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Subject: A Father's Review of Smallworld rss

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Jason Tesser
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As I have done in a few other reviews I am going write this review from the perspective of a father.
My wife and I believe that we can use boardgames not only for fun, relaxation, and family time but
also to help our 3 boys to develop. Games can help a child's reading ability as well as their
comprehension of what they are reading. Games also help young minds to develop a sense of logic and
ability to reason; in other words it teaches your child to think outside of the box, no pun intended. Specially board games, not video games, are a great resource here because of the interaction between other players that most board games bring to the table (maybe a little pun intended there :-)

Now my boys are Aristotle - 11, Zane - 6, and Elijah - 4. The players involved in the review are Aristotle and Zane. Elijah helps with placing pieces and die rolling in Smallworld but at 4 he is unable to play his own game. Aristotle has grown up playing board games and CCGs which does make him more familiar with game mechanics then most 11 year old. Zane though he is only 6 regularly plays games like Hey! That’s My Fish, Blockus, along with other Euros that don’t require large amounts of reading.

When Desirae, my wife, and I saw Smallworld come out we were very excited about getting it. We felt like it was a game that we could all play. We have always appreciated the focus of Days of Wonder who desires to bring quality board games to the family.

The Components
The bits within Smallworld are great. The artwork is very appealing and colorful. The game comes with 4 different maps for different player configurations. This rocks as it truly makes for a much more flexible game. Smallworld also comes with 5 beautiful player handouts. For a family who prints and creates their own player aids and then laminates them this was really nice(we all have a bit of OCD). The player aid has 2 sides. One side has a nice summary of the turns. The other side has an explanation of the races and special abilities. The bits themselves are made of a thick cardboard. The game even comes with a really nice tray to store all the cardboard bits in which separates and breaks them down nicely. To my joy the rulebook even had an appendix on how to set up the bits in the tray.

As I will cover in more depth within the gameplay section the nicest part of the components is the way the special powers and the races work. Basically you get to pick a race and a special power as a unit. They are different bits though which get shuffled so the Elves might function different in different games or even within the same game at a later time. This kind of modularity provides great replay value and helps to stop the game from getting repetitive.

Regarding Zane, who loves this game, the game comes with bits to help him play. For example in the game to take over a territory you need 2 bits plus one for every other token in the area. The tokens might be other races but can also be terrain like mountains. Most games just say +1 for terrain but in this case DOW went through the trouble to provide the mountain tokens so it is easy to remember and count. This is huge for my 6 year old who plays with Unifix cubes next to him to help figure out the math. On a side note this is a great way to help your kids learn math while playing games with them.

The Rulebook
As with all DOW games the rulebook had a lot of effort poured into its illustrations and explanation of the turns. We learned to play the game in about 20 minuets. I read the rulebook and then explained the rules to Desirae, Aristotle and Zane. We messed up the first turn with how pieces went down on the board from our hand but quickly realized it was weird so started the first turn again and got it right. All in all though the game is fairly straightforward which the rulebook presents fairly simply.

The Gameplay
Smallworld’s gameplay is fast moving, streamlined, and fun. Both Zane (6) and Aristotle (11) enjoy the game and are able to keep up what is happening. For the first few games we all helped Zane a lot but now he is able to and prefers to play on his own. The game is played in 8-10 turns depending on the number of players and is usually done within an hour or so after setup. Turns are fairly fast moving which certainly holds the interest of children. There isn’t anything to do when it is not your turn typically but watching the board and trying to convince others to leave you alone and attack someone else certainly seems to keep everyone at the table busy.

On your first turn you get to select a race which comes with a special ability token. The special abilities are random in that flying might be attached to the Wizards this time but next time it could be attached to the Ghouls. As pointed out previously this adds nice modularity. Each race and special power is unique and you must select wisely to be effective in Smallworld. The races are laid out 1-5. The race in slot 1 is free but if you want the race in slot 2 you must put a coin on the race in slot 1. After a race is select all races slide up and a new race a special power is now available for the next person selecting.

During your turns you can either pickup extra tokens from the board representing units from your tribe or you can goto decline in hopes of getting to pick a race which can serve you better next turn. If you decline you still get to score but your declined race can no longer move or attack and only one token is left in the territory. If you decline that is all you do for that turn.

Assuming you didn’t decline you can move your troops around the board at the end of your turn.

What Skills will Smallworld Teach my Children

1. Math - You must be able to add, subtract and count to play. Again as I mentioned I use the Unifix cubes here with my 6 year old.
2. Logic - Children of all ages will learn to plan ahead and think about what is someone else going to do if I conquer here.
3. Planning - How can I maximize my turn and get the most points.
4. Patience - Comes from most boardgames. Usually overlooked though.
5. Sportsmanship - This is crucial to all boardgame playing.
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Brad Weage
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It appears that one of the ongoing trends in education is "immediate feedback". You answer a question and immediately get feedback indicating whether your answer was correct or not. A lot of research indicates that this is a very useful educational strategy - but this tends to be research at a "micro" level - individual questions, not an overall course of study. If you take a quiz in the classroom and have to wait until the next day to get a graded response, you may not remember what you were thinking the day before let alone which part of it was in error. So a useful strategy in the right places.

The problem is that carried to an extreme, it can lead to a world view in which you think that every decision you make will be correct or not, and could be known to be correct or not at the time. (If I only could have afforded a better advisor or mentor, who knew all the answers, I would be rich now.)

