Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Small World Realms: Bigger and Better… Well, Bigger At Least

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Small World is one of my favourite games and has proven to be easily expandable. Most of the expansions coming out have included new races and powers, as would seem obvious. However, a small group of fans clamoured for more map expansions, and so Days of Wonder released Realms.
Realms allows players to make their own maps by providing a number of mix and match terrain tiles. They have also provided a dozen scenarios which create different landscapes and objectives. Not only that, but these landscapes will work for both the original Small World as well as the Underground sequel.
I was never one of the people who was calling for more map expansions. I love getting new races, but changing up the board was never a priority for me. Still it was hard to resist Realms when it came out. So was it worth it? Let’s see what it’s all about.

Additions

The 26 double-sided tiles (1 side regular, the other underground) are of course the main attraction here. They are oddly shaped in almost a throwing star shape which is rather neat. The artwork is much the same as before with enough flourishes added (though not as any as the original boards) to make things interesting. There are also tiles for the mountains and even peaks (mountains upon mountains) which stack up quite nicely.
However just as important as the tiles is the massive scenario book. The reason it’s so massive however is because it includes all 12 scenarios in eight different languages! Now I’m sure the reasons for this are more economical while including as many gamers as possible, but that still seems a little excessive to me. Yikes! But the pictogram set-ups are pretty easy to follow. The scenarios increase in difficulty from just a new landscape, to entirely new objectives, like fighting for the Rusted Throne in the middle of the board which lets you steal more coins from the other players.
As far as other components, the box comes with what are basically wooden sticks to separate certain sea and river regions, extra victory coins, the tunnels to connect the regular and Underworld boards, and six new righteous relic and popular places tokens along with a yeti and chicken knight tokens to go with them.
But this is what really bugs me: the tokens are really cool looking, but only one of them has rules attached to it! They are there for you to make your own rules for (other than the Rusted Throne). Okay, that’s all well and good, but usually we just need one or two for customization. If you are going to give us these cool new places and relics, go all out and provide actions with them! Otherwise it seems like an empty gesture.

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Critique

Realms appears to have a lot to it, but does it really? There are a dozen new scenarios, some of which have some pretty neat ideas, like the Crops of Power which allows you to actually gain new powers for your race, or the Adrift where you can actually move terrain pieces. But sometimes I feel like going through these scenarios is more of an obligation when maybe I’d rather just play the regular game.
This is a pretty solid package, apart from the fact that we are teased with those places and relics. Personally I would have rather had a new race/power expansion for the Underground set than a customizable map set. I thought that at least those relics and places would scratch that itch, but they did not.
It is fun to switch things up every once in a while in most board games, which is why expansions are so popular these days. Small World Realms certainly allows you to do that by giving you a booklet of new takes on this amazing game, even if some of them may get a little convoluted. But when it comes right down to it, Realms is just novelty for a rainy day. I am just fine playing my regular Small World board and rules.

Expansion –
Base Game –
Base Game & Expansion –

My Expansion Ratings
– The expansion improves upon the original base game.
– The expansion provides a differing experience than the base game but neither improves or detracts from the base game.
– The expansion is effective and provides an interesting new aspect, but the base game is still preferred.
– The expansion detracts from the base game.

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