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Small World
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Small World

remake of Vinci

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 40-80 minutes 2-5

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  • WARNING: Choking Hazard - Small Parts

Product Description

Designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy follow-up to his award-winning Vinci, Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires -- often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory.

Small World's design emphasizes the playful fantasy theme with rich details and components that beg to be played. The game includes: Two double-sided game boards, one for each of four possible player configurations, 14 Fantasy Races with matching banners & tokens, 20 Special Power badges, a variety of Troll Lairs, Mountains, Fortresses, Encampments, Holes-in-the-ground, 2 Heroes and even a Dragon, along with Victory Coins, 6 Player Summary Sheets, a Reinforcement Die, Rules Booklet and a Days of Wonder Online Access Number.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Best Family Strategy Nominee, 2011
Games Magazine Awards
Game of the Year, 2010
The Dice Tower Awards
Best Family Game, 2009
The Dice Tower Awards
Best Game Artwork, 2009
The Dice Tower Awards
Best Game of the Year, 2009
International Gamers Awards
Multi-Player Nominee, 2009
Deutscher Spiele Preis
5th place, 2009

Product Information


  • 2 double-sided game boards
  • 14 fantasy races w/ banners & tokens
  • 20 Special Power badges
  • 10 Troll Lairs
  • 9 Mountains
  • 6 Fortresses
  • 5 Encampments
  • 2 Holes-in-the-ground
  • 1 Game Turn Marker
  • 2 Heroes
  • 1 Dragon
  • 109 Victory Coins
  • 6 Player Summary Sheets
  • 1 Reinforcement Die
  • 1 Rules Booklet
  • 1 Days of Wonder Online Access Number
Small World has the following expansions available:

Small World: Power Pack #2 Expansion Out of Stock

Small World: Power Pack #1 Expansion Out of Stock

Small World: Sky Islands Expansion Out of Stock

Small World: River World Expansion Out of Stock

Small World: Tunnels a mini-expansion for Small World Out of Stock

Small World: Be Not Afraid... a mini-expansion for Small World Out of Stock

Small World: Tales & Legends Expansion for Small World Out of Stock

Small World: Cursed! a mini-expansion for Small World Out of Stock

Grand Dames of Small World a mini-expansion for Small World Out of Stock

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Small World Realms terrain expansion Out of Stock

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.4 in 4 reviews

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by Kirk Andersen
Don't know what all the fuss is about
January 27, 2011

I played this game a couple of times and have come to the conclusion that I don't know what all the fuss is about. There is lots of pieces to keep track of for a game that is only fairly entertaining. It is not a bad game and the re-playability seems to be very good but it didn't strike me as any kind of deep-thinking game or have a serious fun factor to it. The board is nice to look at (and there are two double-sided ones) but it wasn't as engaging a game as I expected it to be. I might play it again but don't find the expansions all that interesting either.

by Greg J. Schloesser
It may be a Small World, but it delivers a BIG punch!
October 19, 2010

Design by: Philippe Keyaerts
Published by: Days of Wonder
2 – 5 Players, 1 ½ - 2 hours
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser

Nearly a decade ago, defunct publisher Euro Games released Vinci, a fabulous game of conquest and the rise and fall of civilizations. Designed by Frenchman Philippe Keyaerts, the game included several clever innovations, and proved quite popular in gaming circles. While there were complaints of ambiguous rules, public victory points, and its duration, it was – and still is – considered by many to be a wonderful example of a "Civilization-light" design.

Keyaerts' creation was so original and memorable, that it just couldn't be left alone. Days of Wonder has released Small World, a revised and re-themed version of the game which has satisfied much of the critics' complaints, including significantly reducing the time required to play. The new version is now set in a fantasy world literally overflowing with a wide variety of different races, including dwarves, elves, trolls, giants, sorcerers, tritons and more. The small world in which they live and seek to expand is simply too small to allow all of them to survive and live comfortably, so the only result is conflict in a Darwinian "survival of the fittest" mode.

