Customer Reviews: Small World
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Showing 1-10 of 512 reviews(verified purchases). Show all reviews
on July 20, 2011
Plenty of people have done an admirable job of explaining the games in their reviews, so this is instead an attempt at a comparison between a number of games, the pros and cons of each and which may suit different people best. The games in question are: Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Castle Panic, Smallworld, and Forbidden Island.

We have had Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne (with a number of expansion packs) for quite a few years now, and only recently added the other games above. We usually either play just as two adults, or with our two older children (age 9 and 8), and so our conclusions are based on how these games work in those settings. So here's what we've found:

Settlers of Catan
We got this around the same time as Carcassonne and initially just didn't latch onto it. Partly it's that it's supposed to be 3 players or more, and we often play as just two of us. Once we found online some instructions for playing as 2 players it came out more often, and as time's gone by it's become fairly 50-50 whether we play Settlers or Carcassonne on a quiet night in. The choice will usually depend on how much we want to think. With Settlers, you're always planning and calculating; with Carcassonne, you're taking it a card at a time.

Who should get it: Settlers is well-known as one of the great modern games. I'm not as sold on it as some people, and it takes quite a while to learn and feel comfortable with, but once you get the hang of it, it is an entertaining and enjoyable addition to a games collection. There are several 2-player rule variations out there if you need them and they work well (we found one that worked for us and we've stuck to it). But this isn't a game for kids; I would suspect not until they're 16 or so. Amongst other things, I think they'll find it too dull.

This has been a favorite for years now, and everyone we've played it with has gone off to get it themselves. We usually play without farms because it then becomes less directly competitive and more sociable. Kids can play it, adults can play it, it's relaxed, it's fun and it's simple to learn. Here's one nice thing about it: you don't have to be constantly thinking and planning ahead. You don't know what card you're going to draw next time, so you just play one card at a time. You're encouraged to discuss where to put a card, and since you don't know what piece you're getting next, your comments to another player are usually pretty unbiased.

Who should get it: In my experience, pretty much anyone, except those who want ultra-competitive games. The first few expansion packs are also well worth getting, but don't bother with anything from Mayor onward.

Castle Panic
The kids love this one, again it's simple to learn and it has the added bonus of allowing them to get out their aggressive instincts and go postal on monsters! They don't like the `master slayer' option, but prefer just straight cooperative play. After the first few plays, I've found the basic game is too easy, and so we're experimenting with making it more challenging, such as starting with no walls, or drawing 3 monster cards at a time instead of 2. I think Castle Panic will become a game that we get out pretty regularly to play.

Who should get it: People with kids, who want to play cooperative games. Could be fun as a party game too!

While the kids have enjoyed playing this, I think their interest is starting to wane already. I suspect it will work better as a game with a group of adults, or when the kids are older. It has a lot going for it, especially the creative cards and board, but as others have noted - what's with the box for the tokens? Very poorly designed and adds unnecessary annoyance. Most of the time when playing we've found it's not too directly competitive, it's easier to attack lost tribes or declining races, so generally it doesn't get too personal!

Who should get it: I think this would make a fun addition to a games collection, but I don't think it would be a go-to game, especially with kids. The rules are more complicated to learn and explain than the other games, and this makes it hard to just sit down with new players and get on with a game. Having said that, we've enjoyed playing it , and I think it'll get pulled out every now and then over the years.

Forbidden Island
Although the kids would prefer Castle Panic, when we've played Forbidden Island (at my insistence!) they've thoroughly enjoyed it. As the island starts to collapse in a heap toward the end of the game, the tension levels rise and people are on the edge of their seats! The game always ends with voices rising in pitch and tension as cards get turned over - it's fun! It's a pure cooperative game, and that works well for us as a family - no one feels bad, we're all in it together. We're still using the `Normal' level of play, maybe we'll notch up a level soon!

Who should get it: If you like cooperative games, I think this is excellent to have. I love how easy it is to set different difficulty levels, and it's definitely the game that's had the most excited tension - Castle Panic has this at times, but not sustained (at least as the basic game). It doesn't have the whole monster thing going for it that Castle Panic does, and I think that's why the kids haven't latched onto it so quickly (kill trolls or wander round an island getting treasure - which is your average kid going to choose?) but I suspect that long-term it'll have more staying power.
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on January 4, 2010
After reading some of the other reviews I war really excited to receive this game, and was not disappointed! The game is much what you would expect from the cover. Players take on common fantasy races (elves, giants, wizards, halflings, trolls, etc.) with various special powers and abilities (dragons, heros, flying,...) and duke it to be top dog of piece of land much too small to contain everybody.

