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SYFY WIRE Gamegrrls

Small World: The perfect game for self-quarantine times

By Kristy Puchko
Small World

With many of us staying inside to be safe and socially responsible, boredom has become a recurring issue in households across America — which makes now the perfect time to rediscover some great board games, like the inventive and evolving Small World. It's a superb game of strategy and conquest that can be enjoyed by 2-5 players, or even just one.

Created by Days of Wonder, Small World is kind of like Risk, except better in every single way. Rather than a boring old map of the Earth, Small World gives you maps of rich terrains, speckled with hills, farmland, swamps, mountains, and lakes. Instead of dull colored-pegs that represent people, Small World offers cardboard tokens adorned with a whimsical and wide array of mythical creatures, like orcs, dwarfs, wizards, and elves.

Over the course of a game, these tribes and many more will battle for land, earning gold victory coins for each region they possess at the end of a turn. After 8-10 rounds (depending on the number of players), victory is determined by who has the most gold coins.

The artwork of the game makes it instantly engaging for fantasy fans. But the best part of Small World is how no two games are ever the same. Each of the 14 tribes has a special ability. For instance, the orcs get a bonus coin for conquering occupied terrain, while wizards get a bonus coin for occupying terrain marked with a magic token. Then, on top of these powers, the luck of the draw pairs these tribes with a modifier card, which gives advantages like bivouacking against attack, flying around the board instead of attacking adjoining terrain, or a mounted assault that requires fewer tokens to conquer farms and fields. So in one game, you might have a flying wizard who can jump about collecting all the magic lands, then the next you might have orcs who attack without mercy then defend without a worry!

Over the course of the game, you'll trade one tribe for another as your active attackers dwindle. This makes for a number of thrilling match-ups throughout the rounds. With 14 tribes and 20 modifiers in the box, there's a fresh adventure every time and new strategies to discover. Plus, Small World comes with different boards to accommodate 2-5 players, which helps shake up gameplay. And if you get weary of all these options, there are expansion packs (Cursed!, Grand Dames, Be Not Afraid...) that offer fresh creatures (barbarians, pixies, pygmies) and modifiers (barricade, peace-loving, historian). As someone whose been playing this game for years, I can assure you each expansion brings a fresh and furious kick to the gameplay.

Maybe you're interested in Small World but aren't up for all the hullabaloo of setting up a big board game with hundreds of pieces. Maybe you're balking at the $49.99 price tag. Or maybe you're sheltering in on your own. Well, Small World has an option for you in Small World 2.

Available on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Steam, this video game offers the same maps, tribes, and modifiers as the board game, as well as expansions. Plus, it does all the tricky stuff for you, adding up your coins, telling you how many tokens are needed to conquer a region, and blocking you if a space is off-limits. And it's only $4.99 before expansions.

Best of all, Small World 2 allows a slew of new ways to play. If you're playing in person with a house-mate, you can choose "Pass 'n Play" or "Face To Face." There's also "Solo," which allows you to play against up to four computer bots. Then, there's an Online Arena, where you can invite friends to play online or join up with whoever's chilling in the chat room. Within the Arena, you can bring your expansions, so everyone can use them, choose the number of players, and set a timer to keep the game rolling. You can even create a private game by sharing the required password with your circle of Gamegrrls.

Whichever way you choose to play, Small World is a stimulating strategy game that relishes in the mythos of fantasy while offering gamers a wide world of possibilities. As you explore, you'll grow attached to specific tribes, drawn to tempting modifiers, and learn how all of these stacks up against a barrage of foes. Dive into the fantasy and fun of Small World and Small World 2 to give yourself a gleeful and engaging escape.

Want to know more? Check out the tutorial.

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