Review for Small World Board Game, Days of Wonder, 2-5 players at 8+

As a game created by Days of Wonder (the makers of Ticket to Ride – an amazing series of train route building games – review to follow). It is no wonder we enjoyed playing this game, and here are the reasons why.

You would think that when you entered a world of Orcs, Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, Goblins etc.. that you were entering a world created by JR Tolkien, but you would be wrong indeed, these are fantasy creatures similar to those created by the great author of The Hobbit and Lord of the The Rings. But this game is very different, it is at that point that the similarity ends.

These fantasy creatures are the races that need to conquer the lands of Small World, along with additional creatures such as Ratmen, Amazonians, Sorcerers and such like. The visual aesthetic of this game is cute! a very simple word, and maybe not one that others would categorise such grotesque mythical creatures into, but there is just something visually appealing about this game, and therefore, I (Jayne) think it is cute!

So what, in layman’s and briefly is this game actually about? Well the idea is to conquest and control the lands on the game boards, there is a different board for the number of players from 2 – 5, they are double sided, 1 small bifold and one larger quad fold board. It is pure luck of the draw that presents you with 6 combinations of fantasy race and special powers, which you are expected to expand your empire with by taking over lands, pushing out your opponents and collecting points along the way.

The ultimate aim is to be the player with the most points at the end of the game, the game is counted in rounds, there are 10 for 2 or 3 players, 9 for 4 players and 8 for 5 player games. Players need to use strategy and forward planning skills to know when to put their races into decline and to bring a new race to the board, thus awarding yourself more points and a chance to win overall. It is quite a quick game once you grasp the rules of play.

Retro Review Criteria:

  1. Overall strategy – With only a few rules to follow, the opportunities to conquer are endless if you play strategically enough, choosing when to go into decline and bring a new race onto the board. This is a mixture of strategy and the luck of the draw at set up.
  2. Originality and integration of theme – The theme is a tad obscure, not really one that we have seen in a child fantasy style game but that is not to say they don’t exist. Controlling and conquering lands is no original strategy however, using the aesthetic artwork created by Philippe Keyaerts and the strategy of games such as Scythe and Risk, putting them both together in this way makes the game quite unique in our opinion.
  3. Depth of skill needed – I wouldn’t say skill as such, as there is not really that much skill needed, play a few games through and familiarise yourselves with the races and the powers and you should have all the skill and knowledge you need to play a good successful game.
  4. Originality in the game mechanics – Very like a chunky version of Risk.
  5. Interaction of Players – Apart from annoyance right through to elation, there isn’t much call for interaction in the game.
  6. Luck factor – This is a huge factor, and comes into play when you are choosing your race and power combinations which are set at the beginning of play at random.  There is also an element of luck when throwing the die, a strange little D6 full of blank sides, but if you are luck you will roll either a 1, 2 or 3 square icon to help you conquer.
  7. Rule Book – The rules themselves are a bit messy, and not as clear as you would like in a game for 8 years and up. We, as a group of adults resorted to watching a playthrough video to get the hang of it quicker than deciphering the rule book. However, there is a large square card for each player and this is invaluable when trying to work out the special abilities and bonuses of the powers and races.
  8. Fun factor – (Eight kinds of fun) – this game has 4 of the 8 kinds of fun, on a scale of 1-10 we rate this game as an 8, it is fun to play, event though we didn’t interact too much in a collaborative way we did hurl abuse at each other quite often which is always fun in our world!
    1. Sensation – visually pleasing, very colourful
    2. Fantasy – aimed at children but again familiar mythical creatures
    3. Challenging – the game is quite a challenge as you sit anxiously hoping you will have the most points and keep your majority of lands.
    4. Discovery – discovering new skills and combinations to conquer with, although once you know the game and have played it many times this element will no longer be relevant.
  9. Emotions of players during and afterwards – As already pointed out, emotions run free in this game, from frustration (hurling abuse) to elation (YAY!) and everything inbetween.
  10. Replayability – With the range of power and race combinations this game allows you to play it repeatedly and not feel you have the same game twice, however again that said, over time it could become too familiar. Hence the expansions mentioned below!

Overall we would recommend this game as part of any level of board game players shelf. A must have for children and adults alike especially if you enjoy a bit of fantasy.


There are quite a few versions of this game out there and expansions to keep it interesting, challenging and playable, we have included a few here fore you.  We have these on our wish list.

‘Cursed, Grande Dames and Royal Bonus’, ‘Small River World’, ‘Sky Islands’ and ‘Be Not Afraid’.

That would be plenty to be getting on with – Perfect for Christmas Presents indeed.

If this and/or the expansion packs are ones for you and you’re intrigued by our review and want to purchase, here is the Amazon link:


Expansion links:





Disclaimer: as part of the Amazon Affiliates Programme, we will receive a small percentage of your purchase of this game, this does not affect the price you pay, but we want to thank you for supporting us through this programme.






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