Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Small World

I have just had three game sessions 3 days in a row so there is a bit of catching up to do. This review is based around Small World. Last week there were seven of us sat round the table to play games so we split into a 3 and a 4, the group of 4 chose Kingsburg whilst Joe, Wendy and I played Small World. I do not know how Kingsburg went other than everyone enjoyed the game and thus onto Small World.

Small World Box Lid

Small World is produced by Days of Wonder, designed by Phillippe Keyaerts, it is for 2-5 players aged 8 or over and plays in 40-80 minutes. The box on opening is nicely laid out with holes for everything, and a lift out counter tray. There are 2 two-sided map boards, crib sheets, 36 Board and Game Markers, 14 Race and 20 Special Power Badges, 109 Victory point chits (coins), a reinforcement die and Rules Booklet.

The Rules Booklet

Victory Point Chits, Mountains, Races and Skills Tokens
 Small World is a derivative of Vinci by the same designer which was published by Eurogames; it has been upgraded with a Fantasy Theme, had some minor but telling alterations to the rules and is now supplied with a small variety of maps depending on the number of players. These map boards show various coloured regions depicting different land types with some containing special symbols defining a power or resource base. So how does it play?

Stout Wizards (a la Pratchett?) and Diplomatic Humans (Damn Politicians!)
To start with 6 race badges are randomly picked and laid out, together with a randomly picked Special Power, the two tokens mesh together and you get a number of troops as shown in large red discs on the tokens. These troops start from a board edge and attack a chosen land space. To attack an area you place 2 troops for the land and an extra troop for each defending unit, an additional troop is also needed for attacking Mountains. Any troops in hand can go on to attack another adjacent land area in the same way. You keep going until you run out of troops. With your last attack you need not have all required troops, in such a case you can roll the die which will provide from 0-3 extra troops for that battle only. After all attacks, you count up the number of land areas you own and take that many victory points. Then the next player takes a turn. On your next turn you can choose to either take spare units back into hand and continue to expand or you can go into decline. In decline you just leave one upside down counter (they are double sided for this purpose) in each area you own and score as before. On your next turn you can choose a new pairing of Race and Special Power and attack with this new combination, you will then be scoring points with both your active empire and your empire in decline, however you may only have one declining empire.

Ratmen Counters

Counter tray
Special Tokens
The extra twists in the game are given by the race and special power badges, these may give you bonus points for owning particular land types, or bonuses in attacking, some even allow you to break some of the rules such as attacking non-adjacent areas or having more than one empire in decline. Most, but not all, powers do not work in decline. There is a fine balance in the races and special powers and it is choosing the right combination at the right time which will win you the game.

Diplomatic --- Tritons
For those who want to know about the differences with Vinci, other than the map board which for Vinci is of Europe and the Small World maps appear to be purpose built for the player numbers, they boil down to three things. The first is that in Vinci a players’ new empire may not lay adjacent to their declining empire, this rule does not exist nor is it needed in Small World. Vinci does not have a random die for the last battle, so cool calculations are required to get the best from your empire; the last is that victory points are secret and therefore there is no long winded calculations going on in the last couple of turns. These changes take it away from the “wargame” feel of Vinci into the fun family game realm and knocks about 20 minutes off the playing time.

5 Player Board
So how did our game go? Sadly for me not very well, Joe had a good game and had picked Heroic Sorcerers which he kept from start to finish, he also played an aggressive game, so I played a defensive game leaving barriers across most of the board, Wendy did not have as good a time as me, at one point she had a null turn where she could not attack or defend and so went into decline, as this was the penultimate turn she had no chance to recover either. Saying that, it was an enjoyable and fairly close game. The game was spoiled by one thing and that is the crib sheets which accompany the game. First of all they are large so take up too much table space and secondly we used them to explain our powers, but they are horribly incomplete; an example being that they state the Sorcerer can change a solitary unit of every other player in the game once per turn and misses out the all important word “Active”. In the end we ditched the crib sheets and just used the rule book.

