomes considerably longer when a fifth player. The game is at its best with 3 players, this brings enough pressure to force players to carefully consider there actions while not making the game unbearably long.
The games theme is wonderfully played out with the game mechanically. The idea here is a small world that cannot accommodate all that wish to inhabit it, this is fleshed out in the gameplay as players fight to even stay on the board. The artwork and zany combinations add a fun aspect to the game that really makes it a delight to play.
Small World is a wonderful Civilization game with a wonderful twist that makes it approachable by all. This game should be in everyone's collection. If you have ever felt the itch to play a game like Risk or Twilight Imperium but want something a bit different, check out Small World!
Have you played Small World? Do you agree with our review? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and please like us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!