Asmodee has released Small World of Warcraft, a new board game based on Blizzard's MMO phenomenon. A small world, that was Small World when the game first came onto the market in 2009, eleven years have passed since then - a long time that is particularly beneficial for the development of the spin-off title, which was also penned by Philippe Keyaerts originates, builds on the basic principle of Small World, but does not rely entirely on the warming up of known mechanisms. In the following review of Small World of Warcraft we reveal why the board game will also be fun for non-fans.


“Not yet another licensed game,” probably not a few fans groaned when it became known that Asmodee would squeeze the computer game World of Warcraft into the corset of the board game Small World. What made board gamers insecure at the time was celebrated by fans of Blizzard's popular MMORG. After World of Warcraft: The Board Game from 2005, originally published by Fantasy Flight Games at the time, the time now seemed ripe to publish a new title that takes up the mega license. The cheers were loud, fans were hoping for a strategically challenging miniature board game. Instead of a new design, a license mix consisting of a board game and a video game brand came out. That can be criticized, but this trick does not harm Small World of Warcraft in terms of play - on the contrary. 

Frozen hunger!

The rough game world from World of Warcraft is brightly colored in Asmodees or Days of Wonders interpretation of a “new” WoW board game. As colorful and comic like Small World. It is obvious that two classics have been conceptually crossed here. It is not a coincidence: It seems like a board game development based on the motto “We play it safe”. Because Small World is still one of the most popular titles despite its age, you shouldn't take it easy and see Small World of Warcraft as a warmed-up licensed game, because - as so often - there is more to it than you would initially assume.

Thanks to the successful set of rules, even small world newbies can get started quickly. Photo: André Volkmann

Thanks to the successful set of rules, even small world newbies can get started quickly. Photo: André Volkmann

The basic game principle of Small World is also retained in Small World of Warcraft: With a combination of people and skills, players fight for lands, in the end the player with the most points wins. The final scoring is not the highlight of the board game, but only the visualization of the decisions made by the players in the course of the game. The way is the game, you could say - and the fun of the game lurks the entire way, depending on how much you are a fan of Small Word or World of Warcraft or both classics.

Before starting, players first assemble their personal Azeroth. Not completely random, but at least with variance. Depending on the number of players, a fixed number of different-sized game board parts are used, but the players themselves determine their composition. Basically, the illustrations of the landscapes are rather loosely reminiscent of the game world of World of Warcraft, the setting is rather reflected in the peoples boards, tokens and labels. However, the graphic work by Miguel Coimbra is visually successful.

As a fan you don't have to look far for well-known places - here the Dark Portal. Miguel Coimbra did an excellent job of processing the topic graphically. Photo: André Volkmann

As a fan you don't have to look far for well-known places - here the Dark Portal. Miguel Coimbra did an excellent job of processing the topic graphically. Photo: André Volkmann

The fact that the parts of the landscape are not 1: 1 implementations of the online world makes sense for purely playful considerations: Because the game board is constantly being rebuilt and changeable, well-known locations can only be accommodated with difficulty. Nevertheless, there are unique locations, such as the Ice Crown Citadel or the entrance to the Onyxia Raid. As a fan, you will discover one of the locations that you have wandered through with your virtual hero on almost every part of the map. This is something that Small World of Warcraft has wanted, expected - and the makers have delivered. It is these details that turn the Small World framework into a genuine WoW board game. 

The spirit of World of Warcraft is really brought to life in the next step: When players draw their banners of nations at the beginning of their turn, there are 16 of them in total, and so slip in the footsteps of orcs, blood elves or humans, among others. The instructions for all those who have not yet come into contact with Small World, in small steps, clear and understandable through structure and gameplay. Particularly successful: New detailed rules are marked with an exclamation mark, which makes it much easier for those familiar with the concept to get started.

