Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Lesbians Review: Small World

Hey everybody, we’re a duo of crazy boardgaming lesbians from the arse end of the world, and today we are reviewing a game of small spaces and vast numbers of races, SMALL WORLD.


Small World Fact File
Players: 2 - 5
Playtime: 80 minutes
Genre: Civilisation / Wargame

Small World charmed its way into my apartment with its exciting fantasy world premise, and its little flowery elf tokens. Since then it has been our go-to-game for big groups, including an infamous incident in which it was our go-to-the-park-and-cause-my-OCD-girlfriend’s-head-to-explode game (no, I am never going to let her live that down). Since it has been the cause of much fun and fuss, I thought I should give it a review.  


A picturesque country scene

Small World looks almost as cute and loveable as my tiny Gf. It is the first game that I have actually wanted to hug (…except the ratmen…poor ratmen….forever alone….) Fun and funny, quirky and engaging the graphics of Small World entice you to open the box and jump in. They look like how Middle Earth would look if it was a toddler – all the ingredients of Tolkenesque fantasy but walking just a little too off centre (in an endearing way) for you to take it seriously. And in my opinion, this is how the game itself wants to be taken. Not so much frowny frowny super-intensity, but friendly, approachable, and with a lot of lolzy pseudo-fantasy.

Small World is kind of like risk with ADHD. Conquering ALL THE WORLD and CRUSHING THE HEATHEN FOES is a bit too intense for this game, so the winner is simply the one with the most VPs at the end of the game. 

Gameplay begins when you pick a fantasy army, with an illusively titled bonus (and speedily read up on what exactly it is all the bonuses do….) Collect all the tokenz and assemble your killer force of fearsome skeletons wearing Stetsons, or ferocious halflings with tiny knives.
 The game then proceeds as follows:
1. Populate the world with your ilk by attacking one region at a time until your troops have been used. There is a little bit of heathen foe crushing involved.
2. Reinforce your army so it may brave the bitter assault ahead. Probably you will not have too many troops left over to do this, and you will be bitterly assaulted anyway
3. Collect your delicious VP and keep them strewn in a GIANT HOARD OF VICTORY. Or, if you’re like the GF, a neat stack.

Go team Swamp Wizards
BUT the game does not end there. I hope did you not get attached to you skeletons/halflings/random fantasy race because when you have used them until they can be used no more, you will now cruelly cast them aside for a whole shiny shiny new army. This is called “going into decline”. Your rejected race will continue to hang about on the board, whiling away its miserable abandoned existence, and earning you VP every so often until your opponent crushes it completely. In return for your treachery in discarding a race, the action of sending your race into decline takes an entire turn.

And so continues the cycle of attacking and abandoning until the turn count is used up. At this point, VPs are counted and the player with the most WINS FOREVER (until next time.)


Small World is a game that hinges somewhat on its novelty. It contains an endless slew of races and bonuses which are mixed together randomly like a Strawberry Surprise Milkshake. Because of this, it is difficult enough to remember what everything does (the reference card is half the size of the board), let alone “implement” a complex “plan”. Instead the game has a much more reactive feel, drawing on the players’ powers of resourcefulness, to cope and respond to the ever changing and ever crazy situation. This does not mean that Small World is to strategy what Taylor Swift is to Beethoven, rather it calls upon a different set of skillz, skillz which do not actually appear in the majority of games. It is a light, quick game, but it’s by no means a fluffy game and a victory feels like a victory and can be suitably celebrating by screams of victory, dancing, planting a tiny flag on the game board, etc.

This game does suffer from a few forgivable ills. It does happen that the first player, empowered with the selection of the finest juiciest races may gain an advantage over the other players that cannot be combated even with maximum hyperdrive brain power. What’s more, happy days for this first player, because they are 90% most likely to send their race into decline first, giving them first choice again of the next lot of tasty tasty races and naught but woe to all the players after. Also, the game makes no sense with two players. It does weird Picasso-like things to the bonuses, rendering half of them awesome to the point of brokenness, and half of them not even worth poking with a pointy stick for signs of life. Example diplomat – a bonus that lets you select one player whose active (not declined) race you have not attacked this round, and they cannot attack you. Two players, neither of whom can attack each other. In real life, this is known as “peace”, and it is not a state you expect to appear in a wargame.

But even with me emptying my bucket of negativity all over Small World there is still a fair bit of glistening gold for players to enjoy. For once thing, this game is just fun. Who does not enjoy picking crazy races with mad bonuses and weird names like the bivouacking ghouls? Game play is crisp and clean and although there is one reinforcement die, there is no clunky roll roll roll your life away mechanic to slow it down. With a lot of people Small World also has a fun element of politics (by politics I mean who can yell “ATTACK HER NOT ME” the loudest. That’s how the UN works, right?) The more the merrier in this game, and it is a pretty merry game to begin with.

Me: Small World is not my cup of tea as far as game design is concerned – there is too much sugar, and you never know what the flavour will be like. But it’s a game I’d never refuse to play either. It’s a bit more than a party game, but still accessible to even a non-gamer. If you want something fast and fun, with the occasional need to rise to the occasion, Small World may meet your needs very well.
Rating: 7

GF: I like the social / partygame-esque feel of this game. The game design doesn’t hurt this game for me, because I actually think that the randomness and asymmetrical bonuses are what make this game so fun. I won’t lie; I’m the one who keeps suggesting to play Small World at parties.
Rating: 7.5


1 comment:

  1. Should I just assume that the first expansion you'll be purchasing for this game is the "Grand Dames" ? ;)