I played Small World from Days of Wonder again recently, and had the usual good time when playing it. It occurred to me that Small World is a gaming experience that seems oddly familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it immediately but it has a certain energy that I like. It reminds me of much older, “Ameritrash” style games, and for good reasons:
There are only like three acceptable themes for Ameritrash games, and fantasy is the slightly less known of them after science fiction. Where would we be without Tolkien? Hundreds of games would never have been made.
Millions of Chits
Ameritrash means a game that features tons of units of various sorts, that fit within a theme and interact with each other inside that theme.
Small World not only has tons of little bits (nicely packed in one of the nicest storage solutions ever), but all those bits, representing tons of critters, creatures, currency, structures and fantasy world denizens actually mean something in game terms– they are intricately tied to how the game is played and not just eye candy.
Lots of expansions, but they dont’ break the game
Small World came out in 2009, won several Games of the Year awards, and Days of Wonder started to crank out the expansion sets. The expansion sets have been, with one exception, more units and more tokens. So they just expand the game experience that already exists.
Doesn’t take itself to seriously
The artwork on the counters and combinations of powers and factions definitely are created with humor in mind. Anyone who has crushed his opposition with Berserk Hobbits or Historian Ghouls can appreciate the value of the bizarre combinations that the game can generate.
Small World is a game that emphasize a highly developed theme, characters, heroes, and factions with individually defined abilities, player to player conflict, and usually feature a moderate to high level of luck. In that respect, it reminds me strongly of my favorite game, Cosmic Encounter. Long live the new Ameritrash.