Monday, April 11, 2011

Seafaring Halflings

"Get off the computer and let's play something," I told the boy when I got home from work. 

He spun around in his chair.  "How bout Minecraft?" he said.

I gave him a 'dad' look.  He gave me a pouty ten year old look.

"Get off the computer and stare at the wall then.  Just get off the computer.  You'll go blind and sterile.  We could go play soccer."




"Castle Ravenloft?"


"Sorry Sliders?"


"R2D2 Trouble?"


"Forbidden Island?"


"Zombie Dice?


I checked to see if my son had turned into the Aflac goat.  Not quite.  Horns, but no beard yet.

"How about Small World?" he asked.

I blinked.  Small World - the game that had sat languishing on the dresser since Christmas morning.  The boy had shied away from it as if it was a cootie-filled girl dressed all in pink.

"Um . . ." I still hadn't finished reading the rules.  There was a lot of rules.  It seemed like a pretty complicated game.  I wasn't sure that I could pull it off and make it enjoyable for him.  If I showed one second of unsureness - WHAM - he'd be all over me like stink on a dog and he'd never want to give the game another chance.  Crap. 

"Sure!" I said.  Sometimes you have to stuff your our neuroses down into the pit where you keep your childhood fear of Aunt Sandra and that whole striped sock fetish thing.  "But I don't know all the rules yet, so I'll read them out loud as we go.  Okay?"

"Okay," he smiled.

The game turned out about 500 times easier than I had thought.  You've got all of these fantasy races on a world that is too small for them - so they are fighting it out one chunk of land at a time.  Races have their own powers - like Trolls attack really well from mountains.  But then the races get a random attribute - like Flying, so they are not forced to only attack adjacent land, but can go attack anywhere on the map.

The two of us picked up the game really quickly.  There are some weird things, like when your race gets spread to thin, you can put it into 'decline' mode and go get another race to continue your conquest.  Each race and ability offers a lot of options and tricks - if you use them right.  Each bit of land you hold generates money for you, and at the end of the game, the player with the most victory coins wins.

The boy went first, paying top dollar for Berserk Dwarves.  I went for the cheapo Spirit Trolls.  The Beserk Dwarves ate up a lot of ground, while my spirit Trolls attempted to make a mountain empire.  We stayed on opposite sides of the board, not fighting one another.  At first, I wasn't sure how to do that anyway.  But then about at the same time, we realized that we had extended our armies to the breaking point.  There was really nothing to do but set the races into decline and pull out new ones. 

Setting the races into decline keeps the land on your side, generating money, but not as much as it would have if they were not in decline.  Again the boy paid top dollar - this time for Seafaring Skeletons.  I grabbed the cheapo Diplomatic Halflings.  Those skeletons were wicked.  Since they were seafaring, they could grab lakes and seas where no other army could.  And the were freaking undead, so they could generate extra troops if they conquered lands with creatures in them.  Geez.  My Halfling spent their wad pretty quickly, and I was overextended.

But my Trolls had been Spirit Trolls, meaning that they could stay in decline longer than any other race.  So I popped my halflings into decline, kept my Trolls in decline, and grabbed some Heroic Humans.  In the end, because of the trolls, I generated more victory coins that the boy did, and won.  Boo-yah!

It will probably be the last time I win, so I best revel in it.

One thing I really liked about the game is that it doesn't take itself too seriously.  Its all funny and goofy - and the boy didn't get upset when he lost.  Other battle-type games have set him on edge before.  This was light and fun and we are both looking forward to play again.  I just need to go over those rules again to see what I messed up on. :)

Four thumbs up!

- Ark


  1. Sounds like a great game. Would adult to adults like it as much?

  2. I'm like 1-5 against Nogal in small world - he always seems to get 'commando tritons' or 'berserk ratmen' or some other over the top combo. Flying trolls...

    Yes - I would recommend Small World to adults - it's a fun game with enough strategy.

  3. I like small world a lot. I wouldn't consider it a "kids - only" game by any means. I've played 5 or 6 times (with adults) and we always have a blast. Just enough randomness and chaos to keep it fun.

    Once you have the hang of things, I'd recommend the Tales of Legend expansion. It's the deck of cards. An event card gets played every round, which royally screws up everything. Lots of extra chaos (fun). The other expansions are cool, but they just add new races and attributes to the game and don't really change the feel of it at them same level as the cards.

  4. Small world is a reskin of the old game Vinci and both are excellent games for grown ups. Samll World has the advantage of being good for kids as well because the art theme is so well done. The game is simple but the strategy can be very deep so as to maximize your points every turn, choose which races to grab up and when to go into decline. e.g. Spirit trolls is a great race/power combo early in the game when you can take advantage of their built in toughness and having two races in decline, but would be less so near the end.

  5. @ The Jovial Priest - I have only played the game with adults, so I'd give you an enthusiastic "yes!" as far as saying that adults would like it.

    I think it's a great "bridge" game for newbies who have only ever played the basics like "Settlers of Cataan" and are looking to expand their gaming horizons.

    Great write-up, Gamey. I haven't played this game for more than a year and almost forgot about it.

  6. @Jovial - I would have guessed that it would be good for adult vs. adult, but it looks like the other commenters don't have to guess - they know! :)

    @Beedo - yeah - Flying Trolls. Sounds Horrific, eh? ALWAYS attacking from mountains?

    @Mike - I picked up the Tales and Legends Cards at a game store - mainly because I didn't have much money, but wanted the owner to not hate me because I had just spent 8 hours playing other games that I did not buy from her in her store. :) It's been sitting on the dresser for months too, but now I know how the game works, I think it will be awesome.

    @Todd - Thanks for the info about Vinci. I had no idea and did some research - and that one sounds pretty neat too.

    @Martin - No problem. One day I'm going to have to play that Catan thing. People seem like it, I think. :)

    - Ark