Small World was one of the first iPad translations of a hobby board game to gain widespread popularity. Though the app was beautifully designed and executed, it suffered from a few limitations – chief among them being a lack of online multiplay and a lack of support for more than 2 players. After a poorly-executed and still controversial Kickstarter, Small World 2 is finally upon us, and it improves on its predecessor in every conceivable way.
Small World contains a number of races and powers. On their first turn, each player selects one randomly-matched pair of these, which will come with a number of counters. Entering an empty space costs 2 counters, plus 1 for every counter of another race. On your last placement you can roll a custom d6 (which beautifully animates onto the playfield) that will allow you to add 0-3 to the effective strength of your stack.
Then you redeploy your counters among all controlled spaces and gain one point for each space you occupy. Different races and powers will make conquering or defending easier, or will gain bonus points for certain conditions. On further turns you may either keep expanding with whatever counters you have left, or put your active race “in decline,” scoring whatever you currently hold and choosing a new race on the following turn. Games use a different board setup depending on how many players are involved, and last 8-10 turns.
The visuals of the first game were of the highest quality, and the sequel maintains this standard. The entire board fits on the screen regardless of the number of players, and while the spaces and counters get smaller with more players on the map, everything is clear and responsive. The upper corner of a piece gains a chevron to indicate which player controls it (upper left for active, upper right in decline) which makes it easier to see who owns what.
Small World 2 features an embarrassment of riches when it comes to content. Three expansion packs are available as in-app purchase, mirroring the three “micro” expansions for the physical board game; if you purchased one or both of the two packs available in the first game, your purchase will be remembered upon update. You can either auto-match with strangers using the Online Quick Play option, or invite specific friends to play using Online With Buddies. The game will require that you create an account with Days of Wonder, but has hooks into Facebook and Game Center and will find friends on either of those services. The Face to Face mode returns for 2 player games, and Pass n Play allows you to play locally with friends on the same sofa. If you don’t have friends handy even with all those options, the game offers as many AI opponents as you wish, though they will all use the same strategies.
The game offers a much better interface than before for explaining the abilities of the various races and powers. You can call up a complete “encyclopedia” entry at any time for any combination in play or available for selection. These pages explain both the in-game abilities of the pieces and the specific iPad conventions for utilizing their abilities, which usually just translate into a specific extra icon or two to drag to the board when deploying units. The game also offers a tutorial mode, which unfortunately is just a YouTube video rather than anything interactive, but explains the gameplay clearly and concisely and will be more than enough for anyone unfamiliar with play. The interface, as before, is clear enough that anyone who IS experienced in the game should be instantly at home.
Literally the only bad thing I can say about Small World 2 is that I want more. I want more opponents online – while I was able to Quick Match into several 2 player games, finding a 3-5 player is almost impossible. I want more expansions – Underworld (and tunnels), Realms, Tales & Legends, the hard-to-find Leaders, and Island of the Necromancer are still to be implemented. With that said, given that the game almost double in price but is still a free update for previous owners, if the worst you can say is “give me more,” it must be a winner!
Small World 2,