Something's not right on Azeroth. The only thing stranger than the Orcs' sudden interest in farming the fields is the fact that the Pandaren are suddenly rather enraged. All you want to do is carve out your slice of glory in Azeroth, so you're dispatching the Tauren to conquer the mines, the Night Elves to practice herbalism, and the Goblins to, well, blow stuff up. But Dwarves, Draenei, Humans, and all the rest of the races of Warcraft are out to slow you down. Now it's up to you to conquer the realm in Small World Of Warcraft, a brand new release from Days of Wonder.
In Small World Of Warcraft 2 to 5 players clash for control of delineated regions on modular game maps. Players gain victory coins at the end of their turn for each region they control, and the player at the end of the game with the most victory coins wins. Like its classic predecessor Small World before it, Small World Of Warcraft pairs classic fantasy races of Azeroth with special power tokens, creating random (and often hilarious) playable races like "Herbalist Trolls," "Mining Naga," and "Beastmaster Ethereals."
By combining the innate powers of your playable race with the bonuses gained through your special power, you'll begin to see pathways to victory opening up as you use your race's character tiles to conquer the regions on the map. Managing your troops is the general thrust of the game, as you need to strategically think about where and when you deploy your legions.
True to the promise of its name, Small World Of Warcraft does indeed present the players with a relatively small map. The game's quite unlike other area conquest games where you spend 4 turns slowly growing your forces in the east while your opponent bolsters their forces in the south. Instead, you'll find yourself cheek to jowl with your foes within the first turn or 2. This creates a thrilling tug of war with victory points, as each player gains momentum on their turn before losing it just as quickly on the next turn. To further this idea of an ebb and flow of power, players can elect to put their race in decline at the start of their turn and gain a new race (complete with a new special power).
We played Small World Of Warcraft several times as a 2-player game, and found it tense, but not quite as bombastic as it would be with 3 or more players. The game really shines when everyone's scrambling to carve out a piece of their own little dominion, and there are even some special powers that are less useful when playing with less players. While we certainly had a blast jockeying for position on our 2 map boards, it would have been an entirely different play experience to have more options for conquering and invasion.
Where Small World Of Warcraft really shines is in its reverence for the source material. Far from the entire endeavor just being an excuse for a clever pun in the title, this game truly went to great lengths to make each race's inherent power feel appropriate to its Warcraft counterpart. Humans gain bonus points for creating tactical plans. Gnomes can use their flying machines to drop into random parts of the map (while everyone else needs to enter from specific anchor points). Naga are the only race that can claim large lake sections as territories. And Goblins throw out randomly shuffled bombs all around them - some of which explode and hurt their opponents, and some of which are duds. Add to that special artifacts important to the game like the Doomhammer and Frostmourne, and location tokens that call back to WoW like Karazhan and Light's Hope Chapel, and this game goes beyond fan service into full integration of the theme.
I've always been a fan of Small World, but it was the kind of game I played at other people's houses, or at my friendly local game shop during board game socials. So when Small World Of Warcraft arrived at my doorstep I wasn't sure if it was a game I, or anyone who'd already played Small World, needed. This was the type of game I (wrongly) assumed was made just for diehard WoW fans. But after opening it up and diving into the rules, it became clear. This isn't Small World with a fresh coat of paint, it's Small World 2.0. The core rules that make the game so special are firmly there, but there are tweaks, additions, and fun added challenges and combinations of play that elevate Small World Of Warcraft to a higher level. Whether you've spent many nights adventuring in Azeroth or you've never felt the game's siren call at all, Small World Of Warcraft is a finely crafted fantasy adventure game through and through.
Get This Game If:
- You're a longtime fan of Small World, WoW, or (obviously) both
- You're looking for a faster, lighter "people on a map" style war game
- You've always wanted to create a Beastmaster Naga
Avoid This Game If:
- You're looking for more randomness in your game
- You have a strong aversion to anything WoW tinged
The copy of Small World Of Warcraft used in this review was provided by the publisher.