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Subject: A GFBR Review: Scenarios Abound! rss

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GeekInsight
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It’s no secret that I’m a big, big fan of Small World. I named it my Game of the Year in 2010. So, when Small World Realms was announced, I eagerly followed its production and was very pleased to get my hands on a copy.

Realms brings you the ability to not only create a modular, randomized Small World experience, but also all the tools you need to create unique scenarios that have new and potentially dramatic impacts on the game.

The Basics. Small World comes with 26 tiles that display the various lands common to the game. The tiles are lettered A through Z and are double sided with Small World regions on one side, and Underground regions on the other. Realms can be used with either (or both) base game.

The other major item that comes in Realms is the scenario book. That book provides tons of new worlds for your races to conquer. One scenario might have the whole World along one massive river. Another might include specific regions that give bonus coins. Nearly every map is created in such a way that it can accommodate between two and six players merely by adding tiles as indicated.

The scenario book also includes guidance on how to create your own scenarios – including how big the board should be and how many regions or special sites should exist. The game also comes with several tokens used in the scenarios as well as additional tokens for use in your own creations.

The scenarios generally use the basic Small World or Underground rules. Then, they layer on an extra consideration or two to make the map new and different from everything else. A maps include huge changes and interesting challenges. And, for anyone that missed out on Tunnels, Realms includes that expansion as well.

The Feel
. When I reviewed Underground, one of the strongest improvements I felt it made over the original was the inclusion of Places and Relics. This one tweak increased interaction because now there were certain sites that all races wanted regardless of whatever their race or power bonuses were. Realms takes this idea to a completely new level.

One scenario includes a Rusted Throne surrounded by six other spaces. At the end of the turn, the controller of the Throne levies “taxes” against anyone in an adjacent space. Lost Tribes money is paid from the bank, but any neighboring players must pay to the controller of the throne. As you can imagine, contests over that space are particularly fierce.

The scenarios also can dramatically impact the worth of the powers of certain races. For example, in the Go East scenario, all races must start on the west side of the board. But, the easternmost regions actually are worth two coins each round instead of one. Well, suddenly the Halflings, with their ability to pop up anywhere and have two unconquerable regions look pretty good.

And that’s really the best aspect of Realms. It forces you to recalculate the worth of all the races. Even if you’ve seen them dozens of times before, now those same powers may be better or worse on a given map. Everything is reconsidered and it’s like seeing all the races and powers for the first time.

Plus, Realms includes a DIY aspect. You have everything you need to create your own board, your own maps, your own special rules, your own special relics. It’s all there. I can see this expansion launching numerous home brew creations.

The only real negative (and it is a slight one at that), is that if you were hoping for a modular board that you could simply flip over and start playing with, you’ll be disappointed. Because you have to balance mountains, symbols, terrain, and even how big the board is based on number of players, it isn’t the kind of thing where you can just flip over the first twelve tiles and have a go at it. Creating a board on the fly is certainly possible, but it might take several minutes.

(As an expansion, not all categories are relevant)

Components: 4.5 of 5. Realms is put together with the highest quality. The double sided tiles are very thick and will stay in place easily. The new relics have great artwork. The scenario book is very clear and easy to follow. The only hint of a negative is that the game includes river borders to prevent you from sailing down the river. And those borders aren’t fully explained in the rulebook leading to confusion as to whether they are uncrossable at all, or whether they simply require that you pay another token. Plus, they are simple white sticks and seem out of place with the rest of the art and tokens from the game.

Mechanics: 4 of 5. I haven’t yet had a chance to play every one of the many, many scenarios, but so far so good. It’s not that any particular scenario is brilliant or groundbreaking. Instead, it’s the way that the new layout or rules require you to reevaluate the old powers and races. You get to play the same races and powers through a completely new lens.

Replayability: 5 of 5. With the randomization of races and powers, Small World has always had immense replay value. The Merchant Skeletons for example, will play much differently than Berserker Skeletons or Merchant Giants. But now, Realms layers on a whole new dimension. Those same Skeletons or Merchants might be far more beneficial in a particular scenario, or they might be far less valuable. It’s also a great way to push some traditionally discounted races (like Dwarves or Kobolds) into new prominence.

Overall: 5 of 5. Realms is a wonderful, enjoyable addition for the Small World fan. But its important to recognize that it has two limitations. First, it cannot create a randomized board “on the fly.” Second, this expansion is really geared towards those who already have fallen in love with the base game. This is not the kind of expansion that will turn Small World detractors into believers.

However, this is quite possibly my favorite expansion for Small World. New maps, new rules, new combinations, and the ability to put the original and Underground together in a cohesive way. Not only does Realms breathe additional life into the base game, but it also has me thinking of potential scenarios for those unused tokens. And I can’t wait to play them all.

