First Play: Smallworld

Smallworld is a game that can see Flying Rat Men and Commando Giants compete for territory! If that hasn't sold you on the game then what else can we say?

By Bex Jordan

Our ‘First Play’ guides describe the experiences of relatively experienced board gamers playing a new game for the first time. As such, they don’t include in-depth thoughts on strategy, depth or re-playability.

Playing With

Rob Clarke Daniel Jamie Maisner Bex Jordan

First Play

Picture your peaceful Small World filled with well cultivated farmlands, hills with herds of cows grazing peacefully, and beautiful snowy mountain ranges. Then, imagine the flying rat men descending and taking over from you and conquering the lands you loved so dearly. There is just not enough space in this world for everyone; so you must use your special skills and traits to conquer surrounding regions to stockpile victory points.

From Days of Wonder, Small World combines great military strategy and engaging artwork to create an easy to teach gateway game.

Set Up

The set up in Small World is quick and easy. Inside the box you will find four boards in total allowing different player combinations. Next step was randomly drawing five race banner cards and five special power badges, shuffling them and combining to create the races with special powers. Next, it’s a case of popping a few added components to the board such as mountains, or the tile of the lost tribes which are the poor last remnants of the original civilizations!

Learning the game

I must admit when we first played this game I was not expecting to like it, from the first open of the box I took in the loads of different tiles and other components and I was worried this game might have quite arduous rules.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this game was to pick up. One of us did the main rule reading while the other players had a rule reference card. The cards are invaluable in Small World, where different combinations of races and powers can come up often and need to be check quickly by other players choosing a race.

This sheet makes trying to work out your next move very accessible without having to refer to the main rule booklet. I believe on our second play we could jump straight back in with very little reference to the main rules.

First Game Strategy

# A turn in Smallworld consists of picking your race/special power and conquering regions by using the correct number of tokens. Each region takes 2 tokens to enter, and then additional tokens if the region is occupied by other players. The amount of tokens you have is determined by your race and ability, and after you use all your tokens you can put your race in ‘decline’ and pick a new race.

The other players and I generally stayed away from each other in the first few turns, but I was able to gain quite a bit of territory with a small amount of tokens, and then put my race into decline. A declining race can’t attack, but they can still gain victory points if they remain in control of a region.

My real victory came with my third race choice, Flying Rat Men, who had the excellent combination of sheer numbers and the flying ability, which meant I could drop tokens and take over badly defended regions anywhere on the board.

Was it fun?

We all really enjoyed Smallworld on our first play and I am eager to play this one again; especially as a two-player game! What I loved about the game was how it was not obvious who was winning until the very end and even then it closely fought. I am extremely happy to say I won – a rare occurrence - albeit by a handful of points, but a victory is a victory!

It’s a simple to pick up game that I think would be easy to teach it to even reluctant board gamers. But with each play the strategy could get more complex. The replayability of the game seems high with so many different combinations of races and powers, and the build quality and art are excellent.