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 - and not because we are fans of Blizzard's “Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game” anyway. The spin-off feels round, is gathered in the right places and combines elements in a basic game for which Small World first needed expansions and developments. The template is around eleven years old, so Small World of Warcraft is also a kind of evolution of the board game. It is a misconception that the author Philippe Keyaerts just had to copy.

Days of Wonder approached him with the idea of ​​transferring the board game Small World into 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 apparently involved in the development of Small World of Warcraft at an early stage: "Blizzard came up with a list of the iconic races that they would have liked to see in the game," explains Keyaerts. The selection of the peoples thus comes indirectly from the licensors. Then it was Philippe Keyaert's task to develop the - mostly new - skills for the peoples.

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 used the stand-alone board game Small World Underground, which was released in 2011. "The idea of ​​legendary artifacts and special places came from underground," explains Keyaerts, "reworked based on the story of World of Warcraft." These are bonuses that players retain even if they leave their peoples behind. Another trick of Small World of Warcraft is the game board, which is divided into islands and thus has some additional rules of movement. “And ultimately every people belongs to a faction, horde or alliance,” says the game author. "There is a small incentive to start fights with the opposing faction," explains Keyaerts, but it is not mandatory. Philippe Keyaerts is nevertheless aware of the importance of the conflict: “This contradiction is a backbone of Warcraft history,” 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 experience with this new or old Small World title. The complexity of Small World of Warcraft is slightly increased, explains the Keyaerts, “especially because of the artifacts and special locations. But not so much. " With regard to the degree of difficulty, the licensed game is based on the template.

Keyaerts had to get the blessing from Blizzard Entertainment despite the well-known and functioning concept: “I developed a first draft and then sent it to the Blizzard team”. There they made some “comments and suggestions”, mainly related to the background story. Blizzard wanted to make sure that Small World of Warcraft reproduced the “Lore” exactly. Philippe Keyaerts made improvements, changed - and submitted the new design again. This went on until everyone was satisfied. “The same happened with the illustrations”.

So Keyaerts did not develop the game on his own. What felt like a “safety net” for him, he says himself. In fact, there could hardly have been a worse faux pas for fans than a screwed up story or inappropriate illustrations. “So 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

When the basic structure was in place, it was time to balance. 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 is not that difficult, but looking at the game as a whole is a completely different matter, ”explains Philippe Keyaerts. This is exactly what the game designer considers to be the most challenging part of 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 at Small World of Warcraft, including “painful cuts”.

And who as a fan now believes that the story of the “Small World of Warcraft” has already been told: That doesn't seem to be the case. Although it is still too early to talk about future plans, the 'baby' is still too young, according to Philippe Keyaerts. “But I've already worked on some expansion ideas”.


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Last updated on 26.09.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API