If I just caused that awful song to be stuck in your head, I apologize. It is though, the perfect title for today’s feature game – Smallworld. Smallworld is a great entry level area of control game. If you want to introduce people to the area of control mechanic, definitely consider this game as your starting point.
Smallworld comes for Days of Wonder, the same people who supply the world with the wonderful Ticket to Ride series. This game comes with two different boards for different player counts so the game is well balanced and competition for zones is inevitable. Players will compete during the course of the game to control the most area with their race(s) in order to earn the most coins.
Players begin selecting a race which is randomly selected an ability. They will gain a specific number of race tokens equal to the number found in the top corner of each the race card and the ability card. They will then distribute their race tokens across the land following specific placement rules. After placing their tokens, they will count the number of areas they control, add any bonuses from their race/ability cards, and then collect that number of coins.
The next person will go, select their race, and spread across the land. Players are able to take areas occupied by other players as long as they have 2 more race tokens available to place than what is in the area. For example, if an area is occupied by 2 race tokens and a different player wants that area, they will need to place at least 4 tokens to take that spot. Once the player runs out of race tokens, it then continues to the next player.
Once all players have taken their initial turn with that race, they collect race tokens off the board, leaving no more than 1 token in each area. If they want to abandon an area, they may do so. They then use what tokens they gathered to redistribute across the map, gaining even more area. There will come a time when you are just stretched out too thin, or you’ve lost too many tokens through battles. If that is the case, you may use your turn to put your race into decline. It gets flipped over and now becomes inactive. On your following turn, you will get to choose a new race to conquer with.
Play continues for a pre-determined number of rounds based on the number of players. It’s a very simple game to understand, but your strategy will be very important. When is it time to make your current race inactive and choose a new one? Misjudge it by just a turn, and it can throw your whole flow off. Is it better to stretch out as wide as possible, or is it better to reinforce key areas you’ll get extra points for? With each game being unique in regards to the race+ability combinations, you’ll rarely ever see the same combination twice.
My Thoughts: I give this game a solid 8.5/10. While it’s not the most innovative or tense game out there, it does what it’s meant to do very well. There is a lot of player interaction which leads to constant banter and excitement as you vie for different areas, sometimes flip-flopping them multiple times throughout just a few rounds. It is an excellent game to introduce people to the area control mechanic in order to introduce more complex games like Blood Rage or Scythe. There have also been expansions released which add different races to the game as well, some even add new regions. I always add in the Be Not Afraid… expansion, which adds in a few more races without complicating the game any further.
- Rating: 7.3
- Playtime: 40 – 80 min
- Complexity: 2.36/5
- Mechanisms: Area Control, Area Movement, Variable Player Powers,
- Category: Fantasy, Fighting, Territory Building
- MSRP: $45