In order to keep things confined and force conflict, the game includes two double- sided boards, with the appropriate one being used based on the number of players. The board graphically depicts numerous territories with various types of terrain. Initially, native "Lost Tribes" inhabit many areas, but their fate is already sealed, as the more advanced races will soon relegate them to the dustbin of history.

Players will decide which race they will initially guide by a mechanism that, to my knowledge, was pioneered in Vinci. The race plaques are mixed, with six being revealed in a row. Likewise, ability plaques are also mixed, and one placed beside each of the revealed race plaques. When a player selects a race, he may take the bottom race and corresponding ability plaque for free. If he desires one further along in the row, however, he must place one victory point token onto each race / ability combination he passes over. Thus, if he desires a particular race / ability combination that is further along in the row, it will cost him victory points to obtain it. If an opponent subsequently opts to take a race that has victory point tokens on it, he also secures those victory points. This is a VERY clever mechanism that gives players much to consider, and eventually makes less attractive races more appealing.

When a player first begins a race, he must begin in one of the territories along the edge of the board, and can expand from there. A player takes all of the race's counters (as listed on the race and ability plaques) and begins expanding. Each territory requires two counters plus one for each enemy unit or "cardboard" feature currently in it. Cardboard features are generally mountains (represented by cardboard mountain tokens), but can also be troll lairs, Halfling holes, etc., which are placed via the special powers of specific races. For example, to conquer a mountain territory that contains one Lost Tribe token, you will need to place four units into the area (2 + 1 for the Lost Tribe + 1 for the mountain). There are no dice to roll in combat; it is a simple matter of mathematics.

A player can continue to expand into adjacent areas as long as he desires or, most commonly, until he depletes his supply of tokens. If a player is one, two or three tokens short of conquering a territory, he may roll a special die and hope to get the additional units necessary. This is an addition to the system that was not present in Vinci, and, frankly, I'm not terribly fond of it as it adds an unnecessary random element to the proceedings. Still, it is not a game-breaker for me, and the game can certainly be played without using this element.

Once a player finishes his expansion, he earns one victory point for each territory his race occupies, plus any bonuses granted by the race and/or its special ability. Some races and/or abilities earn bonuses for occupying certain territories, which will generally drive a player's expansion efforts and strategies. Unlike Vinci, victory points are received as tokens, which allow players to keep their amounts secret. Thus, only the most astute players will be able to track who is the actual leader.

On subsequent turns, the player has a choice to continue expanding with his current race, or place them into decline. This is one of the major decisions in the game, and often proves pivotal. If a player chooses to continue to expand, he picks up all of the counters of his existing race, leaving behind one in each territory he wishes to maintain control. He then continues to expand as described above, once again earning victory points at the end of his turn. If he opts to place the race into decline, he leaves one inverted unit in each territory he controls, and discards the remaining counter and ability plaque of that race. That race is done expanding, but will continue to earn victory points as long as remnants of that race remain on the board. So, on the turn a player places a race into decline, it will not expand, but he will earn victory points as normal. A player may have, at most, one active race and one in decline. On the next turn, the player will choose a new race and ability as described above, and begin expanding with the new race, but will earn victory points for both his active and declining race.

Depending upon the number of players, the game is played to completion in 8 – 10 turns, and the player with the greatest accumulation of victory point tokens rules Small World and wins the game. All of my games have taken less than two hours to complete. That's really just about perfect, as this shaves off about an hour or so from our games of Vinci.

I have always been a big fan of Vinci, and have played it well over a dozen times. I was a bit worried that in an attempt to simplify and shorten the game, this new version would strip much of what I liked about the original design. While some elements have been removed, they were mostly features that weren't vital and, truth- be-told, unnecessarily complicated the game. For example, the former rule prohibiting adjacency between an active and declining nation have been removed, as has the terrain benefits of attacking from mountains or defending forests. While this may add a bit of depth, I can certainly live without them.

