We got a sneak preview of Small World Underground at Tuesday night board games at Quarterstaff Games.
Underground is a stand alone sequel to the original Small World and it plays very similarly. The action goes deep, as a horde of races invade an enormous underground subterranean, a living space perhaps even more prone to overcrowding than the surface world. Most of the rules are the same, so if you’re a Small World lover or hater, I don’t think trying this version would swing your opinion very far. There are some new or altered elements to make the game play a little differently, though. Relics and places of power, for instance, are randomly drawn from a supply as players conquer regions occupied by monsters, which take the mechanical place of Small World‘s lost tribes. So there’s a new dynamic, as players jockey for control of artifacts that help them conquer regions or gain coins.
Underground continues the whimsical, sometimes dark fantasy theme of the first game. The races include lizardmen, fire elementals and some very fetching krakens. The art style is consistent with previous products, although Underground‘s race and power banners and badges are colored to be distinct from others published so far.
Between the two sets, I think I like Underground a bit more and not just for the novelty factor. It seems to have benefited from designer Kayearts’ experience in creating the original game and expansions. The new races are less concerned about controlling regions with particular icons for extra coins, which was an element of the first game I found less than stimulating. You have to think a little harder about how to make Underground‘s races and powers work together.
In short, Small World Underground is as fun as, if not more so, than its older sibling Small World. Some people might find it to be a simple reskinning and thus not worth their cash, but it also works as a partial expansion, bringing in races that work with the overworld board — or bringing surface dwellers down into the cavern — as well as the relics and places of power. Give it a try if you can. If you already know you like Small World and have been been considering buying a copy of your own, Underground will serve you just fine.