Thursday, November 4, 2010

REVIEW: Small World: Be Not Afraid . . .

Grade: A
Price: $20

I've been on a Small World kick lately, so along with testing out the new Necromancer Island expansion, I've been putting some time into Be Not Afraid. It adds 5 news races and 5 new powers, as well as a nifty new tray to store all the expansions to date.

Here's how the additions shake out:

The good news: they get 9 troops before they even add troops from their special powers. The bad news: They can't redeploy at the end of a turn. The idea is that they make up in numbers what they lack in tactical finesse, and I found this to be a pretty good tradeoff.

Although they have my favorite art to date, I'm not that smitten with the Homunculi. Their bonus is kind of weak: every time they are bypassed, you add a Homunculi token as well as a coin to the race banner. These tokens become bonus forces when you draw your troops. In larger games of 5 or 6 people, I can see this maybe being appealing if players allow a lot of tokens to accumulate on the race banner.

We already know they're magically delicious, but they also place a pot o' gold token worth 1 coin on each conquered region. If the Leprechaun player still golds that token at the end of their next turn, they take it. If someone else conquers them before that, the conquerer takes it. This is a nice addition, and creates some interesting tension on the board as people have to consider how to conquer and defend using their Leprechauns. The deploy 6 tokens.

Yoinks! Pixies deploy a whopping 11 units from their race banner alone. On the other hand, they withdraw all but one of these units during redeployment, leaving conquered territories vulnerable. This creates an entirely new kind of swarming strategy, with quick conquests and equally quick defeats. It takes some skill to manage the Pixies, but their sheer force of numbers can force opponents to adopt new strategies.

For each Pygmy unit lost, you roll the reinforcement die and take a number of units equal to the number rolled. This creates some chaotic force fluctuations that should appeal to players who like to think on their feet. They start with 9 tokens.

This a good money pump, providing 3 bonus coins every time your troops occupy fewer than 4 regions at once.

The Catapult token is deployed in one of your regions, making it impervious to attack as well as to race or special powers. In addition, you can use it to reduce the conquest cost of any region that is 1 region away from the catapult. That region can be conquered with 1 less token. The strength of the catapult lies primarily in  its ability to create an impregnable region which can be used as to provide support for further conquest. In this way, it's just powerful enough to be useful without unbalancing the game.

Turn those losses into cash! Each time someone conquers one of your regions, they have to pay you 1 coin. Match this with Pixies and watch everyone squirm.

Imperial races get 1 bonus coin for having 4 or more regions, and 2 coins for having 5 or more. This power plays well with anything that allows or fast conquests.

In the right hands, the Mercenary power can be pretty useful, since it allows you to pay 1 coin to reduce your conquest cost by 2 tokens. Since you'll get that coin back by the end of the turn, that's not a bad deal.

We're enjoying this set a lot. Some of the units can really mix up a game. To date, we haven't had any combinations that appear to be "spoilers," meaning they're unbalanced enough to ruin a game. Some of them are better than others, but those variations are built into the design: they're precisely what makes Small World so much fun.


Bjørnar said...

You got the barricades wrong. It is when the race has 4 regions or _less_ that you get the extra coins.

Thomas L. McDonald said...

Good catch. I fixed it.

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