Unuseful Crib Sheets
This game played slightly differently when I played it 2 player when I visited peter in June. Our game also played well with two different strategies going on Peter was the more aggressive attacking my active empire whenever he could and when he didn’t have the troops for this he went into decline, I on the other hand was concentrating on easy targets – empty areas or his declining empire and trying to get the most points out of an empire before declining. I won in the end. As a note Vinci does not play well as a 2 player game.

2 Player Board
The final verdict is a nicely balanced game no matter the number of players, I would say careful choosing of race and powers is very important, more so than in Vinci, it also scores over its predecessor by having a shorter playing time.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Sorry for the lack of posts, this has been mainly due to carpal tunnel syndrome (in both hands). Anyway on to this report.

I first started writing this report a couple of weeks ago, since then Smite has had a number of airings, so it now is a composite of those playing sessions. Smite is an outdoor game and is the UK version of a Finnish game Molkky. According to Wikipedia Molkky has similarities to Kyyka  (aka Finnish skittles, aka Karelian skittles) whose heritage lies in Karelia where a wooden bat is thrown at a line of skittles 10 metres away.
The Wooden Box

However back to Smite. The game is produced by , the designer is not acknowledged. The game can be played with any number of players and works as well with 2 as it does with 6 or possibly more and can accommodate singles, pairs or teams equally well. A game with six players usually plays in about 20-30 minutes.
Contents (minus rules)

Smite comes in a nice wooden box, and contains 10 skittles numbered from 1 to 10 and a “smiter” made from a light but durable wood. The box also contains a small sheet of the rules which are clearly written.
The "Smiter"

The skittles are set up in a triangular formation about 4 metres away from the box with the point furthest from the players, players then take turns throwing the “smiter” at the skittles with the aim of being the first to reach exactly 50 points. On their turn a player has one throw at the skittles and scores a number of points equal to the number of pins they knock over, however if only a single pin is knocked over then the player scores the value of that pin. Skittles that have been knocked over are stood up at their resting place for the next thrower, thus as the game progresses the skittles get knocked further away from the other skittles and become easier solitary targets. If a player exceeds 50 points, they reset to 25.

My Set Up (opposite to rules set up)

So how does it play? Well several weeks ago there was six of us and we enjoyed about an hour playing 2 games where several tactics were noted to improve peoples chances, Wendy elected “The long stride” stretching as far forward as possible, Joe went for consistency, Naomi for the lob and Steve liked the “aim at Kevin” technique (as I was the re-righting the fallen skittles I was generally stood near them). All these techniques were for nought as Adam won the first game with a very neat throw. Undaunted, we launched into the second game where my obsession with aiming at the 10 pin eventually, after a number of misses, won me the game.

Steve throws

Position after several rounds

The next session was played in a back garden in Bromley with different friends where a large number of 30 point games were played 
Jonty & Wendy watch Lee throw

A singleton hit for 3 points

The most recent session was back in Canterbury where we played three 50 point games. Smite is fun and an excellent garden game. Every time I have introduced this game to people they have insisted that they play more than one game and some have even sent off for their own set however we do play with a few house rules which (I think) makes it a “friendlier” game whilst still retaining the skill element. The first is that you can only go out on a single skittle (this is the added skill factor). Secondly exceeding 50 is treated the same as in darts in that you bust and retain your old score (not reset to 25 as in the rules which seems a bit harsh). The third house rule is that if everyone in a round does not score, then the box is moved a yard nearer to the pins. The rules have it that anyone that does not score 3 times in a row is eliminated from the game – again we felt this overly harsh for what is a garden game for all to enjoy, so I ignore this rule. The last house rule is that throwing is done with one foot touching the box (anywhere) whereas the rules are quite prescriptive with a throwing line, if we had that we would never get to see Wendy’s “lunge” shot!

Wendy watches Steve for alternative throwing techniques

Final synopsis is that Smite is a lovely game and easily adapted to minor rule changes to suit different groups of players without spoiling the game. There are also Championships played, Smite has an event in Cornwall and the World Molkky Championships are in Lahti Finland.