Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Small World)

When you've become a jaded adventurer like me, you've seen it all.  Flying Dwarves?  Seen it.  Merchant Ghouls?  Meet some for tea every Tuesday.  Swamp Elves?  Just as haughty as those found in forests. But...even Diplomat Trolls?!  Surprisingly civil, once you get to know them.  I guess it really is a Small World after all.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Small World is a Board Game published by Days of Wonder in 2009, for 2 to 5 players.  Players take control of various ridiculous combinations of races and special powers to take control of a world too small for everyone.

SET-UP:  Select the board that matches the number of players.  Place the Turn Marker at 1 on the board.  Place a grey Lost Tribe token in each matching Lost Tribe space, or Region, on the board.  Put a Mountain token on each Region featuring a Mountain.  Each player is then given 5 Victory Coins.  Finally, shuffle both the Race and Special Powers Banners, then place 5 of both banners in a column above each stack face up, fitting the Special Power banner into each Race banner neatly, including the stacked ones.

TURN ORDER:  The player with the most pointed ears is first.  The first Turn consists of:
  • Picking a Race & Special Power Combo 
  • Conquer Regions 
  • Score Victory Coins
Advance the Turn Marker before each of the First Player's Turns.  Later Turns also consist of either expanding the race through new conquests or putting a race in Decline to select a new one.  Finally, score Victory Coins again.

PICKING:  When you start the game, or start a Round with your race in decline, you pick a new race. You may choose the Race & Special Power Combo at the top of the column for free, or choose any of the other 5 Race/Power Combos revealed by placing a Victory Coin above each race not chosen.  Once a Race/Power Combo is chosen, move every Race/Special Power Combo up, and reveal the next Race/Power Combo so that 6 remain face-up.

RACE TOKENS:  Each player gains Race Tokens equal to the number on the bottom left of the Special Power connected to that Race, plus the number on the bottom right of that Race.  

ATTACKING:  A player may only Conquer a Region adjacent to the edge of the board, whose shore is on a Sea adjacent to the edge of the board, or adjacent to the Race they are currently using.  To Conquer a region, a player must have at least 2 Race tokens to move into that Region, plus 1 more Race token for each Encampment, Fortress, Mountain, or Troll's Lair in that Region.  The player must also add 1 more Race token for every Lost Tribe or other player's Race token already present in that Region. Seas and Lakes generally cannot be conquered.  

CONQUERING:  Upon conquering a Region, the player must place the Race Tokens he used to Conquer this Region inside its borders on the Board.  If a player successfully Conquers a Region with another players Race, the attacked player must discard 1 Race token permanently, and keep the rest of the Race Tokens in their hand.  The Player may continuing Conquering as long as they are able.  

FINAL CONQUEST:  If the player finds themselves unable to Conquer due to lack of Race Tokens, they may do a Final Conquest, provided they have at least 1 unused Race Token and declare an attack on a Region they can Conquer by 3 or fewer Race Tokens.  That player may no longer Conquer the rest of this Turn.  The player rolls the Reinforcement Die once.  Add the number rolled on the Reinforcement Die to the number required to Conquer the declared Region.  If it is successful, place the remaining Race Token(s) in that Region.  If it is not, place the Race Token(s) in a Region already Conquered.

REDEPLOY:  Once the players Conquests are over, they may freely place any Race Tokens in any region occupied by their Race, provided at least 1 Race Token remains in each Region under the players control.

READYING:  At the start of Turn 2 and on, you may leave in place one Race token in each Region they occupy,  and take all other Active Race tokens from the board back in hand and use them to conquer new Regions.  A player may also abandon a Region, but it may leave it vulnerable to be Conquered by a new player, and you must re-Conquer it as seen above.

DECLINE:  If your Race isn't working out, at the start of your turn you may place your Race into Decline.  Flip the current Race banner upside down, and discard the Special Powers banner connected to that race.  Then, flip over 1 Race token in each Region those tokens occupied and remove all other tokens of this Race from the board.  At the start of the next turn, choose a new Race/Power Combo, as seen above.  All players may have only 1 Race in Decline on the board.  If a new Race enters into Decline, remove all of the previous Race tokens.  The Race banner of the now vanished race is placed at the bottom of the stack of Race banners, or in the lowest empty slot in the banner column.

RACE & POWERS:  Each Race has an ability, as well as each Special Power.  Due to this, they can easily conflict with the rules.  In that case, the Race and Special Powers override any other rules.

VICTORY:  Victory Coins are gained at the end of each player's round, and are kept hidden from each player.  First, gain 1 Coin for each Region a Race token occupies on the map. The player may also collect additional Victory coins as a result of his Race and/or Special Power benefit.  Any Regions occupied by a Race in Decline token also each contribute 1 Victory coin to the player.  However, the Race and Special Power effects no longer contribute any bonus Coins, unless explicitly stated otherwise in said Race or Special Power.  The game ends when the Turn token gets to the last number.  Once it goes back to the First Player, tally up all Victory Coins.  The player with the most Victory Coins wins.   In the case of a tie, the player with the most Race tokens wins.

CONCLUSION:  Small World is a game with a deep level of strategy, and one can appreciate it's solid gameplay and good mechanics.  It's a interesting take on turn based strategy games, and fans of those games should enjoy the complexity of the various combinations of Special Powers and Racial abilities.  This is enjoyable for people who enjoy "the long game", strategizing and predicting 10 moves in advance.  For others who prefer more strategy-lite games, this is something to play a bit less often.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Like a lot of recent games, this one also comes in a digital format.  Now, while I own the digital copy, I can't say I've played much of it.  The rules are a little dense, and I am primarily the kind of person that learns the rules as I play.  Doing so here was a tad difficult, because it doesn't really tell you why a thing happens the way it does the same way a person can.  I will say that if you already know the game, the single player is pretty good in layout and orginization.

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