Games with specific features, can help offset this. Games in which actions taken early on can influence later results, in non-obvious, non-trivial ways - are important for appropriate growth and maturity. Especially useful are games where specific game actions are not objectively "correct" or "wrong" even from the long term view. Some moves may indeed be objectively good or bad (and could be known to be at the time) - to someone who knows the game well and understands the future ramifications. But a lot of games include moves which can only be determined to be bad or good based on what other players do later, or based on random elements that may occur later. A move can be good today (given that your opponents do not know how to counter it) but bad tomorrow (when they have figured out an appropriate reply and now think that it was never a good move.)

Involved parents can easily guide their children through this learning experience with the help of good games. Include some games where there are non-initially-obvious "good" moves - like knowing when to put that farmer down in the field. Keep those in the mix, but add some games where a good move can be seen only in retrospect based on the later moves of the other players and the random elements when present. I don't know that many other activities that can teach this kind of thing, along with everything else you mentioned above, in a setting that is enjoyable for all involved.

Good review. Keep on gaming and growing.
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Dan Rivera
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What exactly is a 'unifix cube'? I have a 5 year old and if it helps her with math during a game then it would definatly make the games more enjoyable for her.
 
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Jason Tesser
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http://www.didax.com/shop/productdetails.cfm/Sort/Item/Order...
 
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Steve Kingsbury
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Great review - thanks!

I play alot with my kids (12 year old boy / girl tiwns) and our current favourites are Snow Tails, Dominion, Race for the Galaxy and Stone Age. Although Alhambra is always a favourite.

What i particulalry like about gaming with them (apart from the fun and relationship stuff etc) is that it teaches them strategy. They have to concieve of a plan and think of actions that continue to fit in with the plan.

So do i of course!
 
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Corin A. Friesen
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Is your son really named Aristotle? Cool name. cool

Great review! thumbsup
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DOUGLAS BRUNDIN
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Quote:
What Skills will Smallworld Teach my Children

1. Math - You must be able to add, subtract and count to play. Again as I mentioned I use the Unifix cubes here with my 6 year old.
2. Logic - Children of all ages will learn to plan ahead and think about what is someone else going to do if I conquer here.
3. Planning - How can I maximize my turn and get the most points.
4. Patience - Comes from most boardgames. Usually overlooked though.
5. Sportsmanship - This is crucial to all boardgame playing.
[/q]

Jason,

Thanks for that highly articulate description of why family boardgaming is such a great thing. When I tell my friends and extended family that I love gaming with my 3 kids, they smile politely and say, "that's nice". I don't think they get it. But you summed up everything that I love about boardgaming. Thank you so much. I actually feel a cathartic release knowing that my feelings have been expressed now in print (via your excellent review). I can rest easy now. *laugh.

I wonder what other games you enjoy with your little ones? My kids are 12, 9, 6. But my girlfriend's kids are 6 and 5, so we're in the same age range of kids. It sounds like our gaming interests and target ages are very similar. I'd love to continue the discussion.

Our family favorites are:
Memoir 44 (with eldest, age 12)
Dominion (12 & 9)
Ticket to Ride (6+, 5 yr old too distracted)
Pandemic (6+, 6 yr old handles cubes)
Vivo Topo (all!)
Heroscape (all! But takes a long time to set up)
Incan Gold (all! everyone can PLAY this one. 6yr old counts the gold)
Boggle (9 and 12. They beat me EVERY time!)
Rumis (all! they all enjoy, just tips over easily)

Next family favorite:

SMALL WORLD!!
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Jason Tesser
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Ambrose wrote:
Is your son really named Aristotle? Cool name. cool

Great review! thumbsup

Yes his name really is Aristotle :-)
 
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Jason Tesser
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Dbrundin wrote:
Quote:
What Skills will Smallworld Teach my Children

1. Math - You must be able to add, subtract and count to play. Again as I mentioned I use the Unifix cubes here with my 6 year old.
2. Logic - Children of all ages will learn to plan ahead and think about what is someone else going to do if I conquer here.
3. Planning - How can I maximize my turn and get the most points.
4. Patience - Comes from most boardgames. Usually overlooked though.
5. Sportsmanship - This is crucial to all boardgame playing.


Jason,

Thanks for that highly articulate description of why family boardgaming is such a great thing. When I tell my friends and extended family that I love gaming with my 3 kids, they smile politely and say, "that's nice". I don't think they get it. But you summed up everything that I love about boardgaming. Thank you so much. I actually feel a cathartic release knowing that my feelings have been expressed now in print (via your excellent review). I can rest easy now. *laugh.

I wonder what other games you enjoy with your little ones? My kids are 12, 9, 6. But my girlfriend's kids are 6 and 5, so we're in the same age range of kids. It sounds like our gaming interests and target ages are very similar. I'd love to continue the discussion.

Our family favorites are:
Memoir 44 (with eldest, age 12)
Dominion (12 & 9)
Ticket to Ride (6+, 5 yr old too distracted)
Pandemic (6+, 6 yr old handles cubes)
Vivo Topo (all!)
Heroscape (all! But takes a long time to set up)
Incan Gold (all! everyone can PLAY this one. 6yr old counts the gold)
Boggle (9 and 12. They beat me EVERY time!)
Rumis (all! they all enjoy, just tips over easily)

Next family favorite:

SMALL WORLD!!


We play lots of games. Recently a lot of Dominion, Space Alert (11 and Wife). We enjoy Blokus, Through the Desert, Catan, Shogun, Battle Lore among others.
 
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