Azeroth is big, but not big enough

At the latest at the beginning of the game it is clear: Azeroth is a big world, but not big enough for all races. And because the undead, tauren, night elves and the like do not like to share, conflicts arise - good for the board player, because now is the hour. So it is important to conquer areas and to get hold of victory coins in order to be successful in the end. This does not happen without loss in Small World of Warcraft. Basically, you are not the ruler of a people, but the ruler of its game strategy. Again and again, players change peoples, they leave behind useless ones, direct the conquests of their new ones - and thus collect points on their account. 

Azeroth does not offer space for all races, conflicts inevitably arise. Photo: André Volkmann

Azeroth does not offer space for all races, conflicts inevitably arise. Photo: André Volkmann

What does that have to do with World of Warcraft? Not much at first. Yes, it is about conflict and conquest, but the board game ignores the myriad of unique mechanics of Blizzard's MMO. Rather, it is the material that turns Small World into Small World of Warcraft. This is only a shortcoming for those who expected huge battles from a new board game for World of Warcraft, or for players who would like to roam around with miniatures and tap loot. The title offers neither a profound war strategy nor dungeon crawl, but a playful essence that has matured over the course of eleven years. As little as “MMO-Experience” Small World of Warcraft offers, the feeling that you are not dealing with a World of Warcraft board game never arises.

Everywhere on the gaming table you will find details from the digital template: from folk banners to skills such as fishing, archeology or herbalism, to the objects. The latter culminate in powerful artifacts. Swing Thrall's Doomhammer? Ride on Al'ar's ashes - at least in the board game? No problem. Even the heart of Azeroth is represented and makes it clear: Small World of Warcraft treats the setting as up-to-date as possible. You notice how much you as a fan are in the setting when you suddenly start humming melodies from WoW while unpacking the material - it's frightening and beautiful at the same time, how such a game can burn its way into your brain. 

True to the raid motto "Last try!" A game of Small World of Warcraft is limited: the number of rounds depends on the number of game ends. Photo: André Volkmann

True to the raid motto “Last try!” A game of Small World of Warcraft is limited: the number of rounds depends on the number of game ends. Photo: André Volkmann

The really ingenious trick by author Phillipe Keyaerts is to pack all the content from around a decade of Small World into a new board game without overly inflating the process. The trick with the choice still works for the active player: And because the basic mechanism - the larger the selection, the more expensive - has now become something of a standard in the board game segment, Small World of Warcraft looks like it is all of a piece . With every move, there are exciting alternatives and therefore strategic approaches over and over again. The random assignments create variance, round by round and in every game. Because the game is limited in terms of the number of rounds, mere experimentation falls flat: Every decision is decisive. This literally forces players to reconsider their own tactics and resource management - note: races below in the display ultimately cost victory coins - at any point in time. 

License used sensibly

Playing the majority principle when conquering is still easy at the beginning - especially since the dice may help. It gets exciting when the decisions are made to leave peoples behind and acquire new ones. Points are awarded for those areas in which abandoned and active peoples have the majority.

It is well known that this is the best way to see the Hordler - in spirit form. The peoples left behind have this appropriate thematic inactivity element. Photo: André Volkmann

It is well known that this is the best way to see the Hordler - in spirit form. The peoples left behind have this appropriate thematic inactivity element. Photo: André Volkmann

The basically simple principle is entertaining, even if it does not take up an outstanding playful concept, but is at best solid as a numbers game. In addition, there is the requirement, which is particularly challenging for beginners, to always keep an eye on the various racial and special abilities as well as bonuses granted by items. Here too, details are convincing and create a connection to World of Warcraft, for example when the classic conflict between the Horde and the Alliance is reflected in the game bonuses. You can tell in many corners of Small World of Warcraft that the author Phillipe Keyaerts and the publishers did not press a topic onto an existing mechanism at will, but rather thought about it. Goblins, bombs and mishaps: an indispensable trio in the “real WoW” - which also finds its place in Asmodee's new board game. There is a lot of the big world from World of Warcraft in the "small world". 

