The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Rick's Rec Room

October 1, 2009

'Small World' contains endless possibilities

Keyaerts' game pits 14 different races against each other

For game designer Philippe Keyaerts and Days of Wonder, 2009 is really becoming a very small world.

"Small World" is a game in which a variety of races, 14 in fact, are trying to live in a world that is much too small. The only solution is for the races to expand and take over other parts of the world, previously inhabited by other races.

The races include dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and humans.

Each of these races have special powers, 20 of them, in fact. But each game the races and powers are mixed and put together randomly. So the game is infinitely replayable.

“My first concern was to have different ways of earning points, giving players different sub-goals and strategies,” said Keyaerts. “Then (I wanted) to have a lot of them, so that each game would be different. The best way I saw to achieve this was to combine some simple powers.”

But as these races continue to grow, they ultimately begin to weaken as they are spread too thin. They go into decline and become much easier for newer races to conquer. Once the player sees that happening, he will put a race into decline and begin a new one of his own. “I wanted a game picturing the rise and fall of civilizations,” said Keyaerts. “Decline would come in a natural way. I tried several mechanisms until I thought of a drop of oil falling on the ground: it spreads but become thinner and thinner. This was the basis: a fixed number of pawns invading regions on a map. The more regions, the more points, but fewer pawns inside a region means fewer defenses against neighbors.”

So a successful strategy in this game involves not only picking the right races with the right special powers, but also in knowing the proper time to decline a race and introduce a new one. Points are accumulated throughout the course of the game. The game ends when a predetermined number of turns have elapsed.

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