Me and my girlfriend got this game yesterday. We are big fans of the original Small World and its expansions and have played the game pretty regularly lately, mostly 1v1 games that is. We're not that good, but we always to the best we can do beat eachother.
Tonight, after a long work day, we wanted to try out this new standalone version.
We drew these starting combinations. I got first pick.
Everything was still new, so we didn't have very big ideas about good and bad combos for this game. I picked the Vampire Spiderines, their abilities looked good on paper and besides that, they just seemed cool
My girl picked the Shadow Mimes, and took the ability Immortal.
After the first round the board looked like this:
We both went for a monster kill, I got the Ghost one (you can make a region, any region as Iunderstand it, immune to conquests), whilst my GF got the staff of Avarice, it gives you the ability to let one of your regions gain double points when counting points.
Round 2 brought pretty much more of the same, this is how it looked end round 2:
What I noticed here, and I don't know if others find this also in 2-player games, was that we both sticked to "our" side of the map, consolidating most parts of the lands there. This behavior continued during round 3, with no clashes between us at all. I don't know what the reason for this is. Has it something to do with us being both too hesitant to play too offensive during our first play, or has it something to do with the river costing a race token to cross? I still have my doubts about the river mechanic and more playthroughs of this game are necessary to form a further opinion. What I do know is that in classic SW we were already fighting most of the time by round 3.
During round 3 we both take on the remaining monsters on the map, my girlfriend got the Diamond Fields, giving bonus points for the same type of terrain. My GF reasoned that if this terrain got a bonus point because of this ability, and that then she would lay the Staff on it, this bonus point would also be doubled, is this correct?
I got the Stonehedge place, something we found a bit confusing. I randomly took the power "Flocking". Now Stonehedge isn't that well explained in the rulebook imho, at least we didn't had the hang of it completely. We played it so that I could both use my Vampire ability and the Flocking ability simulteanously. I'm not sure if this is intended?
Round 4 I decide to go in decline, my race is too spread out and it would be pointless to continue with it. My girlfriend decides to continue with her Mimes, also during the next round, I think she just waited too long to go into decline.
and decide on a full scale assault against those pesky Shadow Mimes. At the end of my round 6 the board looked like this (don't mind the round marker, we forgot to move it):
The Cultists special power is great, makes one region immune and lets you conquer adjacent regions for one token less. My girlfriend still refuses to go in decline.
The next round I maximize my Cultist conquering effort and my girlfriend finally goes into decline. So turn 8 these are the racial combos to choose from:
She goes for the Thieving Lizardmen. Not a bad combination (although I feel this ability works better for more player games)
End of turn 8 she did some damage to my Cultists
She hoped I would go into decline at this time (I usually go 2-3 times into decline during 2-player games) but this time I decided not to and kept on consolidating my score. I was scoring alot better during the past 3-4 rounds and knew the gap was probably too big, even without further conquests of my side. My spiderines were still in control of 5 regions so I figured it would be stupid to go into decline.
The ending round 10, we had the board looking like this:
I won the game with 111 points, girlfriend had 98 points. This was a strange game. I spent the last 3 rounds doing absolutely...nothing. Never had this before in Smallworld. We both felt we played bad, still we both had alot more points then we had estimated at first. Some tactical errors had cost my GF a bit too much points I think. The relics and places of power add a bit of flavour to the game, but I'm not sure whether to really like them or not. We both still like classic SW alot more, but this new one surely deserves some more attention from us. Not a bad game, but not a classic like its big brother either. Still...hours of fun still await with this game, and that's what matters
"Conventional wisdom" has it that averaging ten points a turn is a Good Showing, so you each look to have done alright--I've only played the original game, so I don't know if Underground scoring runs hotter. Even though you hadn't played these Races and Powers before, you most likely did reasonably well reading when they'd outlived their usefulness.
That said, when I teach this to people I always suggest that they dump Races sooner rather than later, because the Races already on the board are likely to underperform their expectations. That's especially true of your first Race, because of the sheer number of added points you stand to gain with your second Race. Again, that's just a rule of thumb--sometimes you can milk combos you already have for more than you stand to gain from the replacements on offer. A bird in the hand, and all that.
I'm interested to hear what you thnk of the Races and Powers after you've seen each of them three or four times--that's what it took before I thought I had a tolerable grasp of things in Small World. I'm especially interested to hear how you think the board itself affects gameplay. So, don't be a stranger.
Yeah. I'm not sure how many points you were earning early in the game. I thought you should have declined sooner and invaded her side of the map.
Underground seems to be more centred on conflict than the original and scoring is typically a bit lower for the winner so maybe you were playing a little too isolated but if you brought anything positive out of the game then you played it "right."
Don't be afraid to get bloody in your next game and see how it turns out. Just a tip...do not let Drow sit in a corner all by themselves.
I'm especially interested to hear how you think the board itself affects gameplay.
Well I'm not sure yet, this is only based on 1 play, our next one is planned for tomorrow or the weekend.
But like I said in my session report, I really have my doubts about the river. Sacrificing 1 token wich you can't use for conquering that turn is imho really something to think about. It just looks a bit costly or am I thinking a bit too negative here? I feel alot more comfortable about a central lake region like in SW Classic.
The chasms, being the impassable regions, they don't affect gameplay that much. You can try to use them to your advantage, I tried creating a "chokepoint" (is that the correct word in English?), to block my GF, but it's really not that big of a deal to counter this.
About the different powers: At first sight, they don't seem to be as straight-forward as SW Classic powers appear to be. Again, this is probably a big IMHO, I guess things will all go much better after several plays. I am looking forward to our next session.
I think the river is the biggest change to the gameboard. A single river region can be adjacent to a lot of other regions on the map, making it ideal for moving across the board quickly, and for bypassing heavily defended regions. Especially for the Lizardmen.
The chasms do create a few chokepoints on some maps but they're fairly small ones. The greatest concern for them is if/when the Spiderines and Flames come into play.