For a few weeks now, fans have been able to play the board game for the MMO hit World of Warcraft, which is available from Asmodee in this country under the name Small World of Warcraft. The game was implemented by the Belgian author Philippe Keyaerts, who - hardly surprisingly - is also behind the conceptual template Small World. Both board games are not congruent, but the differences are not serious either. So what is Small World of Warcraft? A warmed up board game without independence or actually a pepped up version of a classic?


When it comes to Asmodee's novelty Small World of Warcraft, fans' opinions drift apart. Some see a slightly modified version of Small World behind the board game, in which a purchase is not necessary, especially if you already have Small World and its expansions on the shelf. Another point of criticism that is often mentioned is the proximity to the original. Nevertheless: The basic tenor of the Small World spin-off is overall above average.

Small World of Warcraft: Working closely with Blizzard

On the US-American portal Boardgamegeek the determined fan rating of almost 200 given ratings is 7.9. Also we loved Small World of Warcraft - not because we're fans of Blizzard's "Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game" anyway. The spin-off feels well-rounded, is tightened in all the right places and combines elements in a basic game for which Small World first needed expansion and development. The template is around eleven years old, so Small World of Warcraft is also a kind of evolution of the board game. That author Philippe Keyaerts just had to copy is a misconception.

Days of Wonder approached him with the idea of ​​transferring the Small World board game to the Warcraft universe. This is what Philippe Keyaerts tells us, who saw a challenge in working in and with someone else's universe. Blizzard was also apparently involved in the development of Small World of Warcraft early on: "Blizzard came up with a list of iconic races that they would have liked to see in the game," explains Keyaerts. The selection of the colonies thus comes indirectly from the licensors. Then it was Philippe Keyaert's task to develop the - mostly new - skills to the races.

The division of the game board into islands is one of the most obvious differences to the "original" in the classic version. Photo: André Volkmann

Philippe Keyaerts helped himself to the stand-alone board game Small World Underground, which was released in 2011. "The idea of ​​legendary artifacts and special locations came from underground," explains Keyaerts, "adapted to the story of World of Warcraft." These are bonuses that remain with the players even if they leave their races behind. Another trick of Small World of Warcraft is the game board, which is divided into islands and thus has some additional movement rules. "And ultimately, every race belongs to a faction, horde or alliance," says the game designer. "There is a small incentive to start fights with the opposing faction," explains Keyaerts, although this is not mandatory. Philippe Keyaerts is nevertheless aware of the importance of the conflict: "This dichotomy is a backbone of the Warcraft story," says the author. "That had to find its way into the game!"

A game lasts around 40 to 80 minutes, depending among other things on the number of players and the experience with this new or the old Small World titles. The complexity of Small World of Warcraft is slightly increased, explains Keyaerts, "particularly due to the artifacts and special locations. But not so much.” In terms of difficulty, the licensed game is based on the template.

Despite the known and working concept, Keyaerts had to get the blessing of Blizzard Entertainment: "I developed a first draft and then sent it to the Blizzard team". There they made some "comments and suggestions", which mainly concerned the background story. Blizzard wanted to ensure that Small World of Warcraft accurately represented the "lore". Philippe Keyaerts has improved, changed - and submitted the new draft again. This went on until everyone was happy. "The same thing happened with the illustrations."

Keyaerts did not develop the game alone. Which, he says, felt like a "safety net" for him. In fact, there couldn't have been a worse faux pas for fans than a botched story or inappropriate illustrations. "The pressure wasn't that great," says Keyaerts, relieved. "I had the backstory keeper on my side."

The illustrations and the story were approved by a Blizzard team. Photo: Andre Volkmann

The illustrations and the story were approved by a Blizzard team. Photo: Andre Volkmann

Once the basic structure was in place, it was time for balancing. Before a rough "do what you want" game, Keyaerts had refined the rules more and more: "You have to weigh the interests, the challenges, the simplicity. Balancing an individual skill isn't that difficult, but looking at the game as a whole is another matter entirely,” explains Philippe Keyaerts. This is exactly what the game designer considers the most challenging part during the design process. Small World of Warcraft is not a copy of the original, but a balanced development. This also means that some great ideas sometimes fly out because they don't fit into the overall picture, says Keyaerts, who also had to find a suitable solution for many a problem with Small World of Warcraft, including "painful cuts".

And if you, as a fan, now believe that the story of the "Small World of Warcraft" has already been told: That doesn't seem to be the case. It is still too early to talk about future plans, the 'baby' is still too young, according to Philippe Keyaerts. "But I've already been working on some expansion ideas."


Last updated on 7.02.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API