Days of Wonder usually puts out a big game in the spring. However, after two relative duds with Mystery Express and Cargo Noir, it seems like they’re spending more time focusing on core brands. So, I guess that there’s no surprise that their biggest release so far in 2012 is:
Small World Realms is an expansion for the Small World universe, and can be used with the original or Underground. Unlike other expansions that added more races or tokens or cards, Realms fundamentally changes the game by making it a modular system. The box comes with 26 double-sided terrain tiles (one side more geared towards the original and the other more for Underground); 22 mountain, chasm, and peak tiles that each take up 1/3 of a terrain tile; a game marker and track; 6 river border tokens; 12 tunnels; 10 victory coin mines; 8 miscellaneous tokens for use in the various scenarios; and a 52 page rulebook that contains 12 different scenarios. That’s right – 52 pages. It’s mostly scenarios, but it’s also in eight languages, so that adds to its heft.
The basic rules of the expansion are pretty similar. You’ll be conquering regions just like in the basic game – two tokens conquer and empty region, and you need one extra for every piece of cardboard there. This game adds peaks, which makes mountains more difficult to conquer by adding another level. The world can be built from scratch, using nine tiles per player, with each terrain type and map symbol in an approximatel equal 1:5 proportion. However, you can also use one of twelve different scenarios:
- My Precious (World)!: Introduces the Underground river and chasms.
- Life is a Long – But Not So Quiet – River: A long river map with entry points only at the ends of the river.
- Go East: Races can only enter on the western edge, and races that occupy the eastern edge of the map earn extra victory coins.
- I’ve Been to the Mountaintop: Four victory coins are on each peak of the map, and you get one at the end of every turn you occupy it until they run out. Players that go into decline can add three victory coins to peaks around the map (not the same one).
- The Rusted Throne: This is a Popular Place, placed on top of a peak. If you control it, adjacent races give you a tribute of one coin at the end of your turn.
- Adrift: The active player can move a tile from the outer edge to another place, or rotate a tile and leave it in place.
- Crops of Power: Special powers are placed on holes left in the setup, and you can use the special power if you control five adjacent regions.
- The Sword in the Cavern: The Sword of the Killer Rabbit is placed in the central region, with two monsters defending it. Other random popular places are drawn and placed, and are also defended by two monsters. Additionally, all water is impassable.
- A Game of Gods: You are randomly dealt three races and three powers. The board is built throughout the game.
- A Dig Too Far: Veins of gold provide victory coins when conquered, though only certain regions can be conquered at a time. Monsters appear regularly to defend the gold, and attack at the end of each round.
- All Together Now: A team game, with one team playing Small World races, another team playing Underground races, and a fifth player playing solo with any races.
- Night and Day: A mixed set, with Small World races scoring extra for occupying Underground spaces, and vice versa.
By introducing a modular concept to the game, Small World has become a game system. You can set up the world however you want to, you can play with different rules, and you can mix and match sets. It adds infinite replayability to a game that was already very replayable. It seems that Days of Wonder has recognized Small World as one of their main cash cows, and are milking it for everything it’s worth. And I have to give them credit, Realms takes the game in a whole new direction. It’s an expansion because it comes with no new races, but it really is a whole new game. It also begs for fan support – I can see new scenarios being published left and right, and maybe even a book in the future. I think it might be interesting to apply some of the new rules to the base game. I’m looking forward to giving this expansion a try when it comes out. Thanks for reading!