As board games continue their resurgence into mainstream consciousness, more and more board games are finding their way onto mobile platforms, being expressed as well as they can be on small and big screens. Days of Wonder is one publisher who has only recently joined this effort of bringing its library of games to mobile but looked to be quite successful with its release of Ticket to Ride on both iOS and Android (read our review here). Now they’ve released Small World 2 on mobile as a result of their successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its development, and while it was released for iOS back in September 2012, it’s good to see it finally arrive on Android as well.
Fans of the board game won’t need much introduction to the concept of the game, but for those of you who haven’t played Small World before, whether in physical or digital forms, the primary objective of the game is resource collection. To start the game, you get to pick a character card which will define your characteristics (for now) i.e. any bonuses and/or restrictions your character has and how many tokens you can place per turn. On your turn, you get to place tokens on designated regions on the board. Depending on what region you have selected, you may be required to use more or less of your tokens if someone is occupying the region or your character card has some effect on the type of region you have selected. In this way, you can take over as many regions as you have tokens, and when you run out for this turn, your turn ends. At this point, you get coins added to your stash, 1 for every region you possess plus any bonuses you have; these coins will serve as scoring at the end of the game, but the game cleverly hides this information from you so that you have to constantly be on guard.
As added strategy, you can “go into decline”; what this means for you is that your character card is essentially disposed of (unless there is a bonus associated with this action) and while you can keep the regions that you currently possess, they’ll only count as one token occupying each region. On your next turn however, you can pick a new character card with all new bonuses, and this can serve as a really good strategy if you are familiar with the types of cards that are in the game.
The game does offer a very short tutorial video which is both thematic and informative, however, it does lack in actual strategic guidance, a fact I realised on my first play through with in-game bots. On that note, the bots’ AI in the game appears to be more than competent and should be quite a challenge for those that understand the game well. Unfortunately, I have yet to win a game, partially from my own inexperience, but also because I haven’t found any sort of difficulty settings for the bots. Perhaps it’s unnecessary, but I found it to be an extremely steep learning curve playing against basically Small World geniuses.
A just want to interrupt this review with a disclaimer for everyone who’s here to read this review because they’re a fan of Small World and want to know whether it’s like the board game: Small World 2 is pretty much what you’d want from a mobile version of the Small World board game. I’m not 100% familar with the rules, but it seems like most things have been implemented properly and the games offers a plethora of ways for you to enjoy the game alone, with friends, or with a group of other board game enthusiasts. If that’s your concern, then the only other thing you have to worry about is paying the not-insignificant price of $9.99 on Google Play. Fans of the game will throw money at the game anyway, but that’s just for your reference.
Just returning to the ways that you can play the game, you can of course enjoy the game solo in the company of the game’s more than competent bots, or you can play local games, with numbers of players ranging from 2-5, all playing from the same device. For something a little less personal, there are also plenty of multiplayer options including internet online play, playing with your friends, or local play, but on separate devices. As with many of Days of Wonder board games, if you’re wanting to extend your Small World 2 experience, there are also expansions available from within the game for purchase and they will set you back anywhere from $2.99 to $4.99 USD.
I reviewed Small World 2 playing on a smartphone, albeit a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and I found the gameplay experience to be acceptable; there are times that things on the screen, particularly token stack count, that can seem positively tiny. It’s definitely a very busy board as well with lots to keep track of, and I would say that a smaller screened device would not be ideal for playing Small World 2. Likewise, the text and some of the bonuses on the character cards can be difficult to interpret and often the only way to figure out what’s going on is to consult the in-game manual. This obviously isn’t that much of an issue for veteran players, but it’s worth considering if you’re entering the Small World 2 foray.
Small World 2 is pretty much everything you expected, whether you’ve been following its Kickstarter from the campaign launch or if you’re only discovering it now; for Small World fans and veterans, the entry fee of $9.99 is but a pittance and the game is well made, has plenty of features to cater for you and how you want to play the game. For beginners, the learning curve is steep and the small text size and game icons probably don’t help in that respect, plus the $9.99 price-tag can be a bit off-putting if you’re not going to be sinking many hours into it, but there is a fun game to be had if you’re playing with others or even practicing alone. If you’re interested in picking Small World 2 up, you can find the Play Store links below, or you can visit the Days of Wonder website for more information about all their board games exploits.