Small World and a Small Look at Colonialism

In Small World players act as races that first extinguish lost indigenous tribes and then go after each other. Who are these lost tribes? Where are we coming from? I don’t know, but we’re all kinda pissed that we’re all here. OK, well, maybe not pissed, but certainly cranky and we all want our space, and your space, and their space. Why? Because the more spaces on controls the more points one gets and the player with the most points wins. This is colonialism.

You know what? I just tried typing the whole set-up and that was tedious. Let me link you to the rules and give you a basic idea of what you are doing instead. Also, look at this picture.

Small World Set Up

So, you will choose a race that has been paired with an ability. On your turn you place your corresponding tokens on regions, starting from the edge and make sure they are connected unless your ability says otherwise. at the end of your turn you collect money for the spaces you occupy. Simple enough. First though, there are Lost Tribe tokens you must battle. All that means is you use one more token from your army than you would have, same for areas with mountains. Other players will do the same, but look out! Players can come after your regions as well, thus depriving you of points and gaining points for themselves.

Agh! So frustrating. My Farming Humans can’t compete against the Bivouacking Ratmen. No problem. Put your race in decline. Go ahead. Do it. Now pick a new race with a new ability. See how you do. This is one of the things I enjoy about Small World. You are able to try different strategies with different races and abilities within one game. Maybe choosing the Amazons will allow you to rally and win the day after all.

There are also many expansions in case you get bored with all of the combinations that come with the core game. We currently only have the Grand Dames expansion. It was a must have as the Amazons are the only women represented in the core game.

Is this game fun? It is for me and my family, and for our few friends we have played it with. Are there concerns? Potentially. Let’s address them. You are displacing indigenous tribes. Yes, they are “Lost” and pretty faceless on the tokens in the game. It’s all to make you feel ok about pushing people out of their lands. All of the other players are doing the same thing, and then you may all go after each other. This is colonialism, but hey it IS an area control game. Should these things concern you? Maybe not. They didn’t concern me because it’s dwarves and giants and ratmen and ghouls. It’s a fantasy world. It did, however, concern a friend of mine and we had a great discussion about it being representative of the world at large and its history. It’s not a game she will want to play again anytime soon and I think that’s fine. I’m really glad that this game sparked this conversation and allowed us to talk about big issues. It’s not the goal of Small World. Small World just wants you to have fun. Small World just wants to pit you against your friends. Small World is just a game. But, then again, it is a game placed in our world, and in our world we have a lot of history of the displacement and destruction of indigenous people  and tribes, lost or not.

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