The rule book explained everything fairly clearly, I'd say it takes maybe 15 minutes to read and digest it all. The theme is great, and leads to some really enjoyable artwork. The randomly drawn combination of powers and races make the game fun and different every time. There are two things, in my opinion, that makes this game really shine though: 1) There are different sized boards for different number of player, which keeps the world feeling cramped and basically forces people to attack each other (which is where all the fun is) and 2) If your current race gets beaten down too harshly, or over extended you can easily give it up for another race and get back in the game. In fact, this is half the fun. Over the course of a normal game you get to try at least 2 to 3 different races. This really keeps people from feeling too bad when they get attacked, because they can just try another race.

I'd give this game an easy A+. I have over a dozen games in my collection (Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Puerto Rico, etc.) and I foresee this getting the most play time out of all of them for a while. It's great both for hard-core gamers and to entice new people into gaming. If you think you might like it, you're probably right!
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on December 2, 2015
Conquering a map is so satisfying. I don't know why, but it is. Small World is a great game, as long as you know what you are getting. It's a low-to-mid-weight Euro-style strategy game, easy enough for kids to learn, but with enough strategy in it to appease adult strategists. It is not, however, a deep strategy game that will excite people looking for another version of Twilight Struggle, Puerto Rico, Agricola, etc.


The idea of Small World is to take a group (elves, trolls, humans, etc.) and randomly pair them with a special ability (flying, seafaring, commando, etc.) to get a unique combination of special powers, and then dominate your way across the map. Naturally, you will suffer from the "spread too thin" phenomenon of Risk, and your opponents will eventually plow through your pieces like an NFL player on a Pop Warner team. BUT, better than Risk, you don't have to stick with that group. You can give them up, selecting a NEW combination from the table, and start re-plowing through the opponent that just plowed you. (Or, you can conquer a different part of the map.) This keeps the game feeling fresh.


As I mentioned in the premise, the various combinations of groups, combined with a blank group card and a blank special power card, give this game a high amount of replay factor. It's also a GREAT game for 2 players. You can even control two different groups each and play on the four-player board, as I've done, for a different, more challenging, and zanier experience.


This is a low-to-medium-weight game. It has strategy along the lines of games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. Those looking for a good family game with more strategy than average (almost no dice-rolling!) will love Small World. If you're looking for map conquering, this has got it. If you're looking for a long-term strategic, deeply contemplative game with lots of planning, seeing a visionary strategy through to completion, this is not your game. However, I am a lover of the Puerto Rico-type deep strategy game, and I absolutely love Small World to play as a "break" game in between long strategic sessions. It has enough strategy to appease my appetite for that kind of game, but is fun and lighthearted enough that I don't have to think too hard about what I'm doing.


You can vary the amount of rounds that you play, using house rules, if you want. If you play the full game, it will take 45-60 minutes for a 2-player game. The first game takes a bit of getting used to, what with the rules and the specific special abilities of every type of group, but the mechanics are easy enough to pick up, and after one tutorial game, you should feel confident. Setup takes a few minutes, and there are many small pieces, so make sure you account for that.


I play it 2-player with my girlfriend all the time, and we love making up various house rules as well as playing it according to the rulebook. I've also played it multi-player, and it's even more zany and fun. A good addition to any game shelf.
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on February 2, 2010
First of all, know that you are getting a very durable product. I was very impressed when I opened the box to see how durable all the little pieces are. They have even provided a tray so you can store all the pieces in an organized way, making game setup and game play go very smooth without wondering where certain pieces are.

