PAX ’12 : Game on!

PAX 2012 was like PAX usually is: tons of stuff to see, lines to wait in, and free swag to get.

Just walking the show floor is an experience worth the cost of the badge, with grand displays set against the deafening noise of games and attendees. I’m always comparing it to a theme park: tiring, exciting, and fun. I played almost too many games to note, a couple of my favorites being the hilarious Octodad and The Walking Dead.

Borderlands 2

The moments I always remember, though, are the ones spent in random rooms on the second and third floor playing board games with friends and people I’ve only just met. It’s not just because I love tabletop; I think that this is where the community of PAX still lives on through the noise and the overstimulation of the exhibits. There’s a very simple joy in gaming that’s hard to find as you get older, and to be able to share that with your friends is a great feeling.

There’s also a great mix of simple, complex, lighthearted and serious tabletop games available in the library, so no matter who you are playing with (or where your exhaustion level is at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday), there’s something for you. Some of the highlights in tabletop for me were Ufology and Cards Against Humanity, which I had never played before this weekend.

Ryan Gosling may or may not have been at PAX…

Now all I have left is lots of sleep, a Magic the Gathering coloring book to do, and a list of games that I absolutely *must* buy. Oh, and a TMNT costume.

Heroes in the Half Shell!

Julia Santo
Programming Operations Director

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Board Game Review: Small World

I was recently introduced to a new board game that I’d never heard of before. It was quite entertaining, enough to drive me to share my experience with everyone else! With the typical (and reasonable) constraints of allowing for 2-5 players ages 8 and above, Small World is a game that will keep you captivated and on the edge of your seat for about an hour with the continuous shift in activity. It’s a game of rise and decline, conquest and defeat, and excitement for all of the players!

You’re about to be reminded that “It’s a small world after all.” No, I’m not talking about the incessant little robots of Magic Kingdom that sang and danced around your boat as your naive mind wondered what this chorale had to do with Disney World in the first place. Not to mention, Earth has about 510 million kilometers of surface area, which in no way could be considered small! In this case, however, we’re talking about the fictional world (Small World) occupied by Elves, Giants, Orcs, and Sorcerers, and despite the clicheness, it is indeed a small world. It is made up of small chunks of land—certainly not enough to accommodate for the 14 Fantasy Races that intend to conquer and thrive there. Because they can’t all inhabit the land at once, your goal is to build an empire of your race and eventually dominate all of Small World in only 10 short turns!

The Cover of Small World

You will be allowed to select the race you wish to play, paired up with a random Special Power that gives your race a unique benefit. You then use your Race Tokens to take over various regions of the map—in turn, forcing other races away. You must try to cover as much of the land as possible, for each region occupied at the end of your turn allows for the acquirement of Victory Coins, the system of points used to determine the winner at the end of the game. It’s not as easy as it sounds—conquering a region takes two Race Tokens, of which your supply is limited. If a region is already occupied by another race, it takes an additional Race Token for every enemy token already present in the region, and an additional Race Token for each obstacle on the region. This makes it difficult to conquer regions occupied by many Race Tokens and obstacles, so it is important to build a large and powerful army of your race if you wish to take over a large amount of land.

The game board: The land of Small World and its various regions.

Equally important as conquering land is defending it, for other players will be trying to take over your regions as you do to theirs. Sometimes your Active race (more on “active” races below) ends up being spread so thin that it is unable to recover, and the best option is to adopt a new race and begin a new conquest. In doing this, you must first send your original race into Decline. This means that their special powers are eliminated, they are reduced to only one Race Token per region, and the tokens are flipped over to reveal the greyed-out “In Decline” side. Those left on the board will still gain you Victory Coins during scoring, but they are not Active and will typically die out quickly. It is always an emotional time when it becomes necessary to force your own Declined race off of the map to make room for your newly expanding Active race. After 10 turns of continuous rise and fall of supremacy, each player will total his Victory Coins to discover the ultimate winner—the dominator of Small World!

The main reason I like this game so much is that the Fantasy Races / Special Powers combinations are always so unique. They are randomized before the game, and each one is completely original and creative, allowing you to get sucked into the fictional atmosphere. The first time I played, I started out with the Ratmen race and the special power of Spiritry. My Ratmen had no benefit going for them other than their sheer number, and their Spirit ability allowed them to stay on the board after Decline no matter how many races I had on the board. At first I didn’t realize how useful this would be, but it ended up causing my many Ratmen to inhabit a majority of the board to start, and they remained scattered about for almost the entire game—a victory point gold mine! The combinations are different each time, be it Stout Orcs, Commando Elves, or even Flying Skeletons, so the game is always kept fresh and lively.

Some of the Special Power/Fantasy Race combination signature banners

Even though this game has a lot of rules and situations to consider, it is very simple once you get the hang of it. The time goes by quicker than you would expect as you mourn and celebrate the losses and successes of your races and attempt to hinder the other players’ expansions while augmenting your own. You learn quickly that it is most certainly a small world. The one catch is that no matter how many times you play the game, you will always have stuck in your head the little “Small World” Disney tune that has haunted your mind since you were a child. Say what you will, but that song is awfully catchy!

Intrigued by Jaden’s review and want to try conquer a Small World yourself? Check it out at your local game store, one of our community business partners, (get a discount by becoming an individual sponsor) or other online retailers.

You can also watch a lively game of Small World hosted by Wil Wheaton for Geek & Sundry’s Tabletop show.

“Rock On!”

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