One of the joys of Small World is the variety of race and ability combinations that can randomly be formed. Each race has a unique power or benefit, as does each ability. In total, there are fourteen different races and twenty different abilities, so the possible combinations are quite numerous. The random pairing of these can create some very intriguing options and powers, all of which will generally cause a player to pursue certain goals and objectives. Many of these give incentives to occupy certain territories, or bonuses in combat. Certain combinations can also be quite humorous, or even terrifying. The thought of Merchant Ghouls never fails to evoke a chuckle—"Come into my shop and let me eat you!" – while the mere sight of Flying Giants is sure to invoke stark terror.

Component wise, the game is filled with cardboard, with some nice artwork on the race counters and related tokens. The board is certainly more artistic than the bland, abstract design of Vinci, but it is also more cluttered, making it more difficult to discern the territories and counters. One other complaint is that, when inverted, the race counters all have a gray wash, which makes it difficult to discern the difference between the tokens. While I generally find wooden cubes more convenient and attractive, due to the various races, cardboard counters appears to have been the only realistic option in this new version.

Vinci or Small World – which do I prefer? After initial reluctance to sway my loyalties from the revered Vinci, I now find myself leaning towards Small World. It maintains nearly all the flavor and features of the original, and is easier to teach and understand, and plays faster. I do prefer the realistic feel of the original as opposed to the fantasy setting of Small World, but overall, I must admit that I now prefer the new version. My biggest gripe with the game is its name, which inevitably causes someone to sing that sappy "It's a Small World" song, causing it to get stuck in my mind for the remainder of the evening. Fortunately, the game is excellent, and well worth enduring that horror!

Excellent, Well Thought-out Light Strategy
December 29, 2009

Days of Wonder just can't make a bad game. I have most of their games in my collection, and have never been disappointed. SmallWorld is no exception. The base mechanics are simple, almost Risk-like: your pieces take over sectors of the board by out-numbering the defending forces. Dice are only used occasionally, so usually you can plan on the outcomes.

The two twists are 1.) your race and special powers and 2.) putting those powers into decline. You get a race and a special power combination (races are plural nouns, like "giants", "elves", "skeletons" etc. Special Powers are adjectives, like "mounted", "wealthy", "flying" and so on. So you can have "flying skeletons" vs. "mounted giants" or whatever. The pairs are formed randomly) and this combination predicts your "strategy" (tactics really) for the 1-3 turns during which you use it. Different powers grant different bonuses, all of them thematically appropriate. For example, Wizards get one extra gold for each turn in which they control a region with the magic symbol, dwarfs get extra gold by controlling mines, the "flying" special ability allows a race to attack any spot on the board, while the seafaring ability gives you access to the normally-inaccessible water regions.

Once you've made as much progress as you can in one turn you collect your coins and play moves on. After a few turns you will usually find that you are over-extended. That's where the "decline" thing comes into play. You can then put your current race in decline and choose a new one. You still get points for the land they own, but they can no longer attack or use their special abilities (except for one or two special cases.) Your new active race then sweeps across the board, and on it goes. There are ten rounds, the player (not race) with the most coins at the end wins.

The board(s) (there are two, both double-sided, so you have a different map for each of 2,3,4 or 5 players) are beautifully painted, the tokens are made of the typical sturdy cardboard that is in use in other Days of Wonder games like Colosseum or Queen's Necklace, and the artwork is amazing throughout. (One great example is the Wizards' Race Banner, which has a wizard holding the book "Magick for Dummies" on the active side and "1000 Card Tricks" on the In Decline side). The box is well thought out, with specific spots to hold all the pieces (a trick I dearly wish Mayfair would learn some day) and a guide in the rulebook that shows you where to put everything. There is a full-color, double-sided summary sheet for each player that has a summary of each race and power as well as a turn summary, so you don't need to spend much time in the rule book at all.

Like I said, Days of Wonder just can't make a bad game. SmallWorld is fun, well designed, a joy to look at, and everything a game should be. Those looking for deep, involved strategy will be disappointed but those that are looking for an enjoyable hour or so of playtime couldn't do better.

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