I feel that this game is so much deeper than what many may initially think. While the rules are very simple, it all comes down to your strategy. With the huge possibilities of Race/Special Power combinations, every game will be different. Will you take your army out and spread them thin just to get a lot of points during your turn, or will you hold back and play conservatively so you won't have to use up a turn going In Decline (which results in no points that turn)? Or maybe you can just go out and completely decimate your opponent and force them to go In Decline with their Race. The point it, with all the possible combinations of Races and Special Powers, it will be a whole new game every time you play it! And to top it off, it's great for 2, 3, 4, or 5 players.
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on May 9, 2016
The variations of ways to play this game is never ending. We even added our own races to make even more combinations. The game can take a long time, much longer than the play time written on the box.
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on October 8, 2012
So, this is one of the many games on my wish list that I got from Wil Wheaton's Table Top webisode - and while a fun game to play, not a perfect game -

First, once opening the box, there are pieces that you will take out of their cardboard homes to make into playing pieces, and while they do provide a storage bin (Big Plus) it is not quite right for all of the races - some had some trouble fitting into the container - but I was not discouraged, so I went onto the next phase, setting up the game.

Once I set the game up, which did not take overly long, and we started to play our first match of small world - at first, it was kind of fun, come in and conquer and what not, but there is a huge element missing in the game - there is no way top defend your land once you receive it - if the other player has enough pieces, you just lose you land - the thing that needs to be brought in is the dice element from Risk, which this is basically a fantasy fun version of risk - it seems that they took the conquer element from risk, but took out the attack and defend element, which was sorely missed

My son said it best when he said, "What's the point?" - you take over what you can and get your points, but you cannot defend, so someone with an army of ratmen can come in and take over the Trolls and their Holds pretty easily - it is not really a challenging game

i did enjoy the game, but after seeing my son and my wife kind of disappointed in the outcome of the whole experience, I feel that this game will probably collect dust on the shelf and be brought out once ni a while when someone wants to defeat me in a Small World.
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on March 24, 2016
I played this game for the first time a few days ago and I really enjoyed it. It's difficult to explain it because it's so unique. I'd say the game it closest resembles is Risk in that it is a territory domination game, but that's a stretch. What made this so fun for me is that the game is played over a certain number of turns, and its not a game where players are picked off one by one. Everyone gets to keep playing until the end. It has tremendous replay ability because the race/trait combinations are going to be different with every game. Another really cool thing about this game is that there are different world maps depending on the number of players. While the setup, and learning the rules took a while for the 4 of us, by turn 3 we were all comfortable with the gameplay. I would recommend for ages 10+ because the rules are a little complicated and there is a lot of reading.
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on January 28, 2016
I didn't know you could play two players before I bought this after playing with a big group. It's even fun with two players! (But maybe I liked it so much because I've beat my husband every time we've played so far—okay, once was a tie.) The opportunity for endless variety in races is so much fun. And since the whole game is about eliminating others, it's sort of expected that you'll die out multiple times before the turns are over, so it's cool that you can die but get right back in the game with new armies, so (if you're sportsmanly) there's less possibility of people getting turn-over-the-table angry with each other haha. It really makes you strategize and make the most of your chose pairing of race/ability.
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on May 30, 2015
Small World is one of the board games with great replay value. I have already played 20+ times with friends and family and every game was fun and exciting. You get to pair a Race with a Power randomly, which allows you to experience different race with different power almost every time. A pair of a Race and a Power could give you a extreme advantage while the same race with a different Power would make the Race unwanted. You can create different strategies for different situations and this is why I go back to play Small World again and again.

There are many pieces but has a small separate rack to hold up nicely. The arts on the race, power, and tokens are all very good. Please do not lose any piece, there is no extra to the loss.

There are expansions available for this game but I haven't tried yet, being afraid the expansions are too powerful to break the balance between the races.

There is a lot to read and understand in order to play, but better to learn as you play and read whenever a question arise.

Very good game to own to play.
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on August 29, 2015
I've only gotten it out two or three times. Maybe I would like it more if I played it more, but I just haven't felt the desire to play it. I'm not exactly sure what my problem is with the game. Maybe it just seems to simplistic to me. Some turns it seems like there really isn't much thought that needs to go into your moves. The game plays like a fast game (simple), but seems to take forever. Opponents turns feel boring. You just sit there and watch them take you over. You can try to plan what little there is to plan while it is not your turn, but everyone is grabbing from the same areas so it is very possible your move will no longer be available.
i don't know. Maybe it was just the people i was playing with, but this is my least favorite conquering game. However, the people I played with seemed to have fun, which is why I didn't give it two stars.
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