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Subject: Small World: Creating laughter, or urge to slaughter game designers? rss

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Brown Deer
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...and the obligatory "This is my first review please be gentle!!!" clause.

Small World is a fun, zany, light-hearted civilization game in which 2-5 players vie for conquest and control of a board that is simply too small to accommodate them all!” A retheme of Philippe Keyaerts's Vinci, Small World(also done by Philippe Keyaerts) is a territory control game where races rise and fall while conquering the board. In simplest terms, the game is a territory control game where the limiting factor is the number of units available to you. However, upon a deeper look, the game reveals much much more.

...and end the canned description.
I have never played Vinci and no point of comparison to the game Small World is inspired by. Perhaps this is good, perhaps this is bad, but at least I'm judging Small World on its own merits alone.

Production Values
Small World has its share of bits. In standard Days of Wonder fare, everything is of high quality. All of the pieces are printed in full color on stocky cardboard. The pieces come off easily from the sprues. No fear of ripping here! Perhaps the highest compliment to Days of Wonder is that the storage of all of the bits is beyond fantastic. Every chit has a compartment, every piece has a spot. Days of Wonder hit this one out of the park.

Gameplay
In my opinion, the recipe for a good game includes simplicity, hidden complexity, and elegance. Small World delivers on all of these fronts. The game is remarkably simple to teach and learn. Within 15 minutes, a game will be up and running with few to no questions. The shortened version of the rules are simply: You gain territories by placing 2 more of your tokens than tokens currently there. Gain one point for every territory you control. 1 of each enemy in a conquered territory is returned to the box. The others are redistributed at the end of the active player's turn.

This very simple and elegant mechanic is made complex by the random combination of powers/races that may appear and by the concept of sending races into decline. A game containing Heroic Amazons is very different than one containing Stout Amazons is different from one containing Flying Amazons. Even if you have one of the best combos possible, eventually your race will be overextended and will not be able to effectively defend itself. At that point, it might be prudent to send your active race into decline. This means you remove all but one of your pieces from each territory you control. Additionally, select and new race/power combo to champion. The timing of this action is a crucial decision as it is often the only way to bring more troops onto the board.

Replayability

Given the random combinations of races/powers there is already a ton of replayability inherent to the game. With 14 races and 20 powers, there are 280 combinations. The optimal strategies change when different race/power combinations hit the board, so there's a lot to think about. Furthermore, the game comes with 4 boards: one for 2 players, one for 3 players, etc.

Unlike some other games, Small World's lighthearted charm is an invitation to play more. In a game where the game hinges around player versus player conflict it might be easy to demoralize players after repeated thrashings. However the mood of the game is charming and amusing. Even if you are losing terribly, see such ridiculous combinations as Hill Tritons or Commando Giants is enough to elicit a chuckle.

Complaints
No game is perfect, and alas there are a couple of things that are a bit odd about Small World. Invariably, with so many possible combinations there can be balance issues. Most notable are perhaps Spirit Ghouls and Flying Sorcerers. However given the rarity that these occur, the small fault is forgivable.

Also, the game has a ton of little bits! The usual problems with these arise, be careful lest the vacuum, pet dog, or sofa monster kidnap half of your game.

Overall
The game is a refreshing light-hearted affair with hidden complexity that invites the player back for more. It is simple enough to teach someone new to gaming within minutes yet complex enough to allow two chess masters to slug it out. With the elegance of mechanics, depth of play, and quality of production, it is hard to not recommend Small World.
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Miguel
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The title of your review is a little misleading... I expected that there were aspects of the game that drove you nuts despite liking the game overall.
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Brown Deer
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It was my attempt at playing off of the tag line on the box.

"It's a world of Slaughter after all."

It's funny in my twisted mind....but interpretation is up to you.
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Glen Graham
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Carmichael
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Well done review - it's hard to believe it's your first - keep it up! It gave me a great feel for the game, even though I've studied the rules and a few other reviews.
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CJ
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agent easy wrote:
The title of your review is a little misleading... I expected that there were aspects of the game that drove you nuts despite liking the game overall.


huh!? The title was put in question format - any misunderstanding is based on your personal interpretation.
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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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Why aren't you PLAYING a game?
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Jethrone wrote:
Well done review - it's hard to believe it's your first - keep it up! It gave me a great feel for the game, even though I've studied the rules and a few other reviews.

Yeah. It's really... odd. Your review is just great - and you're brand new to BGG. Huh. Clearly you've been watching for awhile. Why lurk for so long?
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Brown Deer
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....fake people scare me....

In all seriousness, I got into gaming a few short years ago. I started by playing games that had been reviewed to death so I felt that I never had anything interesting to contribute. Another review of Arkham Horror only carries so much weight.

However a review of a game that is all of 3 days old on the streets I feel bears a little more importance. But yes, I've been lurking for a LONG time...ever since the question "What games are better than Settlers?" crossed my mind.
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Железный комиссар
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adamw wrote:
Jethrone wrote:
Well done review - it's hard to believe it's your first - keep it up! It gave me a great feel for the game, even though I've studied the rules and a few other reviews.

Yeah. It's really... odd. Your review is just great - and you're brand new to BGG. Huh. Clearly you've been watching for awhile. Why lurk for so long?


Really? Many first-time reviews are well-done. You don't need to study up at BGG to explain why you like something.
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Nick Kosareo
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The only thing wrong with the title is the missing article.
...or THE/AN urge...

I'm a stickler for grammar in titles.
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