It's a Small World after all
by Susan Rozmiarek
Ha! Can't get that song out of your head now, can you??
As I mentioned in my previous post, Ed and I were lucky to be invited to spend Memorial Day weekend playing games with three other couples. We stayed in condos on Lake Palestine near Tyler, in the piney woods of northeast Texas. This is quite near my mother's house and where I spent my teenage years, so it was very convenient to dump/drop off our boys with her for the weekend. The condos were shabby, but adequate, and the views were beautiful when it wasn't raining and we managed to drag ourselves away from the gaming and outside to get fresh air.
The view from porch of the condo. Bee-YOO-tee-ful!
The first game up - Small World, which was high on my want-to-try list.
I am a huge fan of Vinci, Small World's predecessor. Back when Vinci was first published, it was very popular with our game group and when a web-based version came out, I played it to death. I'm sure I've played it at least fifty times. So, when a "new and improved" version that fixed many of the issues was announced, I was skeptical. I really didn't think it needed to be fixed. After playing Small World, I still prefer the original. By far, the biggest reason is that I dearly miss the cohesion rules of Vinci. Keeping the regions of your civilization connected drove a lot of the strategy of where to attack and reinforce. I'm not sure why this was removed from the new game - to simplify it, perhaps?
The next problem I have with Small World is the bright, garish graphics. In the old Vinci, I was, with just a quick glance at the board, able to assess the size and positioning of my opponents as well as the various land types and the conquering path I wanted to take. In Small World, I'm trying to pick things out of a headache-inducing jumble of colors. Normally I adore this sort of art but here I think it really hinders this game. Gah - I can't believe I'm saying that! Even I have to admit that sometimes, plain and boring is better.
As far as the open versus hidden victory points goes, I don't really care that much either way. This is an argument that can go on forever (as anyone who follows online forums knows) because it's a matter of personal taste. Do you want to pick on the player you know is the leader or the person you just think is the leader? I probably lean slightly towards hidden as I like bluffing and trying to stay under the radar. However, you could easily play this way with the old version.
Hmmm. Other differences between the two versions - I haven't decided whether I like Small World's fixed number of turns or Vinci's playing until somebody reaches a certain number of victory points. They both seem to work. A fixed number of turns seems to go better with hidden VPs as you can better plan for the end of the game.
Finally, some people complained about how certain random pairings of powers in Vinci were too powerful. I thought that this aspect of the game was pretty fun. Sure, some were pretty powerful but you often had to pay to get them before somebody else did and you were then a big target. Even with Small World mitigating this problem (and quite cleverly too) with the fixed race abilities, I notice that people are still complaining about some being too powerful.
I do think that the streamlining will make the Small World accessible to more people, so that's good. But, call me a curmudgeon for thinking that the old ways are superior and wanting to just stick to the original.
at June 17, 2009 12:40 AM