REVIEW: Small World: Be Not Afraid

There are many types of board game expansions. Some add in new rules, while others present alternate modes of play. Be Not Afraid does neither, and instead manages to add variety to Small World without changing the core game at all. In this case, more of the same is a good thing.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-5

Playing Time: 80 minutes

Age: 8 to adult

Publisher: Days of Wonder

MSRP: $20 (requires base Small World game to play)

Release: October 2010

The Gameplay:

For a detailed look at how the base game of Small World works, see our previous post Play This, Not That: Wargames.  As mentioned above, Be Not Afraid does not modify the core rules at all, but instead provides 5 new races and 5 new special powers to add into the mix. The new options are the following:

New Races:

  • Barbarians: Start with 9 troops, but they cannot redeploy at the end of your turn.Pygmies: Each time a Pygmy is lost, roll the reinforcement die and gain that many new troops.

  • Pixies: Start with 11 troops, but only one Pixie can stay on the board per occupied territory.

  • Hormunculi: Each time the Hormunculi are not chosen during race selection, they gain one additional starting troop unit.

  • Leprachauns: You may place a pot of gold in any of your territories during the redeployment phase. Other players may conquer these territories for a bonus coin during their next turn, and you receive a bonus for all pots of gold remaining at the start of your next turn.

Of these new races, the Leprauchans are the most interesting of the bunch, as they provide a high risk/reward gambling mechanic. The Barbarians, Pygmies, and Pixies also encourage players to conquer as much as possible, which makes for a better experience (this is a war game after all!).

New Special Powers:

  • Mercenary: You may pay one coin to conquer a territory with two less units.

  • Imperial: You are rewarded with extra coins for holding a large number of territories.

  • Corrupt: Opponents must pay one coin to conquer a territory you occupy.

  • Barricade: You are rewarded with extra coins for holding a small number of territories.

  • Catapult: All territories adjacent to where the catapult is placed can be conquered with one less unit.

The Imperial and Barricade powers add a great new element to the game, where players will be rewarded depending on the size of their empire. This adds a strategic decision not only for the player holding that power, but for other players as well who gang up on an Imperial race or tempt a Barricade race by leaving a sparse defense. Not all of these new special powers are extremely useful with some of the existing racial powers, though, but this is actually a positive. In the past, it was rare to see a poor choice in the race/power selection stack, but not players will have to make harder decisions. This pairs up very well with the new Hormunculi race that benefits from being passed up during selections.

Contents:

The quality of Small World components has never been an issue, and that is still the case here. The art is beautiful, and pieces are printed on a high quality cardboard stock. There is also a storage tray that can hold the pieces for not only Be Not Afraid, but the two previous expansions Cursed and Grand Dames as well!

The downside to this expansion is that while the base Small World game provides a reference sheet for every player, only one reference sheet exists for the expansion races and powers. This leads to a lot of passing around the table, and some delayed decisions when trying to pick a new race and power combo. Also, the catapult token was accidentally left off of the punch sheets, but Days of Wonder has gone the extra mile by sending out not only the missing token, but an additional sheet of “leaders” tokens that make this set backwards compatible to the Leaders of Small World promotional expansion. These bonus tokens more than make up for the mistake in printing.

Final Thoughts: Small World is a solid game, and Be Not Afraid does not attempt to fix that which is not broken. The additional races and special powers add enough variety to keep the gameplay fresh for quite a while, and the addition of a comprehensive storage solution for all past expansions is something that more companies need to look at. For $20, this is a very reasonably priced bundle that should be a no-brainer purchase for any Small World fan.

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