(A special thanks to Days of Wonder for providing a review copy of Small World Realms)

Originally posted, with pictures, at the Giant Fire Breathing Robot
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Danny Mack
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Re: A GFBR Review: Sceanrios Abound!
Well if we had managed to play something together on Mondays (which we still haven't yet) perhaps I would have known you were a big fan of Small World, as am I. It never seems to be out on the table on Mondays so I don't make too much of a fuss about my pimped-out copy. Would love to try out Realms with you sometime soon! I have just recently picked it up as well, and (as of 7/20/2012) have yet to get it in play.

Having not played it yet, I don't have much to say in response to your review, except that it sounds like I guessed pretty close on the value of this expansion--modular board, yes, but re-evaluation of worth seemed to me to be the real benefit of this expansion.

I am disappointed that one cannot play both Underground and Original tiles in the same board setup, simply because of the deliberate way DOW had the tiles made. Perhaps that wasn't a big issue for you, but I was really looking forward to that aspect--integrating both games on the same board space--I just thought I would mention it here, as an additional negative on your list of pros/cons.
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Re: A GFBR Review: Sceanrios Abound!
Hey, hit me up any Monday night and I'm sure to be down for Small World.

bandit_boy7 wrote:
I am disappointed that one cannot play both Underground and Original tiles in the same board setup, simply because of the deliberate way DOW had the tiles made.


That's not precisely true. There are 26 tiles which is more than enough for most setups. You can have half the tiles flipped to the Original side and the other half flipped to the Underground side and then intermingle them all you want.

But, there's no out-of-the-box rules for how to handle it. Perhaps a homebrew scenario?
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Re: A GFBR Review: Sceanrios Abound!
I just mean in the way that they fit together at the corners. Some rounded, some pointed--it's obviously supposed to go together tongue-in-groove, and flipping it to get Underground regions intermingled with Original regions wouldn't fit together correctly, am I right?

I guess you are right though, with the number of tiles in the box one could set up 2 islands (1 Original, 1 Underground) and have Tunnels connecting them--yes, obviously it would require a homemade scenario (which is what I prefer over the book-o'-scenarios...I cut out all of the pages that I could to get my scenario booklet to be JUST English. How distracting!)

I will take you up on the Monday Small World invitation the very first chance I get!
BTW:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Your title is misspelled.
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bandit_boy7 wrote:
I just mean in the way that they fit together at the corners. Some rounded, some pointed--it's obviously supposed to go together tongue-in-groove, and flipping it to get Underground regions intermingled with Original regions wouldn't fit together correctly, am I right?


I hadn't even thought of that. Yeah, that could be an issue.

bandit_boy7 wrote:
I guess you are right though, with the number of tiles in the box one could set up 2 islands (1 Original, 1 Underground) and have Tunnels connecting them--yes, obviously it would require a homemade scenario


There are actually a few scenarios already in the book that combine them both with tunnels.

bandit_boy7 wrote:
BTW:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Your title is misspelled.


I have no idea what you're talking about whistle
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I enjoyed your review. I was curious if you think someone with only the original base game would be able to get full enjoyment out of this expansion?

I read another review where the reviewer felt the Underground base game could be used with any of the scenarios (if you turn over the tiles for scenarios depicting the original land types), but that this was not the case for the original... ie. original races could not use underground scenarios, even if tiles were flipped. Part of the appeal of this expansion for me was that I would be able to try some of the new underground mechanics (rivers and places/relics) without buying the underground base game, but I'm concerned that this may not be possible. What are your thoughts?
 
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cyakobch wrote:
Part of the appeal of this expansion for me was that I would be able to try some of the new underground mechanics (rivers and places/relics) without buying the underground base game, but I'm concerned that this may not be possible. What are your thoughts?


Rivers, Places, and Relics (the core differences in Underground, are all available for the base game in Realms. And you wouldn't even need to turn the tiles over. The tiles just have the underground terrain like Mushroom Forests and Crystals. That terrain would be pretty meaningless to the base game races.

There is only one scenario that uses a specific piece only available in the Underground box. But, even then, it's just a Relic. Realms provides a ton of new relics, so you can just substitute with one of the Relic included pieces.

The only thing you'll be missing out on is that most of the Relics in Realms are not given any powers. It's left to the user to come up with stuff. In Underground, they each have a special power. So, you may have to get a copy of the Underground rulebook and assign some powers to the relics in Realms if you want to experience that.

While I think this expansion is best if you have both the base and Underground, it is certainly enjoyable with just one or the other.
 
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