Small World is one of those fantastic games that Days of Wonder do so well: a fun, thematic, high-quality boardgame that appeals to gamers and families alike. With the release of the brand new stand-alone version of the game called Small World: Underground, let’s have a big look at the Small World universe and some of its great expansions.
It all started with the main game of Small World, a quirky, light-hearted area control game for 2-5 players with fun artwork and lots of attitude!
Small World was designed by Philippe Keyaerts as the fantasy follow-up to his award-winning game Vinci. Inside the box there are 2 beautifully illustrated boards that feature different maps for 2, 3, 4 or 5 players, and 14 different races that can each be combined with one of 20 special powers (along with lots of tokens, a special die, and a well-designed token tray). But despite all these options, the gameplay itself is simple and easy to learn. Basically you choose a race and a special power, grab your race tokens, and begin conquering regions on the board. You score coins for the regions you’ve conquered, and can redeploy the tokens you have on the board among them. Later when you run out of race tokens you may choose to put your race ‘into decline’ and choose a new one with a new power. Because there’s limited space on the board, you’ll have to choose just the right time to put your race into decline—you still score regions with your old race, but they can’t use their special power anymore and they’ll probably be quickly destroyed by other players. And everyone is jostling for the limited space in this small world! Picking the right combination of fantasy races and unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires—often at the expense of weaker neighbors.
Small World is inhabited by a cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and of course humans. Each race has a special ability—the Giants can more easily conquer mountainous regions, or the Ghouls can continue to conquer new regions even after they’ve gone into decline, for example. There’s a wide range of special powers as well—bonus coins for conquering particular regions, the ability to more easily conquer certain regions, or form brief alliances with other players—that mix things up and keep players on their toes throughout the game. And it’s a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome either; it’s fast-paced, fun and engaging from start to finish.
Despite the huge amount of variety in the Small World game, dedicated players were soon clamouring for new races and powers, and Days of Wonder even ran a competition to bring in ideas by players.
The Grand Dames mini-expansion features some of those winning contest entries—Priestesses, Gypsies, and the ghostly White Ladies, all with their unique special abilities. The two new powers are the Historian, who gets a bonus Victory coin whenever a race goes in decline, and Peace-loving, who collect 3 bonus coins for any turn they refuse to attack another active race.
The Cursed! mini-expansion has yet more winning entries—the Goblins and the Kobolds, and 5 new powers: Cursed!, Ransacking, The Hordes, Were-people, and Double-Jeopardy.
The Be Not Afraid Expansion (With Bonus Necromancer Expansion) includes 5 new races (Barbarians, Homunculi, Pixies, Pygmies, and greedy little Leprechauns) and 5 new powers. Also included is a new storage tray solution that fits the tokens of all existing Small World expansions in a single, easy to sort, easy to access, container. Plus, you get the Necromancer expansion which adds the Necromancer, who must build up his army of ghosts from the other races who have been killed off during the game!
For something completely different, add the Legends & Tales expansion to the game, which introduces 54 new Event cards that change the storyline of each turn. The cards are organized into 6 different themes, each with its own unique flavor, and also rated by their impact on the game: Little Lore cards have only a minor effect; Tall Tales have worldly consequences; and Lordly Legends are guaranteed to turn your Small World upside down!
At the start of each turn (except the first) a new event card is drawn and put into play. The next ppcoming event is also visible, so players know what faces them on the next turn. Will you end up drinking the Philter of Forgetfulness, be flung from the Great Catapult or perhaps have a chance to seduce the White Queen?
Which brings us to the latest addition to the rapidly growing Small World universe—and this time it’s a complete stand-alone game! Small World: Underground takes the madness beneath the surface of the same fun, light-hearted Small World universe—you’re no longer fighting over farmsteads, woods, and swamps, but abysmal chasms, mystic crystals, mushroom forests, and mudpools! The game features 15 all new races and 21 new special powers, and introduces monster-occupied regions that protect relics and places of great power!
What’s more, Small World Underground can be played on its own or combined it with other the other Small World game elements. For Small World fans everywhere, the crazy conquests continue!