Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Nerdsday - Smallworld, land of the crazy bitches

Welcome to Thursday Nerdsday, where I share all things in the land of geeks, dorks and nerds that I love.


Up today, the most recent addition to our already sizable and growing table game collection, Smallworld.

It seems like every game we buy gets more complicated than the last, and this one came with the added bonus of having like a thousand pieces. Fortunately, the box insert is made pretty well and does a fairly good job at containing them all. Plan on it taking you a good while to set up the game though, because you have to punch out all the pieces.


The game comes with two game boards, a smaller one for when only 2 people are playing, a larger one for when more people are playing. Both are reversible, with different land combinations on each side.

The entire goal of the game is to conquer lands, which earns you coins with each round.  At the end of the game, the person with the most coins wins, which may not necessarily be the person who has the most lands conquered at that time.

With the first turn, you choose a race and special power combination. There are 14 races and 20 special powers. They are each shuffled and stacked next to the board and drawn randomly in pairs facing upright. You can choose the first pairing or buy one of the other pairings, in exchange for placing one coin on each combination skipped.

The combinations are different with each game, obviously.

Each race has different abilities, different strengths and weaknesses, and different criteria for conquering lands and earning coins. Some get extra coins for lands with mines, others for hills and farms, and so on. Some can conquer lands with only one token, others need two.

Each special power is different as well. Some allow you to move other players, some allow you to earn extra coins, some allow you to fly or take to the water.

My personal favorite combination, and one that happens to come up occasionally when we play are the Berserk Amazons, which we affectionately call the crazy bitches. Seriously...if you have the chance to pick up that combination, do it. They can dominate a board easily. The sorcerers are pretty good at kicking ass too.

One of the funnier combinations I have had was the Mounted Giants. All I could think of was oh, those poor horses.

With your combinations, you will get a specific number of tokens to take over the lands on the board with. It can get complicated once multiple tokens are floating around the board, and it's confusing the first time you play, but you'll get the hang of it, I promise.

If a land is occupied by someone else, you need to match the number of tokens they have there, plus two to take it over. You have to keep track of times and lands that may earn you extra coins, which are tallied and awarded each round.

When you have exhausted the abilities of your race/power combination, you can put them into decline on one turn and choose another combination the next turn. This allows you to find ways to utilize the most tokens with each turn, but is a strategy thing, and can take a bit to get the hang of.

It is easier to take over lands occupied by other races once they are in decline because they forfeit all but one token for each land usually, though some races have exceptions.

In the later rounds, as more and more tokens are on the board, you need to employ both defensive and offensive strategies to protect your lands, but you'll learn that you are often at the mercy of the other players. It's the kind of game that, when played well, means you are planning moves a few turns in advance.

There are, obviously, a lot of things to learn about this game to master it, but it can be done fairly easily after playing it a few times. All of my kids, even the five year old, have figured out how to tally coins and conquer occupied lands.

This is a fabulous game for developing critical thinking skills and for teaching kids to adapt quickly to different strengths and weaknesses. It takes about an hour to play, though the first time will likely take longer.

Have fun!

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