In contrast to other area control board games, Small World of Warcraft works with the premise that the variable game board always adapts to the number of players. As a result, the game principle is neither stretched nor ruffled, but kept at a constantly functional level. A small but essential trick that contributes significantly to the entertainment factor of the licensed game. This also directly affects the so-called significant places or artifacts on the laid-out world that players discover if they were able to conquer the respective area. Underneath there is the meeting stone as well as the raid dungeon Karazhan or the aforementioned hammer of fate. 

Karazhan Tower is one of the special places. And they are extremely useful for the conqueror: as a bonus, additional victory coins are granted in this case. Photo: André Volkmann

Karazhan Tower is one of the special places. And they are extremely useful for the conqueror: as a bonus, additional victory coins are granted in this case. Photo: André Volkmann

This mini-mechanic best illustrates why Small World of Warcraft is more than an update to Small World: There are twelve small game tiles that contain a lot of the feelings that fans associate with the MMO license. As a rule of thumb, the more you are a fan of World of Warcraft, the longer you love it, the more fun you will have with the board game Small World of Warcraft. 

Infobox

Number of players: 2 to 5 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 45 to 90 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Long-term motivation: medium

Published by Asmodee Germany
Year of publication: 2020 
Author: Phillipe Keyaerts 
Illustrations: Miguel Coimbra
Language: German
Cost: 70 Euro

Images of Small World of Warcraft

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Summary

You can celebrate Small World of Warcraft, as a fan of Blizzard's MMO anyway, but also as a player who is looking for a board game that is easy for beginners and not overly loaded with mechanics. Even the instructions, which have been sparsely enriched with texts, make it clear: Everything here revolves around getting started with the game quickly. Even more than the successful editorial elaboration of the set of rules, the enclosed reference cards provide an overview. One reading is enough and you can start with this licensed game, which actually turns out to be one of those representatives who take their task, namely to convey the setting from a template in a recognizable manner, seriously. 

Small World of Warcraft is a lot of fan service, contains a lot of World of Warcraft and brings the virtual Azeroth - with a few minor drawbacks due to the “island worlds” - in its analog version on the home gaming table. The title shines from a purely visual point of view thanks to the illustrations by Miguel Coimbra, who was not only involved in the original Small World, but also previously made his mark on some WoW trading cards. It almost seems like Small World of Warcraft and Coimbra are the perfect couple.

What the graphic processing already suggests, is also recognizable in terms of content: In many corners the makers use Blizzard's creation to work out comprehensible board game actions - when worgen switch between human and worgen form, goblins conquer cave regions particularly well or blood elves strive for it to occupy magical areas. It's not the big picture that makes Small World of Warcraft a board game for World of Warcraft - because the core of the rules is largely unchanged - but the innumerable details that have been passionately adapted for the license. Even the classic MMO story, the battle between the Horde and the Alliance, has a counterpart in Small World of Warcraft in the team version “Battle for Azeroth”.

No, Small World of Warcraft is not an outstanding title that charms experts with innovation and complexity, but an atmospheric board game that is conceptually based on its solid framework and relies more on a charm offensive than on sophistication. Here and there there are weaknesses, such as repetitive elements - however, if you expected the creators to go under with the shallow adaptation of Blizzard's popular license, you would be wrong: Small World of Warcraft is fun! 

By the way: Not only fans of the computer game will enjoy Small World of Warcraft as an uncomplicated board game with time-limited games. Last but not least, this is due to the still rock solid game principle that Small World offers. Whether you need the spin-off when you usually have a full collection of Keyaert's award-winning game series is another question. However, everyone has to answer this for themselves. Basically, it can be said that Small World has not lost any of its quality in terms of play, on the contrary: through the revision - minor rule adjustments and the merging of several elements from the entire Small World series - the game is gaining momentum again, not only as a licensed title for fans of World of Warcraft.

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