First, let me say that I’m not knocking a Series of Unfortunate Events, I actually enjoyed that series when I read it in high school. The option of using that as a title was just too good. What I am talking about is how series […]
People don’t like the way that I describe this game if they haven’t played it before, but it’s pretty accurate — it’s like Risk, but fun. We’ve either played games of Risk that have taken hours to play and many feelings have been hurt, or have heard about that happening, so comparing something to Risk isn’t all that favorable. But Smallworld does have a similar setup to Risk in that it has different areas of land to conquer; however, it improves upon the concept with weird fantasy combinations.
Smallworld is won by having the most money at the end of a given number of turns; each board specifies the number of turns. You get money by holding territories, but the board isn’t quite large enough for all the players, so conflict is sure to arise. So instead of a slow and steady march amassing troops through Europe, you take turns running your troops through your opponents’, getting your coins, and then having the same done back to you. Another thing that makes Smallworld better is that while you might start out the game playing Flying Halflings, once you’ve expended your troops, you can put them into decline. A race in decline still gets you money, but are easier for other players to take over, and then on your next turn, you pick a new race. So you could start the game a Flying Halflings, become Seafaring Giants, and end the game as Alchemist Wizards.
So I’ve started to touch on the other aspect that makes this game unique — the combinations of races and abilities. For example, with Flying Halflings, flying is the ability and Halfling is the race. These are split onto two different pieces of cardboard, so that means that the races and abilities vary from game to game. So one game it might be Flying Halflings, and the next week it might be Seafaring Halflings and Flying Sorcerers. This means that each time you play it, the game is going to be different. And after you’ve played it enough, there are expansions. So you can add different races and abilities like Leprechauns or Pixies. The ability to replay this game over and over again is high because of this.
Another cool feature of this game is the fact it comes with four different boards. Each of these boards is for the different numbers of players that you can have. The two-player board is smaller and has fewer territories, and the five-player board is twice as large, with a higher density of territories. This is another great feature, because it forces there to always be conflict. Doesn’t matter if you are playing two players or five players; you will start running into the other player(s) sooner rather than later.
So with all of these things, you can see how the game might be related to Risk, but instead of a marathon of hurt feelings, this game flies through in a limited number of turns with just enough strategy to keep you focused on the game, and it’s simple enough that most people will be able to pick it up quickly. And while a very enterprising player will kind of know who has the most money, as long as people don’t sort their money it’s anyone’s game. I would highly recommend it as something that new gamers would enjoy, that seasoned gamers can break out for a fun time, and that can bring those two groups together easily.
Overall Grade: A
Casual Grade: A
Gamer Grade: B+
If you’ve played Smallworld, what is your favorite combo of ability and race?