Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Philippe Keyaerts


No. of Players:
2 - 6



Quite opposite to the name of the game, the Smallworld-Universe is getting bigger and bigger! At the SPIEL convention 2011 DAYS OF WONDER released Smallworld Underground, and apart from the new subterranean gameboards and races this new game - if used together with the mini-expansion Smallworld Tunnels - for the first time opened up the possibility to play Smallworld with up to six players. Well, there has been the Necromancer-mini-expansion a year earlier which also allowed the inclusion of a sixth player, but since the role of the Necromancer was rather special many players were longing for a possibility to play a "normal" game of Smallworld with up to six participants. The combination of the gameboards from both base games made this possible, but now Philippe Keyaerts has thought of yet another, even more interesting possibility to accommodate up to six players in Smallworld!

Unlike the previous boxes, the new Smallworld Realms set is no complete game, but instead it is a supplement both for Smallworld and Smallworld Underworld. The main feature of this new expansion set are 26 roughly hex-shaped terrain-tiles, and these tiles feature Smallworld-landscapes on the one side and Smallworld Underground-landscapes on the other. Together with a few additional markers for mountains, chasms, etc., these terrain tiles can be used by the players to build their very own gameboard, giving the players room to use their imagination for the creation of continental shapes and extra rules.

As can be seen, the key element of the expansion is the possibility to create a new world, and the big advantage of the terrain-tiles can be seen in their flexible number. In order to keep self-made scenarios balanced, a few hints for the creation of scenarios are given, and foremost comes the counsel that the world created by the players must remain small enough to create enough competition. Thus, it is easy to create a world which matches a general orientation value of nine regions (not terrain tiles) per player, and this value really proved well chosen to keep competition high. As indicated, the expansion set also features some additional tokens which can be used for the creation of special scenarios (just like the special places and artefacts in Smallworld Underground), but here Philippe Keyaerts suggests that new rules only should be used quite sparingly, since otherwise the game would face a danger to be overburdened and slow down by a complex body of rules.

Nonetheless, the creation of special scenarios is tempting, and to save the players the work to create a new world and fitting rules right from the beginning, the rulebook for Smallworld Realms features a total of 12 different scenarios which can be played right away. These scenarios are remarkable for a number of reasons, with the interesting new special rules connected with each scenario being only one of the positive aspects. For one, the whole presentation of each scenario is rather well structured, giving an indication on the scenario's complexity and the numbers of players which can participate. All scenarios can be adapted to different numbers of players, starting with small worlds suitable just for two players, and going to rather big creations for up to six players. The scenario instructions clearly display which terrain tiles are used, and which terrain tiles are removed if the scenario is played with less than the maximum amount of players.

The available scenarios carry for different kinds of tastes, including pure Smallworld or Smallworld Underground settings or a combination of both. Another feature is the quite interesting use of water in some scenarios, since one scenario features a world divided into different continents, whereas another scenario challenges the players to follow a world which is designed like a river. A quite special scenario also is "Adrift", and this specific world is not even fixed, but instead the continents (i.e. the terrain tiles) are constantly moving, thus changing the appearance of the whole world and the positioning of races among these tiles.

Each of these scenarios forces the players to think slightly different, and this alone guarantees many hours of renewed playing fun. To my mind the possibility to create variable worlds was just the last missing bit to give Smallworld the possibility to completely outdistance GAMES WORKSHOP's much older Kings & Things, a game which also was focused on the conflicts between eccentric races on a small but variable world. Even though the setup of a scenario and the explanation of the special rules takes slightly longer when using Smallworld Realms, the game has kept its elegance and easy accessibility. The players only profit by even more variety, and so this expansion can be welcomed with open arms!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany