Top positive review
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There's Something About Conquering a Map...
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.